With the 2016 season finished, there's no better time than the present to take stock of the Orioles' organizational depth at every position around the diamond.

We have broken down every position individually and separated the players all through the system into three categories: who was the man there this year, who else was in the picture, and who is working through the minors to join them. The last installment deals with a present and future strength for the Orioles — relief pitching.


The men: This season, like so many prior, perhaps the most successful and widely respected aspect of the Orioles was their relief corps. For the second straight year, they boasted a pair of All-Stars. Closer Zach Britton was an All-Star the second straight season and Brad Brach took over for the injured Darren O'Day as the team's primary setup man.

As a team, the Orioles led the American League with a 3.40 ERA from their relievers, and ranked third overall in the majors.

Britton had an historic season, converting all 47 of his save opportunities while posting a 0.54 ERA, even if he didn't pitch in the extra-inning wild-card loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. Brach finished the season 10-4 with a 2.05 ERA in a team-high 71 appearances, and saw his responsibilities grow significantly as O'Day dealt with hamstring and shoulder injuries that limited him to 34 appearances.

Also ascending in 2016 was rookie Mychal Givens, who built on a strong debut in 2015 to strike out 96 in 74 2/3 innings with a 3.13 ERA in 66 appearances. Givens was as good against right-handers as fellow rookie Donnie Hart was against left-handers. Early season struggles for Brian Matusz meant the team was without a left-handed specialist for most of the year, cycling through the likes of Ashur Tolliver, T.J. McFarland and Brian Duensing before settling on Hart. The 26-year-old allowed five hits in 44 plate appearances by lefties and allowed one run in 18 1/3 innings overall.

Primarily in a long-relief role, Vance Worley quietly had a strong year, posting a 3.20 ERA out of the bullpen and averaging over two innings per relief appearance.

The alternatives: Those six became the fixtures, but plenty of arms came through the bullpen as the season went on — probably too many to list. Overall, the Orioles used 23 relievers, so for these purposes we'll highlight a select few.

Down the stretch, both Tommy Hunter and Oliver Drake became crucial parts of the bullpen, though they really only had a September sample size to work off this year. Hunter, the former longtime Orioles reliever, rejoined the team after his release by the Cleveland Indians in late August and had a 2.19 ERA in 12 appearances. Drake, who was up for part of 2015 and early in 2016 with limited success, allowed two earned runs over 12 1/3 innings over his last 10 outings.

The future: The last two winners of the Orioles' Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year awards — Hart and Givens — were relievers, a sign of the value the club puts on developing its own bullpen assets. Some in the organization take more pride in that fact than others, but every level features some impressive relief arms who could come up to the big league bullpen before long.

Pedro Beato (2.65 ERA in 65 appearances for Triple-A Norfolk) and Jason Stoffel (2.44 ERA in 55 appearances for Norfolk and Double-A Bowie) led Orioles minor leaguers in appearances. They were two of a handful of mainstays on a pitching staff that was put into flux by the major league team's needs all season.

In terms of upside, the closest wave of relief pitching can be found in the Arizona Fall League. Hard-throwing left-hander Tanner Scott, he of the high-90s fastball, had a 4.76 ERA in 64 1/3 innings with 81 strikeouts and 57 walks for High-A Frederick and Bowie. Another fireballer, 21-year-old Jesus Liranzo, had a 1.87 ERA in 27 appearances between Low-A Delmarva and Bowie.

Also joining them in the Fall League from the Baysox are Jimmy Yacabonis (2.64 ERA in 50 appearances between Bowie and Frederick) and Stefan Crichton (3.73 ERA in 48 appearances for Bowie).

Below them in the system is the wave of relievers that comprised so much of the team's 2015 draft class, including left-hander Garrett Cleavinger and right-hander Ryan Meisinger. Cleavinger, a third-round pick, struck out 102 batters in 76 1/3 innings between Delmarva and Frederick, while Meisinger, an 11th-round pick, had a 1.57 ERA with 94 strikeouts and 21 walks in 74 2/3 innings for the same two affiliates.

The skinny: There were times this year when a string of short starts contributed to a worn-out Orioles bullpen over the course of the season. But when this unit was at full strength, it was among the best in the game.

The good news is that the whole bunch will be back in 2016, though arbitration raises will make Britton, Brach and Worley more expensive. On top of that, the team will maintain a good bit of flexibility in the bullpen as Hart and Givens have options. The team won't often find itself to be lacking fresh arms.


Of course, all of this discounts the fact that the Orioles' season ended with a set of head-scratching relief decisions by manager Buck Showalter, who didn't use Britton at all in that wild-card game. But no matter how the relievers are deployed, the depth and quality of the Orioles bullpen will be a strength for years to come.


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