The Orioles did not receive the production they anticipated from Jack Flaherty or Shintaro Fujinami down the stretch. Mike Elias swung and missed during his first trade deadline as a buyer, but the front office made several impressive deals during the final stages of the rebuild.
Baltimore acquired Chayce McDermott in the same deal that brought Seth Johnson into the organization. The Orioles elected to move on from Trey Mancini and received a pair of pitchers in return. Mancini won a World Series with the Astros in 2022, but the first baseman fell off in a big way this past season.
Johnson worked his way back to the mound and pitched 10.1 innings after recovering from Tommy John surgery. Now healthy, Johnson hopes to enjoy the type of season McDermott experienced in 2023.
McDermott posted a 3.10 ERA and a 1.151 WHIP between Bowie and Norfolk. The Orioles rewarded the 25-year-old with the Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year award.
McDermott began the year at Bowie after making six appearances for the Baysox in 2022. He showed a mid-to-high 90s fastball and an impressive slider while posting a two-to-one (88/44) strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Baltimore promoted McDermott and Coby Mayo to Norfolk in July. While many pitchers initially struggle against increased competition, McDermott took things to another level. He posted a a 2.49 ERA and 1.007 WHIP for the remainder of the season.
McDermott won back-to-back International League Pitcher of the Week awards on July 30 and August 6. He limited opponents to only two runs while striking out 27 batters across four starts from July 27 to August 15.
McDermott consistently retired batters without allowing them to put the ball in play. The Ball State product posted 152 strikeouts compared to 68 walks. He limited righties to a .154/.298/.248 line, while lefties slashed .180/.279/.313 against the right-handed starter.
McDermott definitely earned the award as the top pitcher in the system, but the honor has not always led future success. McDermott joined Ryan Watson, Mike Baumann, Keegan Akin and Zac Lowther as recent winners. For what it’s worth, Grayson Rodriguez clinched at least a share of the award on two separate occasions. Hopefully McDermott and Rodriguez represent the cream of the crop moving forward
Speaking of starters worth emulating, McDermott would love to follow in Kyle Bradish’s footsteps. McDermott, Baltimore’s 10th ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, occupies the same spot that Bradish held before the 2022 season.
The Orioles acquired Bradish in the Dylan Bundy deal, and the 27-year-old just delivered one of the best seasons by a Baltimore starter in recent memory. There’s no need to set the bar that high right now, but McDermott possesses quality stuff if he’s able to locate it.
This is where the “but” comes in. McDermott averaged 5.8 walks per nine innings at Bowie and 4.3 at Norfolk. His swing-and-miss arsenal allowed him to work around the free passes, but the trend cannot continue at the big league level.
Control issues could lead to an extended stay in Norfolk. The Orioles will require McDermott to drop the walks before taking the ball at Camden Yards. McDermott could debut as a reliever. He’s capable of providing length, and the high strikeout numbers could prove valuable.
It would be disappointing if McDermott never made his way into the rotation. McDermott, Johnson and Cade Povich represent the top three pitching prospects in the system, and it’s unclear if DL Hall will ever join the rotation.
Will McDermott make it onto the 2024 Orioles? Yes, but not necessarily as a starter. The Orioles should begin the season with more than five rotation candidates.
Baltimore’s willingness to use McDermott in relief could indicate how highly they view the former fourth-round pick. If the Birds truly believe in McDermott as a starter, they may keep him in Norfolk’s rotation until a spot opens up in Baltimore.
2023 prospect reviews: Alex Pham/Trace Bright, Billy Cook/John Rhodes, International Prospects, Carter Baumler/Seth Johnson, Creed Willems, Justin Armbruester, Max Wagner, Jud Fabian, Mac Horvath, Cade Povich
Tuesday: Dylan Beavers