When is the right time to trade prospects?


There is a segment of Birdland that seems to get uncomfortable when the conversation turns to the possibility of the Orioles trading some of their prospects. No doubt there are good reasons for those feelings some fans may have on this topic.

For one they get attached to players, even players on the farm they have heard about even if they have yet to see them play in the majors. For two they are worried the organization may be trading away a future star. This is a valid concern when dealing any prospect and no doubt the front office doing the trading for any organization has some of the same concerns and feelings. 

Yet they can’t be afraid to act, and prospects may have more value in the sport now than they have at any time. Young talent is coveted and a team with a fertile farm like the Orioles attracts attention. Many teams will have interest in their minor league players.

There are those in Birdland that want the Orioles to “see what they have” in such players before trading them. The only issue here is that a prospect on the rise, but not yet in the majors, can keep building value as they get closer to the majors. But if they get to MLB and don’t perform to expectations it doesn’t take long to lose some of that value. Before their MLB debut they are that shiny new toy and after, if they don’t look good initially, it’s on to the next for some.

Birdland knows all too well about a player losing value and, in this case, I will discuss a player with just one MLB at-bat. No, it’s not Moonlight Graham, but it is Cuban-born outfielder Yusniel Diaz. He was the center piece of the five-player package the Los Angeles Dodgers traded to Baltimore to get Manny Machado on July 18, 2018.

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As O's may be searching for more bats, where does Kyle Stowers fit in?


The Orioles have added some left-handed batters on minor league deals in recent days. But the search for a quality lefty bat to place somewhere in the lineup may well still be ongoing.

But is a potent lefty bat already on the roster looking for more playing time? And is Kyle Stowers that bat?

Yes, to the first question and I think yes to the second also.

O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias talked at the Winter Meetings about being careful not to make acquisitions that block prospects. Stowers already is partially blocked on the roster with Austin Hays in left, Cedric Mullins in center and Anthony Santander in right. Colton Cowser is another outfield prospect charging toward Baltimore. The DH spot is open, but he might already be a bit squeezed in outfield at-bats.

But Stowers, who hit one of the most dramatic homers of the 2022 season, has big-time power, cut down on his strikeouts on the farm last year and features a decent glove with a plus arm. He’s big and strong, was the O’s co-Minor League Player of the Year with Adley Rutschman in 2021 and will turn 25 on Jan. 2.

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Looking at scout's winter work, a note on the bullpen, pitching market and more

Tyler Wells pitching gray

In this space in the last week we took a look at what the winter might look like for an Orioles area scout. There are few, if any, games to scout this time of year and individual players are mostly focusing on their individual workouts.

So this is a time of year, Orioles director of draft operations Brad Ciolek told me, that his scouts do a lot of work on player makeup. That is, learning about the guy inside the uniform. How is his work ethic and attitude toward the game? Is he considered coachable? Will he be a good teammate?

The Orioles try to leave few stones unturned here in scouting. And while they have become an organization heavily reliant on data and analytics and one the produces its own draft models, the human element is still vital.

“We do a lot of Zoom calls,” Ciolek told me. “If there is one silver lining from the pandemic, it is the ability to connect with anyone across the country, or the globe, for that matter. So, we do take full advantage of the opportunity to get on Zoom calls with these guys. Talk to them and see how things are going before we talk to them next spring.”

I asked Ciolek if most of those Zoom calls take place between players and area scouts. Or do members higher up in the O’s front office take part?

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The arrival of Grayson Rodriguez should be a real 2023 highlight


While we await further news about any additions the Orioles might make for their starting rotation, we can also take a minute to let this news sink in: It is news we’ve known for a while, but baseball’s top pitching prospect in right-hander Grayson Rodriguez is set to make his major league debut in 2023.

He very likely could break north with the Orioles for Opening Day after a strong but injury-interrupted season. It’s Grayson time for the pitcher who turned 23 last month, a month when he was added to the 40-man roster for the first time.

It was on June 1 last season, while pitching for Triple-A Norfolk, that Rodriguez seemed poised to make his big league debut. It could be coming at any time, we thought then. But it was then that he walked off the mound in the sixth inning with what we would later learn was a Grade 2 right lat strain.

The injury would rob him of about three months of his season, but at least he made it back healthy to pitch on the farm in September, and now he has Baltimore in his sights after the 40-man ascension.

