It is no secret that the Orioles need to improve in almost every category moving forward. This year’s series of prospect reviews has included outfielders like DJ Stewart, and infielders such as Adam Hall. But there is little doubt that the Orioles farm system needs to produce several major league quality pitchers over the next few years. Are the future big leaguers already in the O’s system? There’s only one way to find out.
The Orioles selected Michael Baumann in the third round of the 2017 MLB draft. After his first full season in the system, the Orioles are cautiously optimistic that Baumann could be a contributor down the road.
A right-handed starter from Jacksonville University, Baumann appeared in 10 games at Aberdeen in 2017. He started nine of the 10, and pitched to a 1.31 ERA. His WHIP sat at 1.065, and he struck out 41 batters compared to 19 walks. The appearances built some hype for Baumann’s 2018 campaign.
He began this past year in Delmarva, and he absolutely dominated the South Atlantic league. Baumann finished his time with the Shorebirds at 5-0 and holding a 1.42 ERA. He struck out an imposing 47 batters compared to only 13 walks, and did not allow a home run in 38 innings. You can take your pick of which numbers to be impressed by, but a potential future Orioles pitcher not giving up a single home run certainly makes me smile.
The Mahtomedi, Minnesota, native earned a promotion to Frederick, where he would stay for the remainder of the 2018 season. Baumann announced his presence in the Carolina league with an impressive first outing on May 20. He worked seven strong, and allowed only one run on four hits. But the lone run was a solo home run that quickly ended his homer-less season.
Like almost any player at a new level, Baumann took a few lumps. Still, he included several more quality performances throughout the year. After 17 starts at Frederick, the righty held an 8-5 record and a 3.88 ERA. His strikeout-to-walk ratio took a hit at 59-40, and he allowed nine home runs in 92.2 innings. Both the increase of walks and round-trippers can mostly be attributed to facing a tougher level of competition.
Baumann was able to lower his ERA at Frederick to below four with a strong September. The righty finished the year 13-5 with a 3.17 ERA in 24 games. On September 5, he was honored as the Carolina League Pitcher of the Week.
Baumann’s ability to bounce back after a few rough stretches shows a lot about the player. He finished only 2-1 in five June starts, and held a 5.00 ERA in those contests. However, the righty bounced back with a 2.91 ERA in July. He lost three of five starts in August with a 5.33 ERA, but capped this season with seven scoreless innings and a victory on August 30. Every prospect is going to face adversity at times, but Baumann did a nice job of not letting the rough stretches linger in 2018.
MLB.com currently has Baumann ranked as the Orioles’ 21st prospect, with 12 pitchers slated ahead of him on the list. According to MLB.com, Baumann’s fastball can touch 97, but it lives around 92-94 MPH. The starter already possesses four pitches, with a slider and curveball complementing his fastball and changeup.
Baumann certainly profiles as a starter moving forward. His four-pitch mix, and an ability to make hitters miss, make him a potential weapon down the road for Baltimore. He worked into the sixth and seventh innings several times in 2018, and knock on wood has not had any major arm strength issues. Still, the bullpen is always an option with a high-90’s fastball and slider combination.
Next year will be a big one for Baumann. He could start at Double-A Bowie, or find himself there half way through the season. The righty has little to prove at Frederick, but the Orioles may want to see him dominate and build some confidence before taking the mound for the Baysox. Whenever he gets there, Baumann will have to show once again that he can adjust to an advanced level of competition.
Even if things go well, there’s not a very high chance that Baumann makes his way to Baltimore before 2020. Still, the template is there for the righty to take another step forward in his sophomore season on the farm. Obviously he needs to avoid a major injury, but Baumann is poised to shoot up the Orioles prospect list with a strong 2019 season. Expect him to take a few lumps once he arrives at Bowie, but don’t be surprised to see him bounce back.