More props for O's farm and young talent


At a time when the Orioles farm system gets major props from outlets throughout the sport, more encouraging news came this week. Baltimore already is ranked by several outlets as having the No. 1 farm system in baseball and this follows a 2022 season when both Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson were ranked as the No. 1 prospect in baseball and Grayson Rodriguez was ranked as the No. 1 pitcher.

In this article this week, which summarized a podcast,’s Jim Callis predicted that O’s infield prospect Jackson Holliday would be ranked as their No. 1 prospect in the top 100 by the end of the 2023 season. That would give the O’s three No. 1 players over a two-year period.

The podcast/article was rather promising about the Orioles as both Callis and fellow analyst Jonathan Mayo predicted that Henderson would be voted the 2023 American League Rookie of the Year.

Saying Henderson is “everything he was cracked up to be,” Callis adds he would vote Henderson the No. 1 prospect right now and currently he ranks No. 2 on the board behind Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez.

In that same article, Callis also projected Holliday to be the Hitter of the Year for 2023 as Henderson was for the outlet last season.

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The O's hurler who featured one of the most dominant pitches in the majors


To say the least, Orioles reliever Félix Bautista has a devastating split-finger fastball. It would dive down in the zone under the bats of many hitters as a huge swing-and-miss pitch and played very well with a fastball that averaged 99.2 mph. His split averaged 88.5 mph.

It was not only among the very best splitters thrown by any pitcher in the game, but that pitch, which has the facts to back it up, was among the very best individual pitches thrown by anyone during the 2022 season.

What a year Bautista had and to put it further into perspective, his first minor league season was 2013. Not until 2021 did he even make it to Double-A, where he pitched 13 1/3 innings. He would add 18 1/3 Triple-A innings. So he made the O’s roster last season with a total of 31 2/3 innings in his life above A-ball.

Then for the Orioles, he went 4-4 with a 2.19 ERA and 15 saves in 17 chances. Over 65 2/3 innings he allowed just 38 hits and produced an 0.929 WHIP. He gave up just 5.2 hits per nine and 1.0 homers with 3.2 walks and 12.1 strikeouts. Lefty batters had a .523 OPS against him and right-handers were at .541. He had a 9.1 walk percentage and 34.8 strikeout percentage. At home his ERA was 2.58, and on the road it was 1.65.

So yeah, pretty strong from start to finish by almost any measure.

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A few more from the 2023 season wish list


As the New Year began on Sunday, we provided a wish list for some players and O's staff for the 2023 season. We add to that here today.

Terrin Vavra and Kyle Stowers: More regular at-bats. I think that on rebuilding O’s teams that were headed for 100 or more losses, one or both of these players may have been given 300 or 400 plate appearances, and we could really tell a bit about them in such a sample. The 2023 edition may make that hard for one or both.

But among all Orioles that batted last year, Vavra’s .340 OBP ranked fourth. We know this kid can work the count and uses the whole field, We also know he hit just one homer in 103 plate appearances. The power is just not going to be there, but he has to bring what he can bring, which is the plate discipline needed on a club that ranked 22nd in the majors in this stat last year.

Stowers power seems to be a real thing. He ranked fifth on the team in slugging among all O’s batters in 2022. He can drive it out to all fields and worked to decrease his K rate at Triple-A last year. I think that, given enough at-bats, Stowers could produce solid corner outfield stats and also would bring average-or-better defense with a plus arm.

Jorge Mateo: The ability to find once again whatever he found batting that made his hitting, sub-par to that point, look above average and even special at times for a spell last year. He did have a nice five-week stretch of hitting that ran from July 16 to Aug. 23, including his big night at the Little League Classic. In that span of 31 games he batted .321 with a .944 OPS. You thought maybe he had turned a corner. But that did not hold up, and over his final 36 games he hit .174/.213/.270/.483.

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Looking at a few more available free agent pitchers


If the Orioles are going to add a pitcher they can slot at or near the top of their rotation, they are probably going to have to go the trade route at this point and potentially part with one or more of their top 30 prospects. But if they want to add a pitcher that can slot in the middle or back end of their rotation, they could still look to sign a remaining free agent.

Here are a few possibles.

