Thinking about the Orioles minor leagues like I do, a recent brainstorm was that the 2020 draft class was at the same time very good and also not fully spoken for. The team’s top pick and #2 overall Heston Kjerstad is just getting over a bout with myocarditis, and probably keyed in on making his debut in 2022, but he’s certainly not the only one in that situation.
Pitcher Carter Baumler has the distinction of being the only arm drafted by Baltimore in 2020 when the O’s took him with the 133rd pick in the 5th round. Signed for $1.5 million then convinced to not honor his TCU football commitment, Baumler threw a few instructional league innings before an elbow tear. Recovery post-surgery has sidelined the righty but he’s about to get back on schedule. Due to having some access to the players and an undying curiosity about what’s going on with them, I thought today would be a good time to get in touch and see what’s up with the future ace and share it with equally curious fans. So thanks to Carter and his roommate’s dad for the hookup.
Here’s what’s new with Carter Baumler.
I’d seen him post-draft but didn’t have a chance to get in my questions so primarily, I wanted to know what it was like to be drafted by the O’s and what it was like to begin his pro career in Orange and Black.
“When I found out I was going to be an Oriole, I couldn’t be more excited to be with a team who has so much potential and who has had such a great history.” Music to the ears of us rebuild supporters. It’s good to know he’s happy where he’s at.
Next on my mind is that I don’t want to wait for reports on his health. According to the 19-year old, he’s right on schedule.
“My health right now is right where I want to be. Just finished my throwing program with the Orioles down in Sarasota and now back for the off-season where I will continue arm and shoulder care along with a lifting program where I’m not limited from rehab anymore.”
It wasn’t just Tommy John surgery that backed his schedule up, there was a pandemic that he had to work around like the rest of us. Orioles supporters can be confident that his downtime was not wasted at all.
“This year being my first year due to Covid was a tough one for sure with having to go through the TJ rehab process. With that being said, where there is struggle there is learning taking place. I have learned a ton physically, mentally and socially from this year and am glad I embraced the process. I am really excited to be back this coming season to throwing off the bump again.”
We’ve all heard about the improvements in the Tommy John procedure and that in many cases the ligaments are healthier and capable of more post-surgery. I wondered if that was the case with Carter and was his recovery smooth or did he have to make adjustments to stay on track?
“I would definitely say Tommy John recovery was what I expected with all the rehab and mental grind but what you can’t really prepare for is not playing the actual game of baseball for so dang long. With Covid and TJ it’s been quite a while since I’ve played the game but I am doing a lot of great things to get me ready for next year.”
That’s a perspective I never considered, a young guy forced to take an unplanned layoff for months at a time.
“Physically I feel very improved since the surgery. I worked very hard during the process to add a couple good pounds of muscle and feel my arm is in great shape for next year. Still, a lot of things I will continue to improve on this offseason.”
I can attest to the weight gain and saw it in person. The one day Baumler was in the stands to cheer on his hotel roomy, the guy was eating a big cheeseburger and had another one lined up to finish next. I’m sure he’s on the Orioles’ nutrition plan but that day it was a handful of bad calories. It reminded me that he and I have very different metabolisms.
So he’s back to throwing, has gained some good helpful weight and will be on the mound soon. Logically my next area of concern is what pitches are ready and which ones are works in progress? I know he was curve-heavy pre-draft and showed a true 12-to-6 heavy-spin breaker. But the day we talked in the Ed Smith Stadium covered seats, he talked about a filthy slider where he was getting diagonal action in both directions(!).
“I did get a solid chance to mess around with throwing some different things during rehab and am working on some pretty fun stuff I’m very excited to throw during spring training. I’ll be mixing up a lot of different stuff next year that I think lots of people will be excited to see.”
Please place me at the top of that list and I’ll be ready with my camera to film it!
We’ve been told that the system isn’t exactly pitching-rich so any talented and developing arm is another chance to prove those doubters wrong.
Going to watch games from the travel level to the bigs, I’m seeing lots of football throwing incorporated into drills and warm-ups, but also noticing so many two-sport athletes who are highly skilled at both. Baumler is one of them, as his scholarship to an excellent TCU football program came from his exploits as both a kicker and a punter. The resume’ is deep and proves he’s in an elite tier as a leg/special teams athlete.
