The long wait is finally over. On Tuesday, February 13, 2018, the pitchers and catchers of the Baltimore Orioles will report to Spring Training.
As many may know by now, the Orioles have three open spots open in their starting rotation. Penciled into the rotation are starters Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy. Behind them are a few unproven youngsters (right-handed pitcher Miguel Castro and the left-handed Nestor Cortes) and a few familiar faces who have made spot starts (left-handed pitcher Jayson Aquino, right-handed pitchers Mike Wright, Alec Asher and Gabriel Ynoa).
Castro is an interesting candidate for Baltimore, as he was originally starter when coming up through the Toronto Blue Jays organization. However, he has pitched the majority of his young Major League career as a reliever. Last season, Castro had his best season as a Major League pitcher, making 39 appearances, pitching to a 3.53 in 66.1 innings. One thing to look out for is the improvement of the 23-year old pitcher. In 2016, batters finished with a .295 average against Castro, in comparison to a .217 average in 2017.
Orioles Rule 5 draftee Cortes (22 years old) isn’t the hardest of throwers, with a fastball usually sitting around 88-90 mph, but he got the job done in the minor leagues. In five minor league seasons in the New York Yankees organization, Cortes has pitched to a 2.08 ERA in 324.1 innings. Cortes was at his best during his stay in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre, pitching to a 1.49 ERA in 48.1 innings.
After a strong spring training, there was a thought that Aquino could have been one of Baltimore’s starters before last season began. However, Aquino had a rough 2017 season, pitching in just 13.1 innings and with an ERA of 7.43 with the Orioles. The 25-year old lefty is a non-roster invitee this Spring Training.
Wright, 28, was one of Baltimore’s top pitching prospects once upon a time. However, he has seen quite a bit of struggle during his time in the Majors, pitching to 5.86 ERA in 144.1 innings. Wright was used strictly as a reliever in 2017 with Baltimore, but it didn’t aid his ERA much (5.76). His strikeout per nine innings rate went up considerably (10.1 from 6.0 in 2016). This could be the last opportunity that he gets to right the ship.
Asher was used as both a starter and reliever in 2017, pitching to a 5.25 ERA in 60.0 innings pitched. Chances are the 26-year old righty will be a swingman, especially if Baltimore adds another starting pitcher.
Ynoa had a 2017 season in which he pitched to a 6.75 ERA in 34.2 innings pitch. On paper, it doesn’t look to promising, but he did have a 4.31 FIP. The 24-year old will get more opportunities to start and that could give him a chance to find his groove. With Ynoa being out of minor league options, he must figure things out this year.
Baltimore could also look to add starters in Spring Training like Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn or Andrew Cashner. The Orioles have also shown interest in acquiring right-handers Collin McHugh and Jake Odorizzi, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
“The Baltimore Orioles, who currently count right-handers Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy as their only reliable starters, remain in the mix for a variety of starting pitchers in free agency and trade, including Odorizzi and possibly McHugh,” wrote Rosenthal.
Both pitchers are currently under club control for two more seasons and it could make sense for Baltimore to add either one. McHugh, 30, made 12 starts in 2017, pitching to a 3.55 ERA with the world champion Houston Astros. His ERA projects well in his FIP (3.82 in 2017), which means that Baltimore, who is set to adjust their infield, could still have a solid starter in their ranks, despite the changes in their defense.
McHugh had a posterior impingement in his right elbow, but returned in July. Most likely, he would be Houston’s sixth starter, but having depth could cause the Astros to hold onto his services, even though they have Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander in his place.
Odorizzi, 27, had a down year in 2017, pitching to a 4.14 ERA with the Tampa Bay Rays. Despite that being the case, his ERA would’ve been the lowest among Baltimore’s starters, with Bundy finishing with a 4.24 ERA and Gausman finishing with a 4.68 ERA. He could be part of Tampa Bay’s seemingly yearly cost-cutting moves.
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