Lowther's promotion another sign the Orioles value their prospects - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Lowther’s promotion another sign the Orioles value their prospects

Zac Lowther
Photo credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

This weekend’s unexpected promotion of left-handed pitcher Zac Lowther continued the Orioles’ integration of their prospects onto the major league roster.

Fifteen of the players on the 26-man roster have never played for a major league team other than the Orioles, and 10 are products of the Orioles’ farm system.

“We’re getting a lot of guys from the system, which is what you wanted,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “You start getting a healthy organization when you start calling up your own guys. Some guys that come from our own organization are starting to get to the big leagues.”

Last year, outfielder/first baseman Ryan Mountcastle was among those who made their major league debut. So far this year, Lowther and outfielder Ryan McKenna have played in the big leagues for the first time. Outfielders Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and DJ Stewart have gotten more extensive looks in the past two seasons.

“You’re going to see more guys along the way,” Hyde said. “We’re starting to improve as an organization when you start to graduate your own players.”

Bruce Zimmermann, who was acquired in a trade from Atlanta in July 2018, made his debut late last year but isn’t a pure product of the farm system. Neither are Dean Kremer or outfielder Yusniel Diaz, who were acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers for Manny Machado in July 2018.

Lowther’s addition might be temporary, but even if it is, he’ll be back soon. The Orioles haven’t named a starter for Wednesday’s game against the New York Yankees.

Kremer, who was optioned to the alternate training site at Bowie on April 18th, will be eligible to return on Wednesday. The Orioles also could start Lowther, who began his major league career with a scoreless ninth inning against Oakland on Sunday in the Orioles’ 8-1 victory that ended the Athletics’ 13-game winning streak.

Lowther might not have gotten the call if Keegan Akin, another Orioles draft choice who made his debut in 2020, had been available. Akin, who is at the alternate site, cut his left index finger in a kitchen accident and will have sutures in his finger for a week to 10 days.

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It’s possible that Akin, Kremer and Lowther could join Zimmermann and John Means in a homegrown rotation later in the season, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

Lowther’s promotion was surprising because he had yet to pitch in Triple-A, which starts up again on May 4th after a year’s shutdown because of Covid-19. Two other prospects, right-hander Mike Baumann and left-hander Alexander Wells, will pitch in Triple-A for the first time this season and could be candidates to join the Orioles later in the season.

Hyde said that Lowther’s addition was because the Orioles needed a pitcher who could throw multiple innings in the bullpen. It would be a throwback if the team decided to keep Lowther in the majors and use him mostly in the bullpen this season.

In the 1970s, the team introduced some of their best pitchers in team history — Mike Flanagan, Dennis Martinez and Scott McGregor — to the major leagues by putting them in the bullpen at first, and then having them start.

It was easier then because the Orioles had so much starting pitching that they could afford to do that.

Without the pressure to win now as the team continues to rebuild, the Orioles could do the same with Lowther and perhaps others.

Since Lowther didn’t pitch competitively in 2020, and his time at the alternate site was limited, his innings’ limit could be even lower than those of Akin, Kremer and Zimmermann.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias and Hyde want to see how good their prospects are without exposing them to undue risks.

Some fans thought that when rightfielder Anthony Santander went on the 10-day injured list because of a sprained left ankle, Diaz would get his shot. Instead, it was McKenna getting a second chance.

The sense here is that Elias wants to see Diaz play daily at Norfolk, the level at which he would have played last year. The difference between Diaz and Lowther is that the Orioles have multiple outfielders — Santander, Hays, Mountcastle, Mullins and Stewart — that the team wants to see play extensively. Adding Diaz to that mix wouldn’t allow the others to get enough playing time.

With few starters pitching six innings, the Orioles are always needing help in the bullpen, and Lowther might be a low-risk venture.

It’s exciting to see new players debut and have success. The rest of 2021 promises to see more debuts of potential starters and relievers along with the hope that perhaps better days are coming soon.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. CalsPals

    April 26, 2021 at 7:14 am

    So essentially when Hyde said AAA experience isn’t necessary anymore, he meant only if Mikey deems it not necessary…ahhhh, got it….go O’s…

  2. Bman

    April 26, 2021 at 8:38 am

    More coming: Diaz, Rutschman, Jones, Bannon, Nevin, Baumann. Maybe by august-September. After trades are made.

    • CalsPals

      April 26, 2021 at 8:49 am

      Sooner the better, sounds like a plan:)….go O’s…

  3. VICTORTEE

    April 26, 2021 at 9:28 am

    The O’s don’t care if a prospect doesn’t make the bigs until 25 or 26. That means he will be 31 or 32 when he reaches free agency. I doubt very much if the O’s will resign any of their free agents. So they will have gotten a guy’s prime years and then will drop him.
    Other teams don’t have this plan. A lot of teams bring guys up at 21 or 22. And sign them to a long term contract at a bargain rate
    if they look good enough.

