Baltimore Orioles: Will Wade LeBlanc Pitch in the Rotation?

During the hot stove season, the Baltimore Orioles were relatively quiet, spending very little money by giving players minor-league contracts.

The Baltimore Orioles GM Mike Elias signed only two players to major league contracts:  Jose Iglesias and Kohl Stewart. Five other players received minor league contracts, most notably starting pitcher Wade LeBlanc and catcher Bryan Holaday

And, in the short spring training, Wade LeBlanc wasn’t too bad. If he can repeat his success in the second “spring training” of 2020, is there a chance he could make the starting rotation?

The Orioles have a limited selection of pitchers to choose from for the 2020 season. John Means is one of the few for-sure starting pitchers. Asher Wojciechowski will most likely be in the rotation, and Alex Cobb, too. But, Cobb has proven to be rather fragile, and wasn’t able to do much in 2019. He pitched an inning in the first spring training, seeing only four batters and giving up one hit.

What he can do remains to be seen when the team returns to Baltimore to begin round-two preseason play.

This leaves two other possibilities for the rotation, Kohl Stewart and Wade LeBlanc. Stewart was a free agent pick up who spent two seasons with a handful of starts for the Minnesota Twins. He’s another possibility for the rotation, and his 6.39 ERA seems right in line with the typical pitcher the Orioles pick up as the number-five starter.

But, LeBlanc could be interesting. He had five innings in spring training before the shut down, and pitched a 1.60 ERA against 19 batters. He struck out six, walked one, gave up one run, and two hits, giving him a WHIP of 0.600. There aren’t many stats from spring training, but that performance out of the gate for a 35-year-old pitcher isn’t bad.

In 2019, he only had 8 starts with the Seattle Mariners who used the left-handed pitcher as a sixth starter and occasionally in relief. With 121 innings pitched, he finished the season with an ERA of 5.71, which was only better than Felix Hernandez who had a 6.40 ERA. The Mariners had pitching issues in 2019.

Now the Orioles have to decide what to do with LeBlanc. He has spent 11 up-and-down seasons with the MLB. In 2014, he struggled with three different teams and ended up spending the 2015 season in the Nippon Professional Baseball league in Japan. He returned to the MLB in 2016 and has pitched for a handful of teams since. He saw success in Seattle in 2018 with one of his better ERAs of 3.72 in 27 starts.

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Again, he seems like a typical middle-to-bottom of the order starter for the Orioles. So, if he has some success in round-two of spring training, there’s a good chance he’ll be in the rotation. If prospects can get time in the MLB without affecting their service time, then LeBlanc might not get many starts. Otherwise, he could be the 3rd or 4th starter in the short 2020 season.