As the new Orioles regime readies itself for the start of the 2019 regular season, one of the most important measuring sticks for the season will be the progression of a plethora of prospects or players that could impact the ballclub in the future. Of course, this is a massive point of emphasis for the new faces of the club: Mike Elias, Brandon Hyde, and Sig Mejdal. To that point, the Astros, who the Orioles may find themselves to be molded after, enjoyed tremendous production from their pitching rotation and bullpen. A major factor of those groups’ success, though, was the sudden progression of arms such as Dallas Keuchal and Collin McHugh. With the brain trust behind those success stories moving to Baltimore, which Orioles pitchers could find similar improvements with the mentality shift and introduction of new technologies and analytics?
1. Brandon Kline
Kline has struggled with injuries over the last few seasons, making him a relatively old pitcher to be in the minor leagues. However, he has an extremely live arm and has flashed immense potential, even if he hasn’t quite put things together enough to regularly crack the big league bullpen. Kline was recently moved down to Norfolk, which suggests that Elias and the analytics crew have a few tweaks to give to him to work on. If Kline is able to make a few adjustments to hone his arm and consistently throw strikes, he has the stuff to turn into a strong back-end contributor.
2. Miguel Castro
I fully expect Castro to be on the Opening Day roster as a long reliever. Although the Orioles did not elect to stretch him out into a starter this Spring, the uncertainty surrounding the 4 and 5 spots in the rotation have led them to discuss using openers, as the Rays did last year. If they do take this route, Castro seems to be the ideal candidate to snag that role, and I feel that he is just a few adjustments away from being a real weapon. Castro’s arm is electric, which is why he has been able to stick on the club for the last few years, but he struggles with control and the long ball. With Brandon Hyde and the pitching staff working with Castro, perhaps we could see a breakout year for the 24-year-old hurler.
3. Pedro Araujo
Araujo is currently one of the more interesting arms in the Orioles’ system because of his status as a Rule-5 project. While we know the Elias regime has no connection to the player, who was selected by Dan Duquette last year, I am a believer that any additions to this farm system are a good thing. The Orioles only have to hold onto Araujo for a few weeks, and he seems to have a decent arsenal of pitches that he simply struggles to consistently control. At the same time, Araujo is just 25 years old, with plenty of time to develop. He’s certainly more of a project than someone like Castro would be, but he could develop into a bullpen piece down the road.
4. Luis Ortiz
This pitcher is a complex guy for the Orioles to work with, as he certainly has the stuff to be a mid-rotation starter, though he has struggled with weight and injury in the past. What I would imagine Elias and the rest of the staff will do is get Ortiz on a health plan to improve his weight and get him in the best shape of his professional career. Once that happens, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ortiz work his way up the ranks and into the rotation for good. We know this guy is talented, or else he wouldn’t have been such a highly-touted return piece for Schoop; now it’s up to Elias to get the most out of him.
5. Chris Lee
Chris Lee was all the rage two years ago — he had the stuff, he just didn’t have the consistency. At that point, he seemed to be an exciting player who would be making waves in either the bullpen or the rotation by 2019. Yet, last year, Lee struggled immensely, significantly lowering his stock in the Orioles’ minor league system. To me, this is the kind of player that would be intriguing for Elias to work with, as he’s shown the ability to flash and make a career for himself. He’s a little older, at 26 years old, but if they moved him into a late relief role his plus fastball could be dangerous.
6. Cody Sedlock
We talked about Sedlock a bit on the podcast a few weeks ago, but this guy really fell off the major league radar after a tough start to his professional career. A former first-round pick, Sedlock has all the talent in the world, which could once again make him very intriguing to Elias. While I don’t know too much about Sedlock as a pitcher, especially what he offers in terms of pitches, I’d have to think that a change of roles or even simply the shift in mindset that comes with a new regime could swing things back in the right direction for the 23-year-old righty.