Contributor Chuck Boemmel completes his series of looks into a position-by-position breakdown of the prospects in the Baltimore Orioles organization. Up next, a look at the left-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.
Pitching options in the Orioles minor league system are plentiful; quality arms can be found at every level of the system. Baltimore General Manager Mike Elias has infused the system with arms through the 2019 MLB draft (18 pitchers selected) and his Rule-5 Draft picks, Brandon Bailey and Michael Rucker.
The competition among pitchers in spring training will be something to watch closely and Birds Watcher will do exactly that. When all is said and done, the expectation is that there will be several stout pitching rotations throughout the minor league system. Today, we will explore some of the left-handed pitching options.
You can view previous parts of our series here:
- Baltimore Orioles right-handed pitching prospects to watch
- 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 LHP Prospect
Claiming the top spot among the Orioles LHP options is 2017 first-round draft pick DL Hall. Currently occupying the #69 ranking among the top-100 prospects, Hall is the Orioles #3 prospect, as well as the #10 prospect among all southpaw prospects.
The 21-year-old hurler spent 2018 with the Delmarva Shorebirds (A-Low). That season, although his record was 2-7, he struck out 100 while pitching to a 2.10 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. His 22 appearances (20 starts) amounted to 94.1 innings pitched, a product of the Orioles being cautious with the prep hurler. In fact, Hall was in a piggyback situation with other starters in the rotation.
Hall moved up to Frederick (A-Adv.) in 2019 and pitched to a 3.46 ERA over 19 appearances (17 starts) and a 4-5 record before being shut down in August due to a mild left lat muscle strain. He did strike out 116 batters over 80.2 innings pitched and limited Carolina League batters to a .189 batting average. Despite the limited innings and injury, Hall led the Keys in strikeouts. His season was highlighted by an appearance in the SiriusXM Futures game with fellow prospect Grayson Rodriguez.
— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) July 8, 2019
Hall has all the tools, a plus fastball, an above-average curveball and an improved change-up. The Orioles may continue to protect his arm and send him and his 12 K/9 innings rate back to Frederick in order to show he can dominate that level. Under the right circumstances, Hall could very well find his way to Bowie (AA) at some point in 2020
He projects as a middle of the rotation starter and is a key component of the future of the Baltimore Orioles rotation.
One To Watch
Norfolk’s (AAA) Keegan Akin was added to the 40-man roster in November and how he will be handled piques my interest. Will he shuttle between Baltimore and Norfolk as a spot starter or remain in Norfolk until late-season call ups? I am of the opinion that he could be 2020’s version of John Means and surprisingly make the team out of spring training, an opinion I expressed in Birds Watcher’s roundtable.
Akin, who purposely worked on throwing his off-speed pitches more and in counts he normally would not have, finished his 2019 season with a 6-7 record, 4.73 ERA, 131 strikeouts (10.5 K/9) and 61 walks (4.9 walks/9) over 25 appearances (24 starts) and 112.1 innings pitched. Currently the Orioles #11 ranked prospect, he was a workhorse for the Tides and led the team in starts, innings pitched, strikeouts and wins.
Look for this prospect to bring his fastball, above-average slider and changeup to a major league mound in 2020.
Zac Lowther received a non-roster invite to spring training coming off of a season in Bowie where he pitched to a 13-7 record, 2.55 ERA, 1.11 WHIP over 26 starts. He led Bowie in wins, starts, innings pitched (148.0) and strikeouts (154). Lowther’s wins and strikeout total also led the Eastern League in 2019.
The key to his success is a fastball, while not high in velocity, that misses bats at a high rate. He combines that with an above-average curveball to pound the strike zone and keep batters off-balance. It will be fascinating to see how his repertoire translates with the use of the major league baseball in spring training and in Norfolk, where he is expected to start the 2020 season.
Drew Rom was a solid member of the 2019 Delmarva pitching staff who should start 2020 in Frederick. Baltimore’s 4th round draft pick in 2018 and #19 ranked prospect used his fastball, split-finger fastball, and above-average slider to produce a 6-3 record and a 2.93 ERA while striking out 122 and walking just 33 batters over 21 appearances (15 starts) and 95.1 innings. In keeping with the organization’s emphasis on strikeouts, he had a K/9 inning rate of 11.5. Rom is another pitcher who throws strikes and throws them well.
Another non-roster invitee, Alex Wells, produced solid numbers in Bowie in 2019. The Australian native pitched to a 8-6 record with a 2.95 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 105 strikeouts in 24 starts for the Baysox. He throws a fastball, an above-average changeup, and an improving curveball, all with plus command. It is his command that is his calling card as evidenced by a 0.7 hit/9 inning and 1.6 walk/9 rate. Wells is another pitcher that may find himself in Norfolk in 2020.
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Kevin Magee is an up and coming southpaw. I tagged him as an under the radar prospect and based on his performance in 2019, he should not be under the radar now. The 2018 9th round draft pick embraced the organization’s new analytical approach to pitching to finish his season in Aberdeen (A-Short) with a 5-6 record, 2.04 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. In his 15 starts that spanned 70.2 innings, he struck out 79 while walking just 13 for a 6.08 K/walk ratio. Magee is expected to take the mound in Delmarva in 2020.
Spring training in Sarasota will be full of competition this year. As these prospects show, there are many quality arms in the system; some may make their way to Baltimore and others will certainly comprise stout pitching staffs throughout the system.
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The future of pitching in Baltimore is a reason for optimism and a good reason to focus on the Orioles minor league teams.