A minor league pitcher enjoying a big year and other minors notes

Maybe he’s been flying a bit under the radar on the O's farm, but right-hander Noah Denoyer should not be. He pitched well earlier this season for high Single-A Aberdeen and is now doing so for Double-A Bowie. In fact, he has been pitching well pretty much since the day the Orioles signed him as a minor league free agent on Aug. 5, 2019.

For a pitcher who was not drafted, his stats compare well right now to some of the best pitchers for the Orioles' minor league affiliates.

In 14 games this season between Aberdeen and Bowie, he is 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA. Over 51 1/3 innings he has allowed 33 hits and 11 walks while notching 66 strikeouts. He has yielded just a .183 opponent batting average and 0.86 WHIP.

Among O’s minor league pitchers throwing 40 or more innings this season, his ERA ranks first in the organization, and he is second in WHIP (to Grayson Rodriguez) and fifth in strikeouts per nine innings at 11.57.

In the 2021 season, Denoyer was also good, going 5-3 with a 2.76 ERA between low Single-A Delmarva and Aberdeen. He started this year with the IronBirds, going 4-0 with a 2.40 ERA in five games. He had not been starting but throwing multiple-innings in relief, but then he made a start for Bowie on Friday night. Over five innings against Richmond he allowed four hits and two runs (one earned) on 79 pitches. It looks for now like he is in the Bowie rotation to stay.

In four games with the Baysox in June, he allowed one run over 16 1/3 innings with one walk and 19 strikeouts and with an ERA of 0.55. So yeah, pretty good.

“He’s just making good strides this year toward developing his entire arsenal,” Orioles director of player development Matt Blood said of Denoyer, 24. “He’s been refining some of the shapes of his pitches and he’s been locating them. He has done great work with our pitching staffs in Aberdeen and Bowie. He’s been a real nice development success story so far.”

Denoyer sits in the 91-to-94 mph range with his fastball and he has worked hard on the pitch shapes with his secondaries to be as effective as possible, and he keeps getting more consistent in that regard.

With the Orioles, sometimes pitcher development can be an organization-wide process. The analytics and data departments can assess areas a pitcher can improve, and then the pitchers and their coaches get to the on-field work of doing just that.

“And that can lead to success,” Blood said of such collaboration.

Blood said the constant work through the minors on improving pitch shapes has helped numerous pitchers this year.

“No doubt, that’s the name of the game,” he said. “There are things across the board that play for most, but each individual also has things specific to them in how they throw. With Denoyer, they have identified how his pitches needed to be refined and he, to his credit, attacked that and has worked on it. He has gotten those pitches more refined and has executed that in the games. That’s the development goal for him.”

The Orioles identify pitchers they like when they are in high school or college and will later attempt to draft or acquire because they see something they can work with.

“The process that our guys have put into place is to identify a guy that has the raw pitch characteristics we like, and we have the tools to show how we can make him better, and then we have the coaches and analysts in place that can use those tools and execute a plan to get a guy to go where we knew he could go before we drafted him,” Blood said.

Peter Van Loon (8-0, 2.50 ERA) and Justin Armbruester (2-1, 3.88 ERA) offer just a couple of shining examples of pitchers in whom the Orioles saw something they liked before they drafted them. Now they are taking those pitchers and making them better.

More notes from the farm:

Bowie infielder-outfielder Adam Hall was sent to the Rookie-level Florida Complex League this week. Hall has been mostly used as a designated hitter recently and is dealing with a shoulder issue that is hindering his throwing, and he will rehab that in the FCL. He can run and hit and play in games as a DH, but has to rehab his shoulder and will do that in Florida. In 41 games with Bowie, Hall was batting .281/.376/.366/.742.

* Big Mike Baumann has been moved back to the starting rotation at Triple-A Norfolk. Baumann spent most of his time since the Orioles drafted him as a starter, and now he is back in the Triple-A rotation. In his last two games he made starts and pitched three and four innings, and he is being stretched out now. In those two games he allowed five hits and two runs over seven innings, and had two walks and 10 strikeouts.

* Fans and readers eager to see outfielder Heston Kjerstad get promoted from Delmarva to Aberdeen may get their wish, but probably not in the next few days. If you look at how the O’s have handled some players the last year or two, we have seen players play for about a month at Delmarva before they are moved up. That is how it happened last year when Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg were at Delmarva. Henderson played in 35 games with the Shorebirds, and the older Westburg played in 20 games and got 91 plate appearances there. The O’s seem to like to see those players get three or four weeks and around 100 plate appearances before a move up. So Kjerstad is probably not there right now. But a week from now, he will be a lot closer, perhaps, to that point.

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