“Obviously, it’s an honor to get put on anybody’s 40-man, especially ours,” Rodriguez said last month. “So, pretty excited, pretty pumped up for it. Can’t wait for spring training. And really just looking forward to what this year has in store. Just getting back out there and throwing the baseball.”

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A closer look at Kyle Gibson's late-season strikeout surge

Kyle Gibson throw white Phillies

We’ll see how newly signed Baltimore right-hander Kyle Gibson does on the field for the Orioles. The club hopes he’ll provide some quality while on the mound and some leadership while off it. But after his first Zoom press conference with local media, it's clear his interview game is very strong.

And I don’t mean that he is boastful or cocky in any way whatsoever. Quite the opposite was true during his Zoom call Thursday. He was modest and respectful of his previous teams and even to reporters, to the point it seemed he wanted to start to learn our names and get to know some people he will be seeing a lot of during the 2023 season.

But Gibson was impressive.

He said during his talks with the Orioles that he “meshed well” with pitching coaches Chris Holt and Darren Holmes. Pretty apparent he is well versed in the data and analytics in the game now. He is all in there, and so joining a team that feels the same way was something he liked about the club.

He was very high on the Orioles' play in 2022 and talked about joining a good, young team on the rise. He even said that he liked pitching at Camden Yards and playing in Baltimore while on other clubs. He loves Little Italy too.

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A look at the remaining pitching market, plus other notes

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In case you missed it, Aaron Judge re-signed with the Yankees. It got pretty extensive coverage. And yes, most of the non-Yankees fans in the game are ready to move on to something else now.

As it relates to the Orioles, they added right-handed pitcher Kyle Gibson in recent days, but their search for a pitcher they can slot toward the top of their rotation is ongoing. Their choices are lessening.

The biggest pitching fish, or one of the three when free agency began, lefty Carlos Rodón is still out there. It would be a surprise if he ends up with the Orioles, but what a surprise it would be. Other pitchers that might have been in play for the Orioles have come off the board.

Right-hander Taijuan Walker signed with the Phillies for four years at $72 million. Right-hander Jameson Taillon joined the Cubs for four years at $68 million. José Quintana is joining the Mets and Andrew Heaney is headed to Texas.

The team that signs Rodón will lose a draft pick, as he rejected a qualifying offer. Same applies to Chris Bassitt and Nathan Eovaldi. Kodai Senga, with no draft pick attached, could be signing soon, per reports, while lefty Sean Manaea and righty Noah Syndergaard are still out there.

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Draft notes, plus a look at the bullpen and Boras' comments on Baltimore

draft platform 2022

They had the No. 1 overall draft pick in 1989, 2019 and 2022 but the Orioles will not have that pick next summer in the MLB Draft.

The first six picks were determined for next year's draft in last night's draft lottery at the Winter Meetings. The Orioles had a very small chance at the No. 1 pick or to be among the top six, but they didn't land there.

They will hold the No. 17 pick in round one of the next MLB Draft. The last time they picked that far down the board or lower, they selected lefty DL Hall No. 21 overall in 2017.

In the last four drafts, the Orioles selected first, second, fifth and first. 

Pittsburgh was the big winner and has the No. 1 overall pick next summer with Washington to pick No. 2 and Detroit No. 3.

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Notes on expensive pitching, Hyde honored, Taillon talk and Elias' comments


Yes, free agent pitching is expensive. Very expensive.

For Jacob deGrom, a pitcher that has made just 26 combined starts the last two years, a $185 million dollar deal with Texas that averages $37 million a year over the next five years. For Justin Verlander, a pitcher that will turn 40 in February, a contract that will average $43.3 million over the next two years from the New York Mets.

Both can be among the most dominant pitchers in the sport. deGrom has a 2.23 ERA since 2019. Last year, Verlander posted a 1.75 ERA over 175 innings. Wow, what a season.

Of the two deals, I think the Mets have more of a chance to get good value of their two-year deal than the Texas Rangers do for five years of deGrom.

But consider how coveted pitching is right now. So much so that top pitchers are getting $37 million per year. Contrast that with the American League MVP Aaron Judge and the fact that just two teams – the Yankees and Giants – seem serious about signing him. And he can play every day and not just once every five days. At least yesterday, finally, there were rumblings of a so-called mystery team or teams involved for Judge.

