Happy Monday, Baltimore Orioles fans! Spring Training is almost here
Pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota tomorrow and we’re just 12 days from the Baltimore Orioles first spring training game.
At this point, it feels like the Orioles are comfortable heading into spring training with the current roster. The addition of Nate Karns late last week could provide the Orioles with a viable fourth starter, and will drum up competition among the young pitchers vying for the final rotation spot.
As the Orioles head to Sarasota, David Hess feels like the favorite to be the fifth starter, at least to open the season.
Just 25 years old, Hess finished the 2018 season with a 4.88 ERA, coupled with a 5.80 FIP, but he showed signs of improvement last year.
He posted a 3.81 ERA in the second-half after pitching to a 6.06 mark early on, and his K-BB% jumped almost seven percentage points, from 4.1% to 11.9%.
However, Hess needs to find the ideal pitch mix, especially if he’s going to run consistently low strikeout rates. His 8.3% swinging strike rate and the 16.3% overall strikeout rate are both well below average. He doesn’t have a true out-pitch but he’s shown flashes of being able to work around it.
Hess’ main competition will be with Yefry Ramirez and Jimmy Yacabonis, assuming that the new managerial staff wants to continue to use Yacabonis in the rotation, versus sending him back to the bullpen.
Ramirez ran a 5.92 ERA in just over 65 innings last year, but he has a big, wipeout slider that’s a devastating pitch when he’s in control of it.
If Ramirez sticks, it’ll be because he develops a consistent feel for the slider. He has plenty of upside, especially in terms of strikeouts, but if the slider is wild he’s going to be unsuccessful.
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Yacabonis has just two pitches and struggled against left-handed hitters last year. He allowed a .318 average against lefties in 2018, compared to a .220 mark against righties. Because of this, some feel that he’s best served in a bullpen role. But the Orioles nevertheless moved him to the rotation last year.
Similar to Ramirez, Yacabonis needs to control the slider if he’s going to be a contributor in Baltimore. He’d stand to benefit quite a bit from a third pitch; he’s used a change-up sparingly but doesn’t look comfortable with it.
There’s an outside chance that one of the younger guys, like Josh Rogers or Luis Ortiz, are impressive enough in spring training to steal the fifth rotation spot. Assuming anything about Hunter Harvey feels like a fools game at this point, but if he’s healthy, he could be in the mix as well.
The battle for the final rotation spot will be one of the most intriguing in Orioles camp this spring. The one behind the plate will be it’s own mess, but we’re almost there, O’s fans.