Even with his disappointing start last night, Dylan Bundy has been nothing short of masterful this season. Compared to the rest of the Orioles’ starters, I’m pretty sure he’s the best baseball player to ever live. Sabermetrically speaking, his WAOS this season (Wins Above Orioles Starters) has to be approaching a team record.
On a team that’s been looking for starting pitching help for nearly two decades, Bundy has been a lonely bright spot among a long list of failed starting pitching prospects. However, in 2017, Bundy is not alone. The much-maligned Orioles organization has actually helped develop a number of quality starting pitchers. They just happen to be scattered across major league baseball on other teams.
Despite an awful starting staff last season, do you remember Ariel Miranda ever getting a real shot with the Orioles? The Cuban southpaw entered one game for the O’s last July against the Mariners and promptly allowed three earned runs in two innings. He did strike out four batters but apparently that left a large enough impression on the organization to send him back down to AAA.
Miranda definitely left an impression on one team that day, because three weeks later, the Mariners acquired him. In desperate need of a lefty arm to stabilize the rotation, the Orioles traded Miranda, who happens to also be left handed, for the veteran Wade Miley.
Since then, Miranda has pitched to an ERA of 3.63 for the Mariners over 23 starts. On the flip side, Wade Miley has started 24 games in an orange and black uniform with an ERA of 4.96. Ooof. If there is one silver lining here, at least Wade Miley has been the Orioles’ second-best starter this year, which is a truly wild thing to say about a starting pitcher with a WHIP of 1.6.
You can’t get too mad at the Orioles for trading a 27-year-old in AAA for Wade Miley, but you can be upset about the club never first giving him a chance. To make matters worse, Miranda won’t be a free agent until 2023. But hey, there’s a success story through the Orioles farm system and their international scouting department. He just happens to play for the Mariners.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “Ariel Miranda, he was signed as a free agent and didn’t pitch in the organization until he was 26 so how can the Orioles claim his development?” Touché, that’s a solid point. Despite pitching in Bowie and Norfolk, the Orioles didn’t really transform him as a pitcher. The same can’t be said for Milwaukee Brewers’ starter Zach Davies.
Drafted in the 26th round back in 2011, Davies spent time in Delmarva, Frederick, Bowie, and Norfolk. He never posted an ERA over 3.90 on the way. He received an over-slot bonus over half a million dollars, but was still a great find for the Orioles’ scouting department.
In 2015, the Orioles rotation unsurprisingly struggled, with Tillman, Gonzalez, Norris, and Mike Wright all failing to string together quality starts. Meanwhile, Davies was in Norfolk with an ERA under 3 as a 22-year-old, but the call never came. Instead of being given a promotion and a chance to help the Birds, he was dealt at the break to Milwaukee.
In exchange, the Orioles got outfielder Gerardo Parra, apparently never considering the fact that Parra’s first half stats were propped up by a BABIP more than 50 points above his career average.
Parra’s stats unsurprisingly regressed and his stint with the O’s was a forgettable one. The Orioles failed to make the postseason, and Parra became a free agent a few months later. Davies on the other hand was promoted to the Brewers in September and made 6 starts with an ERA under 4.
Last year, Davies went 11-7 over 28 starts for the Brewers as a 23-year-old with an ERA of 3.97, good for more than two wins above replacement. This year, he has had some struggles, but his ERA under 5 would be a welcomed sight in the Orioles rotation. The fact that he hasn’t allowed more than 4 earned runs or failed to complete 5 innings in any start since mid-April would be icing on the cake. He will be a free agent in 2022.
After getting knocked around in seven starts for the Pirates last season, Steven Brault is sitting in AAA with an ERA of 2.11 over 11 starts. He looks to be in line for a promotion at some point and from then on, who knows what will happen. Maybe he’ll wind up another example of the Orioles exemplary development of starting pitchers. Ironically, Travis Snider is also doing well in AAA in the Rangers organization.
Eduardo Rodriguez has been mercifully omitted in this discussion to this point. He’s been stellar this year for Boston at just 24 years old, but his deal was slightly more defensible at the time. He was still a ways away from the big leagues and getting knocked around in Bowie while dealing with knee issues.
Rodriguez was very highly regarded as a prospect, but the Orioles were getting one of the best relievers in the game, if not the best, in return. Without Andrew Miller, the Orioles likely don’t make the ALCS and come a few bloops and seeing eye singles away from the World Series. It’s easy to wish the rotation had Eduardo now, but it’s tough to get mad at the O’s taking that shot when they had it.
Lastly, there’s Josh Hader who recently made his MLB debut in the Brewers’ bullpen. Now a consensus top-50 prospect, Hader was dealt for Bud Norris back when he was shining in Delmarva as a 19-year-old. In hindsight, this may be another one to bite us, but it’s hard to blame the Orioles. The odds of a 19th round draft pick in A ball turning out to be better than Bud Norris are not good. If anything, it could be considered another great find by the scouting department.
The Norris trade may be defensible, but it still sits as another example of other teams seemingly evaluating the Orioles’ minor league pitchers better than the Orioles themselves. For a team constantly looking for rotation help, they certainly have let their fair share of starters get away. Even Parker Bridwell has a quality start this year for the Angels.
Perhaps this year at the deadline, the O’s strategy should be to ask around for mid-tier trade targets, and then whatever pitching prospects other teams request in return, the Orioles specifically don’t trade those guys. Who knows, the Orioles may one day be able to support Bundy with guys at the level of Rodriguez, Miranda, Davies, and Jake Arrieta. If fans are lucky, guys like Brault and top prospects like Hader may be waiting in the wings in Norfolk as well.