Orioles Pro Player Acquisition Looks Similar to These Two Teams

Jul 16, 2022; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Joey Krehbiel (34) pitches in the 11th inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 16, 2022; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Joey Krehbiel (34) pitches in the 11th inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orioles have lots of players who spent time with the Rays and Marlins.

In a recent series between the Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays, MASN play-by-play man Kevin Brown pointed out that many players on both rosters played for the other team.  He also brought up that the same is true of the Miami Marlins.  On Wednesday, Mike Elias added to this baseball osmosis by signing Jesus Aguilar.

The number of active players who have donned a uniform for at least two of these organizations is rather stunning, and it is not a coincidence either.  Aguilar was designated for assignment by the Marlins last week in the midst of a down season, and he also played for the Rays in 2019.  The Orioles claimed Louis Head off waivers from the Marlins, and he pitched in the Rays bullpen last year.  Joey Krehbiel pitched one inning for the Rays last year.  The Marlins originally signed Felix Bautista.  Robinson Chirinos is a bona fide journeyman, and he first broke into the Majors with the Rays, though Elias knows him better from his time with the Astros.  Chris Ellis, who has been hurt most of the year, was claimed off waivers from the Rays.

For Tampa, Ji-Man Choi used to play in the Orioles system.  Nick Anderson was a trade acquisition from the Marlins.  Garrett Cleavinger was first drafted by the Orioles.  Jimmy Yacabonis is in the minors right now but played parts of three seasons in Baltimore.  Dusten Knight is also in AAA but saw time with the O’s last year.  Shawn Armstrong played for both the Orioles and the Marlins and now is in his second stint with the Rays.

On the Marlins behalf, Jesus Sanchez was part of the return for Anderson.  Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser were trade pieces this year.  Avisail Garcia spent one season at the Trop.  Dylan Floro started his career with the Rays.  They added Joey Wendle from the Rays back in November.  Richard Bleier was a trade acquisition from the Orioles.  Zach Pop, who they recently traded away, was a Rule 5 pick from the O’s.  Paul Campbell was also a Rule 5 pick from the Rays.

Among current Orioles minor leaguers, they got Brett Phillips from the Rays on deadline day.  They also claimed Phoenix Sanders from the Rays in August.  Chris Vallimont was originally drafted by the Marlins. Antonio Velez, Kevin Guerrero, and Yaqui Rivera came over from the Marlins this year for the pair of relievers.  They got Easton Lucas from the Marlins for Jonathan Villar.  Isaac De Leon was the return for Bleier.  Seth Johnson was in the Rays system until the Trey Mancini trade.

That’s a lot of players!  Indeed, it is too many to merely be an interesting fact.  These three teams clearly value similar traits in players.  The Marlins have a starkly different approach to prospect acquisition since they aim for one big name compared to Elias’s go-wide approach and the Rays’ snowballing tendencies.  But at the Major League level, the three teams seem to basically share players.

Pitcher Acquisition Pattern

I don’t think there is much of a pattern related to the position players, but the pitchers involved are not coincidences.  Most of the guys listed are relievers, but besides Bautista and Scott they do not have elite velocity.  Most of them also throw sliders with above average spin and movement.  Sliders with movement is the hip trend in MLB right now, but I think the Orioles are prioritizing it more than other teams, especially with pitchers who don’t throw hard.

Here are the slider spin rates and movements of the Orioles pitchers I listed with Major League experience.  This kind of advanced data from the minors is not publicly available.  I am including Ellis’s 2021 numbers since he has pitched so little this season.  All stats to follow come from Baseball Savant.  The figures in order are slider spin rate (rpm), vertical movement vs. average, and horizontal movement vs. average (inches).

Felix Bautista:       2452, 3.9, 0.2
Joey Krehbiel:        2481, 2.8, 1.2
Chris Ellis (2021): 2372, 3.4, -1.1
Louis Head:            2624, 4.3, 3.3
Phoenix Sanders: 2097, -3.3, -3.9

You can clearly see the Orioles value high-spin sliders and vertically oriented sliders.  I will be looking more into this soon related to their other recent pitching acquisitions.  I am genuinely curious what the front office sees in Phoenix Sanders, since he has below average spin and well-below average movement in addition to a 90-MPH fastball (as I am writing this, they DFA’d Sanders).  Here are the other Major Leaguers on the list who used to play in Baltimore, with the same stats listed.

Tanner Scott:            2737, 3.3, 1.1
Cole Sulser:               2255, -3.6, -0.9
Richard Bleier:          2019, 3.1, -5.1
Zach Pop:                   2372, 2, 1.3
Garrett Cleavinger:  2601, 7, -1.4
Jimmy Yacabonis:    2790, 4.9, 6.8
Shawn Armstrong: 2527, 4.5, 4.8
Dusten Knight:         N/A, N/A, N/A

Sure looks like the Marlins and Rays value the same things!  It is easy to see what the Orioles liked about this crop and what the Florida teams see in them now.  Knight has thrown exactly one slider in MLB this year, and like Bautista and Sulser, his calling card is a splitter.  Considering how poorly Cleavinger has pitched and how appealing his spin rate and vertical movement are, I would not be surprised if he gets put on waivers and the Orioles claim him.

I hope you found this to be a revealing exploration of how certain teams think.  Understanding organization tendencies is a useful way to predict future transactions and figure out what they see in overlooked players.