BIRDS HOUSE: A look at Orioles’ pitching prospects

Written by on February 13, 2013 in Orioles, Sports - No comments

As if the excitement of watching the Baltimore Ravens win the Super Bowl wasn’t enough, this week the Orioles pitchers and catchers will report to Spring Training.

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The O’s reached the playoffs for the first time since 1997 last year, and will return with many of the same pitchers.

Before we get into the pitchers, let’s talk about their catchers.

Matt Wieters will be behind the plate again for Baltimore in 2013. Wieters had a great 2012 season as he set career highs in home runs with 23 and runs batted in with 83.  Wieters made his second consecutive All Star appearance and also won his second consecutive Gold Glove. Backing him up will be Taylor Teagarden, who also backed him up nicely in 2012.

As for the starting rotation, it could be a toss up, but I would figure Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, and Miguel Gonzalez will have a spot. As for the other two openings, that could come down between Chris Tillman, Steve Johnson, Brian Matusz, and Jake Arrieta.

Chen was the pitching Triple Crown winner for Baltimore in 2012 as he led the O’s in wins with 12, ERA with a 4.02 mark, and strikeouts with 154. Hammel had a great year as well, going 8-6 with a 3.43 ERA. Due to injuries, however, he only pitched in 20 games. Gonzalez pitched very well for the O’s, going 9-4 in 15 starts with a 3.25 ERA.

Tillman, who had been somewhat of a bust over the past two previous seasons, might have turned the corner. Tillman went 9-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 15 starts for Baltimore.  Brian Matusz was a bit shaky as a starter, but pitched very well out of the bullpen.

Speaking of their bullpen, Jim Johnson is still the man for the ninth after he led all of baseball and set an Orioles’ record with 51 saves in 2012. Bridging the gap to Johnson will be Pedro Strop and Darren O’Day who both had great seasons in 2012.

Other arms in the bullpen will be Luis Ayala, Troy Patton, Tommy Hunter, Zach Britton, and potentially Dylan Bundy. Hunter and Britton might also have a chance to make the starting rotation, but will most likely start off in the bullpen. Recent news just came out that former reliever Kevin Gregg will not be in Baltimore this year as he signed a minor league deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Bundy will be an interesting decision, and it will be fun to watch how he performs. The hard-throwing, 20-year-old right hander was the fourth overall selection in the 2011 draft, and pitched exceptionally well during the 2012 season. During his time in the minors with Delmarva, he went 1-0 in eight starts and did not allow a run while striking out 40 hitters in 30 innings and walking only two. He would then go 6-3 at single A Frederick with a 2.84 ERA, striking out 66 hitters in 57 innings of work. While with AA Bowie, Bundy went 2-0 with a 3.24 ERA. All minor league action combined, Bundy went 9-3 with a 2.08 ERA and struck out 119 hitters in 103 and two-thirds innings.  While on the Orioles, Bundy only pitched one and two-thirds innings, but did not allow a run. Before the 2012 season, Bundy was ranked as the 10th best prospect by Baseball America. My guess is he will start the year in AAA as he is only 20 years old, but crazier things have happened.

One noticeable loss in the rotation will be Joe Saunders, who late last week signed a deal with the Seattle Mariners. Saunders came over late last year to the O’s, and in seven regular season starts went 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA and was very instrumental in Baltimore’s playoff success, as he helped pitch them into the ALDS by defeating the Texas Rangers in the wild-card game.

Overall, their rotation and bullpen don’t seem to be all that flashy, but they weren’t exactly flashy last year as they improved their 2011 MLB worst ERA of 4.89 by posting a 3.90 ERA in 2012. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what the 2013 season brings.

by Andy Mindzak
birds@baltimoreguide.com

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