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As Winter Meetings start, more on Gibson agreement and a take on deGrom deal

Kyle Gibson throw white Phillies

As the MLB Winter Meetings begin a three-day run today in San Diego, the Orioles continue their search for starting pitching. The weekend agreement with right-hander Kyle Gibson is expected to be a starting point but not the end point. They are not done.

Now we await the next rumor and/or dispatch from San Diego that could give us a clue which free agent pitchers the Orioles are truly “in on” and how high they may be aiming in bolstering their starting rotation.

Is it possible that Gibson will not make the Orioles rotation and will pitch out of their bullpen? I would say yes possible, but it seems unlikely. Just as now former Oriole Jordan Lyles was for Baltimore, Gibson is an innings eater and 98 percent of his career MLB appearances have come as a starter. He has thrown 150 or more innings seven times and 180 or more three times. His career-best is 196 2/3 in 2018.

Gibson went 10-8 with a 5.05 ERA last year for the Phillies and actually pitched better at home despite pitching in such a hitter-friendly park. His ERA was 4.57 at home and 5.79 on the road in 2022.

If Gibson is essentially a replacement for Lyles, he could also be, as Lyles was, a clubhouse leader. He was said to be that for the Phillies last season and was the team’s nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award. Gibson was involved with several charities in the Philly area, raising $108,000 thousand dollars during his time with the club.

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In winter, scout focus shifts to important off-the-field aspects

Mike Elias OPACY suit

Even though they have become an organization that now has an up-to-date analytics department that has made extensive use of technology and data as they improved to become an 83-win club on the major league level, the Orioles insist the human element is very important to them as well.

They believe that the scout with eyes on the players in the ballparks has a lot to offer. Beyond data that can tell us about a player's strength, his throwing arm or his bat speed, scouts need to dig deeper than that, much deeper.

They call it “makeup.” What is the player’s makeup? How will he handle pressure? Will he continue to work hard after he makes the majors? Will he work well with his coaches? Is he going to be a good teammate? So many questions and so many answers to try to find.

Getting to know the players inside those uniforms is vital.

Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias seems to have an appreciation for scouts, and maybe that is because he started with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2007 as an area scout. This was not long after he graduated from Yale.

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Bellinger to Baltimore: Just a dream or a more realistic possibility?


How does a player with a combined OPS+ the last two years of just 64 (36 percent below league average) command strong attention in free agency? He does if he is a past National League Most Valuable Player, as outfielder Cody Bellinger is. And he does if his intention is to sign a one-year deal, which brings more teams into play in the bidding.

Should the Orioles be one of those teams?

Why not? To use a phrase once big in Birdland. Sure, the Orioles have talent they like now in their outfield, and more on the way from the farm. But how would Bellinger look hitting in the middle of a lineup with players like Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson, to name two. He is a lefty hitter the Orioles are said to be seeking that could play all three outfield spots, first base or DH. 

And if the O’s did sign such a player they could take their outfield surplus and deal from that – say for pitching. It all could work out nicely in Birdland.

Here is the catch, or catches, as it were.

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Waiting for a big free agent signing and remembering a Hall of Famer

Oriole Park generic

Considering he has had more than a few good days over the years at the Orioles expense, it’s pretty easy to guess where most O’s fans would like to see Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge playing next year. That is anywhere but the Bronx. San Francisco could be nice that time of year.

With the Winter Meetings now just a few days away, Judge, the No. 1 ranked free agent, is still available. While it is possible he signs somewhere that is not New York or San Francisco (the Dodgers could be involved), there have been almost no reporting from major outlets indicating we are going to get a surprise here. But it wouldn’t be the first time.

Last year, Judge recorded his best season yet, setting the American League record for homers with 62. He posted a career-best OPS at 1.111, which produced an OPS+ of 211. He led the majors in runs (133), home runs, RBIs (131), on-base percentage (.425), slugging percentage (.686) and total bases (391) this past season.

Judge of course picked a great time to have his career year. His MVP 2022 season produced a 207 wRC+ that stands as the best offensive season in recent history. Barry Bonds was the last player to match or exceed that level, and prior to him, no qualified hitter had done so since Ted Williams in 1957.

