Assessing the Orioles' starting pitching depth additions from December

While a Manny Machado trade didn't materialize to net the Orioles the major league-caliber starting pitching they require and crave, their offseason has yielded some arms who could fit that mold.

With the return of Jayson Aquino on Friday, the Orioles' pitching haul in December includes a number of players whose prospects for the 2018 season will be much-analyzed in spring training, though exactly how much the club needs them once the games start to count will be the true measure of each man's worth to them.


None of the pitchers jump out as the type who will be making 30 starts, but there's something about each that at least warrants another look.

Michael Kelly


The Orioles tucked the signing of Kelly, 25, into the final day of the winter meetings, giving the former San Diego Padres first-round draft pick a big league contract despite his status as a six-year minor league free agent. Kelly posted a 2.95 ERA in 24 starts at the Double-A level, and the Orioles are hoping getting him out of Triple-A El Paso and the offense-friendly Pacific Coast League can bring him success at that level — and the majors soon thereafter.

If he can keep his strikeout rate up around a batter per inning, as it was this season, and reduce his walk totals, there's a chance the right-hander could make that next step for an Orioles team that will likely desperately need it.

Jayson Aquino

Aquino, 25, will be difficult to get on the major league roster at all, given his lack of minor league options and his inability to pitch effectively out of the bullpen, owed to the fact that he pitches off his changeup and needs time to set up hitters, which relieving doesn't afford.

But the right-hander’s two starts in an Orioles uniform have been a bit tantalizing, with a win in April against the Boston Red Sox and a solid performance in a July loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. Aquino needs to be particularly fine to be effective, but when he's on, he keeps the ball on the ground and works quickly. Circumstances might conspire to make it difficult for him to get a proper major league chance, but he could take one and run with it if he gets it.

Nestor Cortes

The first of the Orioles' three Rule 5 draft picks, Cortes has the type of resume and skill set that makes it easy to see why the Orioles convinced themselves to take a flier on him and pluck him from the New York Yankees roster. Without premium fastball velocity but with a very effective curveball, Cortes used a four-pitch mix — and even varied his timing and arm slot — to post a 2.06 ERA this year between High-A Tampa, Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

While he's been a fly-ball pitcher for most of his career, Cortes gave up just four home runs in all of 2017. On FanGraphs, their KATOH minor league projection system has Cortes posting 2.9 wins above replacement in his first six major league seasons, which would make the 23-year-old left-hander more productive than all the other Orioles Rule 5 picks since 2012 combined.


Asher Wojciechowski

At age 29 and with 11 major league starts to his name, the former first-round pick has the most big league starting experience, but hasn't had much success. In 30 major league appearances, he has a 6.64 ERA, including a 6.50 ERA for the Cincinnati Reds last season. Wojciechowski’s big league rate stats show a good strikeout pitcher who gets hit hard when he doesn't miss bats. Opponents have a .347 BABIP off him, and he's allowed 1.8 home runs per nine innings. Still, the raw stuff is there for the Orioles to possibly mold something useful. That he's out of minor league options will make it difficult to get a long look at him if he doesn't have success early, though.

Christian Binford

A former Futures Game participant and top-10 prospect for the Kansas City Royals, Binford saw his success in the low minors not translate at the higher levels over the past few years. He made his fourth crack at Double-A Northwest Arkansas this year and posted a 1.99 ERA, but had a 7.24 ERA in Triple-A. Like everyone else on this list, Binford, 25, doesn't have a premium fastball but thrives on command and mixing his pitches. That's a difficult recipe to use to earn a rotation spot out of spring training or be effective in the Orioles' sometimes-frenetic shuffling of pitchers.

Tim Melville

Melville, 28, has worked as a starter at the Triple-A level for the last three seasons and had some success there, but in the majors in 2016 and 2017, he struggled some. While his big fastball might be better suited for the bullpen, the Orioles will likely use him as starting depth considering how thin the Triple-A rotation is. That he's posted a lifetime 4.07 ERA at Triple-A doesn't make it a travesty that he hasn't had the opportunity to pitch as a starter in the majors, but he could benefit from one shot to do that before it's too late. Despite his major league experience, the Orioles will value the fact that he has two options.