ABERDEEN - As the Orioles look to continue to stockpile pitchers and build quality pitching depth on the farm, two right-handers that got to high Single-A Aberdeen not long ago have thrown well for the IronBirds. They have had seasons that can fly a bit under the radar, but when it comes to getting swings and misses, they do look good on the stat sheet and show some future promise.
Zach Peek, 23, has gone 5-3 with a 4.05 ERA this year over 21 games between low Single-A Delmarva and Aberdeen. He allowed one run over five innings with seven strikeouts on Sunday and is 3-0 with a 3.63 ERA in eight games with Aberdeen. Over 34 2/3 innings for the team, he has walked nine and fanned 45.
Brandon Young is another Aberdeen hurler having a steady and solid year. Between Delmarva and Aberdeen he is 3-3 with 3.70 ERA over 73 innings. In seven games with Aberdeen he is 0-2 with a 4.56 ERA, but with a 13.3 strikeout rate over 25 2/3 innings.
Both pitchers were acquired by executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias and his staff. Peek was one of four pitchers added from the Los Angeles Angels in the Dylan Bundy trade of Dec. 4, 2019. Young was signed after the five-round draft last summer as a non-drafted free agent out of Louisiana-Lafayette, where he was among the NCAA leaders in strikeouts per nine.
O’s minor league leaders K/9 (minimum 60 innings pitched)
14.31 - Grayson Rodriguez, Bowie
13.21 - David Lebron, Bowie
12.26 - Zach Peek, Aberdeen
12.08 - Brandon Young, Aberdeen
Rodriguez leads all O’s farm pitchers with a 40.8 strikeout percentage (percentage of all batters struck out). On that list, Young is fourth and Peek fifth.
“Peek stands out because he can really spin a breaking ball,” said Aberdeen manager Kyle Moore. “It seems everybody in the big leagues has something super sharp, not a loopy breaking ball, and he has that. A big league elite-spin-rate curveball, and that jumps out at me, for sure. It’s like a big 12-6 true curveball.
“He needs to develop a third pitch. He’s got a fastball up to 94 (mph), which is plenty enough. He’s got to locate that and keep it at 94 and needs a third. He needs to really spin a slider that can go sideways or develop a changeup. He reminds me of a taller version of Zach Davies. He does not have a changeup like Davies, but if he develops an average changeup, he could be special.”
And the O’s encourage Peek to continue to work on his changeup.
“One thing you love about him is his command.” Moore said. “I’ll tell you what, at a certain level, it stops mattering how hard you throw. Those guys in the big leagues, they’ll light it up. You have to command it, and I like that about him. He does command the fastball and he’s not afraid to throw it in off the plate. Those are things you have to have. His mechanics are really good, really clean. Pretty solid, streamlined mechanics.”
Young moved up to Aberdeen in late July. Over his last four starts there, he’s allowed six earned runs over 17 innings.
“Brandon Young has a plus breaking ball he’ll throw in any count. He also has a pretty good fastball,” said Moore. “Brandon’s changeup is coming along too. Young has a good feel for all three pitches. He’s gonna throw a changeup to a righty and a lefty and throw it in any count, and he’s going to spin a really good breaking ball. This kid has a good body (at 6-foot-6, 210 pounds) and the stuff is really good. He might pitch in the big leagues.
“He can touch 95 (mph), pitching 90 to 93, with 94 or 95 when he needs it. His physical makeup - he’s tall and put together well. He looks like a starter. You like that about him, for sure.”
Young and Peek are not now ranked as top 30 O’s prospects, but that day could be coming. When the season started, Moore had a rotation in Aberdeen with several top 30s, including Rodriguez, Drew Rom, Garrett Stallings, Kyle Brnovich and Blaine Knight.
Moore said that, with one key exception, Young and Peek are close, talent-wise, to that other group.
“I try not compare anyone to Grayson. He’s the best pitcher I’ve ever seen,” Moore said. “But with the other guys, I think these two do fit right in. They fit in with Brnovich, Stallings. I think Rom is a bit of an outlier because he’s a lefty with a funky arm angle. He’s just different. But from your traditional right-hander prospects, they are right there with them. Just a little bit younger and less experienced, but certainly worthy of being in the conversation with those kids.
“Young and Peek may be the top of the group of the new guys that joined us. They both have a chance to pitch at the highest level,” he said.
O’s lose series opener: The Orioles played yet another close game Monday afternoon, allowed two eighth-inning runs and lost 3-2 to Kansas City. It was the opener of a four-game series and 11-game homestand.
That is five straight one-run games for the Orioles, who are 2-3 in those games.
The pitching of Zac Lowther was a real highlight. The lefty had the best of his six career big league outings and gave up just one run and three hits over six innings on 92 pitches.
For just the second time in the last 31 games since Aug. 3, the O’s got a start in which their pitcher went six innings or more and allowed no more than one run. Keegan Akin did that Aug. 26 against the Los Angeles Angels, and Lowther did it yesterday.
It was the Orioles’ 27th quality start of the year, and they had gone seven games without one. Now Lowther looks to get more starts to plant a seed that he could be a factor in the 2022 rotation.
“I just want to show them there was a reason I was put on this team, and just being able to kind of go out there and do everything that got me to this point and being able to execute going forward,” Lowther said. “The beginning of the season wasn’t exactly how I wanted it to go, from my standpoint, whether it be performance-based or health-based. So being able to finish this year strong is my main point, and being able to show them that this is what I’m here to offer.”