Judge has 35 homers in 87 career games versus the Orioles with a career .310 batting average and 1.133 OPS against Baltimore pitchers. That is his most homers against any team and that OPS tops all against teams he has played 25 or more games against. He has hit 19 career homers at Camden Yards, his most at any park outside Yankee Stadium and by a big margin with his 12 homers at Rogers Centre in Toronto next. His career OPS at Oriole Park is 1.154.

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Will O's rumor mill heat up with arrival of Winter Meetings?


As some free agent signings are starting to trickle in, we are now just days away from the Winter Meetings in San Diego. The rumors will certainly heat up there, even if the action doesn’t.

As it relates to the Orioles, here is what we do know: not very much.

I think they prefer it that way. Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias likes to play it close to the vest, as we know. That is not likely to change anytime soon. He doesn’t see any advantage in letting information leak out. And at a time when social media will spread almost any rumor rapidly with little accountability, all is mostly quiet about the Orioles.

There is no reason to jump to the conclusion that that means the Orioles will have a quiet winter. That seems very, very unlikely. In fact, Elias himself has said the payroll will increase and additions will be sought both for the rotation and the batting order. We are all waiting to find out what that means, exactly, and how much the payroll will increase and in what ways.

Elias has said numerous times now that the playoffs are the goal for 2023, and he didn’t make such a proclamation previously since joining the Orioles. The club has reached the point of producing a winning season, notching 83 wins in 2022, and now the chase is on to add to that and to be playing in the postseason next October.

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Will one of these pitchers wind up on the O's free agent radar?

andrew heaney dodgers

Today we’re taking a look at two more free agent pitchers. We previously, in this blog entry, presented some stats and facts related to free agent pitchers Taijuan Walker, Chris Bassitt and Jameson Taillon. We did the same for Kodai Senga and Sean Manaea in this entry.

Today let’s take a look at two pitchers MLBTradeRumors.com has ranked as the No. 18 and No. 21 available free agents in this class.

Lefty Andrew Heaney: Heaney is No. 18 on the free agent list. I don't believe he will get a contract as strong as the one predicted by MLBTradeRumors.com: three years for $42 million.

On the negative side, there is an injury history here, and Heaney is certainly not an innings-eater. But what some front offices will also see is how the Dodgers turned him into a two-pitch pitcher in 2022, resulting in some pretty strong swing-and-miss and strikeout rates.

For his career, Heaney, 31, is 36-42 with a 4.56 ERA and 1.245 WHIP. He's posted a career walk rate of 2.5, a 9.7 strikeout rate and a 1.6 homer rate. His homer rate was 2.0 in 2021 and was 1.7 last year for the Dodgers. But perhaps the O’s front office will see a lefty here who would benefit greatly from the deeper left field wall in Baltimore. For his career, his OPS against is .780 versus right-handed batters and .679 against lefties.

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The O's offense evolving to one producing better OBPs


Today a bit of a follow up to yesterday’s article about how the Orioles’ 2022 draft class fared so well in stats like walk rate and on-base percentage. This is important because for years the Orioles at the big-league level have not excelled in these stats.

At the MLB level, the Orioles last year posted a walk-rate of 7.9 percent per plate appearance, which was just under the MLB average of 8.2. The Orioles rated seventh in the American League and 16th in MLB in team walk rate for last season. In terms of OBP, the Orioles number of .305 was below the major league average of .312. The O’s rated 11th in the AL and 22nd in MLB in OBP last year. So, there is room for improvement.

With the ’22 draft class producing a collective .400 OBP for nine position players, which was second among all 2022 MLB Draft classes and a walk rate of 17.3, ranking first in the majors, the future on offense for Birdland, could be bright.

At least the Orioles could be evolving into producing a future lineup that features a group of tough outs that can work counts and will take a walk. Keep escalating opponent pitch counts and turning over the batting order. It should lead to more runs being scored.

Seeing so many young players get off to good starts in the plate-discipline stats, led by 18-year-old Jackson Holliday, the No. 1 overall draft pick last summer, was encouraging. The kid recorded a .489 OBP with a 27.8 walk rate in his debut pro season.

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In OBP and walk rate, the O's 2022 draft class got off to strong start


In the 20-round MLB Draft last summer, the Orioles selected 10 position players and 10 pitchers. They signed nine of the position players. And in what was clearly a small sample which should be noted, that group of nine showed some outstanding plate discipline which could bode well for their future MLB chances.

