To say the least, Michael Ohlman has endured a rocky 2012 season.
After being injured in a single-car accident during spring training near his Florida home, Ohlman then received the embarrassment of being suspended 50 games for violating the minor league baseball substance abuse policy. And even upon his return to the Shorebirds’ lineup last month, Ohlman has served strictly as a designated hitter.
So this truncated campaign for the 11th round Oriole pick in 2009 renewed itself in Florida as Ohlman played in a handful of Gulf Coast League games in June before being reassigned to Delmarva. As a member of the Gulf Coast League Orioles, Michael made his professional debut at first base, but only played 2 of his 8 games at that position and spent the rest as DH, similar to his Shorebird experience. This despite the fact he was a South Atlantic League All-Star last season as a catcher.
Whether this venture over to first base is a result of the shoulder problems brought on by his auto accident or an effort by the Orioles to make him more versatile, the fact remains that serving almost strictly as a DH may be helping Michael concentrate on improving as a hitter, as Ohlman is quietly enjoying a much better season at the plate than he has before. A career .217 hitter coming into 2012 – including a .224/4/51/.627 OPS season here last year – Michael is swinging an improved bat to the tune of .260 with Delmarva (19-for-73) and .265 overall counting his 8-for-29 in the GCL. Along the way he’s picked up a couple home runs and 12 RBI.
At 21 years old, it’s probable this somewhat lost season won’t be Ohlman’s last. But the remainder of 2012 may determine where he starts in 2013, while work over the winter could give Michael a new position to play wherever he goes. We already have a catcher who’s versed at first base in Wynston Sawyer, so perhaps this is a trend the Orioles are willing to try in some of their young talent. Moreover, there’s also the factor of this being Ohlman’s third stint at Delmarva, so he may have finally mastered the SAL enough for a promotion.