What could be coming in starting pitching on the Orioles' farm

If you look at the Roster Resource section on FanGraphs.com, they list their current projected pitching rotations for each club. It might surprise some to note that the Tampa Bay Rays, a team known for producing good pitchers and solid pitching development, does not have one homegrown pitcher listed among its top five.

Tyler Glasnow, Aaron Civale and Shane Baz were added via trades, Zach Eflin in free agency and Zack Littell was added on waivers.

Of the O’s listed five, just John Means and Grayson Rodriguez were drafted by the Orioles. Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer and Cole Irvin – listed fifth right now – all came via trades.

So, for the top two AL East teams from last year, 80 percent of their current rotations came from outside their own organization.

The bigger message is get good pitching wherever and whenever you can. At the end of the year, they count only wins, not wins generated mostly by homegrown talent.

In the MLBPipeline.com top 20 O’s prospects right now, just four of 20 are pitchers and three of them were added from other organizations. Righty Chayce McDermott, the 2023 Jim Palmer Award winner came in the Trey Mancini trade. Lefty Cade Povich, No. 11, came in the trade that sent Jorge López to Minnesota on Aug. 2, 2022. Righty Seth Johnson, ranked No. 15, came in the Mancini deal via Tampa Bay. Righty Justin Armbruester is No. 19, and he was an original Oriole, drafted in round 12 in 2021.

I was on the MASN Hot Stove TV show last night discussing some of these pitchers as we talked about minor league hurlers that might impact the 2024 rotation.

Here are the top pitchers on the O’s farm last year by ERA (min of 80 IP)

2.57 – Alex Pham

3.10 – Chayce McDermott, Jean Pinto

3.24 – Daniel Lloyd

3.56 – Justin Armbruester

McDermott is intriguing after a solid year where he went 8-8 with that 3.10 ERA, a .167 average against and an 11.50 K rate. He moved from Double-A to Triple-A in mid July and his stats got better. He went 3-2 with a 2.49 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 50 2/3 innings with Norfolk. He throws a mid 90s fastball that can reach the high 90s with several solid secondaries. He will not be Rule 5 eligible until December of 2024. He has said command and control is an area he needs to improve upon with 68 walks in 119 innings in 2023.

Pham is unlikely to impact the 2024 O’s rotation, although maybe later in the year is a possibility. Between High-A Aberdeen and Bowie he went 3-5 with a 2.57 ERA, a .182 average against, .548 OPS and 1.02 WHIP. Those were strong numbers. Among O’s farm pitchers with 80 or more innings, he was first in ERA and WHIP, second in batting average allowed and fifth in K percentage. He is a bit of a late bloomer as someone who was a reliever for two years on the O's farm until they moved him to a starter’s role last year. The O’s selected Pham in round 19 from the University of San Francisco in 2021. He is currently No. 29 on the MLBPipeline.com O’s top 30.

Povich, who made a nice impression in a small sample in spring training, had more in-season struggles then we might have expected. He went 8-10 with a 5.04 ERA between Bowie and Norfolk and posted an ERA of 5.36 at Triple-A. He had a 4.7 walk rate and 12.2 K rate last summer.

Johnson, coming off 2022 Tommy John surgery, pitched just 10 1/3 innings late last year. That makes him a bit of a wild card for 2024. How many innings can he pitch and how far he will get on the farm? But he was ranked as the Rays’ No. 6 prospect at the time of the trade and before his surgery when he could throw 98 mph. He is already on the O's 40-man which could lead the club to move him as quickly as is prudent in 2024.

The Orioles have some arms they like here, and this is just a partial list. It is worth noting that Means was never ranked in the top 30 by Baseball America. Seems hard to believe now but it's a fact. You can find surprises along the way. 

Whether it's a homegrown product or an acquisition from outside the organization, the search for up-and-coming minor league pitching is always important. 





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