Expect to See Many Faces on the Mound this Season

Dylan Bundy winds up in a spring training game.
GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

The Baltimore Orioles have had over 25 pitchers throw at least one pitch off the mound in seven of ththe past ten seasons.

In 2018? 30 pitchers used. Yes, the list includes Jace Peterson and Danny Valencia.

That is definitely a high number of pitchers to have taken the mound in just one season, but there’s reason to believe the Orioles will top even that number in 2019.

With castoffs Kevin Gausman, Zach Britton, Brad Brach, and Darren O’Day no longer wearing black and orange, there are jobs to be had in Brandon Hyde’s starting rotation and bullpen staff, and not many of the spots are currently locked down.

I’m here to present to you a list of – wait for it – 32 pitchers in the O’s organization who could be options to pitch for the Birds in 2019. Does it mean they all will? Probably not. But there are cases to be made for each player.

I’ll run down my locks – barring injury or trade – for permanent roster spots, then prospects, other 40-man roster options, and the non-40-man roster options. For prospects, I will provide their MLB Pipeline organizational ranking from the end of the 2018 season. Also, at the end, I have seven extra pitchers who are long shots, but may shock people and make the jump.

 

LOCKS (5)

RHP Dylan Bundy

Although he’s coming off a down year in 2018, Bundy is undoubtably going to be in the Orioles rotation to start the year, and could even be getting the ball on Opening Day in the Bronx.

RHP Alex Cobb

He signed a four-year, $57 million contract with the O’s this past spring. He had an abysmal first half of the season, but he posted a 2.59 ERA in his last 12 starts. He’s another option to get the ball on Opening Day.

RHP Andrew Cashner

Cashner, like Cobb, signed a multi-year deal with the Orioles last spring. His two-year, $16 million contract is reasonable and considering the other options available, there’s no possible explanation why the veteran right-hander shouldn’t be in the middle of the rotation to start the season. He, Bundy, and Cobb could all become trade chips in July if they perform well enough.

RHP Mychal Givens

A valuable reliever who was gaining interest last summer nearing the non-waiver trade deadline. Unless Hyde decides against using a designated closer, Givens will likely be the pitcher to fill the role. If he puts up a successful first half as the Orioles ace reliever, he could be wearing a new uniform in late July.

LHP Tanner Scott

The 24-year-old’s 5.40 ERA in 2018 doesn’t show it, but Scott does have electric stuff. The command needs to be sharper going forward, but a left-hander that can reach back for triple digits on his fastball and pair it with a nasty slider is something that can be fun to watch. With a 12.83 K/9 and 3.40 FIP in 2018, I’m looking forward to his progression in 2019.

Hunter Harvey throws as Darren O'Day watches.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

 

PROSPECTS (15)

RHP Dillon Tate (No. 6)

Tate, 24, came as the headlining piece of the package the New York Yankees sent the Orioles in return for Britton. He posted a 3.38 ERA in 15 starts for Double-A Trenton before the trade, but afterward struggled in Double-A Bowie with a 5.75 ERA in seven starts. Once ranked 46th on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 in 2015, it’s still yet to be determined whether he’ll stick as a starter or move to the bullpen, but Tate should be pitching in Camden Yards at some point this season.

RHP Luis Ortiz (No. 7)

Ortiz was the head prospect sent from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Jonathan Schoop last July. The young right-hander also used to be regarded as a Top 100 prospect (86th in 2015, 52nd in 2016, and 70th in 2017). Pitching to a 3.71 ERA in Double-A Biloxi prior to the trade, the Orioles instantly promoted Ortiz in the Triple-A Norfolk after acquiring him, where he recorded a 3.69 ERA in six starts. He could be competing for a rotation spot this spring.

RHP Hunter Harvey (No. 8)

Seems like he’s been on Orioles prospects lists forever now. The now 24-year old ranked 31st and 60th on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 lists in 2014 and 2015, respectively. But multiple injuries have held back the former first-round pick, the most recent being this past June with a shoulder injury – which apparently happened in a game in which he wasn’t even pitching . Despite his injury history, his talent still provides upside. If he has a healthy 2019, I’d expect to see him pitching in an O’s uniform at some point in the season.

