Most of the six new pitchers the Orioles acquired in the recent trades of Trey Mancini to Houston and Jorge López to Minnesota have gotten off to good starts for their new organization.
The Orioles added three top 30 prospects.
For Mancini they got right-hander Seth Johnson from Tampa Bay. He underwent Tommy John surgery on Aug. 3, so the Orioles won’t see him for a while, but MLBPipeline.com ranks him as the club's No. 8 prospect. Baseball America has him at No. 10. After Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall, Johnson is now the Orioles' third highest-rated pitcher.
The O’s also added 23-year-old right-hander Chayce McDermott from Houston in that deal. He now ranks as Baltimore’s No. 12 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, and No. 17 in Baseball America's estimation. In two games with the Orioles' high Single-A Aberdeen team, he has allowed two runs and three hits in five innings, going 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA with one walk to 10 strikeouts.
In the deal with Minnesota, the O’s added lefty Cade Povich, also pitching at Aberdeen. In his first start for his new organization, he threw six scoreless innings on one hit last Saturday. MLBPipeline.com ranks Povich as the O’s No. 26 prospect, while Baseball America puts him at No. 29.
In that deal, the Orioles also got Triple-A right-hander Yennier Canó, who has allowed eight runs (six earned) in just 1 1/3 innings for Norfolk over two games. They added two pitchers who are now with their Rookie-level Florida Complex League team in 21-year-old righty Juan Nuñez and 18-year-old lefty Juan Rojas. Nuñez has thrown three innings, allowing two unearned runs with no walks and five strikeouts. Rojas has thrown 4 2/3 scoreless on two hits with three walks and eight strikeouts.
Baseball America editor-in-chief JJ Cooper told me this week the O’s had a clear goal in those trades of Mancini and López.
“The thing that stood out to me, I think you can see the Orioles’ point of emphasis. You see that, which is starting pitching,” Cooper said. “And, if you said 'What is the strength of the O’s farm?' and they do have a Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall, and it’s not like they don’t have any pitching prospects. But I do look at the Orioles and see position players at the big league level who have come up are generally doing better than the starting pitchers that have come up. And looking at the farm there are more position players than starting pitchers, especially.
“Now to me, the other long-term question for Baltimore - and this has been a great season, massive step forward - but if you picked one concern about this season, I think it’s fair to say that a significant part of it has been fueled by a great bullpen. And great bullpens are harder to sustain, I would argue, than great position player groups or great starting pitching groups. I think the front office, if you look at these trades, they made a point of emphasis to bolster additional starting pitching prospects.
“Having Seth Johnson, you have to wait a while, and he could be a reliever long-term. But I look at him and a guy like Povich, those are guys with starter traits. Especially Povich. And that was definitely a point of emphasis in the trades.”
Baseball America will release a new listing of organizational rankings soon, Cooper said. When they last did this exercise in February, the Orioles were No. 4 among the 30 big league organizations in the farm ratings. Another top-five rating seems likely, even with Adley Rutschman’s graduation to the majors. The O's have six players in the current Baseball America top 100, with Gunnar Henderson at No. 1 and Rodriguez No. 4.
“They’re going to be right up there," Cooper said. "There are other teams in that consideration as well. Cincinnati has a ton of guys in our top 100, and now the Nationals do. The Pirates do. There are other teams out there in consideration (for the top spots) but Baltimore is not going to rank very low, safe to say.
“We can talk all we want about depth – and I do think Baltimore’s farm depth has gotten better too – but what we rank, more than anything, are stars. When we do our farm system rankings, having an Adley Rutschman or a Julio Rodriguez is way more important than having a No. 25 prospect in the system who has a chance to be a big leaguer. We look at Baltimore and Baltimore right now is ranked with the best position player prospect and the best pitching prospect in our rankings. That’s more important than depth. Stars are more important than depth.”
A huge series awaits: After last night's loss at Boston, the Orioles fell out of their tie with Tampa Bay for the American League's third wild card spot. As they begin a series with the Rays tonight at Tropicana Field, they are 1/2 game back of Tampa Bay. So the O's need to win two of three this weekend to take this series and move ahead of the Rays.
They could also use a series win for another big reason. These clubs are tied at eight wins each in the season series, and the series winner this weekend will hold the playoff tiebreaker between the Orioles and Rays.
So, yeah, pretty big series upcoming this weekend. The Orioles are 7-3 at home this season versus Tampa Bay, but just 1-5 against the Rays on the road.