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Orioles gave Mac Sceroler a fair look before moving on

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The Orioles moved on from Chance Sisco and Shawn Armstrong before eventually pulling the plug on the Rule-Fiver. Sceroler missed significant time with an injury, but did not appear ready to pitch at the Major League level.

New York Mets v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The Orioles’ decision to move on from catcher Chance Sisco turned a few heads, but the move was not without merit. Sisco never met the high expectations that came with being the club’s top catching prospect, and his slash line this season left plenty to be desired.

Still, even with his .431 OPS, the move did not need to be made. The Orioles had already optioned Sisco to Triple-A, but he was still occupying a space on the 40-man roster. With Sisco approaching arbitration—and contending this season out the window—Baltimore decided they could move on from the 26-year-old. The Orioles DFA’d Sisco to make room on the 40-man for spot-starter Thomas Eshelman.

Cutting Sisco will not factor into the large scope of Baltimore’s rebuild, but it did reveal an interesting fact regarding the club’s 40-man roster. The Orioles elected to keep Rule-5 pick Mac Sceroler on the roster over Sisco. They made the same choice when DFA’ing struggling reliever Shawn Armstrong, but Sceroler’s luck finally ran out yesterday.

The Orioles designated Sceroler for assignment to free up a spot on the 40-man for knuckleballer Mickey Jannis. Earlier this month, I begged the question of whether the Orioles would ever give Jannis a look. I pointed to Jannis’ success at Triple-A, and Baltimore’s obvious need on the mound. Plus, knuckleballs are fun.

At the time, I struggled to find a spot on the 40-man roster for Jannis. The Orioles appeared dedicated to keeping both Rule-5 picks on the roster. They were— until yesterday.

In a perfect world, the Orioles would have used Sceroler in low-leverage situations before optioning him next year. Unfortunately, the need for capable arms became too high to justify keeping him on the roster. Injuries to John Means and Bruce Zimmermann further taxed the bullpen and heightened the need for a swingman like Jannis.

Baltimore selected Sceroler with the fifth pick in the 2020 Rule 5 draft. The former Cincinnati prospect had not pitched above High-A, but produced high strikeout numbers while starting in 2019. The fact that Sceroler was related to former Oriole Ben McDonald made for a fun story, but this was not the Dodgers selecting Mike Piazza. The Orioles selected Sceroler and second-round pick Tyler Wells because the team felt they could contribute.

Wells has established himself as a key member of the bullpen— the Orioles have even considered moving him to the rotation this season—but Sceroler did not experienced the same success.

Baltimore placed Sceroler on the 10-day injured list with right shoulder tendinitis retroactive to April 13. Sceroler ended up spending eight weeks on the IL before returning. He only made five appearances at the major league level.

Do only five appearances constitute a “fair look?” In a vacuum, probably not. But the writing appeared on the wall for Sceroler. The 26-year-old got the hype train going when he held the Yankees scoreless through 2.2 innings in his MLB debut. Unfortunately, he could never recreate the magic.

He allowed three earned through an inning his next time out. He coughed up six more runs through two frames the time after that. Cleveland took him for three more in an inning last week, and he allowed three unearned runs to score Monday night in the rain. The rehab starts were not any better. Sceroler allowed eight runs over 4.1 innings for Norfolk.

Sceroler could absolutely develop into a capable pitcher at some point in his career. That process will require refining his craft in the minors. He did not have that opportunity this season, and the Orioles could not provide it until 2022. Baltimore moving on from the former Reds prospect is probably best for all parties involved.

The Orioles can still view the 2020 Rule-5 draft as a success thanks to Wells. It’s rare to pull a true contributor out of the pool, and especially uncommon to have a player provide valuable contributions during his rookie year. Every team had an opportunity to select Wells before Baltimore double dipped with a second pick, but the Birds were happy to have him in the second round.

The question now becomes whether Jannis can be more effective. At 33-years-old, it is likely now or never. There is a reason knuckleballers are not prevalent in the big leagues, but success stories have been well documented. Jannis, unlike Sceroler, has likely absorbed everything he can in the minors. With a .292 ERA and 1.294 WHIP at Norfolk, the only thing left to do is test his skills against the best of the best.