The Orioles approach to major league roster construction in 2019 essentially boiled down to “throw it against the wall and see what sticks.” That was certainly the plan when it came to assembling a pitching staff. Unfortunately very few things stuck, but the Orioles front office did add a few arms to their 40-man roster that could at least play a role in bridging the gap from the current rebuild to the expected reemergence as competitors. Two of those pitchers are Asher Wojciechowski and Aaron Brooks.
Wojciechowski has moved between many organizations in his career. Originally, he was a first-round pick (41st overall) of the Blue Jays back in 2010. Then he was part of a massive trade between Toronto and the Houston Astros in 2012 and thus began a pattern of transactions that, to this point, has concluded with Wojciechowski as an Orioles players for the second time.
The 30-year-old Wojciechowski had thrown 78.2 innings of major league action before becoming an Oriole this year. He tossed 16.1 innings for Houston in 2015, and then 62.1 innings for the Cincinnati Reds in 2017.
Brooks is a former ninth-round pick back in 2011 who has bounced around quite a bit as a professional. The Royals sent him to the Athletics in 2015. Then in 2016 the A’s traded him to the Brewers. He was claimed off waivers by the Cubs in 2017. The A’s bought him back in 2018. And then finally the Orioles claimed him off of waivers this past July.
Prior to joining the Birds, Brooks had 33 games of big league experience to his name, but it had not gone especially well. He compiled a 5.71 ERA in 29 games with the A’s between 2015 and 2019. And in four games as a Royal he allowed 16 runs across seven innings.
It was Wojciechowski that would get the first opportunity to impress the O’s brass, starting his first MLB game of the season on July 2 against the Rays. From there, he was a regular part of the rotation for the remainder of the year.
Was Wojciechowski any good? Well, sorta. He certainly had impressive moments. His July 21st start against the Red Sox was one of the highlights of the Orioles season. Over 7.1 innings, the righty shutout the Boston bats, allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out 10. That performance earned a “Game Score” of 94, the best by an Orioles pitcher all year. And he followed that outing with another seven-inning effort against the Angels in his very next start.
But on the whole, Wojo was just about average. Over 17 games (16 starts), the South Carolina native tossed 82.1 innings, had a 4.92 ERA, 96 ERA+, 5.61 xFIP, 1.3 bWAR and 0.9 fWAR. However, average on the Orioles is different than average on some other team. These numbers make Wojciechowski perhaps the third-best starting pitcher on the team behind John Means and Dylan Bundy.
It was a different story for Brooks, who made his Orioles debut on July 13 and moved right into the rotation. His season lacked the highs that Wojociechowski enjoyed. Brooks finished the year with a 6.18 ERA and 77 ERA+ over 59.2 innings as an Oriole.
A common struggle for Brooks, as it was for many Orioles pitchers, was going deep into games. Of the 12 games he started, Brooks made it past the fifth inning just four times. His best outing came on September 20, when he came out of the bullpen to deliver seven innings, allowing just one run on one hit, a walk and four strikeouts against the Seattle Mariners.
Down the stretch, Brooks pitched quite well. Over his final eight games, he tossed 37.2 innings and allowed just a 4.30 ERA and a .257/.335/.382 batting line against. That performance sets him up to be a major league consideration heading into 2020.
Both Wojciechowski and Brooks do currently find themselves on the Orioles 40-man roster. But that place is far from secure for either one of them. The O’s have a number of young players that will need to be protected from the Rule 5 draft this offseason. In order to do so, those young players will need to be placed on the 40-man, which means other players will be removed.
Between the two of them, Wojociechowski has the better chance of making it through the off-season and being a part of the Orioles Opening Day roster. He flashed an ability to compete at the highest level and provides more stability to a pitching staff in desperate need of just that.
Brooks was much more shaky, especially in a starter’s role. The Orioles are unlikely to enter 2020 with the plan to start him every fifth day. Instead, he could be an option as a swing-man out of the bullpen. But that role won’t be handed to him as the relief corps could be one of them most competitive units in the upcoming spring.
Neither of these two pitchers will be expected to play a prominent role on the Orioles team that returns the organization to the proverbial mountain top. But they both have the chance to be serviceable stopgaps until the cavalry of arms emerges in Baltimore.