The results…are in.
Left-handed starting pitcher Cade Povich (#19 org. rank per FanGraphs) made his debut for the Aberdeen IronBirds on Friday night and immediately displayed why the Baltimore Orioles front office thought he was worth trading All Star closer Jorge López for.
Povich faced a Wilmington (WSH Hi-A) lineup that included Nationals recently acquired top prospect Robert Hassell III (FanGraphs’ #41 MLB prospect) and navigated with the utmost ease. In six shutout innings Povich threw 50 of his 75 pitches for strikes while allowing just one hit, striking out eight, and walking none. Blue Rocks shortstop Yasel Antuna’s sixth inning single was responsible for the only blemish on the lefty pitcher’s final line. The aforementioned Hassell III struck out looking against Povich in both of their faceoffs.
Orioles pitching prospect Cade Povich dominant in Aberdeen debut
When Orioles GM Mike Elias spoke to the media while the team was in Arlington playing the Rangers he was effusive in his praise for Cade Povich and after seeing his debut for the IronBirds, it is clear to see why they view him as the headliner of the four prospects they received from the Twins for López.
The southpaw lacks the premium fastball velocity that generally accompanies the 12.3 K/9 Povich has through 84.2 innings at Hi-A, but consistently flashed the ingredients to his recipe Friday night: command of three secondary pitches including a devastating curveball/slider combination that Orioles fans will be sure to tell their grandkids about.
Povich’s fastball velocity has increased since being drafted out of Nebraska though and, while not pushing triple digits, can touch the mid 90’s. The Orioles player development staff have a proven aptitude for identifying young pitchers from other organizations and further improving them (Kyle Bradish, Felix Bautista, and even Jorge López himself) and ostensibly believe they will be able to extract the most velocity possible from Povich’s arm.
The Orioles trading their dominant closer while within striking distance of a playoff spot was destined to polarize; how could a team chasing their first winning season in six years give up their bullpen bookend who could potentially be a valuable piece of the Orioles next contending team?
The depth of bullpen could have been a factor and has been exemplified since López departed. Their supreme confidence in player development surely played a part. Third, it is clear from the comments Elias made that the organization views Povich as not so much a proverbial lottery ticket as a high-ceiling starting pitcher who could reach Baltimore sooner than later.
If Friday is any indication, they might be on to something.