Righty Zach Davies: In the 2011 MLB Draft, the Orioles selected a kid pitcher out of a high school in Arizona named Zach Davies. They picked him in round 26 and yet he signed for a big overslot bonus of $575,000.

Then-scouting director Joe Jordan knew the kid didn’t throw very hard but was wiser than his years in knowing how to attack hitters, and he had a strong changeup.

Davies has turned those traits into a decent big league career, and if the Orioles seek a reunion years later, they could have one. On July 31, 2015, the O’s traded Davies, then pitching to a 2.84 ERA at Triple-A Norfolk, to Milwaukee for outfielder Gerardo Parra. That one did not work out. At the time of the deal Parra had an .886 OPS for the Brewers, but that number dropped all the way to .625 with the Orioles. At the end of the year he signed with Colorado.

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A wish list for the 2023 season


As the New Year begins today, here is a wish for health and happiness for all of us. Without the first, it gets more difficult to have the second. Let’s all go two-for-two in 2023.

As it relates to baseball and the Orioles, here is a wish list for a few people for the 2023 season.

Manager Brandon Hyde: A wish that he not change one thing. Not anything. He has proven to be a great leader for a young clubhouse and has experience handling young talent. He is just what the Orioles need right now as skipper, and I can see him leading some very good O’s teams for a long time. I love the relationship he seems to have with Mike Elias, and the duo make a great team at the top of the O’s baseball operations.

On a personal note, Hyde has been great for local reporters, although I, of course, can only speak for one of us. He’s fair with media and has shown enormous patience. In baseball, in every market, managers get a lot of the same questions over and over again. Hyde has never played media favorites and respects reporters. It is clear that he does. He is just a good guy who works well with people and cares. In 2022 more and more O’s fans realized what they have in the dugout.

Pitcher Mychal Givens: Welcome back, and here’s a wish for a great year. I think Givens would love to be a key member of another good O’s team, as he once was. He’ll be a great fit in this ‘pen – both on the mound and in the clubhouse.

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The Orioles trade Tyler Nevin to the Detroit Tigers


On Aug. 30, 2020 the Orioles traded reliever Mychal Givens to the Colorado Rockies for three players, including Tyler Nevin. Recently Givens rejoined the Orioles, but now Nevin is officially leaving the organization.

Designated for assignment on Dec. 21 when the club acquired catcher James McCann from the New York Mets, Nevin was traded to the Detroit Tigers for cash considerations Saturday night. The New Year’s Eve move beats the end of 2022 by several hours in what is likely the club’s final move of this calendar year.

Nevin, 25, played in 58 games for the Orioles in 2022 and in 184 plate appearances batted .197/.299/.261/.500 with four doubles, two homers and 16 RBIs. He debuted for the Orioles in 2021, going 4-for-14 (.286). In 64 career games he hit .205 with a .604 OPS.

In parts of the last two seasons for the Orioles, Nevin made starts at first base, third base, left and right field. Most of his starts came at third in 2022 when he made 40 starts at the hot corner.

This past season for Triple-A Norfolk, Nevin batted .291/.382/.479/.861 in 44 games for the Tides. Nevin tied Norfolk's franchise record and set a professional career high with eight RBIs on April 15 versus Scranton. He went 3-for-6 and hit his first career grand slam in the second inning.

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Taking a look at O's reported interest in Eric Hosmer


The report was that the Orioles and Cubs have interest in free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer. The former All-Star won a World Series ring with the 2015 Kansas City Royals and is said to be “on the radar” of the Orioles and Cubs.

This tells us, well, not much. How much interest do they have and how much interest will Hosmer have in them?

The Padres traded Hosmer to Boston last August, and the Red Sox released him just a few days ago. Whichever team signs him will only pay him the major league minimum as San Diego remains on the hook with Hosmer for three more years at $13 million each. The Padres signed him in February 2018 to an eight-year deal worth a whopping $144 million.

If it turns out that Hosmer goes from being on the Orioles' radar to being signed and in their clubhouse, he would join a list of vets they have added that includes Kyle Gibson, Adam Frazier, James McCann and Mychal Givens, players they see as good clubhouse guys that can help a young team get to the next level.

Whatever energy, mentorship and leadership that is gone with departures of Jordan Lyles, Robinson Chirinos and Rougned Odor will be made up and perhaps exceeded by this new group.

