Over the next few weeks, Camden Chat writers will be looking at the projected performance for most of the expected regulars on the Orioles roster. We’ll be sizing up what would have to go right for players to beat the projections, or go wrong for players to fail to live up to them, and polling readers for each player.
Did the Orioles win the Manny Machado trade? There’s only one player from that swap remaining in the organization, and it isn’t the guy that was considered the “centerpiece” back in 2018. After an impressive campaign a year ago, right-handed pitcher Dean Kremer is at least making the deal look a tad rosier in retrospect.
Kremer entered 2022 with plenty to prove. He had to wipe away the bad memory of 2021, a season in which he bounced between Norfolk and Baltimore all summer long and posted a putrid 7.55 ERA and 1.640 WHIP across 53.2 big league innings. And with the organization nearing a developmental turning point, it was likely his final chance to prove whether he was part of the plan or not.
An oblique injury suffered while warming up on Opening Day delayed Kremer’s season debut until June 5, but that had the benefit of a role change. Rather than coming out of the bullpen, which seemed to be the plan in April, Kremer stepped into the rotation amidst an injury crisis for the team.
Kremer’s first start of the year was only so-so (4.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 3 SO), but he took off from there. The righty allowed one earned run in total over his next four starts, spanning 23.2 innings, bounced back from a rocky July (6.94 ERA), and then had a 2.80 ERA/3.60 FIP over his final 12 appearances.
It’s easy enough to make the case that Kremer was the Orioles best pitcher in 2022. His 3.23 ERA, 124 ERA+, and 3.80 FIP were all the best marks on the team among hurlers with at least 100 innings pitched. And no other Orioles pitcher topped his 2.8 bWAR or 1.8 fWAR on the year.
Kremer looked like a different pitcher a season ago, and it’s because he significantly overhauled his approach. He saw a velocity jump across all offerings, and he also switched up his pitch mix: fewer four-seamers, more cutters and changeups, and the introduction of a sinker. Hitters looked off-balance. They chased more and made less hard contract. That is a recipe for success.
The Orioles will need his evolution to continue. While this team has more legitimate rotation options than they have had in some time, few of them offer the immediate upside of Kremer.
- ZiPS: 3.51 ERA, 3.63 FIP, 1.22 WHIP over 136 IP
- Steamer: 4.52 ERA, 4.56 FIP, 1.34 WHIP over 144 IP (both FanGraphs)
- Marcel: 4.04 ERA, 1.291 WHIP over 127 IP (Baseball Reference)
This represents a rather wide range of potential outcomes for Kremer. ZiPs expects the 27-year-old to implant himself as a rotation fixture, largely replicating what he did in 2022 while Steamer is skeptical, projecting a rather dramatic fall. However, each of these would paint the former Dodgers prospect as a serviceable arm that should stabilize an Orioles rotation that still has a few questions to answer.
The case for the over
Let’s be honest with ourselves here. Kremer was far more productive than we expected him to be last year. And his 3.23 ERA was better than his 4.46 xERA, 3.80 FIP, and 4.43 xFIP. He struck out just 6.25 batters per nine innings and had the best home run luck (7.3% home run-to-fly ball rate) of his big league career. And you’re telling me you think he does even better this season?
On top of that, Kremer is the Orioles only starting pitcher slated to take part in the World Baseball Classic next month, and he just might be Team Israel’s ace. That has altered his ramp up period for the season, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But pitching in important games this early in the year carries some obvious additional injury risk with it.
The case for the under
Kremer was a brand new pitcher last year. His fastball had more behind it, the pitch mix was different, and he even introduced a new offering. That should get better with experience and an off-season in the lab. While his strikeouts were down, so were his walks (2.44 walks per nine). This is a guy with newfound control that has shifted from a thrower to a pitcher.
There will be very little traveling for Kremer in the WBC. Any games that Israel plays will take place in Miami, a three-hour drive from Sarasota. And they have been put in a tough group with the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. That’s a nice litmus test for Kremer. If he does well, that’s great. If he struggles, that’s more data to bring back to the Orioles and perfect in the final days of spring.
What do you think? Vote in the poll and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Will Dean Kremer go over or under his ZiPs projected 3.51 ERA in 2023?
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