On July 18, 2018, the Manny Machado era came to an end in Baltimore. It was a depressing time. The Orioles were hurtling towards a 100+ loss season, Buck Showalter was in his swan song, and many of our favorite players were sent packing. Machado headed to Los Angeles, on his way to superstardom. The Orioles got back five players, hopeful that they’d make an impact in the future.
Four years later, just two of those players remain in the Orioles’ system. The centerpiece of the trade, Yusniel Diaz, is still toiling in the minors with few chances remaining to prove himself. The other player is Dean Kremer, who might end up being the saving grace of an otherwise fruitless trade.
Before 2022, Kremer had just 17 major league games under his belt, all starts. His four-game stint in 2020 provided hope for his future in the rotation, a hope tested hard in a disappointing 2021 campaign. In 13 starts he failed to complete five innings eight times. He gave up at least four runs six times. He walked too many, he gave up too many home runs. He finished the year with a 7.55 ERA and a lot of questions about his future.
Kremer was too young and had shown too much promise to give up on, but he still faced an uphill battle going into spring training in 2022. Working in his favor was the fact that none of the Orioles were expected to be that good. He did make the team, sent to the bullpen to start the year. But he had the misfortune of straining his oblique the very first weekend of games while warming up in the bullpen. He never even got to make an appearance before he hit the injured list.
We didn’t see Kremer again until June 5th when the Orioles activated him from the IL. He didn’t go back to the bullpen, though. The rotation needed him. John Means was gone. Austin Voth had yet to join the team. Kyle Bradish, Spenser Watkins, and Bruce Zimmermann were struggling, with the latter two headed for demotion later in the month. Kremer got his chance in the rotation and he never looked back.
His first game was a pedestrian start against the Guardians. He didn’t blow up, he didn’t look especially impressive. But then he settled in, firing off four straight starts with just a total of one run allowed. He just continued to go out there every fifth day and give the Orioles a chance to win.
Aside from a couple of clunkers, he was very steady. He ended the season with a stretch of 10 games in which he pitched to a 2.76 ERA. During that run, Kremer never gave up more than three earned runs in an inning and pitched into at least the sixth inning eight times. The stretch included two of the best starts of his young career, both against the Houston Astros.
On August 27th, Kremer shut down the Astros in Houston, allowing just one run in 7.2 innings. He followed that up with the only complete game of his career, a shutout against Houston on September 23rd. In that 10-game stretch, he also had an excellent start against the Blue Jays in Toronto, pitching seven innings in a 5-4 Orioles win.
So how did he do it? He relies on five pitches: a four-seam fastball, cutter, curveball, changeup, and slider. Those first three he throws about 80% of the time, and with good reason. The four-seamer (33% usage) and the cutter (30%) both got great results, with a wOBA of under .300 on both. He doesn’t have the blow-you-away kind of velocity that you see so often these days, but he holds his own in the low-to-mid 90s.
Dean Kremer, Filthy 90mph Cutter. ✂️ pic.twitter.com/BNs1W1fekH— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 24, 2022
Per Baseball Savant, Kremer gets above-average movement on all of his pitches other than the sinker, which he barely throws. That was plain to see for those who watched his starts this year.
Dean Kremer, K'ing the Side. pic.twitter.com/NZcPiLzIpw— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 24, 2022
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Dean Kremer will begin the 2023 season as a member of the starting rotation. His 3.23 ERA was second in the rotation to only Austin Voth and his 125.1 innings pitched was second to Jordan Lyles. Lyles made 10 more starts than him.
Kremer will need a bit of a longer track record before the Orioles really know what they have, and he has earned the chance in 2022 to show them he can keep it up. If he does, then maybe the Machado trade wasn’t so bad after all.
If you’ve made it this far, you get Dean Kremer fun facts! While prepping for this story I discovered that Kremer, along with his partner, spent last off-season living in a tiny house and documenting their impressive cooking skills on an Instagram account called @offseason_bites.
On the page, you can watch videos of Kremer making homemade pasta and braised short ribs. You can see pics of a ton of other excellent-looking food they prepared together in their tiny house. The account went dormant when spring training began, but a new post went up just two days ago so maybe they are back at it. I know that after watching the videos I smell a new Jumbotron feature for 2023.
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, Austin Voth, Jorge Mateo
Tomorrow: Cionel Pérez