If you read any pretty much any Orioles writer on the planet this spring, the chances are they wrote about the so-called "good" problems that the O's were facing coming into the season. Over and over we'd read statements like "The Orioles have six starters for five spots" or "The O's have a bit of a bullpen roster crunch on their hands" pointing to the fact that the O's simply had too many quality pitchers to fit on their roster.
Funny how these things work themselves out. Of those six starters, only Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen, and Ubaldo Jimenez have been pitching effectively. Meanwhile, Kevin Gausman is on the DL, Bud Norris is sidelined with an "illness" after posting a 9.88 ERA, and Chris Tillman has gotten off to an awful start with an ERA nearing six.
How about that bullpen crunch? Before the season, there seemed to be eleven guys competing for seven spots. The O's were returning seven players from last year's bullpen in Zach Britton, Tommy Hunter, Darren O'Day, Brad Brach, T.J. McFarland, Brian Matusz, and Ryan Webb. They added Wesley Wright along with Rule 5 picks Jason Garcia and Logan Verrett, and they also needed to find a place for the odd man out of the rotation. We know what happened next - Webb and Verrett are gone, Wright and Garcia are injured, and the sixth starter issue took care of itself.
Here are three names that weren't coming up in any of these roster crunch discussions: Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson, and Oliver Drake. If someone told you in March that all three would pitch for the Orioles on the same day this year, you'd assume it was a game in September after the O's had either clinched a playoff spot or already been knocked out. If he/she told you that day would be May 28th, you'd roll your eyes and possibly slap them. But that's exactly what happened yesterday, and seeing young pitchers like these on the big club is something Oriole fans may want to get used to going forward.
It's far too early to know what any of these three are going to become at the major league level. But what we do know is that 2015 is likely the last year that the O's will enter the season with "too many" veteran pitchers. From the rotation, Chen and Norris are both free agents after the season. Norris' time in the Orioles rotation may already be over after his performance so far this year. Meanwhile, Chen is a good left-handed starter in his prime - not exactly an easy asset to find. He may command some serious money, possibly too much for the O's to match, if he pitches well the rest of the way. In the bullpen, Hunter, O'Day and Wright are free agents after the season. Since Andy MacPhail isn't the GM anymore, the O's are unlikely to pay much for veteran relievers - it wouldn't be surprising to see two or even all three of these pitchers leave. In addition, Brian Matusz is due for an arbitration raise and isn't remotely worth what he'll be paid, so moving him in a Ryan Webb-type deal wouldn't be a surprise either.
In other words, there's a very good chance that the three young pitchers we saw yesterday could all open the 2016 season on the major league roster. Sure, any or all of them could still fall apart this year and make a quick return to Norfolk, and this article could be obsolete a month from now. So far, though, they've all pitched reasonably well. Wright struggled yesterday, but with two great starts before that he's still sitting on a sub-2 ERA and a sub-1 WHIP. Wilson and Drake have been less impressive, especially Drake after yesterday's 3-walk inning, but it's hard to argue with their limited results so far. If you like peripherals, all three pitchers have a FIP under 4.
Wilson was sent down to Norfolk after yesterday's start (the O's were carrying 26 men for the doubleheader), but he'll probably show up again on the big club in the near future. Wright isn't going anywhere anytime soon, at least not until Norris or Gausman get healthy and maybe not even then. Drake could be bounced back and forth as an extra bullpen arm this year in a similar fashion to T.J. McFarland, or he could even find a more permanent spot if someone like Tommy Hunter continues to struggle. Regardless, it's time to get to know these guys. With all the Gausman/Bundy/Harvey talk, the Orioles' "lesser" pitching prospects have flown under the radar a bit. But they've arrived now, and they may be here for a while.