Orioles' farm system is better, but more pitching prospects are needed - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Orioles’ farm system is better, but more pitching prospects are needed

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In general manager Mike Elias’ first three drafts for the Orioles, 27 pitchers were taken. None was selected before the fifth round.

The Orioles have the first pick in the 2022 draft, which will begin on July 17th. The five players they’re reportedly considering are infielders or outfielders.

“Pitching’s got more inherent risk with the injury rates and the variability and we want to do as well as we can with these draft picks because they’re very important for the Orioles,” Elias said in his media briefing on June 18th. “We’re not going to reach for pitching, but we’re not going to shy away from it if there are ones that fit for us with those high picks. There aren’t any pitchers that you would take with the No. 1 pick this year, so I feel pretty safe ruling that out, but we pick again at 33 and that could very well be an arm.”

In mock drafts by The Athletic’s Keith Law and ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel, they predict the Orioles will select Georgia high school outfielder Druw Jones with the first pick. Baseball America also ranks Jones as its top prospect. Neither Law nor McDaniel believes a pitcher will be taken among the first 10 picks.

The Orioles have the number one farm system, according to MLB Pipeline, but only eight of their top 30 prospects are pitchers.

Grayson Rodriguez, who is out indefinitely because of a lat strain, is No. 2. DL Hall, who’s at Triple-A Norfolk, is fifth. The other pitching prospects are Mike Baumann (12th), Drew Rom (16th), Kevin Smith (17th), Zac Lowther (25th), Carter Baumler (27th) and Jean Pinto (29th).

Baumann has had three stints in the Orioles’ bullpen this season but was demoted to Norfolk last week when the 13-pitcher limit was imposed.

Rom was the Orioles’ fourth-round pick in 2018, and the left-hander is 3-1 with a 3.77 ERA in 11 starts for Double-A Bowie.

Smith was acquired from the New York Mets in the August 2020 trade for reliever Miguel Castro. He was removed from the 40-man roster earlier this season and is 0-5 with a 4.62 ERA at Norfolk.

Lowther was outrighted to Norfolk on Wednesday after stumbling to a 1-5 record and 10.33 ERA.

Baumler, the fifth-round selection in the truncated 2020 draft, had Tommy John surgery that fall, and the 20-year-old has pitched just 11 2/3 innings with a 1.54 ERA at Single-A Delmarva. He is sidelined by right shoulder inflammation.

Pinto was acquired from the Los Angeles Angels in December 2020 in the deal that sent shortstop José Iglesias to the Angels. He’s 2-3 with a 4.22 ERA at High-A Aberdeen.

Other than Rodriguez and Hall, who are considered among the top pitching prospects in baseball, there aren’t enough top-shelf pitching prospects in the organization.

There are a number of quality infield and outfield prospects, and it will be interesting to see if the Orioles select any pitchers with the 33rd selection—or perhaps in the second, third or fourth rounds.

The Orioles seem to prefer acquiring pitchers who have some professional experience instead of spending high draft picks on them.

When they sent Dylan Bundy to the Angels in December 2019, Los Angeles sent four right-handers to the Orioles — Kyle Bradish, who’s on the 15-day injured list because of right shoulder inflammation, reliever Isaac Mattson, who’s at Norfolk after pitching in four games with the Orioles last season, and starters Kyle Brnovich and Zach Peek. Brnovich had Tommy John surgery last month after just two starts at Norfolk, and Peek is 0-2 with a 2.68 ERA.

Chris Vallimont, claimed on waivers from Minnesota, is on the 40-man roster, and he was 1-0 with an 0.69 ERA in three games with Bowie before allowing six runs on nine hits in four innings in his debut for Norfolk on Sunday.

Carlos Tavera, who was the Orioles’ fifth-round pick in 2021, is 3-2 with a 4.13 ERA at Aberdeen. His teammate, Justin Ambruester, was 2-1 with a 4.02 ERA in 12 games with the IronBirds before his promotion to Bowie. Armbruester has a 3.00 ERA in his first two appearances for the Baysox.

Besides the draft and trades, the Orioles have done well in picking up pitchers in the Rule 5 draft (Tyler Wells), waiver wire (Bryan Baker, Joey Krehbiel, Jorge López, Carlos Pérez and Austin Voth) and minor league free agents (Félix Bautista, Logan Gillaspie).

But the depth isn’t there. Perhaps at the trade deadline, they’ll be able to acquire pitching that’s major league ready or at least close to being major league ready.

That might require the Orioles to part with Trey Mancini, Anthony Santander or perhaps even López, but without moving valuable pieces, they’re not likely to get starters that make a difference.

Perhaps during the offseason, the Orioles will try for a pricier free-agent starter, but that’s months away.

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