When the Orioles and their fans dream on a better future for the team - one that includes that elite pipeline - they surely dream of having some young pitchers come to the majors and hit it big.
Any pitcher who contributes is important - starter or bullpen - but all teams covet young pitching that can become top-of-the-rotation starters. If you can produce a true No. 1 starter you’ve hit the jackpot.
No doubt fans are hopeful that young pitchers such as 21-year-old left-hander DL Hall and 20-year-old right-hander Grayson Rodriguez can indeed hit it big. This year they were both ranked in top 100 prospect rankings together for the first time. Heading the O’s contingent was Adley Rutschman, who fans hope will catch that duo in the bigs for years and years.
Last week, Baseball America ranked Rodriguez No. 35 on its top 100, with Hall at No. 47. In the MLBPipeline.com ratings, Rodriguez was No. 36 and Hall No. 69.
Both young guys show quality pitches and solid stats. Hall went 4-5 with a 3.46 ERA at Single-A Frederick and Rodriguez was 10-4 with a 2.68 ERA at Single-A Delmarva. Hall posted a strikeout rate of 12.94 and a walk rate of 6.02 per nine innings, up from 4.02 the previous season. Rodriguez posted a 12.35 strikeout rate and 3.41 walk rate. The youngsters threw one scoreless inning each last July in the All-Star Futures Game.
With the two pitchers just 12 spots apart in its rankings, I asked Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper if that was due to the difference in command and control last year for the hurlers.
“I would say that’s a big part of it,” Cooper said. “One thing I would say is that - I do think some of DL Hall’s control, the rise in the walk rate, there were some approach things in that. I would even say I think the Orioles front office is OK with a higher walk rate for a guy like DL Hall than maybe the previous regime would have been.
“Now it’s got to get better than it was last year. But I do think part of that is kind of by design, and things like not throwing a fastball in a fastball count (as part of pitch development). That said, Grayson Rodriguez throws strikes more consistently than Hall right now, and that is the biggest reason he is ranked higher. There are a lot of reasons, though, to project Hall as a solid mid-rotation starter or maybe better than that. But I think it’s fair to say he has a longer to-do list now than Grayson Rodriguez does.”
The Orioles had three players rated on the Baseball America list, with Rutschman at No. 5. They had four on the MLBPipeline.com top 100 as Rutschman (No. 4) and Ryan Mountcastle (No. 94) joined the young pitchers.
Being ranked on a top 100 list is nice, but it won’t help anyone get outs or hits in the majors. It doesn’t guarantee future success.
“I’d love to hit this at 100 percent,” Cooper said, referring to the chances of the list being a predictor of future success. “But I’ve been here 18 years and I know we’ll never get to that point. We are dealing with humans and there are a lot of variables.
“But, if you look at players that are top 10 or top 20, the hit rate on those is really, really good. You can pick out Jesus Montero, who was top five one year and was a massive bust. We can find guys that got hurt. But Mike Trout, Kris Bryant and a whole lot of the top players in the game are guys that were No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 5, 7 or 10 on the top 100.
“Of course, the success rate drops down the list in the 50-to-100 ranks. But even when you get down there, we had Mookie Betts in the 40s and Nolan Arenado the 60s, and we really do try to spend a whole lot of time on this.
“The number of hours spent building that top 100 is in the hundreds. We literally start work with our notes and things for the 2021 list now. If a player is successful, they are going to look much more where were they ranked on our top 100 than where they were on a team’s top 30. We work hard to make this list the best we can make it.”