When will top pitching prospect Cade Povich join the Baltimore Orioles?

Baltimore Orioles Photo Day
Baltimore Orioles Photo Day / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

Despite fielding a competitive team that seemed ready to battle for a postseason berth, Mike Elias and the Orioles front office decided to sell off two of their star players in Trey Mancini and Jorge Lopez at the 2022 trade deadline. Despite the initial controversies, the Orioles have come away as obvious winners of that deadline, as neither Mancini nor Lopez have since replicated the success they enjoyed in Baltimore, and the O's added a plethora of young pitching depth, which was desperately needed.

The net gain from the deal of Lopez to the Minnesota Twins has already worked out heavily in the O's favor, solely with the acquisition of Yennier Cano, who was a throw-in piece, but became one of four Orioles to make the All-Star team in 2023 thanks to a dominant first half. The acquisition of Cano alone makes the trade a great bargain for the O's. However, the main piece in the trade has been dominating hitters in Triple-A Norfolk, and seems to be well on the path to helping the O's in Baltimore.

On Thursday morning, Cade Povich made his fifth start of the season for the Norfolk Tides. In this outing, he pitched 4.2 innings, with only one run and three hits allowed while striking out seven Gwinnett Stripers. Despite the strong outing, his ERA rose to 1.03 on the season in five starts, as he has absolutely dominated in a hitter-friendly environment.

Needless to say, Povich is on the right path to make his big league debut in the next coming months. MLB Pipeline ranks Povich as the second-best pitching prospect in the Orioles organization and ninth best prospect in the organization overall with an ETA of 2024. Some factors work against Povich, such as his struggles in 2023, where he combined for a 5.04 ERA between Bowie and Norfolk. He also is still relatively young, as he turned 24 years old earlier in April and was drafted in the third round of the 2021 draft out of Nebraska.

When will Orioles top pitching prospect Cade Povich reach the majors?

The early success in Norfolk bodes well for his chances to potentially be a member of the rotation sometime in the near future. As of right now, it is difficult to foresee him taking over a spot with the success of current members in the rotation, as well as pitchers who are on the comeback trail. A fellow southpaw starter with a much longer track record in John Means is set to return to the rotation in the coming weeks, while Kyle Bradish should follow not too long after.

Along with the returns of Means and Bradish, the back end of the Orioles rotation has given the O's some strong starts over the past week. Albert Suarez has given the O's two starts totaling a combined 11.1 shutout innings, while Cole Irvin and Dean Kremer both had strong starts their most recent time through the rotation.

In other words, there is not much Povich can accomplish to break through into the Orioles rotation without an injury, setback, or some struggles from the back end. Through two starts, Suarez has proven that a rotation spot is his to lose, as his fastball/cutter/changeup combination continues to fool hitters. However, his lack of a major league track record could be his demise, since the O's will not want to take any chances with a 34-year-old retread on a team with World Series expectations.

So, without a clear path into the rotation, there is also a possibility that the O's will want Povich as a bullpen reinforcement. As a lefty, Povich has an advantage over other options, as the O's lack a strong lefty option in the bullpen other than Danny Coulombe. Besides Coulombe, Keegan Akin is the only other lefty option in the pen, with Cionel Perez on the rehab trail.

Akin has had a decent start to the regular season, with several strong outings amounting to an underwhelming stat line overall (4.35 ERA and 87 ERA+ through 10.1 innings pitched). One thing working for Akin is his 1.12 FIP, which suggests that he has run into a lot of hard luck, as he has struck out 15 batters while only walking three and not allowing a homer. These peripherals will certainly give Akin an opportunity to continue to pitch out of the bullpen until the wheels fall off.

Jacob Webb has been used as a righty to face lefties as a reverse-split candidate, but has run into struggles of his own. Over a fairly substantial sample size, Povich has proven his ability to pitch well against left-handed hitters. In 2023, Povich faced 147 left-handed hitters, and these batters slashed .222/.327/.318 for a .645 OPS and only six extra-base hits. Povich does not have much professional experience as a reliever, as he has started 58 of 60 games he has pitched in throughout the minors.

Despite his dominance early this season, there does not seem to be a clear path into the starting rotation for Povich, barring injury and struggles of other established major leaguers. If Povich continues to pitch well, promoting him as a lefty specialist and/or long reliever out of the bullpen may be the best option to begin his big league career.

Long-term, several Orioles pitchers are approaching contract years, which could also open the door for Povich as a member of the rotation beyond 2024.