As the Baltimore Orioles look to upgrade their roster heading into 2023, free agent starting pitcher Andrew Heaney could be of interest to EVP/GM Mike Elias.
After the Miami Marlins made him a first round draft pick in 2012, Andrew Heaney made his way to the Los Angeles Angels via trade and established himself as a solid, middle to back end of the rotation starting pitcher. It was a move to the cross city Dodgers a year ago that appears to have reshaped the trajectory of his career. The lefty from Oklahoma State had a career-best 2022 season, setting new personal bests in ERA and strikeouts per nine innings. It’s hard to believe about a guy who generally tops out in the mid 90’s, but Heaney was one of baseball’s elite strikeout pitchers.
How, you ask? Heaney has revolutionized his pitch mix thanks to an increase in fastball velocity and a newfound slider.
After a five year breakup, Andrew Heaney and his slider are harmonious again. Source: Baseball Savant
The slider in particular has spearheaded Heaney’s renaissance. In 2021, he used his slider as many times as I had points in my final 5th grade rec league basketball game: six. Fast forward one season, and he’s throwing it nearly one third of the time and batters hit just .170 against it.
I can see why 44.3% of Andrew Heaney’s sliders resulted in a swing and miss. My goodness.
Baltimore Orioles: Assessing Andrew Heaney’s fit
As mentioned above, few pitchers were better at generating whiffs and strikeouts. Like, very few. Strikeout percentage? 97th percentile. Whiff percentage? 96th percentile. Chase Rate? Also in the 96th percentile. Heaney has reshaped his pitch mix to become much less a bottom of the rotation pitcher and more like a guy who resembles a #2/#3.
There’s just one slight problem. Alright, it’s a bit of a red flag: Heaney has an extensive history of arm and shoulder injuries. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2016 to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament and has suffered arm or shoulder discomfort several times since. Heaney has only hit the 180 inning mark once in his career and surpassed 100 innings just three times. He was limited to 72.2 innings last year thanks to another case of shoulder discomfort. Would it be wise to commit significant resources to a pitcher who hasn’t exactly been dependable over the years?
For the Baltimore Orioles, I would argue not. The O’s do need a left handed starter and a high strikeout, fly ball-dominant lefty is an excellent fit for Camden Yards. Heaney’s also likely to be on the affordable side relative to other mid-tier free agent pitchers – Spotrac projects a three year deal just north of an $11 million AAV. The injury risk is just too great for a team that’s going to need dependable pitching if they’d like to earn a Postseason berth. It’s certainly a tempting proposition considering his revamped arsenal and strikeout proficiency, but the Baltimore Orioles should probably pass on Andrew Heaney.