Baltimore Orioles: Someone Will Rise Above The Rest, Right?
By Nick Stevens
There’s a lot of quantity when it comes to Baltimore Orioles pitchers, but how much quality?
RHP Kohl Stewart (25)
Stewart is the exact type of low-cost/low-risk signing we expected the Orioles to make a few of this offseason. If the Orioles are able to unlock some of the tools that made him intriguing to the Minnesota Twins as a first-round draft pick out of high school back in 2013, Stewart has the potential to hang around the backend of the rotation for a few years.
Stewart has made 17 appearances at the major league level, going 4-3 with a 4.79 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, and a .253 average against. His slider is a pitch that offers a good amount of intrigue. Based on very small sample size numbers, Stewart dropped a few ticks on the slider, creating a bit more separation between his sinker and secondary pitches, and added significant vertical and horizontal movement. The result was a 33% whiff rate, a .172 average, and a .187 wOBA against the pitch.
RHP Cesar Valdez (34)
Valdez was signed to a minor league contract earlier this month and has previous ties to Mike Elias. He made his major league debut in 2010, didn’t return until 2017, and hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since. Valdez isn’t a high-velocity guy but based strictly on stat-line scouting, the soon-to-be 35-year-old has been able to do two things consistently over the last few seasons in Triple-A, Mexico, and Winter League ball, prevent runs from crossing the plate and producing strikeouts.
LHP Rob Zastryzny (27)
Another minor league signing from this offseason, we recently profiled Zastryzny and what he brings to the organization. There’s a lot to like from the former Chicago Cub. You can read the full profile here, but the highlights include an impressive curveball and a history of keeping the ball on the ground and in the ballpark. He will likely get an opportunity to start, but could be a more valuable option out of the pen as long-man.
RHP Brandon Bailey (25)
Bailey hasn’t pitched above Double-A ball, but as a Rule 5 pick of the Orioles last month he will have to find success at the major league level in 2020 if he wants to make the team. He may be listed at 5’10” and his fastball won’t blow you away, but Bailey isn’t someone you want to overlook this spring.
Bailey possesses five pitches which most scouting reports agree are all major league quality pitches or close to being big-league quality. He struck out 10.41/9 IP in High-A back in 2018 and 10/9 IP in Double-A last season, while limiting opponents to a .196 and .211 average against in each of the last two seasons. Bailey is a Driveline guy who already has a relationship with Orioles Director of Pitching Chris Holt and is a scientist behind the scenes, just check out his Twitter account which is a great follow.
RHP Michael Rucker (25)
It wouldn’t be Orioles baseball if they didn’t have multiple Rule 5 picks to evaluate in spring training. Rucker was the second Rule 5 pick made by the Orioles in December, coming over from the Chicago Cubs organization. Because of Bailey’s ties to Houston and the Orioles regime and the possibility of him earning a rotation spot, Rucker often gets over-looked by many when they discuss the Orioles pitching staff.
Rucker struck out 89 Double-A hitters last season in 75 innings and owns a career 343/85 K/BB ratio across 331 career minor league innings since being drafted by the Cubs in the 11th-round of the 2016 draft out of BYU. Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs had high praise for Rucker after the Rule 5 draft,
"“We’ve been on Rucker for a little while because his deceptive delivery (he hides the ball well) helped enable an otherwise fringy fastball to play. Rucker pitched his way into the Double-A rotation in 2018 but was put back in the bullpen last year and his velocity jumped. He’s now 92-95, touching 97, and his curveball and changeup are both average, while the curve flashes above.”"
RHP Brady Rodgers (29)
Yet another former Astros pitcher who was around during the Mike Elias tenure, Rodgers is the latest Orioles pickup, signing a minor league deal earlier this week. Reports on pre-Tommy John surgery Brady Rodgers were high on his ability to stick in the major leagues with Houston, but it’s been a long road back for the 29-year-old out of Arizona State.
He was effective last season in the Pacific Coast League, going 4-0 with a 3.65 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 18 walks in 49 innings. For Rodgers, his 8.6% walk rate in 2019 was actually a massive increase from his career-norm. At four different stops (including two AAA stints), Rodgers has logged 110+ innings and in each of those seasons, his highest walk rate was 1.95/9 IP. A normally high ground ball rate and a low walk rate? Sign me up for as many looks as possible.