Rickard could surprise as speedy bench threat

O's outfielder cleared to swing bat in recovery from thumb injury

Rickard could surprise as speedy bench threat

With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Orioles squad each day this week. Today's topic: Who might surprise?

No one was bringing it up, so Chris Davis chose to at last month's' FanFest: The O's will enter 2017 with a healthy Joey Rickard.

"Poor Joey. This guy came up and started the season on fire and then got hurt and I kind of feel like he's an afterthought now, you know?" Davis said of Rickard, who sat out the last two months of 2016 with a torn thumb ligament.

Who might surprise for each club in 2017?

"You haven't heard much about him as far as where he fits in with the team, but this guy was a spark plug for us last year and I'm excited for him to be back and be 100 percent."

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Statcast: Rickard's slick grab

And while Rickard isn't expected to be an everyday player for Baltimore, last year's Rule 5 Draft pick -- the feel-good story coming out of camp -- has been cleared to swing a bat and could surprise some people this year. The outfielder, who gave the O's a speed dimension that they lacked, should get the nod against left-handers, provided he makes the team.

Now that Rickard has stayed in the organization past his Rule 5 year, he will get Minor League options, which means he has to prove himself again to crack the Opening Day roster.

Rickard, who injured the thumb in late July, finished with a .268/.319/.377 line in 85 games, with five homers and 19 RBIs. All of his homers, and all but one RBI, came in the first half as the 25-year-old got off to a red-hot start.

Still, Rickard's rookie season far exceeded expectations, and without any promising young rookies on the horizon, he could surprise again. Should Rickard make the club, he's one of several options for the leadoff role, which could prove to be a complicated spot to fill given the power at nearly every spot in Baltimore's lineup.

What could Rickard do for an encore in his second season? Time will tell.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.