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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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

camden yards warehouse

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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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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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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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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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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Making the farm system productive for the big league team

Heston Kjerstad Aberdeen batting white

When it comes to the young talent in a big league club’s organization – the prospects – there are several ways they can help you. The most obvious one would be to make the team and help you win games. That is the first goal. But they can also help bring talent to a team via trades.

Sometimes when we take a look at how a winning or championship team was built, a story will list the home-grown players, but they seldom list players that were acquired through trades of home-grown talent.

In my recent conversation with MLBPipeline.com’s senior writer Jim Callis, he pointed out yet another way those prospects help. Young talent with little service time is often at the lower end of the salary spectrum. So amassing such talent can save the big league club money to spend elsewhere on other needs.

So yeah, young talent is quite important and coveted. Maybe now more than ever. 

“The teams with the very best farm systems almost always contend about a year earlier than you expect,” Callis pointed out in our recent interview. “And the Orioles did that this year. Sometimes they take a step back the next year and then they are good to go, smooth sailing from there. The Astros are a team that comes to mind. The Cubs come to mind. It happens a lot.

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A few notes on Rutschman, Rodriguez and free agent pitchers

rutschman w chain white

Today taking another look today at a few stories we discussed in this space recently.

Such as this one about catcher Adley Rutschman. The last Oriole to win the American League Rookie of the Year award was Gregg Olson in 1989. Earlier this week Rutschman was a finalist for the AL ROY, but Seattle's Julio Rodríguez took home the hardware.

The rookie from Baltimore still had a pretty big year and earned a full year of service time for 2022 by virtue of his second-place finish.

Rutschman's year was strong enough to put him in select company. He produced the fourth-highest wRC+ among rookie catchers since 1961:

165 – Carlton Fisk, 1972
150 – Mike Piazza, 1993
134 – Buster Posey, 2010
133 – Adley Rutschman, 2022

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After 40-man add, Drew Rom is searching for additional velocity


If it feels like he’s been in the Orioles organization for a while, he has. But lefty Drew Rom, added to the 40-man roster this week, for now is still just 22. He turns 23 Dec. 15 and will head to spring training next February in Sarasota, knowing it’s the season when he might make his major league debut.

During a Zoom call this week he told reporters he has a few specific goals this winter, to include trying to add velocity while honing his changeup.

"Maybe searching for some velo, but also fine tuning what I am already excelling with," he said of his winter workout plans.

The Orioles' previous front office selected Rom in the fourth round of the 2018 draft (No. 115 overall) from a high school in Fort Thomas, Ky., just south of Cincinnati. He ranks at No. 18 on the club’s top 30 list according to Baseball America and No. 19 via MLBPipeline.com.

In 2022 he pitched in 19 games with Double-A Bowie and made seven starts late in the year for Triple-A Norfolk, and he seems likely to begin the 2023 season in the Tides rotation.

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Checking in on more free agent pitching


With the Orioles in the market for starting pitching and possibly poised to add one or more hurlers from the free agent ranks, today we’ll take a look at two more possibilities.

To be clear, these are just some stats and notes on these pitchers and not my speculation - or anyone’s, for that matter - in terms of the Orioles' interest level in these pitchers. As you know, they keep such information very close to the vest.

MLBTradeRumors.com has ranked nine pitchers among its top 20 free agents for this winter. Here they are, listed by the ranking and also the projected contract for each.

* No. 6 lefty Carlos Rodón – five years, $140 million

* No. 7 right-hander Jacob deGrom – three years, $135 million

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Noah Denoyer racked up the Ks with the big boys on O's farm


Doing the math is pretty easy. Interpreting what it all means can be more challenging. But we do know the sport of baseball has gravitated toward placing increased value on pitchers with big strikeout totals. And while we used to be most enamored with raw strikeout totals, now stats like strikeout percentage might tell us a bit more.

Strikeout percentage is easy to get to. Simply divide the number of batters a pitcher strikes out by the total batters he faced. A pitcher that fanned 30 of 90 batters faced has a strikeout percentage of 33.3.

