In 2019, Orioles pitching prospect Michael Baumann had a special year. The right-hander threw well for both Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie and ended the season as the organization’s co-Minor League Pitcher of the Year. He shared the Jim Palmer Award with Single-A Delmarva’s Grayson Rodriguez.
For an encore, Baumann will try to build on his gains from last season, continue to smooth out his delivery and take the next steps toward the majors.
During his big season, no night was more special than July 16 at Prince George’s Stadium. He pitched the third nine-inning no-hitter in Bowie Baysox history and the first since Radames Liz did it on June 1, 2007.
Baumann, the club’s third-round pick out of Jacksonville University in 2017, walked two and fanned 10. He threw 95 pitches, never needing more than 16 in an inning and threw fewer than 10 pitches in five innings.
“That was awesome,” Baumann recalled during a recent interview in Florida at Twin Lakes Park. “Looking back at it, it doesn’t seem real. But you know, in the moment, it is something I can take with me. It was a special moment. I could feel it in the air. I knew throughout the whole game it was there, because the opposing pitcher had a no-hitter through five as well. So, I was trying to match him. Next thing I know it’s the seventh, eighth, ninth. I was getting anxious to get out there every inning. Once it happened all the emotions took over.”
It was a standout night in a year of them for Baumann. Between Frederick and Bowie he went 7-6 with a 2.98 ERA. Over 124 innings he allowed just 85 hits and four homers with a .194 average against and a 1.05 WHIP. He recorded a 3.27 walk rate and strikeout rate of 10.31.
What came together for him, pitch-wise?
“I’d say my slider,” Baumann offered. “I was able to hone in on it a little more and get a feel for that. There is still some work to be done on the changeup and curveball, but I was able to rely on that slider. If I needed to make a pitch, it was something I could go to and trust.”
Orioles director of pitching Chris Holt looks at Baumann and sees not only a pitcher with good size (6-foot-4) and two plus pitches, but one willing to learn how analytics and data can help his game.
“Mike is a very physical, toolsy pitcher who has an impeccable fastball,” said Holt. ” The slider is very good and he’s still working on developing the curve and changeup to be plus offerings. He is another example of a guy who, especially as he got to Double-A, really began to put his game together. And he was using his mix and using the attack-plan information to his advantage. But basically continuing to pitch off his strengths.”
Baumann has worked to embrace the technology-and-data approach on the farm that came east with executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias and his new staff.
“It’s nice to have those things to look at it,” he said. “It’s instant feedback and it gives you a purpose to get better that specific day. Gives you something to strive for and gives you a developmental goal and what you need to work on. It was good. It was an uncomfortable situation. But that is what you will have to do at the highest level. Make big pitches when, ideally, you might not have done that in lower levels.”
While Baumann pitched to a 3.83 ERA with Frederick last year, he was 6-2 with a 2.31 ERA and 0.94 WHIP at Bowie. He moved up a level but kept working to get better, and he did just that.
Ranked as the Orioles’ No. 21 prospect by Baseball America at the end of the 2018 season, he is now the publication’s No. 10 O’s prospect, and No. 8 according to MLBPipeline.com. On their list he is the highest-rated O’s pitcher after Rodriguez and lefty DL Hall.
Since he began his pro career in 2017, the 24-year-old Baumann is 24-13 with a 2.82 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. When you put up numbers like that, and like he did at Double-A, it can be easy to let your mind wander to what could be down the road.
Whenever we next do see baseball, Baumann could move to Triple-A unless the organization wants him to add to last year’s 13 Double-A outings. But his day in Baltimore could be coming. Some feel it is inevitable. But Baumann doesn’t want to think that way. Not yet.
“I try not to,” he said. “Just want to show up each day and think ‘What I can do to get better today?’ Just try and make strides day-to-day.”
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