As Camden Chat’s player projection series comes to a close, we’ll wrap up with the one player who could make perhaps the biggest difference between the 2023 Orioles and the 2022 version. Grayson Rodriguez, the most dominant O’s pitching prospect in years, will finally — barring disaster — make his MLB debut this season, perhaps as early as the opening week, after a cruel twist of fate denied him the opportunity last year.
With all due respect to offseason O’s additions such as Kyle Gibson, Cole Irvin, and Adam Frazier, there’s no other newcomer to the 2023 roster who could swing the Orioles’ fortunes more dramatically. If Rodriguez lives up to the considerable hype, or something close to it, he could help the Birds improve enough over last year’s 83-79 record — which was three games short of the playoffs — to return to the postseason for the first time since 2016.
Rodriguez’s talent is undeniable. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the #7 prospect in baseball and second-best pitching prospect, one spot behind Phillies 19-year-old phenom Andrew Painter, who’s currently sidelined with a UCL sprain. Pipeline praises Rodriguez’s “outstanding four-pitch mix” that includes a blazing fastball and what might be “the best changeup in the Minors.” Since the then-Dan Duquette-led Orioles drafted him out of a Texas high school with the #11 overall pick in 2018, Rodriguez has absolutely torn through the minors, dominating at every level.
Rodriguez began last year at Triple-A Norfolk and was his usual overpowering self, going 5-1 with a 2.09 ERA and 12.86 K/9 in 13 starts. Opponents batted just .168/.224/.254 against him. Rodriguez was likely mere days away from earning a call-up to the Orioles when disaster struck in his June 1 outing. Rodriguez was twirling a shutout in the sixth when he abruptly had to leave the game with the trainers. His injury, diagnosed as a Grade 2 lat strain, required months of recovery and ruined his chances of a promotion. Rodriguez returned in September for some minor league rehab but never made it to the Orioles.
Still, Mike Elias promised at the time that Rodriguez was a good bet to crack the Orioles’ 2023 Opening Day roster, and so far he’s on track to do just that. His major league debut, whenever it occurs, will be appointment viewing for O’s fans. So will all of his outings, for that matter.
- ZiPS: 3.98 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 10.89 K/9 over 103 innings
- Steamer: 3.81 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 9.35 K/9 over 139 innings (both from FanGraphs)
There isn’t a Baseball Reference/Marcel projection for Rodriguez, who has no major league track record to go on, but ZiPS and Steamer each took a stab at it. Although both predict Rodriguez to make exactly 24 starts, they wildly differ as to how many innings he’ll throw, with ZiPS projecting he’ll average just over four innings per start and Steamer projecting nearly six per. Rodriguez’s career high in innings pitched is 103, split between High-A and Double-A in 2021, and last year he was limited to 75.2 because of the injury.
However much he ends up playing, though, the projections agree that he’ll be a pretty good pitcher, striking out more than a batter per inning with a sub-4.00 ERA. Steamer’s projected mark of 3.81 is a good focus point for this exercise.
The case for the over
The big leagues is hard, y’all. Even for someone who was the top pitching prospect in baseball last year (and might still be, depending on who you ask), adjusting to the majors is no easy feat. Rodriguez might not have anything more to prove in the minors, but he certainly has plenty to prove at the highest level. He’s been a little shaky in spring training, giving up five runs, five walks, and seven hits in 7.2 innings thus far, though he’s still assumed to have a spot in the Opening Day rotation. His long-term future is bright, but his rookie year is by no means a lock to finish with an ERA that’s better than last year’s MLB average (3.96).
The case for the under
C’mon. It’s Grayson Rodriguez. He’s the Orioles’ best pitching prospect since...I don’t even know when. If he’s healthy, there’s plenty of reason to think he’ll flash dominant stuff more often than not, even with some speed bumps along the way. A 3.81 ERA is a bar he’s well capable of clearing. Last year’s top Orioles starter, Dean Kremer, posted a 3.23 mark in about the same number of starts (21) as Rodriguez figures to get this year. After so many young O’s pitchers in year past have turned into duds in the majors, isn’t it finally time for the Orioles to have nice things?
What do you think, Camden Chatters? Will Grayson have as immediate an impact in the majors as fellow top prospect Adley Rutschman did last year, or will it take him a little while to get his bearings in the bigs?
Will Grayson Rodriguez go over or under his projected Steamer ERA of 3.81?
This poll is closed