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Know Your Orioles 40-man: Travis Lakins Sr.

The early 2022 Orioles trend of guys who were bad last year showing back up is not great.

Baltimore Orioles v Houston Astros
How I feel about the return of Travis Lakins Sr.
Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Over the offseason, Camden Chat published an article about each member of the Orioles 40-man roster. During the 2022 season, we will update on new arrivals after they make it to the roster.

When he arrived: Outrighted from 40-man 10/14/21, remained in organization, contract selected from Norfolk 4/15/22

Who left: Kevin Smith outrighted 4/15/22

Less than two weeks into the 2022 season, the Orioles have already summoned three different pitchers to the MLB team who were removed from the 40-man roster last year after not pitching very well. This might be the most disheartening thing about the roster for me so far. When players who are placeholder guys, who have never been part of an imagined better future by Orioles fans, keep getting chances, it is hard to feel like the rebuild project is moving forward.

Travis Lakins Sr. is one of these three guys. My feeling about him was not positively impacted by his third chance at a first impression. It is not a good sign when a pitcher manages to rack up a 36.00 ERA before I even have an opportunity to write one of these posts about him.

Lakins took the loss on Saturday night against the Yankees when he was brought on after the rain/hail delay led to the Orioles choosing not to bring planned multi-inning reliever Mike Baumann back to the mound. Lakins faced eight batters. Six reached base. He gave up four runs by himself plus one more that he inherited. It was a gigantic dump of an outing. If your reaction was like mine to his return to the roster - “This freaking guy again?” - Lakins did nothing to change your mind.

This is now the third season where Lakins has pitched for the Orioles. Originally drafted by the Red Sox in the sixth round of the 2015 draft, Lakins made his debut for Boston in 2019, posting a 3.86 ERA across 23.1 innings. The righty was sent to the Cubs for a player to be named later in January 2020; the Cubs didn’t want him that bad after all and waived him before the month ended. The Orioles put in a claim and were awarded Lakins, if indeed this can be said to be an award.

Setting the tone for his tenure, Lakins gave up two runs in two innings as the Orioles were blown out by the Red Sox in the delayed Opening Day of the shortened 2020 season. Despite this, he did pitch his way to a solid ERA by season’s end. Lakins finished that peculiar season with a 2.81 ERA, having pitched 25.2 innings across 22 games. By ERA, he was one of the three best relievers who spent the full season with the team.

The problem with getting excited about anyone’s 2020 season performance is it was all a small sample size of less than 40% of a typical regular season length. Lakins came away from that season with reasons for his ERA to be eyed suspiciously. His Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) number was 4.01, much less exciting for a reliever.

That’s because Lakins was prone to issuing walks, giving out about a walk every other inning for the season. He finished with a 1.481 WHIP. That’s a lot of baserunners! It is hard for a pitcher to sustain success when giving up that many hits and walks. Sure enough, although Lakins slightly cut his WHIP to 1.429 in 2021, his ERA more than doubled to 5.79 as his strikeout rate shrunk and his already-poor walk rate increased.

Lakins’s 2021 performance was also over only a partial season worth of innings. That’s because he didn’t pitch again after June 29, eventually landing on the 60-day injured list with what turned out to be a stress fracture in his throwing elbow that required season-ending surgery.

The Orioles were done enough with Lakins that they put him on waivers following last season. They weren’t completely done with him in that they kept him around in the organization after he cleared waivers. He was one of 11 non-roster pitchers invited to the shortened spring training in March. Two others, Spenser Watkins and Marcos Diplán, were also on the Orioles last year, removed from the 40-man over the offseason, and have been re-added to the 40-man roster since the season began.

It seems like a bad sign to keep bringing back players that other teams could have had for free (waiver claim) and no one wanted them.

Perhaps the Orioles felt like Lakins’s 2021 performance was impacted by that elbow injury. He maintained a 0.00 ERA last April, though even then he walked five batters in eight innings. Perhaps there’s something about Lakins’s pitching profile where they feel like if a couple of small changes can be made, he’ll be a better pitcher. Or perhaps he’s a sacrificial lamb, back for another stint as a placeholder before some other pitchers the Orioles care about more arrive and displace him.

One thing working in Lakins’s favor is that he does still have a minor league option remaining. The team can send him back to Norfolk without exposing him to waivers for the rest of the season. This creates some flexibility in the bullpen if they want to make use of it. Another possibility is that he will be designated for assignment later today in order to clear a 40-man roster space for whoever is chosen to start tonight’s game against the Athletics, which would make this one of the most pointless Camden Chat articles I’ve ever written.

Still to come: Marcos Diplán