For the first time in the Meet the Baby Birds series we take a look at a player that was not drafted or signed as an international free agent by the Baltimore Orioles. Chayce McDermott was drafted by the Houston Astros and the Orioles acquired him via trade (more on that later), but nonetheless he is now a Baby Bird who's he's developed into one of the organizations top pitching prospects and was recently promoted to triple-A Norfolk. Let's take a look at how McDermott got to this point.
Meet the Baby Birds: Starting pitcher Chayce McDermott
McDermott was drafted in the fourth round of the 2021 draft out of Ball State University. Chayce had a stellar collegiate career. In three seasons at Ball State, McDermott was 12-4 with a 3.43 ERA and averaged 12.9 K/9. The Astros sent McDermott to the Florida Coast League to get his feet wet in professional baseball. McDermott pitched three innings in one game for the FCL Astros and struck out seven batters. The Astros decided that low-A would be a better fit and sent Chayce to the Fayetteville Woodpeckers where he pitched 18.1 innings in six games (four starts). McDermott had a 3.44 ERA and averaged 16.2 K/9 but also issued 4.9 BB/9.
Chayce started the 2022 season with Houston's high-A affiliate, the Asheville Tourists, and was having a great season. He appeared in 19 games (10 starts) for the Tourists and was 6-1 while averaging 14.3 K/9 but was struggling with his control. McDermott was averaging 5.4 BB/9 and the Tourists began to experiment with him more as a reliever because of the power arm. Chayce has a fastball that regularly reaches the upper 90's with a slider and curveball that are still works in progress but have shown potential to be plus pitches. The Tourists even used him to finish four games but none of them were save opportunities.
Then on August 1, the Orioles acquire Chayce in the Trey Mancini trade (it still hurts to talk about) and reported to the Aberdeen IronBirds. McDermott started two games for the IronBirds and only pitched a combined 5.0 innings but impressed in that time by striking out 10 batters. He finished the season by making six starts for the Double-A Bowie Baysox, where he got hit hard by opposing hitters to the tune of a 6.08 ERA.
This season has things have started to come together for McDermott, making 16 appearances (14 starts). After making two early season appearances out of the bullpen and picking up his first professional save on opening day, the IronBirds decided to use McDermott solely as a starter. On May 19, against the Altoona Curve, McDermott had his signature start, pitching the first 5.0 innings of a combined no hitter, striking out four batters along the way.
Overall, Chayce has shown strong improvement this season with his 3.56 ERA, a full point better than his career ERA, and was rewarded by being promoted to Norfolk on July 14. I'm sure he will get plenty of opportunities to start for the Tides, but he could also see some more action out of the bullpen. His fastball velocity and three pitch mix do profile as a reliever and the Orioles are looking for more help in the bullpen than they are in the starting rotation. The Birds have dealt with a number of injuries to relievers as well as some regression from standout 2022 seasons. If McDermott continues to produce outs, he could find himself in the mix to be called up to the show in September.