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Know Your Orioles 40-man: Austin Voth

The latest Orioles waiver claim had a 10.13 ERA in 19 games this season. That’s... uh, that’s a big ERA.

Washington Nationals v New York Mets
It’s often a bad sign when the most recent available picture of a pitcher is “A guy is doing his home run trot in the background.”
Photo by Mike Stobe/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.

How he arrived: Waiver claim from Washington Nationals 6/7/22

Who left: Cody Sedlock designated for assignment 6/7/22

In recent years, Orioles fans have become accustomed to having a horrible bullpen overall. The 2021 season was one more example of this, with O’s relievers finishing with a worst-in-MLB ERA of 5.70, more than half a run worse than the next-worst team. There has been a constant churn from trying to find players who can consistently get outs, or occasionally just desperately seeking a guy who can pitch a couple of innings on a day where everyone else is tired.

Were this still the case, the recent Orioles waiver claim of 29-year-old pitcher Austin Voth might make a bit more sense. Voth, arriving here after being DFA’d by the Nationals because he’d posted a 10.13 ERA in 19 games so far this season and a 5.70 ERA across parts of four big league seasons, is about as much of an emergency just in case guy as you can imagine.

Before getting DFA’d by the Nationals, Voth was a pitcher in their system for a long time, having been drafted out of the University of Washington in the fifth round back in 2013. He eventually debuted in 2018 and has pitched for the Nats in every season since.

One big difference that makes this addition a bit of a head-scratcher is that the Orioles bullpen, so far this year, is not terrible any more. They entered Wednesday’s action with a fifth-best-in-MLB 3.11 ERA from their relievers. The only active reliever with an unsightly ERA is Bryan Baker, and even he has an acceptable FIP of 3.01.

Where the Orioles have not had a lot of stability so far in the 2022 season is in the last guy in the bullpen kind of role, who is most often used, or attempted to be used, for multiple innings in a blowout and then optioned soon after for a fresh arm. Pitchers in this group already for the 2022 Orioles: Mike Baumann, Zac Lowther, Denyi Reyes, Sedlock (DFA’d for Voth), and Beau Sulser.

None of them are active on the MLB roster right now. Voth can squeeze in for however long the Orioles want him to. It seems like that might be the role they have in mind for him. Manager Brandon Hyde said before Tuesday’s game in response to the waiver claim:

It’s a guy that’s given innings out of the ‘pen in his career, spot started at times, been a starter. You’re always looking for starting pitching right now, and we’ll bring him here and see what he can do, and hopefully he can give us some length out of the bullpen to start off with.

“Some length out of the bullpen” is what they wanted from the above group, with Reyes also managing a spot start. Some provided it better than others. Unlike those gentlemen named above, Voth does not have any minor league options remaining. That’s because he’s about to turn 30, is in his fourth MLB season, and has been an up-and-down kind of guy for the past few years.

If Voth stinks and the Orioles swiftly dump him - remember that teams must currently limit themselves to 13 rostered pitchers on June 19 - they can’t send him to Norfolk without passing him through waivers. This is probably not a huge concern for them. They already know teams worse than them have passed on Voth once, and if they lose him to someone else, it’s not like they’ve invested much time or energy into him.

As far as why Voth in particular rather than any of the others of the plethora of pitchers that get dumped onto the waiver wire, the answer is probably in what’s red on his Statcast page. Red in this context is good. Fastball spin is 84th percentile, curveball spin is 96th. Teams these days are always going to want to try to polish high spin rate guys when they have an opportunity to do so.

While there’s a lot of blue (bad) on this particular page, Voth’s rate stats are OK: You can live with striking out about a batter per inning, with a strikeout/walk ratio of exactly 3. The Orioles will perhaps be hoping that Voth was kind of a hard luck case with an absurdly high .455 BABIP. If his batted ball luck was bad (rather than fueled by poor pitching) and it’s due to turn around, the O’s might benefit from taking a flyer at the right time.

Or, Voth will get torched in his first appearance and be DFA’d again within days so the Orioles can try out another fresh reliever. Sedlock only got the one game before getting DFA’d. He probably won’t be the last pitcher we see this year to fit that category.

Still to come: That’s it, for now