This year on the O’s farm, using a standard of 50 innings pitched for the year, the Orioles had seven minor league pitchers produce a strikeout percentage of 30 or above. Four of them are now on the 40-man roster and two were just added this week.

The list of seven:

36.6 – DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez

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Not an award winner this time, but some appreciation for Brandon Hyde


The Orioles Adley Rutschman did not win the AL Rookie of the Year award. That was expected. Manager Brandon Hyde did not win the Manager of the Year award, which went to Cleveland's Terry Francona.

That was probably a bit less expected but certainly Francona was the favorite heading into last night. To have five of the 30 votes not place Hyde among the top three is a bit unexpected.

But Hyde was a reasonably close second losing out to Francona in points by 112-79. Francona got 17 first-place votes and Hyde got nine. 

So, he fell short last night. But for me, I think there are many reasons that Hyde has been and will continue to be the right manager for the Orioles. And ranking high among them in my opinion is his ability to work well with and get a lot of out of young players.

That fits so well with a rebuilding organization. Hyde seems to have an ability to get close with his players yet maintain a management relationship. He is open and honest with them, telling them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.

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Looking at a few O's potential free agent pitching targets


The baseball free agent market is underway. And the Orioles' Mike Elias told my colleague Roch Kubatko that the market could move swiftly this winter. Maybe some things will even heat up before the Winter Meetings early next month.

The Orioles are targeting pitching and hitting via both free agency and possibly trade routes also.

"I think this is going to be a very competitive market for players,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of teams out there that are looking to get better. People feel good about the health of the industry and I expect this will be a pretty active and maybe fast free agent market,” said Elias.

So, without any knowledge of how much money or far the Orioles are willing to go after free agent pitchers, we’ll take a look at a few of them over the next few weeks in this space. Today we start with three right-handers, who all pitched in New York in 2022.

* RHP Taijuan Walker: He is ranked as the No. 11 free agent via ESPN and projected to get four years at $60 million. MLBTradeRumors.com lists him at No. 16 and predicts a four-year deal for $52 million.

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O's hope these two pitchers keep taking steps forward in 2023

Bradish pitching white

Sure, the Orioles will be looking for a top-end rotation pitcher this winter, and maybe they actually add that guy or guys through free agency or via a trade.

But their rotation hopes for 2023 also would include seeing two young pitchers that took steps forward last season building on that. Those pitchers are right-handers Dean Kremer, who went 8-7 with a 3.23 ERA, and Kyle Bradish, who was 4-7 with a 4.90 ERA.

While these young pitchers completed their development, or are doing so on the Orioles watch, they both came in trades. All teams want to draft and develop young pitching, but you are happy to get it anywhere you can.

These pitchers did some encouraging things, especially later in the year, in 2022. Like shutting down the eventual World Series champion Houston Astros on back-to-back nights at Camden Yards on Sept. 22-23.

They combined to throw 17 2/3 scoreless innings with two walks and 16 strikeouts combined. During that series, former Oriole Trey Mancini was among those impressed by the Baltimore right-handers, and he talked to me about the pitchers in the visiting clubhouse at Oriole Park.

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Long gone, but never forgotten: Baltimore's Memorial Stadium

memorial stadium colts sign

From 1954 to 1991, it was home for the Orioles. It was also home to the Baltimore Colts, the Canadian Football League’s Baltimore Stallions and for their first two seasons, the Baltimore Ravens. In 1993, it was even home for a season to the Bowie Baysox before Prince George’s Stadium was built.

For some of us of a certain age, it just felt like ... well, home.

It was Memorial Stadium on 33rd Street. 

Looking back, we can admit now it was an old rickety stadium that came up short in a few areas. But when I was kid the anticipation of just going to see a game there was amazing, topped only by actually entering the place itself. It was special and I thought it was the greatest place any kid could ever go.

The memories of so many great games with so many great friends blur a bit now, but that feeling never leaves you. You always remember that. When I was a kid, it was that excited feeling of walking up the ramp to see the green grass and then watch the Orioles take the field. They always seemed to be among the best teams in baseball.

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