The Orioles hold the best farm system in baseball, but it’s no secret that their top youngsters swing the bat. Grayson Rodriguez, DL Hall, and Kyle Bradish have all graduated, and Baltimore has declined to pursue pitching at the top of the MLB draft.
Chayce McDermott and Cade Povich have generated some buzz, but the duo do not move the needle like Rodriguez and Hall. Both could end up contributing, but the Orioles hope a pair of recently-recovered right handers can help boost their pitching depth moving forward.
Carter Baumler and Seth Johnson both made their way back to the mound at the end of 2023. Neither pitched enough to warrant an honest assessment, but both players hold the raw talent to call for optimism in the future.
The Orioles ponied up to select Baumler in the fifth round of the 2020 draft. The Iowa native underwent Tommy John surgery that fall and did not pitch professionally in 2021. Baumler struck out 20 batters over 11.2 innings at Delmarva in 2022, but he experienced significant shoulder inflammation that forced him back to the sidelines.
Baumler underwent shoulder surgery prior to the 2023 season and missed significant time for the third consecutive season. He made four appearances in the Florida Coast League before closing the season with the Shorebirds.
With Baumler finally healthy, the Orioles turned to the Arizona Fall League to provide some extra work for the young righty. The 21-year-old has struck out 15 batters in 10 innings of work with the Mesa Solar Sox.
Baumler recently referred to the AFL as a good opportunity to stack some more innings against quality prospects. MLB Pipeline’s Jonathan Mayo praised Baumler’s resilience in a feature story earlier this week.
The next step for Baumler includes simply staying on the field. The Orioles would love to see the righty consistently work in A-ball for the majority of 2024.
The Orioles made the difficult choice to trade Trey Mancini at the trade deadline in 2022. While it stung to see Mancini go, Baltimore has a chance to significantly benefit from the three-team deal that led to Johnson and McDermott joining the organization.
Both teams knew Johnson needed Tommy John before the deal took place. The Rays, short on 40-man roster spots, did not anticipate protecting Johnson in the Rule 5 draft that winter. The Orioles, still in a rebuild, jumped at the opportunity.
Johnson underwent successful surgery and missed all of 2022. The converted shortstop returned to the FCL, made a quick stop at Delmarva, tossed 4.1 innings for Aberdeen and closed the year with one start for the Baysox. He struck out 14 and walked five batters over 10.1 innings.
“We view him, and the industry has viewed at times, as a Top-100 talent,” Mike Elias said after the Birds landed Johnson in the deal. Johnson will return to Bowie with an opportunity to regain Top-100 status.
At 25 years old, Johnson could earn a relatively quick bump to Norfolk if he pitches well. The Orioles believe Johnson can take a real step forward and force his way into the rotation conversation by 2025.
Johnson holds a fastball that has touched 98 MPH, and he has received high marks for his slider. The righty will need his curveball or changeup to spike if he hopes to make a positive impact as a starter.
Will either of these guys be on the 2024 Orioles? Highly unlikely. Baumler will not debut next year. Johnson holds a spot on the 40-man roster, but it would take a special blend of health and performance to garner a September call up in 2024.
Tomorrow: Creed Willems