The non-tender deadline has just passed, leaving the Baltimore Orioles with a clearer picture of how their roster stands just before Thanksgiving. Given this deadline, I think it’s worthwhile to take a look at the internal options on the Orioles 40 man roster for the starting rotation in 2023.
After being used exclusively as a reliever in the majors, Baumann made four starts down the stretch for the Orioles as their season wrapped up. He allowed 11 runs in those starts and did make most of his appearances in relief. Unless something goes horribly wrong, Baumann will not be featured in the starting rotation.
Bradish was a very Jekyll and Hyde pitcher in his rookie season for the Orioles. He spent the season exclusively in the rotation but had a 7.38 ERA prior to landing on the IL. After being activated, he had a 2.38 ERA to finish the year at a 4.90 clip. The second half results from Bradish were encouraging enough to have me believe that he can stick in the rotation. Pencil him in.
Baltimore Orioles: assessing the in-house starting pitcher options
One of the prized pitching prospects in the farm system, DL Hall was called up to make his first start in August. It didn’t go so well for Hall or the Orioles, as they lost that game to the Tampa Bay Rays. After being sent down to Norfolk for a bit, he was called back up as a reliever and allowed four runs in 10 appearances. Heading into the offseason, the Orioles have the opportunity to build up Hall as a starter to see what he can do there at the major league level. I’m not going to add him to either the rotation or bullpen group just yet, I want to see what he looks like in Spring Training first.
What a turnaround year 2022 was for Dean Kremer. He made 21 starts in the rotation for Baltimore, recording a 3.23 ERA and 3.80 FIP as he punched out a career high 87 hitters in 125 1/3 innings. He added a complete game shutout to his resume and cut his walks per nine innings to 2.4, down from 4.2 and 5.8 in the last two years. Like Bradish, I believe that Kremer has earned a rotation spot in 2023.
This one is a no brainer for me. Despite a lost 2022 that saw him undergo Tommy John Surgery after making just two starts, Means is still the ace of this Orioles rotation. He looked every bit the part before he went down, and while he won’t be back for the start of the season, he’s a lock for the rotation whenever he does return.
If it wasn’t for that injury in 2022 that has been talked about so much, Rodriguez would already be up in Baltimore. Across three levels of the farm system, Rodriguez posted a 2.20 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in 17 starts, striking out 109 hitters in just 75 2/3 innings. He’s kicked down the door for a major league callup, and I have a premonition that he’ll be in the rotation on opening day.
After originally being picked up as a low risk waiver claim, Voth found success in Baltimore, posting a 3.04 ERA in 22 games, all but five being out of the rotation. His numbers were encouraging in 83 innings and has a role on the 2023 team, but I’m wondering what role he might serve. He was too good to be just a long reliever, but I don’t think it would be wise to bank on him replicating his success in a starters capacity next year. I think the way he bests fits is a swingman out of the bullpen who could be the first in line for starts if someone in the rotation goes down.
Watkins is another fascinating case to me. We saw flashes out of him, after all, he cut his ERA from 8.07 in 2021 to 4.70 this year. However, a 4.70 ERA in 20 starts still isn’t good enough, and we saw the Orioles option him to Norfolk a few times as the season neared it’s end. Watkins is similar to Voth, where it’s unwise to bet on him as your fifth starter, but unlike Voth, I don’t see Watkins playing a role in the bullpen. I expect Watkins to be riding the Baltimore to Norfolk shuttle multiple times this season if injuries hit the rotation.
The Baltimore Orioles have several starting pitchers in-house from which to choose should they not sign any free agents.
Wells served a role in the Orioles rotation in 2022 and looked more comfortable than as a reliever in 2021. He made 23 starts and had average numbers but was hit by injury a few different times over the course of the season. As things currently stand, I think Wells has a solid chance to be the fifth starter on opening day, but improvements will have to be made if he wants to keep that spot.
Oh Bruce Zimmermann, what will we get from you this season? We saw the positives early in the season, he entered May with a 2.33 ERA. However, everything went straight downhill after that. His ERA on the season ended at 5.99, a big dropoff, leading to his demotion to Norfolk. Things didn’t get much better there, as he had a 5.04 ERA for the Tides. Unless about six or seven guys ahead of him get injured, don’t expect to see Zimmermann in the rotation, or even the bullpen, because you’ll see him in Norfolk.
As things currently stand, I would pencil in Means, Bradish, Kremer, and Rodriguez as rotation pieces for the Orioles, in no particular order, with one of Hall, Wells, Voth, and Watkins in the fifth spot. But of course, things change during the offseason, so if the Orioles sign even one starter to add to their depth, then that’s great.