The Orioles tonight added two right-handed pitchers to their 40-man roster. They selected the contracts of starting pitcher Joe Gunkel and reliever Jesus Liranzo. The two pitchers are now protected from being taken by another club in the Dec. 8 Rule 5 draft. The Orioles’ 40-man roster now holds 35 players.
Liranzo is a 21-year-old from the Dominican Republic that had a very strong season after having pitched just 52 career innings coming into the year. Originally signed by Atlanta in May 2012, he was released the next season. The Orioles signed him in July 2013 and that fall he had a screw inserted in his right elbow to repair an Olecranon fracture that forced him to miss all of 2014.
But during a healthy 2016, Liranzo started at Single-A Delmarva and was promoted to Double-A Bowie, skipping Single-A Frederick. He went 1-1 with a 1.87 ERA over 27 games and 53 innings. He gave up just 20 hits with 27 walks, 66 strikeouts, a .116 average against and a WHIP of 0.89. He was sent to the Arizona Fall League in October but pitched in just one game before leaving the AFL with a minor back strain.
Liranzo pitched with a fastball velocity of 94-95 mph this year, topping out at 97. He throws a hard slider and also used a split-finger pitch as his changeup.
“Jesus Liranzo has a power arm, as well as a sinker and slider with strikeout potential,” Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said in a team announcement. “He advanced quickly through our minor league system this past year by limiting walks and hits.”
The 24-year-old Gunkel went 8-14 with an ERA of 4.02 this year between Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk, making 24 of his 28 starts with the Tides. Gunkel pitched 161 innings, allowing 182 hits with 21 walks and 109 strikeouts. His batting average against was .284 and his WHIP was 1.26.
Gunkel was Boston’s 18th-round pick in 2013 after a career at Div. II West Chester University. The O’s traded for him in June 2015, sending outfielder Alejandro De Aza to Boston. Gunkel provides some starting pitching depth at Norfolk at the very least, obviously with a chance to crack the big league staff this year. A control artist that doesn’t throw hard, topping out at 92 mph, Gunkel has a career walk rate of 1.57, a strikeout-rate of 7.45 and a 1.12 WHIP.
“Joe Gunkel is able to use a three-pitch mix effectively to keep hitters off balance and has excellent command of his pitches,” Duquette said.
Liranzo and Gunkel will report to major league spring training with the big league pitchers and catchers in February. They are now one step closer to the major leagues.
Some players left unprotected today include relievers Jimmy Yacabonis and Stefan Crichton; right-handed starters Branden Kline and Cristian Alvarado; outfielder Mike Yastrzemski and catchers Audry Perez; and Yermin Mercedes and Austin Wynns. Any of those players could be taken by another team in the Rule 5 draft.