With the Orioles set to utilize two sites in Sarasota, Florida, for their spring training workouts between the Ed Smith Stadium complex and Twin Lakes Park across town, the first workout for pitchers and catchers Wednesday will have a unique look.
It will also feature many new faces, with only 17 of the 37 pitchers expected at camp (once the pending signing of Matt Harvey is completed) having pitched for the Orioles in the pandemic-shortened 60-game season.
Such turnover isn’t necessarily unusual. Last year, the Orioles opened camp with only 17 of their 35 pitchers having pitched for them in 2019. But they’re going to have churn at both ends as long as their rebuild is in the bottom-out phase.
That will mean many more pitcher and catcher report days in which participants are introducing themselves and getting used to their new orange and black gear. Some of the pitchers in their position last spring ended up making an impact and still could for years to come.
That’s no different this month. Here’s a breakdown of all the newcomers the Orioles will have on the mounds in Sarasota this week, and where they fit into the short- and long-term mix in the organization.
The guys you’ve definitely heard of
Matt Harvey, Félix Hernández
This month alone, the Orioles have brought in 213 big league wins in the former Cy Young winner Hernández and former All-Star Harvey, each of whom will be in camp on a minor league deal in hopes of extending his career and earning a rotation spot.
Expectations for both pitchers will probably be tempered by their recent struggles in the big leagues, but if the Orioles are able to get any value from them, the trickle-down effect on the rest of the staff could be well worth the million-dollar salaries they’d be paid.
The prospects who might be called up midseason
Michael Baumann, Alexander Wells, Zac Lowther, Isaac Mattson
This quartet of prospects would have spent all of 2020 at Triple-A Norfolk if there was a minor league season, and thus would have been much closer to the big leagues than they are at the moment. Baumann, especially, has the type of premium stuff that would make it hard to keep him in the minors if he had that experience and pitched to his full capacity in spring training.
The reality is that last year’s lost minor league season robbed this group of the type of seasoning the Orioles mandate their prospects get at Triple-A. They might not require a lot; Dean Kremer pitched for a month in Triple-A at the end of 2019 and then spent six weeks at the alternate training site before he made his debut in 2020.
But even if Baumann, Wells and Lowther are meant to be in the Orioles’ rotation later in the season, their spring will likely be a cautious one as they ramp up for a minor league season that could be delayed.
Going from a 60-game season to a 162-game season will make for incredible strain on big league pitching staffs, so having a strong crop of stretched-out arms in reserve is going to be crucial to keep pitchers healthy.
All of these pitchers have extensive minor league starting backgrounds and could end up being bridges to the second half of the season when the aforementioned wave of prospects is ready.
Rogers, acquired in the Zack Britton trade with the New York Yankees, is coming off Tommy John surgery but pitched for the Orioles in 2018 and 2019. Greene, Knight and Wade were minor league free agents who have started in their most recent minor league seasons. Goudeau was a waiver claim who pitched in relief in 2020 but started before that.
Such depth will be vital for the Orioles in 2020, and this group will be full of pitchers jostling to be the first one called upon when the season starts.
Jannis falls into that category too, but primarily throws a knuckleball and thus gets his own category.
Who knows whether he’s one of those rubber-armed knuckleball pitchers who can throw more often than those who have a traditional arsenal. If he is, that could be especially valuable in what could be a grueling season.
The Rule 5 picks
Mac Sceroler, Tyler Wells
Before the Orioles brought back Wade LeBlanc, added Hernández and Harvey and signed several minor league free agents, their first cracks at adding depth this winter were in the Rule 5 draft in Sceroler and Wells.
Sceroler, whose uncle is Orioles broadcaster Ben McDonald, and Wells, a product of the Minnesota Twins system, both face tough odds as Rule 5 picks by virtue of having to be on the major league roster the whole season. Each trained on his own in 2020 for most of the summer and know what’s at stake in spring training, but it’s much more difficult to carry a Rule 5 pitcher than a hitter. The Orioles weren’t shy about that last spring in returning Brandon Bailey and Michael Rucker to their former clubs.
But if the Orioles can find a way to keep one of these pitchers, they’ll be fixtures this year. There won’t be any other choice.
The relief depth
Fernando Abad, Marcos Diplán, Jay Flaa, Eric Hanhold, Dusten Knight, Zach Muckenhirn
The Orioles’ bullpen was a surprising strength in 2020, and there’s a good bit of depth there, but no team has enough relief pitching.
Abad is the veteran of the group, though he’d have to have a pretty stellar spring to supplant lefties Tanner Scott and Paul Fry in the big league bullpen, and Cole Sulser and César Valdez are both effective against lefties as well.
Hanhold was a possible contender to break camp with the team coming out of spring training last year before the shutdown, but somehow didn’t get out of Bowie camp once baseball resumed. Diplán was in camp last spring too, but wasn’t as noticeable.
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Knight is a minor league free agent, while Flaa and Muckenhirn are longtime farmhands who have been extra spring training arms at minor league camp who now have a more formal chance to be part of the mix.