One thing that would certainly aid and maybe hasten the Orioles’ rebuilding efforts would be seeing some of their young pitching prospects move on to have big league success. Along those lines, the Orioles added five young pitchers to their organization in the last week.
Last Monday they acquired lefty pitcher Easton Lucas from Miami in a trade for infielder Jonathan Villar. Two days later the Orioles picked up four young right-handers from the Los Angeles Angels in a trade for starting pitcher Dylan Bundy, who has two more years of team control for his new club on the West Coast.
Lucas, 23, was selected by the Angels in round 14 last June out of Pepperdine. Last season after the draft he went 1-2 with a 3.63 ERA pitching in 13 games, with 12 of them coming for Batavia in the short season Single-A New York Penn League. In 34 2/3 innings, Easton walked nine and fanned 41, allowing just three homers with a WHIP of 1.10.
In the 2016 and 2017 college seasons, Lucas was a teammate of current O’s minor league lefty Ryan Wilson, who went 6-5 with a 2.80 ERA last year for Single-A Delmarva. The O’s selected Wilson in round 33 in 2017 out of Pepperdine. He was two years ahead of Lucas.
“He should be able to run it up there pretty good,” Wilson said of Lucas. “He’s a tall guy with a good head on his shoulders. The sky is the limit for him. He started both years I was there. He’s got good command of all of his pitches and is pretty durable. It will be fun seeing him and catching up at camp this year.”
I talked to Wilson this week for a story on his strong season for the Shorebirds, and I’ll have more on him soon in this space.
From the Angels in the Bundy deal the Orioles added Isaac Mattson, the closest to major league-ready in that deal after reaching Triple-A in 2019. They also picked up Kyle Bradish, Kyle Brnovich and Zach Peek.
Mattson, 24, was drafted in round 19 in 2017 out of the University of Pittsburgh. He spent most of 2019 at Double-A, but for three teams went 6-3 with a 2.33 ERA with 110 strikeouts in 73 1/3 innings. He throws a fastball with a high spin rate between 90 and 94 mph. After last season he went to the Arizona Fall League and pitched to a 1.69 ERA in seven games for Mesa. He made the Fall Stars Game. In 82 career games in the minors he is 14-7 with a 2.89 ERA and 10.9 strikeout rate.
Bradish, 23, was rated as the Angels’ No. 21 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, which now ranks him No. 25 on the Orioles’ top 30 list. At High Single-A Inland Empire, he went 6-7 with a 4.28 ERA in 24 games, making 18 starts. His fastball sits between 91 and 93, touching the mid 90s. Bradish was selected in round four of 2018 out of New Mexico State, where he was first-team all-conference as a sophomore. He was a midseason California League All-Star in 2019 and was a Cape Cod League All-Star in the summer of 2017.
Brnovich, 22, was taken in round eight last June out of Elon, but did not pitch in any games after the draft, as the Angels reportedly didn’t want to add innings to the 86 he threw in college. Brnovich went 7-3 with a 3.66 for Elon with 110 strikeouts and 42 walks. He was first-team all-Colonial Athletic Association in 2018 and third-team last year. He finished his career second in the CAA in strikeouts with 360, trailing only Justin Verlander with 427 for Old Dominion University from 2002-04. He was ranked as the No. 185 prospect going into the draft by MLB.com.
Peek, 21, was selected in round six last June out of Winthrop, where he went 7-3 with a 4.02 ERA, with 91 strikeouts in 87 1/3 innings. He led the Big South conference in strikeouts in 2018 and 2019 and was second-team all-conference last year. From Forest, Va., Peek did not pitch as a pro last season.
All five of these pitchers have shown nice strikeout numbers, all five averaging better than a strikeout per inning pitched either in college or the pros.
Their additions are the latest moves by the organization to keep pumping prospects into the system, and as many pitching prospects as they can. Any young pitchers that thrive will help the Orioles either on the big league team or as part of trades to help the big league club. All clubs covet young pitching, and the Orioles this week pumped five more of them into the pipeline.