The Orioles go into the season with a little uncertainty in the middle of the lineup. While their offense was decent last season, they still did not have the big bat that is essential in the AL East. In 2011, they primarily used Vlad Guerrero at the cleanup spot in the lineup. Vlad hit for a solid average, but was clearly a shell of his former-self; especially in the power category. He was not what the Orioles expected when they signed him. In 2012, I see the Orioles most likely leaning on three players to hit cleanup. They are probably not ideal fits for a middle-of-the-order hitter. However, as the current squad is built, they will have to do.
I primarily see either Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, or Mark Reynolds getting a shot at cleanup. These are the three guys most likely to provide the offensive numbers that a typical cleanup guy would. I am not saying they will, but they are the most likely candidates in an Orioles uniform. Other guys such as Nick Markakis, Chris Davis, JJ Hardy, and Nolan Reimold could be choices, but I would refrain from choosing them due to how Showalter uses them. They also have better skill-sets for other spots in the lineup.
So with that being said, I compiled the stats of Jones, Wieters, and Reynolds throughout their career with runners in scoring position, and two outs with runners in scoring position.
At a quick glance, all three players have fairly similar statistics with RISP. Jones has the highest BA but the lowest OBP. Reynolds has a pretty large gain of OPS (OBP + SLG) on Wieters and Jones. Wieters seems to fall in-between Jones and Reynolds. Reynolds also has an absurdly high BABIP at .330, since his career BABIP is only .310. By looking at only RISP numbers, it would seem that Reynolds would take the cake, although not by a terribly large margin. Even looking at 2 Outs RISP, you can see that Reynolds seems to have better numbers from a power perspective. So how large of a margin is it from Reynolds to Wieters and Jones? I calculated the extra base hit % of each player below. These are based off their extra base hits with RISP, and RISP with 2 outs.
Based off their career numbers, it would seem that Reynolds is the clear winner and potentially the best fit at cleanup. Reynolds seems to have the biggest impact with RISP, even with a little lower average and a plethora of K's. Wieters may not be too far behind in his Career XBH%, but with 2 outs it is a significant distance. That being said, it's not valid to just look at their entire career, since these players are all below the age of 30 and are still growing and maturing as baseball players. Below are their RISP statistics from 2011.
Reynolds did not have a good year with RISP. It was one of his worst years in his career actually. This could be from changing leagues, or simply because he saw much better pitching in the AL East. On the other hand, Matt Wieters seems to have had his best year yet, and was probably the most effective out of the three. Jones had an okay season, but not something you would want out of a cleanup hitter. Below are the XBH% of each with RISP.
It's an even more telling sign by looking at the XBH% with RISP. Wieters and Reynolds seemingly switched their career statistics for each above. So based off of last season, it wouldn't be too absurd to say that Wieters is the best fit for the cleanup spot. Ideally, none of these three guys would be the teams' cleanup guy, but the Orioles have to choose someone. It will most likely be one of these guys, unless Showalter pulls a wild card out of his manager cap.
I see Jones sticking in the 3-spot in the lineup, which would mean that Wieters or Reynolds fill into the cleanup spot. It's really not a huge deal who bats there, but I would give Reynolds a shot there to begin the season. Either he creates more value for himself, or he proves that he cannot stick there. They should probably figure that out this season, since Wieters could easily plug the hole in the future. This is of course once Reynolds is traded, falters at cleanup, or walks as a free agent.