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Another look back at the winning season we saw in 2022

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If you were told there would be no math here, you got misled. Today’s blog will include plenty of numbers, most of them good for the Orioles. As we are about to end calendar year 2022, we today take another chance to note the season in ’22 for the Orioles produced the club’s first winning season since 2016.

On top of that the club has the No. 1-ranked farm system in the majors and is about to send players such as pitcher Grayson Rodriguez to the majors for the first time.

But first some notes on the 83-79 regular season for the Orioles:

* It produced a 31-win gain, going from 52 in 2021 to 83.

* The Orioles were the last American League team to be eliminated from postseason contention.

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Revisiting the situation with Jorge Mateo

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The story from Dec. 19 in The Athletic said the Orioles are receiving trade calls on shortstop Jorge Mateo. Not that they were shopping Mateo or initiating the calls, but of course they listen on just about everything.

The Athletic wrote: “The Twins, Braves, Red Sox and Dodgers all lost shortstops on the open market. Mateo, entering his age 28 season, might be an affordable and potentially attractive fit for interested clubs, a player whose value as an athletic defender and stolen-base threat should only increase as the league introduces shift restrictions, larger bases and pickoff rules in 2023."

Right now there is a lot to like about Mateo as an Oriole, including the above that interested other teams. He seemed to fit in great in the Orioles clubhouse and is a popular teammate. He also seems to love it here, realizing this is the club that gave him the chance to play every day.

Mateo’s hard work at improving his English and thus his one-on-one communication with reporters impressed me. I had several interviews with him in which he worked hard to understand every word I said and was thoughtful with his answers. He seemed to even appreciate when a reporter double-checked to make sure the words that they heard were correct.

This guy is impressive on and off the field.

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What might be still to come for the Orioles

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Hey, Birdland and all readers here, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and holiday season. 

We can make no promises, but the time leading up to Jan. 1 should be pretty quiet around baseball. We'll see if that holds.

But here are a few more questions about the Orioles as the New Year soon arrives.

Is a big trade still coming?: The Orioles have yet to pull off a deal where they trade from their deep pool of prospects. They have the No. 1-ranked farm in the game, and surely their top 30 list and beyond will draw the attention of all teams in the sport.

Is a big trade for a frontline pitcher in their future? The Orioles were unable or unwilling to sign a top-of-rotation starter. Could that pitcher be had via a deal?

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Catching up on a few recent moves

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A few thoughts today on some Orioles moves from over the last week or so.

The addition of Mychal Givens: I had written early in the offseason that I thought the Orioles should look to add to the bullpen. This came at a time when most of the focus was on a top starter and a big bat.

Eventually, it would be great to see the Orioles have a starting rotation like Houston's, which last year featured five pitchers throwing 148 innings or more. That led to the Astros' bullpen throwing the fewest innings in the American League while recording the No. 1 bullpen ERA. Keeping your relievers fresh and in their roles lends itself to a lot of good things happening with the ‘pen pitchers.

The addition of Givens gives the O’s another solid bullpen arm that lengthens their 'pen. The trade of Jorge López late last year that moved Félix Bautista to the ninth inning took away a setup reliever and thinned out the bullpen, which showed some wear and tear late in 2022.

While Bautista is nowhere near an established closer yet, he showed both the talent and makeup to handle the job and did it well, recording 15 saves while posting a 2.19 ERA. Now in the seventh and eighth innings the O’s will have some combination of Cionel Pérez, Dillon Tate, Givens and Bryan Baker. Joey Krehbiel could factor into that, too, as could others, including DL Hall if he doesn’t make the starting five.

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A few minor league O's that can fly under the radar


Can a pitcher who has thrown for three of the last four seasons for the Aberdeen IronBirds - both when they were in the short-season New York Penn League and now in the full-season South Atlantic League - be considered a prospect?

OK, probably not, but he can be considered a player with a good arm that the Orioles like who clearly flies under the radar. Maybe well under it.

Right-hander Kade Strowd put together impressive stats this past season, when he was healthy and showed a fastball that can touch the high 90s with some solid secondaries. You won’t find him on anyone’s top 30 prospects list, but the scouts must have noticed the stuff and the stats this season with Single-A Aberdeen.

