For much of Mike Elias’ tenure, the Orioles’ best two pitching prospects were drafted by the previous regime.
Since taking over as Baltimore’s general manager in November 2018, Elias’ front office built the sport’s best farm system, but that was mostly because of elite position player prospects such as Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson and Jackson Holliday. Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall, pitchers selected by the Orioles in the first round of the two drafts before Elias took over, have headlined Baltimore’s crop of pitching prospects for several years, including entering the 2023 season inside Baseball America’s top 100 list.
Now, both Rodriguez and Hall are in the major leagues. Rodriguez has graduated from prospect status and emerged this summer as one of the Orioles’ best starters, while Hall has battled through an up-and-down 2023 to join Baltimore as a reliever for the stretch run.
With the two talented arms both no longer in the minor leagues, the focus shifts to the rest of the top pitchers on the farm — a group that contains players taken in the draft, signed as international free agents and acquired in trades. Here’s a look at the rest of the pitching prospects inside the Orioles’ top 30 list, according to Baseball America.
Triple-A Norfolk left-hander Cade Povich (No. 10): When Hall graduates from prospect status, whether that occurs at the end of 2023 or sometime in 2024, it’s likely Povich will become the Orioles’ top pitching prospect. He doesn’t have the same pedigree as his predecessors, but he’s displayed his upside throughout his minor league career with a 31.6% career strikeout rate. The 23-year-old posted solid numbers with Double-A Bowie to earn his promotion to Norfolk in July, but he’s struggled at the new level with a 7.29 ERA in 21 innings across five starts. However, he bounced back Tuesday from allowing nine runs in 1 2/3 innings in his previous start by throwing six innings of one-run ball. Povich was one of four pitchers the Orioles acquired from the Minnesota Twins last summer for All-Star closer Jorge López.
Triple-A Norfolk right-hander Chayce McDermott (No. 13): As Povich struggled to adjust to Triple-A, McDermott handled it with aplomb. After posting a 3.56 ERA with a 30.7% strikeout rate in Double-A, the 25-year-old has been even better at the higher level. In his first 38 2/3 innings with the Tides, McDermott has a 2.79 ERA and is striking out 31.7% of batters. In 107 innings this year, he’s allowed just 65 hits — good for a rate of 5.5 per nine innings. McDermott was one of two pitching prospects the Orioles received in the three-team trade that sent Trey Mancini to the Houston Astros last summer.
Triple-A right-hander Justin Armbruester (No. 14): Armbruester also joined Norfolk this summer, and he’s perhaps been more consistent than Povich and McDermott. In 96 1/3 innings between Double- and Triple-A, the 2021 12th-round pick has a 2.90 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. The 24-year-old is actually striking out more batters since joining the Tides, totaling 41 punchouts in 34 1/3 innings — just two fewer than he did in 62 frames with the Baysox. Armbruester pitched five scoreless innings, surrendering just one hit while striking out six, on Wednesday.
2023 second-round right-hander Jackson Baumeister (No. 15): Baumeister has yet to make his professional debut, but he is still ranked highly among Baltimore’s crop of pitchers after he became the highest-drafted pitcher of the Elias era at No. 63 overall in the Competitive Balance Round B. The 21-year-old struck out over 30% of opposing hitters at Florida State and cut his walk rate significantly this spring.
Double-A Bowie right-hander Alex Pham (No. 16): Pham has been one of the biggest risers in the Orioles’ system this year. The 2021 19th-round pick wasn’t ranked inside the organization’s top 30 entering the season, but he’s shot up the list and is now the club’s sixth-best pitching prospect thanks to his excellent performance. Pham pitched to a 2.45 ERA with a whopping 36.7% strikeout rate with High-A Aberdeen before earning a promotion to Double-A. His strikeout rate has fallen significantly, but the 23-year-old still has a sparkling ERA of 2.63 and a 0.98 WHIP.
Low-A Delmarva right-hander Seth Johnson (No. 19): In addition to McDermott, the Orioles also got back Johnson in the Mancini deal. The 24-year-old was a well-regarded pitching prospect to open the 2022 season, but he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow and underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction last August. He returned to the mound earlier this month, pitching a scoreless inning for the Orioles’ Florida Complex League team and then two more clean frames for the Shorebirds as he progresses through his rehabilitation assignment.
Triple-A Norfolk right-hander Noah Denoyer (No. 22): Denoyer shined at every level he pitched in 2021 and 2022, seeing his stock rise after going undrafted in 2019. He struck out 69 batters in 51 2/3 innings with a 0.79 WHIP in Double-A last year and was added to the Orioles’ 40-man roster in the offseason. But the 25-year-old has struggled this year with a 5.61 ERA and 1.71 WHIP for Norfolk. Denoyer was designated for assignment in June when the Orioles needed a spot on the 40-man roster. He is currently on the 7-day injured list.
High-A Aberdeen right-hander Juan Nuñez (No. 25): Like Pham, Nuñez also wasn’t inside the Orioles’ top 30 in the offseason, but he jumped into it after thriving in his first year of full-season ball. The 22-year-old struck out 31.2% of batters with Delmarva to earn his promotion to High-A. Nuñez, whom the Orioles acquired in the López deal, has a 4.91 ERA in 36 2/3 innings since joining the IronBirds.
Low-A Delmarva right-hander Kiefer Lord (No. 26): If the Orioles hadn’t drafted Baumeister on Day 1 of the 2023 draft, Lord would have been the highest pitcher to be selected and signed by the organization since Elias took over. The 6-foot-5 right-hander is a former Division III pitcher who drastically improved his velocity and transferred to Division I Washington for his junior season. He pitched two scoreless innings for the Orioles’ FCL club in his professional debut two weeks ago. Lord is now on the 7-day IL.
Low-A Delmarva left-hander Luis De León (No. 27): After excelling in the FCL, De León was promoted to Delmarva and has performed even better against Low-A competition. The 20-year-old has a 0.82 ERA in 22 innings with 26 strikeouts across seven appearances. De León, whom the Orioles signed out of the Dominican Republic in December 2021, hasn’t allowed a run in his past 10 innings.
Double-A Bowie right-hander Trace Bright (No. 29): Bright was promoted to Double-A last week and pitched four scoreless innings in his first appearance. The 22-year-old has been one of the best swing-and-miss pitchers in the Orioles’ minor league system with a 34.9% strikeout rate in 82 2/3 innings with Aberdeen. Baltimore selected Bright in the fifth round of the 2022 draft.
Triple-A corner infielder Coby Mayo, the Orioles’ No. 3 prospect, went 6-for-21 with two home runs and eight RBIs last week for perhaps his best one since joining the Tides in mid-July. Outfield prospects Dylan Beavers (8-for-19) and Jud Fabian (two home runs, five walks) stood out for Bowie, while 2023 draftees Mac Horvath (three doubles, one home run) and Matthew Etzel (6-for-17, three stolen bases) shined for Delmarva.
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