Baltimore Orioles

An interesting Orioles reliever is projected to have the best year of anyone in their bullpen: Tanner Scott

As spring training creeps closer for the Orioles, projections from some of the most reliable outlets are starting to trickle out — and one in particular is worth noting.

The Orioles bullpen has been a maligned group for a while now, but of last year’s bunch, the expectation is mainstays like Mychal Givens and Richard Bleier are going to bounce back from uneven 2019 seasons while the likes of Hunter Harvey and Paul Fry deliver consistently in the back-end as well.


The best projection of the bunch, however, belongs to one of the most tantalizing on the team: left-hander Tanner Scott.

FanGraphs’ ZIPS projections, which came out Friday for the Orioles, have Scott making a huge step forward in 2020 with a 3.78 ERA and 3.51 FIP — both the best for the Orioles’ pitching staff. (Fielding-independent pitching calculates ERA based on factors a pitcher can control — home runs, walks, and strikes).


Compared with the years when Orioles relievers like Zack Britton, Brad Brach, Darren O’Day and even Givens were locks for sub-3.00 ERAs and All-Star consideration each summer, a season like that wouldn’t measure up. But for Scott, whose promise is evident thanks to his high-90s fastball and wipeout slider, the results haven’t always been there in the majors.

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Scott made two appearances in September 2017 when he made his major league debut, then had a 5.40 ERA with a 3.40 FIP in 53 appearances in 2018 before he spent more time at Triple-A Norfolk than in Baltimore in 2019.

Scott had a 2.98 ERA and a career-low 2.98 walks per nine innings in 45⅓ innings at Norfolk in 2019, but had a 4.78 ERA with 6.49 walks per nine in the majors.

That hasn’t dimmed the organization’s hopes for him. Manager Brandon Hyde said in spring training that Scott had “lights-out, left-handed, back-end stuff” when he pitched in the strike zone, and repeated some variation of that all year.

At last month’s winter meetings, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said Scott has two “vicious pitches” and has the capabilities to be a “monster reliever” — again with the caveat that he throws strikes.

His slider has become a true weapon that hitters have to respect when his fastball is in the zone, though it’s been hittable for how hard he throws it. Perhaps because of the command he showed in the minors in 2018 and the strikeout profile he’s always had in the majors, ZIPS projects him to figure it all out this year, or at least take a significant step toward that.

(The projection does note that Scott is a high-variance one, with more models on the high or low end than in the middle, so it’s possible the improvements don’t happen as well.)

Who knows what a full year of Harvey will add to an Orioles bullpen, or whether pitchers who were big parts of the relief corps last year like Fry and Shawn Armstrong can constantly be at their best the way they were for stretches of 2019. But adding a few more reliable arms to Givens and Bleier in the back end could make Orioles games more palatable in 2020. Scott pitching to this particular projection would be a big factor in that as well.