Josh Rogers taking the mound in Baltimore last night served as a prime example of what the Orioles rebuild will look like moving forward. The Orioles, for the first time in a long time, have a slight buzz around their farm system. It may be out of necessity, but fans can find a sliver of excitement and intrigue with the young players in the organization.
Cedric Mullins has already sparked the interest of Orioles fans in the second half of the season. He’s provided a glimpse of the player he could be, and already been the cause of some anxiety over a potential injury. While Mullins, Austin Hays and Yusniel Diaz dominate the position player conversation, the majority of focus for the remainder of the year will likely keen in on pitching.
Rogers did enough last night to pick up his first Major League win in his first attempt. He tossed five innings, allowed seven hits, and gave up three runs in the victory. Rogers tossed 85 pitches (54 strikes), walked one and struck just two Blue Jay hitters. The Orioles went on to win the game 12-5, and you can read the details here.
Rogers kept the Blue Jays off the board during their first time through the lineup, but was eventually tested in the fourth inning. He allowed three singles, and Toronto scored for the first time. But after a walk to load the bases, Rogers got Aledmys Diaz to strikeout swinging on an 82-MPH slider to end the inning.
Rogers faced more adversity in the fifth. With two outs and a man on first, he was a strike a way from ending the inning. Instead, Justin Smoak worked a full count, and eventually drove the eighth pitch of the at bat over the left field fence. After Smoak worked the count full, Rogers grooved a 90-MPH fastball right over the heart of the plate. Smoak didn’t miss it.
Both the inning ending strikeout and the two-run home run were firsts for Rogers. It’s experience he can only get at the major league level, and now is the perfect time for him to receive it. There’s going to be nights where the home run comes without the strikeout, and that’s okay.
Ben Hansford recently pointed out how critical pitching development will be for the Orioles moving forward, and Tyler Young wondered out loud whether the organization is capable of fixing Dylan Bundy. There are plenty more questions than answers when it comes to the Orioles pitching, but one things is for certain. It’s going to take some time.
Rogers joined Cody Carroll and Evan Phillips as pitching prospects acquired at the trade deadline that have already made their way to Baltimore. Rogers will likely join Carroll and Phillips as players to be sent back down to Norfolk at some point, and that’s okay.
Carroll flashed some potential, but worked up an ERA of 7.00 in nine innings. He struggled with control, walking a batter an inning, and surrendered multiple home runs. Phillips made Carroll look like 2016 Zach Britton. He allowed eight runs in 3.1 innings pitched. He walked six batters, while only striking out three, and did not appear ready for the big show.
At least a portion of the control issues had to be nerves. The next time the two pitch in Baltimore, they’ll know what to expect. The value of that experience the two gained in meaningless games cannot be overstated.
One of the most difficult tasks the Orioles face for the remainder of the season will be determining who can handle a cup of coffee in the bigs, and if any player would suffer from a premature promotion. The Birds certainly don’t have a reason to rush anybody along, but the innings are available for anyone that would benefit from them.
Luis Ortiz came over from the Brewers in the Jonathan Schoop deal, and has had some success at Norfolk. In five starts, he’s 2-1 with a 3.04 ERA. His strikeouts to walks sits at 17-7, and he holds a 1.21 WHIP. A first-round by the Rangers in 2014, Ortiz appears to be ready for a promotion by the end of the season.
Dillon Tate, the headliner of the Zach Britton deal, has been up-and-down at Bowie. After a few tough starts, he’s began to settle in with the Baysox. However, the Orioles sixth-ranked prospect according to MLB.com does not appear to be pounding down the door to Baltimore. The club would be wise to keep him at Bowie for the remainder of the season, and reevaluate him during spring training next year.
The Orioles have not exactly been a template for developing young pitching over the last decade. They’ve had several players fail to reach their full potential, and been forced to shut down guys like Hunter Harvey over and over again. Now, they must find the balance between providing experience, evaluating talent, and not rushing players. With the Orioles far from “win now” mode, they can allow current and future contributors to develop at their own pace.