As a person that very much enjoys the nuances and obscurities of a given spring training game, I am also easily annoyed by the nuances and obscurities of a given spring training game.
Crowning superstars after a month or so facing overmatched hitters or guys with middling stuff on the mound is a tradition like no other. I mean, all it took was a week for people to incept the idea that Chris Davis is good again. Spring training is like a boring hallucinogenic, if there is such a thing.
While you may get stuck with an inning or two of Wade LeBlanc, you also get an inning or two of guys like Dean Kremer.
Spring training does have its moments, where younger guys on a major league trajectory actual put on the uniform of the parent club. Kremer, who started the 2019 season at Frederick and ended up in Norfolk by its close, made his spring training debut on Monday. Pitching 1.1 innings while striking out two, the 24-year-old was given credit for the loss despite the run being unearned. All it took was six batters for manager Brandon Hyde to let us know what the numbers have already shown.
“I was really impressed with Dean,” Hyde said. “I like the life to his fastball; I like the aggressiveness. Like Keegan [Akin], he’s got a nice curveball. Threw some really good cutters. I thought Dean looked like he’d been out there before.”
Jon Meoli, Baltimore Sun
Two years ago when Manny Machado was traded to the Dodgers, the immediate hype surrounded outfielder Yusniel Diaz, and considering his plus bat-to-ball skills, it made sense. But injuries and swing changes have muted that noise. Kremer, the 2018 minor league strikeout leader, followed up his breakout season with a 3.72 ERA and a strikeout rate of nearly 26 percent in 2019.
Kremer looks every bit the part as well. He’s a long 6’3 with an athletic delivery and comes downhill with the look of a power arm. The velocity doesn’t necessarily match the structure of the delivery, but his low-to-mid 90’s fastball is unusual because it’s anything but flat.
In his lone outing thus far this spring, Kremer’s two strikeouts were of the backwards variety, both ending with fastballs. He’s always had a reputation of having “life” on his fastball, but sitting in the 91-94 MPH range, it’s sneakily effective.
That’s the kind of high-spin, rising fastball that baseball covets in this day and age, and it would seem that he hides it well enough to offset the average velocity. Though Grayson Rodriguez probably owns the title, you could make the argument that Kremer’s curveball may be second-best.
Simply said, there are maybe one or two pitchers that will break camp with the Orioles that have the kind of breaking ball that Kremer does. It’s a true out pitch. It’s sharp, it has depth, and because Kremer actually throws strikes, it creates swings and misses.
While it’s certainly burdensome to know that the Orioles will not be immediately improved in the pitching department after a historically brutal year, the franchise is casually, but thoughtfully moving its younger players at a calculated pace. Considering Kremer was only responsible for 19 innings at Triple-A last fall, I can’t imagine we see him in an Orioles uniform until late this season at the earliest convenience. It’s more likely Kremer comes to Camden Yards in 2021.
But for however long we see Kremer this spring, just know that what the Orioles bring north with them, the Israeli-American would certainly fit in. Probably even more so.