We have talked plenty about how badly the Orioles could use major-league pitching depth. The need is evident and it has been there for years. The big-league talent simply isn’t cutting it and despite the attempt to get offseason help in the form of one or two-year contracts, things aren’t working out.
Pitchers aren’t being developed, and there’s isn’t anything being done to build a system that churns out reliable pitching on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, when you look across the organization, you’ll see much of the same as you have for quite a while — arms, but not exactly pitchers who are ready to contribute at the big-league level. Keying in on each affiliate, things look pretty bleak.
Can you remember a time where we’ve been able to look to Norfolk for uplifting pitching performances? It’s been quite a while since Tides fans have been able to get excited for a start, and that’s certainly continuing this year.
Aside from David Hess, whose ceiling is yet to be seen but doesn’t appear to be very high, there has been no positive production from Norfolk starters:
Yefry Ramirez: 9 starts, 5.28 ERA
Jimmy Yacabonis: 7 starts, 4.13 ERA
Tim Melville: 7 starts, 3.54 ERA
Those are your regulars — try as they may, these aren’t guys who are going to be long-term options for the Orioles in the rotation. Norfolk is a wash, and considering it’s AAA ball that’s not too much of a surprise. But it just starts the ball rolling down the line that leaves us realizing that the Birds don’t seem to be close to developing anyone who can contribute in a major way over the next few years.
There are three names really worth looking at in Bowie for 2018 when it comes to long-term projections, but none of them are truly inspiring.
There’s Hunter Harvey, who has a 4.62 ERA in seven starts and 25.1 innings pitched this season. We know he has the stuff and the strikeout potential, but his path has been muddied to the point where he’s still trying to find his way to a consistent groove where he can settle in and prove he was the pitcher the Orioles once saw. After all that he’s been through and the performances he’s currently putting up, it’s difficult to say Harvey is a real lock to be anything more than a shot in the dark.
Keegan Akin is an interesting one, particularly since he’s been a fairly reliable arm since he’s been with the Orioles system. He has a 3.22 ERA in eight outings this season and continues to post plus strikeout numbers.
25-year-old John Means is another one to throw into the mix. Recently promoted to Norfolk, he started seven games at Bowie, posting a 4.30 ERA and striking out 41 batters in 46 innings of work. Means has had success, but there’s no real reason to believe he has that sky-high ceiling either. He’s been somewhat of an innings-eater for much of his time in the system, leading you to believe there isn’t going to be a sudden spark of long-term projection in his future.
Frederick and Delmarva
Of course there are stories to watch here in A-ball, but are we really able to put anybody here in the category of optimistic long-term answer?
You have your Michael Baumanns and Brenan Hanifees of the world who have had nice seasons down in Delmarva, with Baumann making his Frederick debut on Sunday, but how much does that mean in full-A ball? We saw that with Alex Wells last season — he rolled through the South Atlantic League competition, only to now have a 4.10 ERA in eight starts at Frederick. That’s not to say he will not turn out to be a big leaguer, but it’s more to underscore the idea that these results shouldn’t be taken as locks for the future.
At single-A, it’s simply difficult to find anyone to be truly excited about for the long term. There are a lot of good stories, but little that suggests the Orioles currently have pieces in place to build a future rotation.
And at the end of the day, isn’t that what developing players throughout the organization is all about — having a structured plan in place?
When you look at the names and projections right now, it’s difficult to not be concerned. There simply isn’t enough talent across the board to be able to project this team to have pitching success at any point in the near future. And when the big-league rotation looks like what it looks like, that’s a major problem.
It’s one of the issues the team will need to address this July and into the offseason. Where do you start to build a rotation for the future and how little do you really want to “settle” for in trades at the deadline?