The Orioles selected Strowd, 25, in round 12 of the 2019 MLB Draft out of the University of West Virginia. The same school that produced their 11th round pick in the 2014 draft in lefty John Means. In three seasons with WVU as mostly a starting pitcher, Strowd went 10-16 with a 5.31 ERA.

In his first O’s season in 2019 after that draft, when Aberdeen was still a short-season club, he made his pro debut, throwing 17 innings for the IronBirds without allowing an earned run. He didn’t pitch in 2020. Nobody on the farm did, as the pandemic forced the cancellation of all minor league games. For whatever reason, Strowd took a step back in 2021, going 0-3 with an 8.05 ERA for Aberdeen.

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No. 1 on Baseball America's prospect list now, does Gunnar Henderson stay there?

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The Orioles' No. 1-ranked farm system currently features six players ranked in the Baseball America top 100 prospects list. That is a strong number. And if the O’s still have those six – and they likely should – when the publication releases a new top 100 list in January heading into 2023, that would be an Orioles first.

Since 1990, when Baseball America began releasing a top 100 list each January, the O’s have had as many as five players ranked, but never six.

Currently, they have the No. 1-rated player in Gunnar Henderson, in addition to Grayson Rodriguez (No. 4), Jackson Holliday (No. 38), DL Hall (No. 55), Colton Cowser (No. 88) and Jordan Westburg (No. 89).

Among the 33 lists Baseball America has released, only three times have the O’s had five rated, and it has happened each of the last two years and also in 2008.

In 2008, it was Matt Wieters (12), Chris Tillman (67), Radhames Liz (69), Troy Patton (78) and Nolan Reimold (91).

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A look at the Baseball America O's top 10 prospects list


Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias has said the Orioles' current top 10 prospects list is about as good as any he’s ever seen. That is high praise since he was involved with Houston’s rise to the top of big league baseball and they had some pretty strong young talent there too.

Today I am taking a look at and providing a brief comment on each player on Baseball America's list of the Orioles' top 10 prospects.

These are all names that should be well-known to most Orioles fans by now. Three have already seen the majors.

The Orioles pulled off a rare feat last season when they had two different players ranked as the No. 1 prospect in baseball by Baseball America: catcher Adley Rutschman and later infielder Gunnar Henderson.

No. 1 – IF Gunnar Henderson: There is plenty to like here, and Henderson will likely begin next year as Baseball America’s No. 1 prospect, as he is today. I mean, what is going to change between now and then? Henderson’s stay at the top, though, will end when he gets just 15 more big league at-bats and thus will no longer be “prospect-eligible,” as they say. However - and this will, no doubt, confuse some - he will still be eligible to win the 2023 AL Rookie of the Year Award.

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Discussing player development with the O's Matt Blood - part two


Recently here we discussed how the Orioles handle their minor league managers and some other topics with Orioles director of player development Matt Blood. Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias hired Blood in September 2019.

On Blood's watch the Orioles have become the No. 1 farm system in baseball. He would be the first to say he is one cog in the system. But I would add he is a very important one, and some of his hires have been a big part of that ranking.

Here are some questions from me and answers from Blood on some other topics within player development for the Orioles.

Q: What are some things the Orioles have now been built up that make your pitching development and pitching program good?

A: “I would say we have a combination of talented players, very smart and hard-working coaches and really good resources from our research and development department. The coaches are provided with information as good as you can get anywhere. And they are really skilled at providing that information effectively to the players.”

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Holiday edition: A few questions for O's fans


Whether you are having a festive day or not, or are starting to get in the Christmas spirit or not, there is always time to talk baseball and about the Orioles.

Today, as usual, you provide answers to any or all of the questions. Some of the most fun reading can be checking out reader responses to each other, so make time for that too.

Questions coming, Egg Nog not required.

Today's questions:

* How many starts will righty Grayson Rodriguez make this season, and how many innings can he throw after last year?

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Baseball America's JJ Cooper on the Orioles' Rule 5 draft selection

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A streak stayed alive recently. The Orioles have made a selection in every Rule 5 draft that was held since 2006. This time they selected right-handed reliever Andrew Politi from the Boston Red Sox. 

Now Politi, coming off a good 2022 season when he spent time at both Double-A and Triple-A, will try to first make the O’s Opening Day roster and then stick with the club all season next year, per the Rule 5 rules. A 15th-round draft pick out of Seton Hall in 2018, Politi pitched in 50 games last year, going 4-1 with a 2.34 ERA.

