The following is an excerpt from Garrett Atkins’ website, www.garrettatkins.com:
“I would say he’s not just one of the best young hitters in the game, he’s one of the best hitters. We think he’s only going to get better.”
-Rockies General Manager Dan O’Dowd, Denver Post, April 11, 2006
Throughout his career, Atkins has been described with certain adjectives like versatile, natural, special and stellar. His swing has been compared to that of Manny Ramirez as being one of the most natural in the league. All the talk about Atkins is nice and all, but it would mean nothing if he didn’t perform on the field. He has hit .286 or better over his last five seasons and has averaged right around 25 home runs and 100 RBI for his career, that is, up until last season where he struggled a bit. Atkins was released by the Rockies after a disappointing 2009 season where he only hit .226 with nine homers and 48 RBI.
Despite the sub-par season, the Orioles signed Atkins to a one-year deal worth $4.5 million back in December, hoping he will bounce back from his worst season to date. The Orioles’ front office thinks Atkins has what it takes to be an elite hitter in the league and, with the instruction of hitting coach Terry Crowley, hopes he will return to form in 2010.
Atkins came onto the scene in 2005 with the Rockies and finished the season as one of the top rookies in the league. He batted .287 with 13 homers, 31 doubles and 89 RBI and thrived with runners in scoring position, batting .309 with 74 RBI. Atkins quickly proved he wasn’t a fluke and, in 2006, was considered for the NL MVP award (10 votes) after hitting .329 with 29 home runs and 120 RBI. In addition to being nominated for the NL MVP award, CBS Sportsline.com ranked Atkins as the second-best third baseman ahead of Aramis Ramirez, David Wright and Alex Rodriguez. Simply put, he was and is for real.
Atkins is stellar at the plate, but he is no slouch when it comes to fielding his position(s) either. He can play both first and third base and, in 2008, was one of three MLB players to start 60-plus games at two different positions (94 at third base, 61 at first base). But the Orioles signed Atkins with the intention of him occupying first base the majority of the time, especially since the Orioles re-singed Miguel Tejada to take over the third base duties. He has exceptional range in the field and will be a nice addition an already solid Orioles infield.
I’m sure one of the questions for Orioles’ fans is where Atkins will bat in the lineup. He mostly batted in the fifth spot when he was with the Rockies. This was a good spot for him because he has a decent amount of power and excels with runners in scoring position. It’s not quite certain where he will be batting in the Orioles lineup just yet. The fifth or sixth spot could be a possibility for Atkins early in the season because that’s where he most comfortable batting. He’s too good of a hitter to be any further down in the lineup and he’s not going to mix up the 1-2-3 punch of Brian Roberts, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis. Nolan Reimold and Matt Wieters will most likely start out toward the bottom of the lineup and, based on their performance, could be shifting spots with Atkins throughout the season.
The signing of Atkins will surely improve the Orioles lineup, assuming he hits like he did over his first four seasons. The good news is that he has a lot to prove after an uncharacteristically bad 2009 season. But let’s just hope he can bounce back quickly and return to form in 2010.
Submitted by Steve Giles