LHP Keegan Akin (No. 11)

The 23-year-old southpaw had quite an impressive 2018 campaign, recording a 3.27 ERA and 9.28 K/9 over 25 starts in Double-A Bowie. I’m curious to see if MLB Pipeline will give him a boost in the Orioles 2019 prospect rankings from the 11-spot he was given at the end of 2018. Barring any setbacks in development, Akin should get his shot in the bigs in 2019.

RHP Dean Kremer (No. 16)

Kremer is another prospect arm who I think should be ranked higher on the O’s list heading into the new season. The 23-year old was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Manny Machado trade. He started 16 games in High A in the Dodgers organization, pitching to a 3.30 ERA and 12.99 K/9. He then got promoted to Double-A Tulsa for one start before the trade, throwing seven shutout innings. The Orioles kept Kremer at the Double-A level after the trade, and he rewarded them for the move, posting a 2.58 ERA and 10.52 K/9 in eight starts for Bowie.

RHP Cody Carroll (No. 17)

Carroll got his cup of coffee with the O’s after being dealt to Baltimore from the Yankees in the Britton trade. He posted a 2.72 ERA in 37 Triple-A relief appearances, but got rocked around to 9.00 ERA in 15 big-league games. He still has potential, with a high-90s fastball and two off-speed pitches, so he figures to be in competition for a bullpen spot this spring.

RHP Branden Kline (No. 25)

He’s 27 now, so I wouldn’t really consider him a prospect. But since he’s on Pipeline’s list, I’ll allow it. Kline battled injuries in his times as a starter in the Orioles minors, and didn’t pitch at all in the 2016 or 2017 seasons. The O’s moved him to the bullpen, where he had a healthy 2018, posting a 1.64 ERA and 9.80 K/9 over a combined 65 2/3 innings in High-A Frederick (20 2/3 innings) and Bowie (45 innings). The O’s just added Kline to the 40-man roster earlier this offseason.

RHP Zach Pop (No. 26)

The 22-year-old reliever was a part of the return for Machado, and he has a great baseball name for a pitcher who works in the mid-to-high 90s with his fastball. Pop recorded a 2.53 ERA in 14 games with Bowie after being acquired.

RHP Evan Phillips (NR)

Part of the Gausman and O’Day deal, Phillips had a great year for Triple-A Gwinnett, pitching to a 1.99 ERA and 13.06 K/9 in 31 relief stints. His first taste of the big leagues was not so great though: 18.56 ERA, 8.44 K/9, and 10.13 BB/9 in 5 1/3 innings with the Orioles.

LHP Bruce Zimmermann (NR)

Also part of the Gausman/O’Day trade, the 23-year-old lefty posted a 5.06 ERA in five Bowie starts following the trade. Long-relief and spot-start duty could be in his future.

LHP John Means (NR)

The Orioles gave Means one relief appearance in the bigs late in 2018 after he had a solid showing in Triple-A Norfolk, recording a 3.48 ERA in 111 1/3 innings. Not expected to be a major contributor, but his solid Triple-A performance should earn him a right to at least be in competition for a spot in the bullpen or rotation this spring.

LHP Josh Rogers (NR)

Rogers posted an impressive 2.08 ERA in Norfolk after being traded away by the Yankees, so the Orioles gave him a shot with three major-league starts late last season. He pitches to contact and doesn’t miss many bats, so he’d be better suited to a team with good defense and a big ball park.

LHP Luis Gonzalez (NR)

The 26-year-old reliever got a promotion to Norfolk after posting a 2.17 ERA and 11.43 K/9 in 45 2/3 relief innings in Bowie. If he has some more minor-league success in 2019, he could be considered for a call up to the major-league bullpen.

LHP D.J. Snelten (NR)

Snelten was previously ranked in the San Francisco Giants’ Top 30 at the end of 2017 season. He probably won’t have much of a shot in spring training, but a good showing in Norfolk this year could earn him a middle relief or LOOGY job with the O’s at some point.

RHP Jay Flaa (NR)

The last prospect I’ll mention, the 26-year-old reliever posted a 2.77 ERA and 9.28 K/9 in 65 innings for Bowie in 2018.

Richard Bleier of the Orioles pitches.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

 

40-MAN ROSTER OPTIONS

RHP Pedro Araujo

Now it’s time for pitchers with names you probably recognize. Araujo was a Rule V selection for the Orioles in 2018. After having no more than two innings experience above the High-A level, he pitched in 20 games with a 7.71 ERA, but an intriguing 9.32 K/9 in his rookie MLB season. After spending most the season on the disabled list, he still needs 17 days on the Orioles roster to lose his Rule V status, allowing him to be optioned to the minors. The O’s should carry him for the first 17 days and then send him to either Double-A or Triple-A. He has potential but he may not be ready just yet.