    But Elias couldn’t possibly learn from anyone else. He already knows everything there is to know.

    • ClayDal

      April 26, 2021 at 9:58 am

      Mountcastle was 23 when called up. Mullins was the Opening Day CF in 2019 when he was 24. Hays and Santander were called up in 2019 at the age of 24. As far as 21 year olds making the majors, most of them were signed at 16. Tatis, Soto, Acuna, etc. The Orioles have only recently begun to tap the International market. If you draft college juniors, they are already going to be 21. Usually takes 3-5 years before they are ready. So 24-25 is about right. Mancini came up at the end of 2016 when he was 24. Drafted in 2013. About average for most prospects

    • Shamus

      April 26, 2021 at 12:03 pm

      Name those teams

      • VICTORTEE

        April 27, 2021 at 8:48 am

        The Braves for one. The Nat’s bring up very young prospects also.

  4. Bhoffman1

    April 26, 2021 at 11:12 am

    I really don’t get the Diaz thing. Santander can be out for four weeks and there is really no place to play Diaz as we want to see all the other guys play. Well when Santander returns how does that open a spot later in the season for Diaz. Can you please explain that to me. The Lowther call was great , I hope Jones and Martin soon. Ruiz and Urias are not answers at second and Galvis is a mediocre stop gap in my opinion

    • ClayDal

      April 26, 2021 at 12:22 pm

      The Orioles brought up McKenna over Diaz because they figured he would be a better fit as a backup outfielder. The plan with Diaz was to give him regular at bats in Norfolk before calling him up. If you have been following Elias the last couple years, he doesn’t base calling up prospects on what is happening in Baltimore. For example, Severino and Sisco can go 0-50 combined and that has no effect on Rutschman. You’re right about Galvis, he has a trade bonus and he’ll be gone by July. They want Richie Martin to get regular at bats in Norfolk. Ditto for Jones, Bannon, and Vavra. Opening Day 2023, Ruiz, Urias, Galvis, and Bannon won’t be here

    • ClayDal

      April 26, 2021 at 12:23 pm

      Meant to say Opening Day 2022.

    • Bhoffman1

      April 26, 2021 at 1:31 pm

      Well I think he should base call ups on what’s happening in Baltimore just my opinion

    • ClayDal

      April 26, 2021 at 1:58 pm

      The Orioles don’t want to bring up their top prospects until they are ready. You want the Diaz’s and the Rutschman’s to be ready from Day 1. The Orioles know that they will be lucky to win 70 games or so this year, so rushing the prospects isn’t really going to help. Better to let the prospects develop properly than to rush them up here for no reason. Prime example from last year-Ryan Mountcastle. Everyone wanted him up here but the Orioles said he needed to work on his defense and plate discipline. This year hitting.167, 25 strikeouts in 72 at bats. That’s almost Chris Davis numbers. And his fielding hasn’t been great either. Just maybe the Orioles knew what they were doing holding him back

      • willmiranda

        April 26, 2021 at 2:25 pm

        Maybe they just brought Mountcastle up at the wrong time, both too late and too soon. Too late to improve and adjust against ML competition, and too soon to step in as a plug ‘n’ play. Let’s not forget, as we have often been reminded, that he’s still a rookie thanks to The Plan. Sometimes the move is too soon, sometimes it’s too late, and sometimes it’s just wrong. Just think of him as a rookie with growing pains, and it doesn’t seem so bad.

    • Shamus

      April 26, 2021 at 2:46 pm

      ClayDal, you are spot on. But some of these GM wannabes will never get it right

      • VICTORTEE

        April 27, 2021 at 8:52 am

        I have been a fan of the O’s and MLB in general since 1966. But I have never learned anything about how any GM can build a team (whether the great O’s teams of the past or the great Braves teams of the 90’s) because I am not a fan of the “Boy Wonder” and his TANKING model. Got it!

        Why do the A’s and the Ray’s never tank? Neither has any $ but both are always competitive. But the BOY WONDER obviously knows more than their “wanna be”
        GM’s do, doesn’t he?

  5. Bhoffman1

    April 26, 2021 at 2:28 pm

    No Sisco tonight after getting 2 hits in last game and facing a RH pitcher. Hyde Mr nice guy has in my opinion done everything possible to screw this guy up

  6. dlgruber1

    April 26, 2021 at 4:58 pm

    I guess I need to have a better perspective about the O’s offense. I see where Atlanta managed 1 base hit and had 3 errors in their two games combined yesterday. Obviously that’s a major league record for offensive futility.

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