Contributor Chuck Boemmel continues his series of looks into a position-by-position breakdown of the prospects in the Baltimore Orioles organization. Up next, a look at the right-handed pitching options down on the farm.
Spring training is quickly approaching for the Baltimore Orioles (their first full-squad workout is scheduled for Feb. 17th) and with that in mind, Birds Watcher felt this was an ideal time to take a look at the prospects in the talent pipeline on a position by position basis.
The biggest improvement in the Baltimore Orioles minor league system has manifested itself on the mound. The number of quality arms in the system is on the rise; in fact, 14 of the Orioles top-30 prospects are pitchers. General Manager Mike Elias has kept his word about adding to the organization’s talent pipeline between his drafting of 18 pitchers in 2019 and his addition of other pitchers either through waiver claims or minor league signings.
The numbers will foster healthy competition for spots on the roster and will make the cream rise to the top. Only the best will make it to Baltimore and those that do will shape the future of the franchise. Today, we will explore the right-handed options.
You can view previous parts of our series here:
- Baltimore Orioles catching prospects to watch
- Baltimore Orioles first base prospects to watch
- Baltimore Orioles second base prospects to watch
- Baltimore Orioles third base prospects to watch
- Baltimore Orioles outfield prospects to watch
- Baltimore Orioles shortstop prospects to watch
Baltimore Orioles Top RHP Prospect
Considered the 36th best prospect in all of baseball, 20-year-old Grayson Rodriguez gets the nod as the Orioles top right-handed pitching prospect. Rodriguez, the Orioles first-round draft pick in 2018 out of Central Heights High School in Nacogdoches, Texas, could also go down in team history as one of former GM Dan Duquette’s best draft selections.
The organization was careful with Rodriguez following the 2018 draft. Assigned to the Gulf Coast League (Rookie), he threw just 19.1 innings over nine appearances, eight of which were starts. Irrespective of his 0-2 record, Rodriguez struck out 20, walked seven and allowed 17 hits (no home runs) in producing a 1.40 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP; all solid numbers for a prep pitcher in his first year of professional baseball.
Rodriguez was promoted to Delmarva (A-Low) for the 2019 season and that is where his potential was on full display. Over a span of 20 starts and 94.0 innings pitched he produced a 10-4 record to go along with a 2.68 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP. Rodriguez struck out a team-leading 129 batters while walking just 36, numbers resulting in a 12.4 K/9 innings rate and a 3.58 K to walk ratio.
Accolades were numerous for Rodriguez in 2019; he was named both a South Atlantic League mid-season and post-season All-Star, he was selected for the SiriusXM Futures Game and was a co-recipient of the Orioles Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award.
Frederick (A-Adv.) would seem to Rodriguez’s destination in 2020 where the pressure he faces may be in living up to the bar he has set for himself. Regardless of any self-inflicted pressure, the ceiling is high for Rodriguez.
One To Watch
The author of both a complete-game shutout and a no-hitter, Michael Baumann took a big step forward in 2019. The Orioles 3rd round draft pick in 2017 started the season in Frederick where he went 1-4 with a 3.83 ERA with 77 strikeouts and 24 walks over 11 starts. A mid-season promotion to Bowie saw Baumann improve against the higher level of competition.
Baumann’s move to the Eastern League saw him make 13 appearances (11 starts) where he produced a 6-2 record with one save, a 2.31 ERA, a 0.94 WHIP, 65 strikeouts and 21 walks over 70.0 innings. His 2019 combined stat line looks like this: 7-6 record, 2.98 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 142 strikeouts, 45 walks, and a .194 opponent’s batting average.
The step forward I noted above came in Baumann’s improvement over his 2018 numbers. The Orioles 9th ranked prospect lowered his ERA, WHIP, walks and opponent’s batting average while increasing his strikeouts in essentially the same number of innings pitched (130.2 in 2018 vs 124.0 in 2019). Baumann also finished the year with a 10.3 K/9 innings rate and a 3.16 K to walk ratio. Continued improvement should result in him being a part of the Norfolk rotation in 2020.
2013 1st round draft pick Hunter Harvey is possibly beyond his injury issues and ready to satisfy the fan base’s desire to see him permanently at the major league level. In fact, Harvey did get called up to Baltimore in August following a season spent at both Bowie and Norfolk where he produced a combined 3-6 record with 1 save and a 5.00 ERA over 26 appearances (11 starts).
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Harvey made seven appearances out of the bullpen for the Orioles and recorded his first MLB win on August 20th against the Kansas City Royals. It is in relief that Harvey may reach his goal of playing in the major leagues.
Dean Kremer, who came to Baltimore as a part of the Manny Machado trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, was added to the 40-man roster last November following a season where he put his potential on full display. He spent the majority of his 2019 season in Bowie where over a span of 15 starts and 84.2 innings pitched to a 9-4 record with a 298 ERA, 87 strikeouts and 24 walks. He finished the season with a 9.7 K/9 inning rate and a 3.30 K to walk ratio. Kremer will probably start the 2020 season in Norfolk and could see time in Baltimore later in the season.
Another pitcher moving beyond injury issues is 2016 1st round draft pick Cody Sedlock. He made 13 appearances, 10 of which were starts, for Frederick and over 61.0 innings produced a 4-1 record with a 2.36 ERA, 66 strikeouts and 26 walks. Sedlock was promoted to Bowie in July and that is where he is expected to continue his positive development in 2020.
One of my break-out prospects of 2019 is 2018 10th round draft pick Dallas Litscher. Pitching between Aberdeen, where he was dominant, and Delmarva, Litscher compiled a 6-2 record over 14 appearances (12 starts) with a 3.33 ERA, 86 strikeouts and 28 walks over 70.1 combined innings pitched. He struck out batters at a rate of 11.0/9 innings and had a 3.07 k to walk ratio. Destined to return to Delmarva, simply because of who is pitching at levels above him, Litscher is expected to continue to produce solid numbers on the mound.
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There were several more right-handers that could have been considered for this piece but were left out; all of which indicate the pitching strength in the Baltimore Orioles system. Help is on the way and when it arrives in Baltimore I am sure the fan base will be pleased.