“I wouldn’t say I’m the most accurate kicker when it comes to field goals. I always had a good leg and could kick it out to 60 somewhat consistent. I was a better punter then I was kicker and I also like punting better too. When it came to punting I could get the ball to about 65 yards in the air with 4.7 hang time when things go well. With a roll I could punt the whole football field but that isn’t very game-like. Punting was something I feel I could have gone pro at if I put as much time and effort into as baseball. I had a cool opportunity to work with Matt Hack ex Dolphins and current Bills punter who went to my high school which helped me out quite a bit.”
An understanding of the finer points of special teams execution has to transfer over to baseball and pitching, right?
“Special teams and baseball are very similar in terms of discipline, mental focus and the fact that you really kick or throw all day every day. When you practice kicking or practice throwing that time needs to be spent highly focused on the task at hand for a shorter amount of time so there can’t be any wasted reps.”
Have to wonder if a player like that who seemed to have all the skills to go far in a totally different sport misses the football aspect of his life. I know I would.
“Transitioning away from football was too hard for me, I definitely miss those Friday nights with my high school teammates under the lights but my eyes have been set on baseball for so long that’s in the past. The fall season is a great time especially here in Iowa with leaves, temperature changing, football and finally getting back in a tree stand for some deer hunting which we do a lot of up here.”
So as much as I feel bad for a guy who had to choose a sport, he’ll fit right in on the O’s farm. Each affiliate has plenty of hunters and lots of time away from the field is spent in a blind instead of on a golf course. Also, neat to know that a couple of future practices could end gridiron-style with Adley vs Carter kicking for distance.
Watching the rookie league team that Carter would have been a part of, I saw lots of players I wanted to get his take on, first and foremost his roomie. Coby Mayo started off hot and never slowed down in 2021. Baumler was ready with the insider report.
“Living with Coby was a very fun experience. It was really the first time both of us have had a roommate before so there were some things we had to figure out but we were able to form a great relationship that goes beyond baseball. He is def a character and I learned some things from his personality that he does well without even knowing. Look forward to seeing him again soon.”
Now Mayo is a name fans will know and recognize, but in this baseball educational environment there are other types of teammates that make a lasting impact. Proudly, Carter had some serious praise for a veteran who has made a lot of positive impressions lately.
“One of the best humans and teammates I’ve ever met [was] Ty Blach. Ty and I both were going through TJ rehab down in Florida. We also had the same doctors perform our surgery so we were able to form a close relationship on and off the field. Ty is a natural leader who leads with example, one of the hardest working people I’ve met who’s mentally tough and forms his relationships with God at the center of them.”
I have heard from more than several insiders that Blach is that guy when it comes to baseball lessons so the future coach/manager vibes are strong. It’s also promising to see that these youngsters aren’t grinding on their own even in the training room which can be a lonely environment.
The last thing I wondered about a guy forced to take a pause when his peers are making strides is just how tough it is to wait. Patience can be a great teacher just like experience, but it can’t be easy to be shelved.
“Not competing is the toughest thing for me. I love getting the ball in my hand and being in competition more than anyone. I’ve been trying to fulfill some of that desire with other things like gaming or whatever is put in front of me, but nothing compares to being up on the mound facing hitters. All I can say is I’m ready to start competing again on the field.”
In 2022, we can finally expect to see a new and improved Carter Baumler and I’m feeling confident Birdland will like what we see. I can tell from communicating with him that he’s got a plan and some goals that are within reach.
“My goal for this offseason is to stay healthy, get back to lifting as normal again, and continue working hard on the mental side of things. When it comes to pitching I want to be able to command all my pitches to locations necessary and work hard on the ones I’m developing.”
As the Orioles player development system adds up the victories necessary to fuel improvement and a raised bar mentality, some of those wins have to be on the mound. I’m thinking this future ace is going to be fun to watch once he gets rolling. Prospect list makers, fans and O’s supporters of all types should start to get familiar with Carter Baumler.