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Austin Voth was a waiver wire success story

The Nationals castoff revamped his approach on the mound to become one of the Orioles’ most dependable starters.

MLB: SEP 07 Blue Jays at Orioles Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Washington Nationals had the worst record in baseball this past season, and their pitching staff was particularly bad. Signing one of their midseason castoffs hardly seemed like a logical move to build out a quality stable of arms. But you have to hand it to the Orioles’ front office for looking beyond the 10.13 ERA Austin Voth produced in Washington, because he turned into one of Baltimore’s most dependable hurlers.

Voth was designated for assignment by the Nationals on May 31. A week later, the Orioles claimed him, and the next day he was added to the active roster.

In retrospect, the timing of the move is interesting to examine. Grayson Rodriguez got injured during his June 1 start, which was likely to be his final appearance prior to a big league promotion. Instead, the Orioles needed to piece innings together, and Voth was available. Without the injury, it’s possible Voth would have landed elsewhere in the league.

Regardless, the Orioles snagged Voth, and they have to be thankful that they did. He appeared in 22 games (17 starts) and tossed 83 innings for the O’s. In that time he had a 3.04 ERA, 132 ERA+, and 3.96 FIP. All of which were drastic improvements from what he was doing in Washington, and perhaps reinvigorated his career.

So, how did he do this? Our very own Andrea SK examined this back in August. Some of the data changed a bit in the final month-and-a-half of the season, but the general themes were the same.

Voth switched up his pitch mix come June, when the Orioles claimed him. He used his cutter less and less as the season wore on. His curveball became a favorite. And he mixed in a changeup and slider.

Line chart showing Austin Voth’s pitch usage by month during the 2022 season
Source: Baseball Savant

This approach makes a lot of sense for a pitcher like Voth. He does not have huge velocity. He has to be somewhat crafty, keep hitters off balance, and lean into his strengths when possible. His curveball and four-seam fastball are good pitches with high spin rates. His cutter is...less effective.

The curveball became Voth’s calling card. Hitters hit .243 against it with an expected batting average of .228, and its 28.4 % whiff rate was the best of any pitch he featured for the entire season.

However, the slider he flashed down the stretch could be a plus offering as well. By the end of the season, its usage had eclipsed his cutter for the third slot in his arsenal, and hitters had a 38.5% whiff rate in September. That could be something to watch early in 2023.

Voth is due a raise next season. This will be his second time going through arbitration as he was a Super Two player last winter. His salary is projected to rise from $875,000 to $2 million. That shouldn’t deter the Orioles, particularly if they buy that Voth is even in the same realm as his stat sheet in the second half of the season.

The fact that Voth is even a consideration, let alone a virtual lock, to be on the Orioles’ Opening Day roster in March is somewhat of a miracle. Waiver claims are fickle, and the Elias-era Orioles have had their share of claims that have not worked out. Voth could have very easily gone into a similar bucket.

Instead, he helped stabilize a rotation that was without its ace and never got a chance to see its all-world prospect. There were plenty of excess innings to cover, and Voth did so in impressive fashion.

Nothing is guaranteed, but Voth does feel like a shoo-in for a roster spot on the 2023 Orioles, provided he is not traded or hurt. What his role will be on that team is yet to be determined.

This offseason is expected to be a busy one for the Orioles. There is speculation that landing a top-of-the-rotation arm is a priority for the front office. There seems to be a chance that Jordan Lyles has his option picked up. Rodriguez is poised to make the Opening Day squad. One would assume the organization wants to give D.L. Hall a run in the rotation at some point. And then it’s tough to muscle out younger arms like Dean Kremer and Kyle Bradish with some of the upside they showed. And oh yeah, Tyler Wells was really good prior to his injury. Where does Voth fit in?

As we saw this past season, things rarely go according to plan. The Orioles could enter the season with a fully formed five-man rotation, but players slump, injuries happen, and sometimes the calendar is cruel. The team is going to need depth on the mound. That is what Voth can provide as a swingman or multi-inning bullpen option should he not claim a rotation spot.

The only downside is that Voth is out of minor league options. The Orioles cannot bounce him back and forth from Norfolk like they could with Mike Baumann, Logan Gillaspie, Spenser Watkins, Nick Vespi, and even Keegan Akin this year. But if he is good enough in that sort of role, it won’t matter.

Previous 2022 Orioles player reviews: Bruce Zimmermann, Robinson Chirinos, Joey Krehbiel, Tyler Nevin, Nick Vespi/Logan Gillaspie, Spenser Watkins, Rougned Odor, Ryan McKenna, Kyle Bradish, Austin Hays, Keegan Akin, Ryan Mountcastle, Anthony Santander, Jordan Lyles, Bryan Baker, Tyler Wells

Tomorrow: Jorge Mateo