Orioles' Top 5 right fielders: Trezza's take

May 11th, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only … if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Joe Trezza’s ranking of the top 5 right fielders in Orioles history. Next week: Designated hitter.

Orioles' Top 5: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF

1. , 1966-71
Key fact: Won American League Triple Crown, Most Valuable Player Award and World Series MVP in 1966

Few teams have ever been impacted as quickly and prominently as the Orioles were by Robinson, who arrived in Baltimore in 1966 and immediately altered the trajectory of the franchise -- forever. Already a National League MVP and eight-time All-Star by the time the 1965 season wrapped up, Robinson was dealt by the Reds for Milt Pappas in what became known as one of the sport’s biggest heists. Pappas went on to have a solid career, but Robinson’s contributions to the O’s helped cement his status as one of baseball’s all-time greats.

His introduction alone was legendary: Upon arriving in Baltimore, Robinson won the Triple Crown, pacing the AL in batting average (.316), homers (49) and RBIs (122). He led the Orioles’ to their first World Series title, earning series MVP honors as well as league MVP honors during awards time in the offseason. It was a sign of things to come.

Between 1966-71, Robinson helped the O’s to four World Series appearances and two titles. He made five All-Star teams and placed in the top three in MVP voting three times. In short, he helped turn an emerging team into a juggernaut and remains one of the city’s most revered athletes. When Robinson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in '82, he went in as an Oriole despite spending less than a third of his 21-year playing career in Baltimore.

2. , 1975-84
Key fact: His .388 on-base percentage is second best in O's history

Seeking a replacement for Boog Powell in the winter of 1974, the Orioles swung a deal with the Expos that turned into a coup. By sending soon-to-retire Dave McNally and Rich Coggins to Montreal, they landed future 20-game winner Mike Torrez and Singleton, who was just entering his prime. He turned into one of the best pure hitters of the time period.

A fixture in the Orioles’ lineup for a decade, Singleton spent his first seven seasons in Baltimore as its primary right fielder before transitioning to designated hitter. Even when focusing on just those seasons, he’s the clear choice at No. 2 thanks to an offensive skillset that was elite but probably underappreciated in its day.

Simply put, Singleton was an on-base machine before stats like OBP and OPS were popularized, hitting .298 with 144 homers and a whopping 149 OPS+ from 1975-81. He earned three All-Star nods and two top-three finishes in MVP voting over that stretch, placing third and second in voting during his splendid '77 and '79 seasons, respectively.

Reserved -- even though he currently enjoys a long post-playing career in the broadcast booth -- and understated, Singleton was often overshadowed by higher-profile teammates like Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr. Singleton just hit. Cumulatively batting .284 with 182 homers and an .833 OPS over 10 seasons in Baltimore, he still ranks within the top 10 in Orioles history in hits (1,455), homers, RBI (766), walks (886), OBP and OPS. He also walked more than he struck out while accumulating more than 6,000 plate appearances with the club.

3. , 2006-14
Key fact: Only player in Orioles history to record four consecutive seasons with at least 40 doubles

A stalwart in right field and at the top of the lineup for close to a decade, Markakis appeared in more games as a member of the Orioles since the turn of the century than anyone not named Adam Jones. Only six players have accumulated more hits in an O’s uniform than Markakis, who compiled 1,547 knocks while batting .290/.358/.435 for the club. Homegrown and popular, Markakis was also a durable, impact defender in right, winning two of his three career Gold Gloves in Baltimore. He stands sixth on the club’s all-time doubles list (316) and ninth in walks (553).

4. Merv Rettenmund, 1968-73
Key fact: His 133 OPS+ with Orioles ranks seventh in O's history

A super-sub who benefited from manager Earl Weaver’s constant platooning, Rettenmund is being considered a right fielder for this exercise because he appeared in more games there (303) for the O’s than in left and center combined (283). In practice, he was a true fourth outfielder in the sense that he could play any of the three positions adequately while providing significant thump at the plate, which he did for great Orioles teams of the late 1960s and early 70s.

Rettenmund’s most significant roles came on consecutive pennant-winning teams in 1970 and '71, when he batted .320 with 29 homers and a .898 OPS across 247 total games. All told, he packed a 133 OPS+ and 17 bWAR into parts of six seasons with the club, despite averaging just 95 games per year.

5. , 1976
Key fact: Hall of Famer led AL in slugging and OPS+ in lone season in Baltimore

We could have gone in a number of different directions to round out this list, given the many big-name sluggers who have breezed through town (particularly in the mid-to-late 90s) at the behest of everyday reps in right field, only to experience short-lived if colorful tenures with the club. Jackson’s lone year in Baltimore was certainly all of those things, often all at once. And in truth, he’s remembered locally as much for the early-season holdout and for signing the next winter with the Yankees as he is for any on-field accomplishments from the summer of 1976.

But Jackson gets the nod here because, despite everything else that year, Reggie was still Reggie. His 5.3-bWAR season was more productive than Albert Belle’s 3.4 campaign in 1999; better than Eric Davis’ triumphant 3.2 WAR year in '98; and better than Bobby Bonilla’s 116-RBI (but just 1.1 WAR) summer in '96. By virtue of his 27 homers, 91 RBIs and league-best .502 slugging percentage, Jackson’s '76 season is objectively one of the eight best by an Orioles right fielder. The other seven all come from players above him on this list.

Honorable mentions
We are only considering Oriole players for this exercise, but Jack Tobin hit .318 while primarily playing right field for the St. Louis Browns from 1916-25. ... showed glimpses of his MVP-level talent before being traded for Jackson in '76. ... Joe Orsulak was a productive and popular member of several successful teams from '88-'92 ... was an offensive force from '99-2000 but ultimately fulfilled just 40 percent of his massive five-year contract due to injuries. ... hit .321 with a .947 OPS across two seasons that featured his recovery from colon cancer. ... hit 121 homers with the club from '01-07. ... led the Majors in home runs while playing mostly right field in '16. ... appears poised to climb this list after his breakout '19 season.