This article is part of the Know Your Orioles 40-man series, which features an article about each of the 38 players currently on the Orioles roster. There will be one every weekday until we run out of players.
Note: On 4/3/22, the Orioles traded Tanner Scott to the Marlins. He is no longer on the Orioles 40-man roster.
There is perhaps not a more frustrating member of the Orioles’ 40-man roster than Tanner Scott. The 27-year-old possesses a fastball that can flirt with triple digits and a slider that often devastates opposing hitters. Even better, he’s left-handed, and following a standout 2020 season he finally seemed to be on his way to reaching his sky high potential.
Instead, Scott struggled last summer. His ERA ballooned to 5.17 on the season. The gains he made in the control department—long a criticism of his game—were almost entirely wiped out. He went from walking 4.35 batters per nine innings in 2020 to issuing 6.17 free passes per nine in 2021.
The strikeouts continued to rack up, and his velocity actually took a slight step forward. But he often looked lost on the mound, seemingly with no ability to place his pitches around the plate. Too often his fastball was either left in the middle of the plate or nowhere near the strike zone. This led to over-usage of his slider, an offering with elite upside but when used as a crutch can be exposed.
Injuries certainly played a role. Scott was placed on the IL twice late in the season with a left knee strain. Between July 21 and September 11 (Scott’s final outing of the year), the southpaw allowed 20 earned runs over 16.2 innings while walking 10 and striking out 17. During that stretch alone, his ERA on the season jumped from 2.65 to its final 5.17.
It’s impossible to know if Scott was hurt for that entire stretch, and it is a big enough portion of the season that you cannot simply wave it away because it is inconvenient. We should note that it does not seem like his injury or poor performance is directly related to the crackdown on “sticky stuff” across MLB. Those restrictions had been in place for a month or so before Scott’s season went downhill.
Whatever the case, the poor stretch came at exactly the wrong time for Mike Elias and the Orioles front office. Scott, along with Paul Fry, was at the center of trade discussions the team was having near the end of July. Elias seemed ready to exploit what was a lack of available left-handed relievers with the Phillies being the team most interested. But it didn’t happen, and Scott went on the IL the day after the trade deadline passed.
Had there been a normal off-season this winter, Scott likely would have generated more trade buzz. Despite his struggles, lefties with that kind of velocity are simply not easy to come by. Now that the league is back open for business it is entirely possibly that teams start to ask for him again. But there is also a lot to get done before the season opens in just a few weeks, so it’s unlikely to be a priority at this moment.
End-of-season prediction: As long as Scott is on the Orioles roster I would expect him to pitch in close games, whenever possible. But he has never been Brandon Hyde’s preferred closer, and that doesn’t appear likely to change anytime soon. Even still, it should give the lefty enough of an opportunity to prove that he is healthy and ready to pitch in big spots once again.
Provided that Scott returns to a reasonable level of performance in that role and the Orioles are once again noncompetitive in the standings, he would be an easy player to move in a trade, and teams always need relief help. The expanded playoff field should mean even more suitors for Scott’s services. He will get dealt this time, and it might as well be to the Phillies as they were interested just a few months ago.
Previously: Félix Bautista, Logan Gillaspie, Isaac Mattson, Cionel Pérez, Bryan Baker, Rougned Odor, Joey Krehbiel, Tyler Nevin, Kyle Bradish, Rylan Bannon, Yusniel Díaz, Kelvin Gutiérrez, Kevin Smith, Terrin Vavra, D.L. Hall, Jahmai Jones, Bruce Zimmermann, Mike Baumann, Ryan McKenna, Dean Kremer, Keegan Akin, Jorge López, Ramón Urías, Dillon Tate, Paul Fry, Zac Lowther, Alexander Wells, Cole Sulser, Jorge Mateo
Monday: DJ Stewart