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Know Your Orioles 40-man: Noah Denoyer

The former undrafted free agent shined in stretches in 2022, but struggled to stay healthy. Can Denoyer reward the front office’s gamble in using a 40-man spot on him?

AZ Fall League: Glendale Desert Dogs at Scottsdale Scorpions
Denoyer continued to show plenty of promise in his recent stint in the Arizona Fall League
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

How he arrived: Signed as an undrafted free agent out of San Joaquin Delta College in 2019; contract selected 11/15/22

Of the recent additions to the Orioles’ 40-man roster, pitcher Noah Denoyer brings the least amount of hype along with his addition. Not a top prospect like Grayson Rodriguez or Joey Ortiz or a new addition to the organization like Lewin Diaz or Kyle Gibson, there is a certain mystery surrounding Denoyer. What do the Orioles see in the big righty out of California? Can he build on a strong showing for Bowie last year and find his way to the big leagues?

The biggest driving force behind Denoyer’s addition to the 40-man may be his encouraging showing while playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League. While he didn’t put up the MVP numbers of Scorpions teammate Heston Kjerstad, there were still parts of Denoyer’s game that jumped off the page. After struggling with injuries toward the end of the minor league season, Denoyer posted the type of strong strikeout numbers in Arizona that propelled his rise from Aberdeen to Bowie in 2022. With 21 Ks over 20 innings, Denoyer ranked seventh in total strikeouts while finishing with a better K rate than more highly-touted prospects like Quinn Priester (Pirates) and Efrain Contreras (Padres).

His numbers for the Scorpions helped prove that Denoyer was healthy once again after those injury struggles. The 24-year-old looked like a candidate to reach Norfolk before the season’s end after a strong start to life with the Baysox. Over 11 games after his May promotion, Denoyer put up 41 strong innings, posting a 2.20 ERA while limiting opponents to a .169 average. His strikeout numbers were still the big righty’s biggest calling card though, as he piled up 51 punchouts for an average of 11.2 per nine innings.

However, before Denoyer’s rapidly-accelerating hype train could reach the station at Norfolk, the right-hander missed a month due to injury. After rehab assignments in rookie ball and with Aberdeen, Denoyer returned to the Baysox in late August. While the strikeouts were still there in bunches, he couldn’t completely recapture the form he found after his initial promotion, posting a 4.22 ERA over 10.2 innings.

What Denoyer consistently showed for the Baysox, though, was plenty of versatility. While he did make three starts right before getting injured, the majority of Denoyer’s work came as a multi-inning option out of the pen. His numbers were at their best in that relief role, as his ERA shrunk to 1.72 when coming out of the pen and his BAA dipped to .143, all while maintaining his impressive K rate. While most of his work in Arizona did come as a starter, Denoyer seems more likely to make the jump to Baltimore in a similar role to what we saw out of DL Hall at the end of last season.

That’s not to say he doesn’t have starter stuff when it comes to his pitching repertoire. Along with the type of fastball you would expect from a 6’5”, 225 lbs pitcher, Denoyer boasts a full complement of offspeed pitches. In a September interview with Glenn Clark Radio, Denoyer credited his success to the development of those offspeed pitches.

“I’ve always had my curveball for the most part… [but] I’ve been working on a slider, trying to throw that in the strike zone early — same thing with the splitter I’ve been throwing. Just trying to set up my curveball for later in the counts and trying to get swings and misses.”—Denoyer on his offspeed offerings

The Orioles’ front office may also be banking on repeating their trick of successfully developing players from the same school when it comes to their plan with Denoyer. Just as fellow new addition to the 40-man Seth Johnson shares an alma mater with Cedric Mullins, Denoyer is not the only former San Joaquin Delta College Mustang in the Orioles organization. Before finishing his amateur career at UNLV, 2022 breakout star Dean Kremer got his start in collegiate ball playing for the Mustangs.

The shared origin is more than just a coincidence for the two young pitchers. Denoyer and Kremer were throwing partners at the alternate site during the pandemic-impacted 2020 season, and now Denoyer will look to emulate Kremer’s career path. While Kremer made his MLB debut during his age-24 season, Denoyer may just be behind him—looking to crack the big leagues in his upcoming age-25 campaign.

In all honesty, Denoyer’s addition to the 40-man may just come down to the fact that the O’s brass wants more time to evaluate the intriguing righty. After back-to-back seasons with a sub-3 ERA and a 10+ K/9 rate, there’s plenty of evidence suggesting that Denoyer has the raw potential to eventually make a meaningful contribution in Baltimore.

Yet, after only throwing 71.2 innings in each of the last two seasons—and only a total of 51.2 innings at the Double-A level—there’s still plenty of unknown about the former undrafted free agent. Had Mike Elias & Co. not added him to the 40-man, they risked losing him to the Rule 5 draft. So instead, they bought a ticket to continue to see where Denoyer’s career track might take him. If Denoyer can get back to the form we saw in 2022 before his injuries, that ticket may very well prove to be worth the investment.

Up next: Joey Ortiz