Notes on free agent dollars, Vespi’s Fall Stars nod and more

If predictions prove to be mostly accurate, this winter’s baseball free agent class will bring in some huge collective dollars in salary. Some big contracts could be signed.

How this all plays out is pending the collective bargaining talks on a new labor contract, but there will come a time when the deals get done, and the contracts could be something.

Last year via free agency, just three players signed total deals of $100 million or more. They were George Springer (six years, $150 million) with Toronto, J.T. Realmuto (five years, $115.5 million) with Philadelphia and Trevor Bauer (three years, $102 million) with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Recently, released predictions for its ranking of the top 50 free agents. They rate Houston shortstop Carlos Correa as the No. 1 free agent and project he gets a deal for 10 years and $320 million. No. 2 free agent Corey Seager is projected for a 10-year deal worth $305 million.

Those projections, shown here, rank former Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman as the No. 5 free agent and predict a deal of six years and $138 million. Wowser. They list Gausman as the top available free agent pitcher and rank him higher than Robbie Ray, Max Scherzer, Eduardo Rodriguez, Carlos Rodon, Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw.

Hey now, he’s an all-star: It hasn’t exactly been a banner year for Orioles in the Arizona Fall League. Two of their players - outfielders Kyle Stowers and Yusniel Diaz - had their participation shut down early due to injuries.

But 26-year-old lefty reliever Nick Vespi has been thriving in the AFL. Vespi, drafted by the club in round 18 of the 2015 draft, is in his seventh season in the organization. Yesterday he was named to the AFL’s Fall Stars Game, the league’s all-star game.

The 15th Fall Stars Game will be played this Saturday at 7 p.m. ET at Sminalt River Fields. The two rosters were announced this week, picked by a combination of farm and scouting directors along with AFL staff and writers.

In eight games in the AFL with Mesa, Vespi is 3-1 with a 2.19 ERA that is the second-best on his team. Over 12 1/3 innings, he has allowed nine hits and three earned runs with five walks and 14 strikeouts. He has posted a 1.14 WHIP and allowed a .205 batting average against. His Mesa team was 12-10 and in first place as of yesterday.

Vespi pitched in 30 games during the 2021 minor league season between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. He went 4-3 with a 4.19 ERA. In 38 2/3 innings he has allowed 31 hits with 17 walks, 51 strikeouts, a 1.24 WHIP and .223 average against. He produced a 3.96 walk rate, and his strikeout rate of 11.87 was 12th-best on the O’s farm among full-season pitchers that threw 30 or more innings.

Vespi went 1-1 with a 1.42 ERA and 0.95 WHIP this season in 14 games at Bowie. He was 3-2 with a 6.86 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in 16 games for Norfolk.

Vespi throws a fastball that ranges from 88 to 91 mph with some natural cutting action. His slider is his best secondary at 82 to 86 mph. His curveball is often 77 to 81. He threw a changeup when he was a starter, but is mostly a three-pitch pitcher now out of the ‘pen.

He is eligible to selected in December’s Rule 5 draft and seems like a longshot to make the O’s 40-man roster. But the AFL gave the club another chance to take a look at Vespi, and he’s sure put his best foot (or arm) forward.

Ripken-Brothers-1989-Why-Not-Night-Sidebar.jpgRipkens help the baseball youth: Brothers Cal Jr. and Bill Ripken are trying to help the youth, both in this area and across the United States, one field at a time.

The latest field their Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation built was unveiled Wednesday in Baltimore’s Cherry Hill neighborhood. The field supports soccer, football, lacrosse, baseball and softball. It includes lights and bleachers for rec leagues and other after-school youth programs.

Since retiring, the brothers have spent a lot of time helping and working with young players to grow the game of baseball and carry on the tradition of teaching and coaching baseball that their father started. Cal Sr. was considered the architect of the “Oriole Way” to play baseball.

Yesterday they cut the ribbon on their 100th youth development park nationwide.

“We lost Dad way too early, and we tried to capture the legacy of Dad,” Ripken Jr. told reporters. “And Dad’s legacy really was in helping kids, he used baseball to help kids. And we simply started a foundation in his name to help kids through sport, through baseball.”

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