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.
How he arrived: Waiver claim from Minnesota Twins 5/25/22
Who left: Alexander Wells transferred to 60-day injured list (left elbow inflammation) 5/25/22
Since Mike Elias has become the general manager of the Orioles, he has been raiding the waiver wire for other teams’ castoffs regularly. While the O’s are bad, there is opportunity to polish off a player someone else gave up on. Out of the 42 players who have appeared in a game up to this point for the 2022 Orioles, nine were waiver claims. That sounds like a lot because it is a lot, but it’s also half as many waiver claims as appeared for the 2021 team.
As someone who is professionally obligated to be aware of Orioles roster moves in case they become consequential later, I have seen a lot of these waiver claims. You can pretty much always see immediately why a player’s previous team got rid of him, and most of the time it’s not hard to tell why the Orioles want him. I say most of the time because sometimes it is a mystery.
The most recent Orioles waiver claim, 25-year-old right-handed pitcher Chris Vallimont, is one of these mysteries. While pitching for Minnesota’s Double-A affiliate in Wichita this season, Vallimont walked 23 batters in only 19 innings. A lot of guys with bad walk rates have rolled through the Orioles in recent years and that number still makes my jaw hit the floor. Wichita was not much better for Vallimont last year, as he issued 61 free passes in 91 innings there.
Unlike another waiver claim who rolled through earlier this season - Logan Allen, who was gone within two weeks - Vallimont is not a player who had any top prospect stock earlier in his time in the minors. He did, at least, merit enough notice to be included in a trade. Originally drafted by the Marlins, Vallimont was traded to the Twins in a 2019 deal that also sent veteran reliever Sergio Romo to Minnesota, with the Marlins receiving thus far non-hitting first base prospect Lewin Díaz.
Before the canceled minor league seasons of 2020, there was a much different narrative around Vallimont than just, “He walks too many dudes.” The former fifth round pick was working on a fine first full pro season at the time he was traded, especially considering he was selected out of a small, Division II program, Mercyhurst. He struck out 80 batters in 69.1 innings at Low-A before earning a promotion to High-A, where he struck out 42 in 36 innings, then another 28 batters in 22.1 innings after being traded and assigned to the Twins High-A team.
Though his walk rate has been horrible in the aftermath of that lost 2020 season, it wasn’t so bad in that 2019 season. He finished that season with a 2.9 BB/9. That’s a guy who’s worth listing in with a team’s third-tier pitching prospects, and that’s just about where Vallimont ranked. Prior to the 2021 season, FanGraphs rated him 18th in the Twins system, in the 40 FV tier of prospect, saying this:
He has a fastball with traits teams covet with increasing frequency. He only sits 89-93 and tops out at 95, but his arm angle and ability to really backspin the fastball creates big life on the pitch, enabling him to beat hitters at the top of the zone.
The 6’5” Vallimont having this trait to his fastball is probably why the Orioles put in a waiver claim on him even in spite of all of those walks. It’s probably also why the Twins added him to their 40-man roster last winter to protect him from the Rule 5 draft that never ended up happening. Maybe the Orioles think they can make some tweaks to get him back closer to what he was before. If that progress is slow, they might be able to pass him through waivers to keep working on him without taking up a 40-man roster spot.
The Orioles may want the roster spot sooner rather than later, with the way they’ve had to burn through relievers in recent days. They already know Vallimont got past the teams with worse records than them, and the odds of another claim would only seem to decrease the higher up the standings you go. Vallimont has yet to appear in a game for Double-A Bowie, where the Orioles assigned him after winning the waiver claim. It is hard to believe he might be a candidate for one of these “We really need a reliever, so we’re calling up this guy for a few days” stints.
Other Orioles pitchers who were in the same 40 FV tier as Vallimont before this season: Kyle Brnovich (out for the year, Tommy John surgery), Carter Baumler (just returning from TJ), Mike Baumann (bad ERA in Norfolk and Baltimore), and Jean Pinto (injured list). You don’t want to count on filling out an entire future rotation from this kind of pitcher, but collect enough of them and you can hope you might get a back-end starter and/or a decent reliever out of the bunch.
Elias’s early Orioles drafts have been very light on pitching in the high rounds. His first Orioles draft in 2019 did not have a pitcher selected until the eighth round. They picked one pitcher (Baumler) in the truncated five-round 2020 draft, and only one pitcher in the first ten rounds last year. In trades and sometimes also on waiver claims like this one, he likes to collect the kind of mid-round pitching talent he has not been drafting.
Until now, every player who has been added to the Orioles 40-man roster during the 2022 season has appeared in a game for the team. That’s a total of eleven players. I have a feeling Vallimont may break this streak.
Still to come: Cody Sedlock