We can spend countless hours in the offseason studying the list of free agent pitchers who are realistic targets for the Orioles and potential upgrades available in trades, but never wander too far from home.
You know how this club loves to stay in-house.
The Orioles can’t rely on the organization’s arms to solve all of their pitching problems. Rolling the same dice over and over is too big of a gamble for a team that set a franchise record for worst rotation ERA at 5.70. However, the philosophy of trying to grow the arms remains in play.
It just needs to be executed.
Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy were drafted and developed and they could fill the top two spots next spring. Hunter Harvey is healthy and might join them later in the summer. The Orioles don’t plan on taking him north out of spring training, but they’re going to keep an open mind.
Harvey is the positive development, a reason for encouragement as the Orioles try to improve their staff. He’s only 22, and wouldn’t a rotation look dandy with former first round picks from 2011-2013?
Is it too late for Matt Hobgood?
The Orioles were hoping that Cody Sedlock, their first-rounder in 2016 out of the University of Illinois, would bolt through the system and be a consideration for next season, but he didn’t make it out of the Carolina League. He posted a 5.90 ERA and 1.72 WHIP in 20 starts with Single-A Frederick and opponents batted .313 against him.
Of greater concern were two trips to the disabled list due to a right elbow flexor strain and right forearm strain, the latter causing him to be shut down in August. Sedlock was on the rehab list in the fall instructional league and made good use of his time in Sarasota.
Sedlock wasn’t cleared to throw, but video and dry work enabled him to get back to his college delivery.
“He worked hard and looked great,” said director of player development Brian Graham.
Progress also is needed next year from Keegan Akin, the second-rounder from Western Michigan who’s pitching for the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League. Akin went 7-8 with a 4.14 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 21 starts with Frederick, and the Orioles shut him down after Aug. 4 due to a pulled oblique muscle.
Akin posted a 0.90 ERA and 0.80 WHIP in five June starts. He struck out 111 batters in 100 innings this season. There’s a lot to like about him, though he’d make a better impression on some folks next spring if he shed a little weight.
Sedlock is listed at 6 foot 3 and 190 pounds, three inches taller and 35 pounds lighter than Akin. But all prospects aren’t built alike.
As former collegiate pitchers, Sedlock and Akin are counted upon to move quickly up the ladder. The Orioles need them to do it.
Left-hander Chris Lee auditioned for a spot in the rotation late in spring training and I chose him as the Orioles’ breakout player in 2017. I also took the Washington Generals over the Harlem Globetrotters and New Coke over the regular stuff.
Lee was a legitimate pick, but he didn’t make it to Camden Yards. He posted a 5.11 ERA and 1.70 WHIP in 27 games with Triple-A Norfolk, International League opponents batted .302 against him and seven of his last eight appearances came in relief.
Used to piggyback other starters, Lee allowed only four earned runs in 24 1/3 innings working out of the bullpen. The Orioles are considering whether he’s better equipped to pitch in relief.
Tides manager Ron Johnson gave Lee another start on Sept. 2 and he responded by allowing two runs and striking out seven batters in an 8-4 win in Charlotte.
The Orioles didn’t draft Lee, but they’re developing him. He hadn’t pitched above the Single-A level before the Astros traded him in May 2015 for two international signing bonus slots.
It would be a huge bonus for the Orioles if Lee could give them a left-handed option for the rotation.
Santander, batting fourth and serving as designated hitter, went 1-for-4 with a double and strikeout. Mountcastle, batting fifth and playing third base, went 0-for-1 with a walk and run scored before coming out for a pinch-hitter. Wilkerson, batting ninth and playing second base, went 1-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts.
The Rafters defeated the Surprise Saguaros 4-3.