As a group of nine players, the Orioles draft class produced a collective .400 OBP to rank second only to Seattle's draft class. The Mariners also had nine players that produced a collective .405 OBP.

But the Orioles did rank No. 1 in MLB with a draft class walk rate of 17.3 with San Diego (also nine players) second at 16.2.

Among O’s minor league players with 50 or more plate appearances last year, no player had a better walk-to-strikeout rate as a hitter than O’s No. 1 overall pick Jackson Holliday. He also led the organization with a 27.8 walk rate. He is just 18 years old.

Over 20 games between the Florida Complex League and low-A Delmarva, Holliday walked 25 times with just 12 strikeouts. That is a robust 2.08 walk-to-strikeout ratio, the best on the O's farm. Maxwell Costes, a non-drafted free agent from the University of Maryland was next at 1.50 with Adley Rutschman third at 1.38.

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Another look at potentially trading young talent, plus other topics

Austin Hays gray swinging

Today in this space I'm reviewing a few articles that recently were published here. Sometimes you take a look back before you move ahead.

In this article featuring some of my recent interview with MLBPipeline.com's Jim Callis, we discussed how trading prospects can be beneficial to a team. It's another way to make good use of a strong farm system, and the Orioles are ranked No. 1 right now by several outlets.

“In 2023 with the Orioles we will see more of the long-term pieces kind of fit into place in the big leagues and then be part of that lineup," Callis said. "From that point on, maybe they don’t have room for all their talent and they trade players from the farm.

“Nobody ever has too much talent. If you don’t have places for everyone to play on your big league team, you consolidate prospects and trade them for a bigger piece."

And Callis pointed out how Houston made deals for the likes of Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke and Gerrit Cole by trading prospects. The Los Angeles Dodgers traded young talent to get Mookie Betts from Boston. 

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O's future infield got more crowded as Ortiz moved onto the 40-man

Joey Ortiz Aberdeen helmet

When we look at the 2023 Orioles infield, they return a top prospect talent in Gunnar Henderson, along with a Gold Glove winner in Ramón Urías and a Fielding Bible Award winner in Jorge Mateo.

Those three could man second, short and third. But where does that leave Jordan Westburg, who is not currently on the 40-man roster? Or Joey Ortiz, who is? Not to mention Connor Norby or Coby Mayo or, as we get further down the list, to Jackson Holliday and others. It’s crowded on the infield.

With his recent addition to the 40-man roster, Ortiz, 24, should get some big league time at some point during the 2023 season.

The word "elite" has been connected to Ortiz in that some insist he is an elite defender. In the second half of last year his bat showed elite production. 

Ortiz was limited to 35 games in 2021 by a left labrum issue that required surgery and ended his season.

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The young talents are finding their way to the middle of the O's order

rutschman running white

They are going to be a great 1-2 punch in the Orioles lineup next season and quite possibly for many seasons to come.

A case could be made that the Orioles' two best hitters going into next season are catcher Adley Rutschman and infielder Gunnar Henderson.

And while that talented young duo combined for 602 plate appearances last year, they might get a combined 1,100 or more next season.

Among Orioles with 100 or more plate appearances in 2022 - a list of 14 players - Henderson and Rutschman were first and second on the team in walk rate. They were 1-2 also in on-base percentage and OPS. They were first and third (with Terrin Vavra in the middle) in walk-strikeout ratio.

Both players last year were ranked at one time as the No. 1 prospects in baseball.

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O's fans have a few things to be thankful for

Grayson-Rodriguez Aberdeen mound

I hope all the readers of this blog have a great time this Thanksgiving with family and friends and get to spend time relaxing and enjoying the company of loved ones. 

I have a lot to be thankful for myself, with family and friends topping the list. Early during last season I got to see that firsthand and was overwhelmed to see so many rush to help me any way they could or just send a nice note or thought. It meant so much.

But this is a baseball blog, and even though I'm sure for many of you it has the proper place in your life, it's baseball and still important, right?

As it relates to the Orioles, fans can be thankful for a winning season and a team on the rise. Now fans have real evidence (like a won-loss record) that what the Orioles are doing is working and that 2022 might be the start of something big.

They have indeed built an elite talent pipeline and the building process is ongoing. That might be the best news of all. They intend to not run out of prospects. 

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