In acquiring three high-minors pitchers for All-Star closer Zach Britton in a trade Tuesday night with the New York Yankees, Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette continued to seek prospects who have shown a track record of success and might be able to contribute sooner rather than later as he rids the Orioles of their veteran pending free agents.
Pitchers Dillon Tate, Cody Carroll and Josh Rogers come from the Yankees’ stacked farm system and, like the five-player haul from the Los Angeles Dodgers last week for star shortstop Manny Machado, fill in some obvious gaps in the Orioles’ farm system.
Tate is a former top draft pick with high-end stuff but plenty of runway left to put it together. Carroll can be an impact power arm in the back of the bullpen, something the Orioles’ once-vaunted relief corps doesn’t exactly have on the horizon. Rogers is a left-handed starter who is knocking on the major league door.
Here’s what the Orioles got in their trade for Britton, their longest-tenured player.
Right-hander Dillon Tate
The fourth overall pick of the Texas Rangers in 2015, the Yankees acquired Tate two summers ago in a deal that sent Carlos Beltrán to the Rangers the following year. Tate didn’t do much with the Rangers, but took major steps forward with the Yankees organization, pitching well down the stretch in 2016 and posting a 2.81 ERA with 63 strikeouts and a 1.14 WHIP in 83 1/3 innings in 2017.
This year at Double-A Trenton, Tate has continued that success, with a 3.38 ERA and 75 strikeouts against 25 walks with a 1.11 WHIP in 82 2/3 innings for the Thunder.
Tate, an athletic 6-foot-2 right-hander, works off a mid-90s fastball that tops out at 97 mph, complemented by a slider and changeup. While each pitch shows plus potential, he needs to make strides with his consistency to remain a starter.
That Tate is relatively young pitching-wise — he was a reliever until his junior year at UC Santa Barbara and will pass his career high in professional innings once he makes his first start for an Orioles affiliate — can be both a knock and a credit to him.
On one hand, he’s still not as polished as might be expected for a 24-year-old Double-A pitcher in his third full professional season. But there’s plenty of room for him to develop, and in an Orioles system where starters are at a premium, he’ll get every chance to continue his development in an environment in which plenty of attention will come his way.
What’s become clear to evaluators since his last trade is that the capability to improve is there. The Yankees improved his delivery to help keep him more consistent, and while one rival scout said the fastball can get a little flat at times, his slider and changeup are good pitches.
Tate continues the Orioles’ trend of adding potential high-impact pitching to a farm system that has plenty of high-floor talent, but could use some lottery tickets. Like many before him in the Orioles system, he’ll get ample opportunity to develop as a starter, continuing at Double-A Bowie. It won’t be much of a transition — he was already an Eastern League All-Star this year.
Considering his big fastball, it’s fair to say the Orioles have at least a major league reliever in Tate. He’ll need to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, so adding him in September to take a look and get him a taste of the major leagues isn’t out of the question.
Tate was No. 6 in Baseball America’s midseason organizational rankings for the Yankees, and was No. 9 according to MLBPipeline.com.
Right-hander Cody Carroll
A 22nd-round pick in 2015, Carroll is a right-handed reliever with eye-popping velocity out of a 6-foot-5 frame who has worked in the back-end of the bullpen for the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate at Scranton/Wilkes Barre. Working with a high-90s fastball that has touched 100 mph, Carroll has taken a step forward with his command over the past two seasons and has started to miss bats along with it.
In 67 1/3 innings last year between High-A Tampa and Trenton, Carroll struck out 89 against 30 walks with a 2.54 ERA. This year in the International League, he’s struck out 55 against 18 walks in 41 2/3 innings with a 2.38 ERA and nine saves in 12 chances.
Carroll uses a slider and split-fingered fastball to work off his fastball, with the former a power pitch that’s a weapon against right-handers and grades out as the better of the two. Like so many relievers at that level, his success rides on whether he can command the ball effectively. That was a problem at Southern Mississippi in college, but was something the Yankees worked hard to iron out.
In terms of a more familiar comparison, Carroll seems like a right-handed Tanner Scott with a little more polish. He’s got the big fastball and the wipeout slider, but they’re only effective when he commands them. That said, in both he and Zach Pop from the Dodgers, the Orioles have some velocity in the high minors bullpens that wasn’t there a week ago. Mix in Branden Kline and Luis Gonzalez, and they could be featuring quite a different look late in games going forward.
Carroll snuck into the Yankees’ top 30 in Baseball America’s offseason rankings, and was up to No. 15 in MLBPipeline.com’s rankings at the time of the trade. He’ll be Rule 5 draft eligible this offseason.
Left-hander Josh Rogers
A left-hander who was 20-years-old and a draft-eligible sophomore when he was an 11th-round pick in 2015 when the Yankees signed him, Rogers moved quickly to make it to Triple-A by the age of 23. By comparison, the Orioles’ Triple-A rotation doesn’t feature a single pitcher that young.
He’s gotten that far with a skillset the Orioles are quite familiar with at the lower levels — a pitchability left-hander who knows what he’s doing on the mound and gets outs without premium stuff. Rogers works with a fastball that has topped out around 91 mph, and a slider, curveball and changeup. He’s been able to throw the slider for swinging strikes in the zone this season after adding the pitch as a pro and using it to great success.
His forte has always been his command, both as a starter at Louisville and since joining the Yankees’ ranks, even if his 2.39 walks per nine innings this year are a career high. He has a 3.95 ERA in 18 starts, and has been a little uneven of late, but the Orioles’ front office clearly likes this type of pitcher. His inclusion shouldn’t come as any surprise — they’ve liked pitchability left-handers like Richard Bleier and Nestor Cortes Jr. in the Yankees organization before, albeit with vastly different results.
There are several pitchers elsewhere in the system with that tag, too. Keegan Akin has graduated from it a bit with a recent uptick in velocity, but Zac Lowther and Alex Wells, both top-20 prospects in the Orioles’ system, have found plenty of success and become organizational darlings with similar arsenals.
Such pitchers need to be very fine to make it work in the majors. The Orioles saw quickly with Cortes that mistakes without premium stuff in the big leagues doesn’t work. Rogers will need to improve against right-handers, but he is a lefty-on-lefty weapon at the moment, who, like Tate, will get a chance to continue his work as a starter.
As another 2015 college draftee, Rogers is Rule 5 eligible this offseason. Considering his track record and his profile, the Orioles are liable to have picked him if they didn’t trade for him.