Assuming that John Means and Jordan Lyles, when his signing becomes official after the Major League Baseball lockout, will be the Orioles’ first two starters in the 2022 rotation, three spots remain open.
Let’s look at the internal candidates, although the Orioles might add from the outside when the lockout ends. We’ll focus first on pitchers who spent time with the Orioles in 2021.
Background: Akin, who’ll turn 27 the day after the scheduled March 31st opener, was the Orioles’ second-round pick in 2016. The left-hander made his Orioles debut in 2020 and was 1-2 with a 4.56 ERA in eight games, six of them starts.
Akin’s 2021: He was 2-10 with a 6.63 ERA in 24 games, 17 starts. After a rough spring training, the left-hander began the season at the alternate site at Bowie. He had an accident with a kitchen knife, delaying his promotion until mid-May.
Akin had a difficult monthlong stretch when in six starts from June 16th-July 16th, he allowed 33 runs in 24 1/3 innings for a 12.20 ERA. He was scratched from his next start and placed on the Covid-19 injured list.
Akin had some better starts in August and September. On August 26th, he allowed one run on three hits in seven innings in a 13-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels. In his final start, he gave up a run on five hits in 5 1/3 innings on September 22nd at Philadelphia. He ended the season on the injured list after core muscle surgery.
Outlook: Akin has an option remaining, and if he can build upon the stronger late-season starts, he has a good chance of beginning 2022 with the Orioles.
Background: The 26-year-old right-hander was the Orioles’ third-round pick in 2017. He had a strong minor league career with a 28-16 record and 2.94 ERA. He allowed only 21 home runs in 77 games.
Baumann’s 2021: After his time at the alternate site ended prematurely because of a forearm injury, Baumann pitched five hitless innings at Low-A Delmarva. After 10 starts for the Baysox, he was 1-1 with a 2.00 ERA in six starts for Triple-A Norfolk.
He was added to the Orioles for four September relief appearances. Two of them were strong (five innings, no earned runs on three hits). Two of them weren’t (five innings,11 earned runs on 10 hits).
Outlook: The possibility of a shortened spring training could hurt Baumann’s chances of beginning 2022 with the Orioles. He’s never started a major league game, so it’s possible that he returns to Norfolk for a spell and returns to Baltimore after a few starts for the Tides.
Background: Kremer, who turns 26 on Friday, was acquired in the July 2018 trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers that sent Manny Machado west.
He led the minor leagues in strikeouts in 2018 and impressed in four late-season starts in 2020 when he was 1-1 with a 4.82 ERA.
Kremer’s 2021: He had a disappointing season with an 0-7 record and 7.55 ERA in 13 starts with the Orioles. After a horrible start on June 24th against the Toronto Blue Jays in Buffalo, when he retired just one of the eight hitters, walking five and allowing six runs, Kremer was sent to Norfolk. At Norfolk, Kremer was 1-5 with a 4.91 ERA in 17 games, 13 starts.
He was promoted only as the 27th man on September 11th when he allowed five runs on seven hits in four innings against the Blue Jays.
Outlook: It was surprising that the Orioles didn’t summon Kremer again in September, and it will be interesting to see how he’s slotted in spring training. Do they still see him as a starter? Or will they try him in the bullpen as they did late in Norfolk’s season. He has one option remaining.
Background: Lowther, a 25-year-old left-hander, was the Orioles’ second-round pick in 2017. He was 23-19 with a 2.61 ERA in 72 minor league games. Like Baumann, Lowther didn’t allow many home runs in the minors, just 21.
Lowther’s 2021: Lowther was one of many pitchers summoned by the Orioles early in the first half of the season. He made five appearances, one in April, May, June and two in July. In his first major league start on May 8th, he gave up seven runs on seven hits in 2 1/3 innings against Boston.
After missing time because of a strained left shoulder, Lowther spent the last month of the season with the Orioles. On September 12th, Lowther gave up seven runs in two innings in a 22-7 loss to Toronto, but he also had some strong appearances that month. Lowther gave up a run on three hits in six innings against Kansas City on September 6th. In his final two starts, he allowed one earned run on 11 hits in 10 innings.
Outlook: Lowther showed enough late in the season to warrant a look as a starter to begin 2022. He did strike out just more than a batter per nine innings, though his walk and home run totals were much higher than in the minor leagues. He has two options remaining.
Background: Wells, a 24-year-old Australian left-hander, was signed as an international free agent in 2016. He was 36-27 with a 2.87 ERA in the minors and allowed just 1.4 walks per nine innings.
Wells’ 2021: Wells was 2-3 with a 6.75 ERA in 11 games, eight starts. After two relief appearances in June, Wells made an emergency start when Akin landed on the Covid-19 injured list and pitched creditably, allowing three runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings on July 21st at Tampa Bay.
Wells was within a strike of his first major league win in the start against the Rays, but Tanner Scott allowed two runs in the bottom of the ninth.
Wells spent September with the Orioles. His best start came on September 30th against Boston, when he limited the Red Sox to a run on three hits in six innings.
Outlook: Wells is an intriguing prospect, but he allowed 10 home runs in 42 1/3 innings and struck out just 5.5 batters per nine innings. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him as either a starter or reliever in 2022.
Background: Zimmermann will turn 27 on February 9th, and he’s the most accomplished of the starting candidates. He was acquired by the Orioles in the July 2018 trade with Atlanta that sent Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to the Braves.
The Ellicott City native made his major league debut in September 2020. He allowed six runs in seven innings in two appearances.
Zimmermann’s 2021: An excellent spring training earned him a spot in the rotation to begin the season. Overall, he was 4-5 with a 5.04 ERA in 14 games.
After a brief demotion in early May to limit his innings, the left-hander pitched well in long relief on May 16th. Zimmermann allowed one run on two hits in 5 2/3 innings against the Yankees and picked up a win.
His first win came in the season’s third game when he allowed three runs in six innings in an 11-3 victory at Boston.
Zimmermann won two more games in June, but in mid-June went on the injured list because of left biceps tendinitis, and then just before he was about to be recalled in August, he sprained an ankle lifting weights in Norfolk.
He finally made it back to the Orioles for two late-season starts.
Outlook: Zimmermann will enter spring training as a favorite for the third spot in the rotation.