Over 69 1/3 innings he allowed 45 hits and just six homers, recording 22 walks to 83 strikeouts. He posted a 2.9 walk rate and 10.8 strikeout rate with a .186 batting average against and 0.97 WHIP. Some strong stats that included a 28.3 strikeout percentage in his time at Triple-A.

I recently talked with Baseball America’s editor-in-chief, JJ Cooper about this O's addition. Few know the Rule 5 draft or cover it better than Cooper. He sees this pick as a different type of Rule 5 selection for the O's. Not a pitcher that a losing team might select for future help but a major league-ready pickup that a team chasing the playoffs might take a look at.

“The Orioles were looking for a player that could fit into their 2023 bullpen, and if I were looking for a player in this year’s Rule 5 draft, Politi is one of the ones that most stands out for that," said Cooper. "He had success last year. He had upper-level success, he spent most of the year at Triple-A. It’s not a high-upside play. He’s got solid stuff. A mid-90’s fastball that plays well with a hard slider.

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Discussing player development with the O's Matt Blood - part one


Matt Blood just completed his third season as the Orioles' director of player development, and the minor league system he oversees is now ranked No. 1 in the majors by a few outlets.

Blood's first season included having to deal with a pandemic that caused the cancellation of all minor league baseball in 2020.

He came to the Orioles from the Texas Rangers, where he held a similar position. He previously spent three years as the director of USA Baseball’s 18 and Under National Team program and seven years before that as an area scout for the St. Louis Cardinals. With that club he worked with both Mike Elias and Sig Mejdal. Now they are all together in Baltimore.

“Matt has an unrivaled network when it comes to identifying up-and-coming coaching talent, and his knowledge of the latest trends in the player development sphere will help to keep us on the forefront of this critical area,” Elias said when he hired Blood in September 2019.

I've interviewed Blood many times since he joined the Orioles, talking mostly about players on the farm. But recently we talked more about process and how the O's player development department works closely with the minor league managers.

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After big 2022 season on farm, the majors await Jordan Westburg


When we talk about some of the Orioles' best prospects, it seems we often mention a few players before we get to him. But it was infielder Jordan Westburg who last season took home the biggest honor for the O’s on the farm.

He was named the Brooks Robinson Award winner as the club’s Minor League Player of the Year. Gunnar Henderson might be Baseball America’s No. 1-ranked prospect in its top 100, but Westburg got that huge honor from the Orioles in late September.

He absolutely filled up the stat sheet during a 2022 season when he played 47 games at Double-A Bowie and 91 at Triple-A Norfolk. And while he posted a strong .817 OPS with the Baysox, that number got better when he moved up. His OPS was .869 for the Tides of the International League.

Between the two clubs he batted .265/.355/.496/.851 with 39 doubles, three triples, 27 homers, 96 runs scored, 106 RBIs, 70 walks and 12 stolen bases in 138 games.

He led all O's minor league players in doubles, extra-base hits (69), total bases (270) and RBIs. He also finished second in the organization in hits and home runs. After being promoted to the Tides on June 6, he led the league with 74 RBIs and tied for the league lead with 25 doubles, while also ranking second in the IL with 46 extra-base hits, 184 total bases and 64 runs scored through the end of the season.

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The free agent pitcher market continues to dwindle

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It’s not even Christmas and the shelves are not nearly as stocked as they were not long ago. And no, we are not talking about a run on a popular kid’s toy, but free agent starting pitchers.

They went fast. Of the top nine pitchers, as ranked among the top 50 free agents by, just one remains. And that is one of the biggest fish in lefty Carlos Rodón, rated as the No. 6 overall free agent, but tops among the pitchers.

Where does that leave the Orioles? Well, with a much smaller pool of decent hurlers to pick from and try to sign. Barring a shocker with Rodón. 

Righty Noah Syndergaard is still out there for now. Over a seven-year career he has gone 57-41 with a 3.42 ERA and 1.176 WHIP. That is a 116 ERA+.

After rejecting the Mets' qualifying offer after the 2021 season, Syndergaard signed a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels for $21 million. But then they traded him to Philadelphia on Aug. 2 at the trade deadline.

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