Baltimore needs more pitching at the major league level, especially of the starting variety. And highly-touted right-handed pitcher Michael Baumann is one of several prospects in play for a 40-man roster spot in advance of the November 20 deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft.
Of the seven pitchers currently on the 40-man roster who started games for the O’s in 2020, Alex Cobb and John Means are the only two who reached double-digit starts. Keegan Akin and Jorge Lopez each had six starts, Dean Kremer and Thomas Eshelman each had four, and Bruce Zimmermann had one.
But Baumann didn’t make his major league debut — like Akin, Kremer and Zimmermann — or even have a chance to gain experience in minor league games this past season.
The 6’4” right-hander out of Mahtomedi, Minnesota, is already 25 years old, having been drafted out of college by the Orioles in 2017. He was a third round draft pick out of Jacksonville University in Jacksonville, Florida, where he was teammates with Austin Hays.
Over the course of 43 starts in the NCAA’s Atlantic Sun Conference, Baumann struck out more than a batter per inning while putting up a 3.17 ERA and 1.245 WHIP.
From 2017-2019, Baumann amassed 297 innings pitching in the O’s system. The young right-hander’s statistical array in that time includes a 2.82 ERA, 1.125 WHIP, 3.5 BB/9, 8.8 SO/9, 2.49 SO/W, and 0.5 HR/9 in 59 games (56 starts).
Let’s also not forget that Baumann earned the Orioles Jim Palmer Minor League Co-Pitcher of the Year award in 2019. He’s also currently no. 9 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Orioles Prospects, sandwiched between outfielder Yusniel Diaz and fellow starting pitcher Dean Kremer. He actually occupied the same spot on 2019’s list.
Player development in the organization has received a boost from the Mike Elias regime, which includes new Orioles pitching coach Chris Holt, who “has been credited as a central character in many success stories involving the O’s pitching-rich farm system, from John Means’ emergence to No. 9 prospect Michael Baumann’s breakout…”
In 2019, Baumann split his season between High-A and Double-A, putting up a cumulative 2.98 ERA. In 54 innings over 11 starts with the Frederick Keys, he had a 3.83 ERA to go along with a 1.185 WHIP. He managed to keep the ball in the park to the tune of 0.3 HR/9 and although the walks were a bit high at 4.0 BB/9, the strikeout numbers were exceptional at 12.8 SO/9.
After getting bumped up a level midseason, Baumann appeared in 13 games (11 starts) with the Bowie Baysox. In those 70 total innings, he had a 2.31 ERA, 0.943 WHIP, 0.3 HR/9, 2.7 BB/9, 8.4 SO/9 and 3.10 SO/W.
Baumann was one of the lucky few to earn an invite to Bowie this past season, so he did get some work in. But like many alternate training site attendees, on the rare occasion we heard about Michael Baumann this summer, it was in passing.
Despite the league-wide setbacks related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Orioles’ minor league system is still on the upswing by many accounts. The O’s have been able to bring in talent across all minor league levels and and have beefed up the developmental resources that are so valuable to every young player’s growth.
When the issue turns to team construction and how the youngsters fit in, MiLB.com’s Gerard Gilberto weighed in on the matter last week when assessing the Orioles system, saying that “[Yusniel] Diaz, along with [Zac] Lowther and [Michael] Baumann, are the safest locks for 40-man roster protection this offseason.”
Yet the Orioles chose not to include Baumann in the 2020 Fall Instructional League, which ran from October 5th until the end of the month in Sarasota. Shedding further light on the situation, Todd Karpovich of Pressbox Online mentioned in his October 6th article that Baumann was “dealing with a flexor strain in his right forearm, but Elias said that he was able to amass enough innings at Bowie this summer and would not have attended the fall camp even if he was healthy.”
Health withstanding, it’s not outside the realm of possibility for Baumann to make his major league debut sometime in 2021. But regardless, he needs to be placed on the 40-man roster in order to be assured he will stick with the club and have an opportunity to compete for playing time next year.