The Orioles began the season with objectives that extend past this season. Baltimore was not expected to compete, and the club still found itself in the “talent acquisition and development” phase of the rebuild. Everyone knew the O’s would be sellers at the trade deadline, it simply depended on if any other team would want any of their players.
Once the season began, plenty of Orioles had proven their worth. Several players on the offensive side of the ball exceeded expectations, but it was the arms that brought a return. That was the market, and the Orioles took advantage.
They turned a minor-league signing for a pair of PTBNL in the Tommy Milone deal with the Braves, and picked up two legitimate prospects by sending Mychal Givens to Colorado. Baltimore flipped Miguel Castro for a soft-tossing youngster, and don’t forget the Richard Bleier deal from last month.
Givens, Castro and Bleier entered the season as the Orioles’ most experienced relievers. Outside of former first-round pick Hunter Harvey, they were the three to watch. They were the three that had flashed the most potential. And yes, they were the three with the highest potential trade value.
With Harvey sidelined to start the season, things got a lot more foggy. Cole Sulser was new in town, but it’s difficult to picture anybody penciling him into the closer role. Tanner Scott felt more and more like a guy that would never figure things out. Paul Fry and Shawn Armstrong produced a solid “meh,” and the presence of David Hess generated some words that do not need repeating.
The known commodities are gone, so is Hess for that matter, and Sulser’s struggles have led Brandon Hyde to consider lowering the leverage of the reliever’s outings. So, uh, now what?
Rebuilding clubs provide opportunities. That’s what brought Milone to Baltimore, and how several Baltimore bats have found their footing. Can any relievers take advantage of their extended audition out of the bullpen?
We can’t go any further without pointing out Scott’s dramatic improvement. The lefty made it through double digit appearances before finally giving up an earned run. He holds a 1.80 ERA and carries a 0.93 WHIP. He’s struck out 18 while walking only seven, and has surrendered only one long ball in 17 appearances.
That’s the lefty the O’s have been waiting to see. That’s the lefty that they’d love to see moving forward.
Scott has pitched in plenty of high leverage situations, but Hyde has not been afraid to call his name early. Seven of his appearances began in the fifth or sixth inning. With Keegan Akin transitioning into the rotation, Scott is one of only two LHP in the bullpen. That alone likely prevents him from taking on the closer role full time, but Hyde should feel comfortable utilizing Scott in any situation.
If Givens were around, he’d be a prime suspect to take over for Sulser. He’s not.
The idea of Harvey trotting in from the bullpen and blowing hitters away in the ninth is enough to make any O’s fan salivate. Unfortunately, it might be a little too much to ask of a player with nine major league games under his belt. Don’t expect the thought to just go away though. It lingers.
The Orioles are going to close out games by committee unless Sulser figures things out. There’s really no other solution out there. But with Bleier, Castro and Givens out of the picture, a few of those committee seats are up for grabs. It is an election year after all.
Dillon Tate fits the mold of a player that could slide to the back end of the ‘pen. He pitched at Bowie and Norfolk last season prior to getting an education in the big leagues. Very few pitchers can transition from Double-A to the MLB without a few bumps in the road. Tate got a late start to the season after taking a comebacker off the forearm during summer training, and he’s been a bit of a mixed bag in his four games back. Still, the potential is there.
Somebody will have to pitch late when the O’s take the lead, and Tate could easily join his fellow, former first-rounder Harvey in that role. Fry, by default, should be called upon when Scott is unavailable. However, he’s demonstrated that he can do more than simply throw the ball with his left hand.
Fry holds an identical 1.80 ERA to Scott. He’d pitched the same amount of innings (15) and struck out one more (19) than Scott. Hold up, is there something wrong with Baseball Reference? I guess not, because Fry’s line shows only four walks.
Expect Fry to be a fixture late in games. If the 28-year-old posts numbers like that for the duration of the season, he’ll enter next year with a much better outlook than “meh.”
Will Harvey, Scott, Tate and Fry inspire a ton of fear into opposing hitters? Maybe not right away, but they’ll have the opportunity to do so. The Orioles bullpen is onto the next generation. There’s talent there.
Guys like Castro and Givens seemed to always prompt the question “Can they bounce back this year?” Hopefully this group sparks the question of “Can these guys keep this up?”