For Dean Kremer, the low point of the 2021 season came on the road against Toronto, several days before the calendar was set to flip from June to July. It was a start where Kremer looked utterly lost on the mound, and he was only able to record one out before getting pulled from the game.
His final pitching line for that matchup on June 24 was 0.1 innings, two hits, six earned runs, five walks, and one home run. The Orioles demoted the right-hander to Triple-A the very next day.
No stranger to the Norfolk shuttle, it was Kremer’s third demotion of 2021. He had a total of four stints with the Orioles this past season, spending the remainder of his time pitching for the Tides.
Originally drafted by the Dodgers from of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in the 14th round of the 2016 draft, Kremer joined the Orioles mid-2018. He was part of the five-player package the Orioles got from Los Angeles for Manny Machado.
Alex Church wrote a piece recently about a couple of other Machado trade acquisitions — infielder Rylan Bannon and outfielder Yusniel Diaz — who have underperformed since coming over from the West Coast. Count Kremer in that category too.
There’s heightened expectations for these players, including Kremer, as the Orioles desperately want to have gotten something of long-term value for their former homegrown star third baseman. But the more time goes by, the worse the Manny Machado trade looks.
The Orioles had a lot riding on their young pitching in 2021. General manager Mike Elias decided to pass on the free agent starter market in lieu of inexperienced internal options. But that didn’t go so well. Kremer is just one example.
The right-hander is 25 years old and will be 26 by the time next season rolls around. At that age, he can’t be considered a prospect anymore. It’s time to show something on the mound instead of taking steps backward.
So how did Kremer perform in 2021? He had a lousy year. The right-hander split his time between Triple-A and the majors, including some rough outings for the Orioles.
He started 13 games for Baltimore and put up a 7.55 ERA. At 6.99, his FIP was nearly the same as his bloated ERA. The young righty suffered from control problems, walking 25 batters in 53.2 innings (4.2 BB/9). He was also prone to the long ball, surrendering 17 total home runs (2.9 HR/9). On top of all that, he wasn’t missing many bats and he was giving up a lot of contact, as evidenced by his 7.9 K/9 and 10.6 H/9.
His numbers with Triple-A were only slightly better. He had a 4.91 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 1.3 HR/9, 2.9 BB/9, and 10.0 K/9 in 62.1 innings of work. The Orioles experimented with Kremer in the bullpen at Norfolk, as four of his 17 of his appearances came as a reliever. But that experiment didn’t extend to the majors, where all of Kremer’s appearances came as a starter.
Unfortunately, Kremer did a lot worse this season than expected. While he may not have been considered a potential no. 1 ace pitcher before, his high strikeout numbers and relative success had him positioned as a future mid/back of the rotation piece with some upside.
Kremer joined the organization in the summer of 2018. And he performed admirably in his first half season in the O’s system. He put up a 2.58 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP in eight starts with the Baysox in 2018. And he was racking up the strikeouts at the time, averaging 10.5 K’s per nine innings.
The right-hander appeared with three affiliates in 2019 — Frederick, Bowie, and Norfolk — and despite a combined 3.72 ERA and 1.30 WHIP, Kremer struggled at Triple-A, where he allowed 19 earned runs in 19.1 innings. He averaged 9.7 SO/9 across all three levels.
With the 2020 minor league season being a wash, Kremer spent most of his time at the Orioles Alternate Training Site in Bowie last year. He did make four starts for the Orioles during the shortened season, registering a 4.82 ERA, 2.76 FIP, 1.45 WHIP, 5.8 BB/9, and 10.6 SO/9.
Then came his disastrous 2021 season, and his previous expectations have to be greatly tempered now. At this point, he might have a more viable future as a reliever.
Kremer has a lot of work to do to make people forget 2021. But in terms of his contract, there is still time left. According to Spotrac, Kremer won’t be eligible for arbitration until 2024 and the earliest he can become a free agent is 2027.
So the O’s will continue to coach and train him, hoping he can recapture some of his former luster and be a decent piece — starter or reliever — for the next good Orioles team. He should have a chance to compete for a slot in the rotation next spring, if only because the Orioles will need bodies. But he’ll have to put on quite a show in Sarasota to regain his footing within the organization and be considered to travel north with the club at the outset of the 2022 season. Alas, expectations are not high.
The way things have trended recently, a relief role looks more likely than a starter role. That way Kremer can be deployed for short bursts and avoid the exposure of a starter’s workload.
2021 Orioles player reviews: Valaika/Gutierrez/Mateo, Paul Fry/César Valdez, Watkins/Greene/etc., Ramón Urias