I talked to someone in the Orioles organization earlier this week who pointed out the advantage of having a true No. 1 starter. Look at the Cardinals with Adam Wainwright, the Dodgers with Clayton Kershaw, the Tigers with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.
Yeah, the Tigers have quite an advantage.
It’s all laid out for us in the playoffs. The bigger the stage, the bigger the performances.
But how is a team like the Orioles supposed to get its hands on arms of that caliber? They won’t dish out four- or five-year contracts for free-agent starters. They won’t get into bidding wars. And they won’t empty the farm system to trade for one.
Though no one is untouchable, the Orioles refused to part with prospects Eduardo Rodriguez and Mike Wright at the non-waiver trade deadline and Aug. 31 deadline for setting postseason rosters. Plenty of teams inquired. None of them could convince the Orioles to pull the trigger.
A scout from outside the organization offered the following reports on Rodriguez and Wright, which I’ll share with you:
On Rodriguez, 20, who went a combined 10-7 with a 3.41 ERA, 49 walks and 125 strikeouts in 145 innings at Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie:
“I see him with having more upside than Wright and to me, after (Kevin) Gausman and (Dylan) Bundy, he is the clear-cut next best arm in the organization. I think he’s got the potential to be a legitimate No. 3 and maybe even a No. 2 if everything goes right for him. He still is pretty inconsistent in terms of repeating everything, but he has a consistently low 90s fastball that I got as high as 94. It can be sneaky at times, as he hides the ball reasonably well, and I’ve seen him throw it by guys despite lacking huge velocity.
“His slider flashes as a plus, swing-and-miss pitch, but it’s not always there for him and he doesn’t locate it consistently enough right now. I think in time it’s going to be an out pitch for him. In addition, the changeup, though very hit or miss at this point, shows signs of being at least average, if not slightly better.
“I think his best-case scenario is maybe even as good as a C.J. Wilson, though I think a safer bet is someone like Wandy Rodriguez. (Eduardo) Rodriguez is still really young, though, so he’s got time. I like him a lot.”
On Wright, 23, named the organization’s minor league Pitcher of the Year after going 11-3 with a 3.26 ERA, 39 walks and 136 strikeouts in 143 2/3 innings at Bowie, and tossing 6 2/3 scoreless innings in his only start at Triple-A Norfolk:
“He was noticeably better this year than last. I saw him in Bowie and he was locked in. His fastball sits at 91-93 (mph), but there is more there when he wants it and I’ve seen him as high as 97. When he gets downhill, it has good sinking life, as well. The command is below average at this point, but I think that can improve a bit in time.
“His slider was better than I had ever seen it and I think it can be solid, though not overpowering. His changeup is also at least average right now and he showed good feel for it. He attacked the strike zone when I saw him and pitched with confidence. He’s not afraid to throw strikes, and from what I’ve been told, he’s a real competitive kid, and it shows on the mound.
“I think ultimately he’s a No. 4 or No. 5. He’s not as young as Rodriguez, so he’s gotta make a jump next year at Triple-A and get himself to the big leagues in the next year or two. But he’s got the stuff to be as good as (Jason) Hammel was for the O’s in 2012 if everything comes together for him.”
The Orioles are trying to grow the arms. The question is whether they should hold onto those arms or package them in exchange for a veteran top-of-the-rotation starter who may be available this winter.
Shameless plug alert: I’m appearing on “Wall to Wall Baseball” from 11 a.m.-noon on MASN. Plan accordingly.