The Orioles’ 40-man roster filled up pretty fast. In a span of a few hours it went from 32 to 39 as the club acquired a player on waivers Friday and later added six of its own from the farm.
The Orioles added infielder Lucius Fox on waivers from Kansas City. And then early last night the club announced the addition of six players from its farm system to the 40-man. This ensures those players cannot be taken in next month’s Rule 5 draft.
Hall was a no-brainer, certain to be protected. The lefty didn’t pitch this past year after June 12, as he dealt with an elbow issue. But he’s a top-100 prospect for a reason, and the Orioles expect him to be healthy for spring training. In seven Double-A starts he went 2-0 with a 3.13 ERA. In 31 2/3 innings he fanned 56 (a rate of 15.92 per nine) and allowed a batting average of just .145. He and Grayson Rodriguez - the club’s No. 1 pitching prospect with Hall at No. 2 - would have made one fun 1-2 punch to watch all year. Rodriguez does not need to be protected until after next season.
With 19 Triple-A starts under his belt, Bradish is the most majors-ready of the pitchers. How soon he gets to the big leagues and how much he can help will be interesting to track in 2022.
When the Orioles acquired Bradish from the Los Angeles Angels as part of a four-pitcher package for Dylan Bundy in December 2019, Bradish was ranked No. 21 on the Angels’ top-30 prospects list. Now the 25-year-old Bradish is ranked as the club’s No. 8 prospect by MLBPipeline.com and No. 9 via Baseball America. He is the Orioles’ third-highest-rated pitching prospect, after Rodriguez and Hall.
In an interview first published for this story here a few weeks ago, Bradish, during a Zoom interview, talked with me about the possibly about being added to the 40-man roster.
“That would be awesome,” he said then. “I’m hoping that does come true. This system has been great to me, so hopefully I get added. It would be an honor and makes you want to work even harder.”
Bradish threw 13 2/3 scoreless innings over three starts to begin the 2021 season at Double-A Bowie, and he was quickly promoted to Triple-A. There he went 5-5 with a 4.26 ERA over 86 2/3 innings. He allowed 1.431 WHIP and posted a 4.1 walk rate and a strikeout rate of 10.9.
Between Bowie and Norfolk, he made 24 total appearances, going 6-5 with a 3.68 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. He walked 3.9 per nine, with 11.8 strikeouts. His fastball velocity has increased since the trade to Baltimore and now sits in the mid-90s, touching a bit more at its best, and his slider is rated a bit ahead of his curveball, with his changeup a bit behind those two offerings.
Bradish pitched to a 1.80 ERA with Norfolk in September. And, over his last four Tides starts, he allowed two earned runs in 20 innings for an ERA of 0.90 with six walks to 24 strikeouts.
“Just kind of everything came together,” he said about his strong finish to the year. “Got comfortable with both my breaking balls. I was having a little fight with my curveball here and there when I got to Triple-A. Ball is a little different. But, yeah, changeup was really working, too. I focused on that in the second half of the season, getting comfortable with that. And everything came together. Body and mind felt really good to finish out the year.”
Smith got off to a great start with a 1.04 ERA in six games at Bowie this season, but he pitched to a 6.23 ERA in 16 games at Triple-A. And he was still struggling at times late in the year. But he certainly can’t be dismissed after just 56 Norfolk innings, and his day could come next year too.
Fox added to roster: Before the Orioles announced their 40-man adds on Friday, they claimed Fox, a switch-hitting infielder, on waivers from the Kansas City Royals. Fox, 24, became at that point the 33rd player on the Orioles’ 40-man roster. He has one option remaining.
In 57 games in 2021 at Triple-A, Fox batted .242/.347/.363/.709. In 479 career minor league games, he has hit .244/.339/.331/.670. Baseball America rated Fox as the Royals’ No. 24 prospect, while MLBPipeline.com had him at No. 30. Twice he has been ranked in a club’s top 10, going as high as No. 4 when he was in the Giants system in 2016, and he was No. 7 in the Tampa Bay organization in 2018. He began last year as No. 22 via Baseball America in the Royals organization and was No. 24 in the midseason ratings.
Fox is a native of the Bahamas but played high school ball in Florida. However, before his senior season he moved back to the Bahamas and was reclassified as an international amateur. He then signed a $6 million bonus at age 18 with the Giants, which was the largest bonus in the 2015 international class. That bonus was larger than the $3.9 million that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. got from Toronto.
Fox, who played in the 2017 All-Star Futures Game, has strong on-base skills along with plus-plus speed and is considered a strong defender, mostly at shortstop, although he has also played second base and center field. He stole a career-high 39 bases in 2019 and got 19 in 57 games in 2021. He has 142 steals in five minor league seasons.
MLBPipeline.com gave him a 45 grade for his hit tool, but just a 30 for power. He got a 70 run-tool grade while getting 55 grades for both his arm and fielding.