LHP Richard Bleier

He doesn’t miss bats, but his career 63.3-percent groundball rate has helped him put up a 1.97 ERA in his three-year career over 119 innings. He had surgery in June to repair a lat tear, but general manager Mike Elias expects him to be ready for Opening Day.

RHP Austin Brice

Brice was ranked the Cincinnati Reds’ 23rd-best prospect at the end of 2016. He has pitched well in the minors but has yet to replicate that success at the major-league level. He has a four-pitch mix with a mid-90s fastball that could play well in relief. The O’s claimed Brice off waivers from Cincinnati earlier this month.

RHP Miguel Castro

Entering his third year with the O’s, fifth in the big leagues, and he’s still just 24 years old. He’s been valuable, posting a 3.77 ERA in 152 2/3 innings over 102 games (100 in relief). With a mid-to-high 90s fastball and a pretty good slider, I’m sure the O’s hope Castro can strike out more batters in 2019, as he recorded just 5.94 K/9 in 2018.

LHP Paul Fry

The 26-year-old southpaw reliever is coming off a strong rookie campaign, in which he appeared in 35 games, while recording a 3.35 ERA, 8.60 K/9, and 57.7-percent groundball rate. Former general manager Dan Duquette may have struck gold with acquiring Fry in 2017, and Elias may get the benefits of it.

LHP Donnie Hart

Hart was a valuable LOOGY for the O’s in 2016, his rookie season. He hasn’t done much since, however. He’ll be in competition for a spot in spring training, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he doesn’t make the Opening Day squad.

RHP David Hess

Hess pitched to a 4.88 ERA in his rookie season over 21 games (19 starts). He did, however, record a 3.05 ERA over his final eight starts of the season, which could put him in consideration for the fourth or fifth rotation spot to start 2019.

RHP Yefry Ramirez

Ramirez also had his rookie year in 2018, but supplied not-so-intriguing results. Coming off a 5.92 ERA, it’s probably an uphill battle for Ramirez to make the club following spring training.

RHP Mike Wright Jr.

With a career 5.75 ERA and last year being not much different (5.55 ERA in 48 games), Wright is probably a DFA candidate. But some tweaking from this new staff and a strong showing in Sarasota could help his case.

RHP Jimmy Yacabonis

After being strictly a reliever throughout his years in the minors, the O’s toyed with Yacabonis being a starter in 2018, but never committed to it. Elias and Brandon Hyde should figure out the best role and stick to it. Personally, I think Yacabonis would make a solid two-pitch short reliever with his running fastball and nasty slider.

 

NON-ROSTER/POSSIBLE INVITES TO SPRING TRAINING

RHP Gregory Infante

2017 was the first time Infante pitched at the major-league level since his first cup of coffee in 2010. He had a great year, recording a 3.13 ERA over 54 2/3 innings in relief. In 2018, though, he threw just nine innings and posted an 8.00 ERA. Orioles Hangout prospect writer Luke Siler noted Infante’s velocity was down in 2018 due to shoulder inflammation. If the 31-year-old right-hander is healthy, a return to his 2017 numbers would be welcomed.

LHP Sean Gilmartin

Gilmartin posted a 3.00 ERA in 27 relief innings over 12 games for the Orioles this past season. After the season, though, the O’s outrighted the left-hander off the 40-man roster. After being granted his release, the O’s signed Gilmartin to a minor-league contract shortly after.

 

OTHER NOTABLES

RHP Gabriel Ynoa, RHP Matt Wotherspoon, RHP Josh Lucas, RHP Taylor Grover, RHP Lucas Long, RHP Jordan Kipper, RHP Cody Sedlock.

If you’ve made it to the end of this 32 – well, 39 – pitcher list, I appreciate your attention and I apologize for wasting your time.

Will all these players in the O’s organization pitch for the club in 2019? No, I highly doubt it. Also, expect to see the Orioles add more depth arms who could also be in consideration for some time on the bump this season. All of the names I mentioned may not make it, but I have a feeling the number – between 32 and 39 – of pitchers should be about right.

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