It has been an interesting last 13 or 14 months for Orioles Triple-A pitcher Chayce McDermott. Last Aug. 1, he was acquired from Houston in a three-team trade that sent Trey Mancini to the Astros. Houston had drafted McDermott in 2021 in round four out of Ball State.
This season he advanced from Double-A to Triple-A in mid-July and ends his first full season in the organization named Saturday as the O’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year, winning the Jim Palmer Award.
Ranked as the club’s No. 10 prospect by MLBPipeline.com and No. 14 via Baseball America, MLB Pipeline ranks him as the club’s top pitching prospect.
Late last season his life was uprooted by the trade, but this season ends with the Palmer award. Joining the Orioles has proven to be huge for McDermott, who turned 25 Aug. 22.
“I think people overlook sometimes that getting traded is very hard,” he said Saturday after the announcement of his award. “You get used to an organization and then you pick up and move. Meet new people, new coaches. But I feel like it was a super smooth transition, super easy. I love everyone in the Orioles organization, and they have been super helpful in my career. Now it just feels like I am part of the family.”
This season between Bowie and Norfolk he went 8-8 with a 3.10 ERA. In 119 innings he allowed just 69 hits with 68 walks and 152 strikeouts. With a mid 90s fastball that can touch the high 90s he’s also got a solid slider/sweeper and also throws a curveball, cutter and changeup.
"For me this year it was just kind of simplifying the game. In the past, I was thinking about 15 different things when you are throwing one pitch. Makes it hard to execute. So, tried to simplify the approach this year and go at hitters," said McDermott.
McDermott allowed an average against of just .167 this season and an OPS of .570. He has had some command issues through his career, averaging 5.3 walks per nine over three seasons but with a strikeout rate of 12.98. So, he's been both hard to hit and also has some swing and miss stuff.
After getting to Norfolk this season he excelled, going 3-2 with a 2.49 ERA, .156 average against and 1.01 WHIP. Twice he was the International League Pitcher of the Week in back-to-back weeks ending July 30 and Aug. 6.
“What has impressed me the most is his ability to get outs in the strike zone,” Norfolk manager Buck Britton said of McDermott. “We had a unique deal here where the first three games of a six-game series you get full ABS (automated ball-strike system). So, you are not seeing catchers stealing strikes out of the strike zone. Strikes are strikes and balls are balls.
“I think over the course of the season Chayce has done a really nice job and it comes with confidence. He’s got great stuff. But understanding he can get outs in the strike zone I think helped him really take off. He’s commanding the ball well and I think he’s got a chance to impact our major league roster here in the near future. And he’s a fierce competitor. I love the kid.”
McDermott’s brother Sean played in the NBA. And McDermott redshirted in 2018 at Ball State while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
But this year he was thriving on the O’s farm and he’s looking forward now to a winter to work on a few things.
“There are plenty of things I could go over (to improve), but obviously command is still a big thing. I think that would be the biggest thing for me, just commanding the ball a little better. And pitch quality can improve, get the velo up more, there are multiple things, but command is the biggest thing.
“Next year the goal is to be in the big leagues, for sure. I’d like to believe I’m not that far (away). Just going to keep pushing and hopefully other people see it too," he said.
Speaking of pitching: While the Orioles were not hitting much in the final days of the regular season, they sure were pitching well and they put up some stats that may be surprising.
For instance, which club had the best team ERA in the American League since the All-Star game? It was the Orioles at 3.59. They also ranked first in the AL in team batting average allowed since the break at .230 and second in WHIP at 1.17.
For the full year, the club team ERA of 3.89 ranks fifth best in the AL and seventh best in MLB. A team ERA of just a few points better at 3.86 ranked third this year in the AL, so the O's were not that far from the top three in the league.
The O's team ERA was 1.13 in the last eight games of the regular season as they allowed just nine earned runs.
Attendance note: In 2023, MLB posted attendance that was up 9.6 percent from 2022, the highest year-over-year increase in average attendance since 1993. MLB passed 70 million for the first time since 2017. There were 17 clubs over 2.5 million and eight over three million, the most since 2013.
Final attendance for the Orioles was 1,936,798, a per game average of 23,911 that was up 41.5 percent over the 2022 season.
Another award for Holliday: Last night on a live telecast on MLB Network they aired the inaugural Minor League baseball awards.
The O's Jackson Holliday won yet another award, named as MiLB's Hitting Prospect of the Year.
The Triple-A Norfolk Tides, after winning 90 games in the regular season plus the International League championship and the Triple-A championship game, were named the Team of the Year.
Holliday and catcher Samuel Basallo were first team All MiLB Prospect Team while Coby Mayo made the second team.