Grayson Rodriguez was cruising through his 2022 season.
His strikeouts were growing at a rapid rate, his control seemed to be where it needed to be and his innings were being stretched out to make an impact on the big league club in the coming weeks.
Then, everything changed in a matter of moments, as the next great phenom left after 5.2 innings with some discomfort. The collective front office and fan base of the Baltimore Orioles held their breath and thought the worst.
Well, the worst wasn’t what was dealt, but the cards shown weren’t much better. Rodriguez would be lost for most, if not all, of 2022 with a grade two right lat strain. It looks like MLB’s No. 3 prospect would have to wait one more year to blow away big league hitters.
Two years straight, the Orioles have watched as a top pitching prospect has been shut down for the year (In 2021, D.L. Hall was shut down with elbow discomfort). This is the top minor league system in baseball, so surely Rodriguez isn’t the only prospect making noise this year.
Today, we will look into who the Orioles have waiting in the wings. With the recent struggles of rookie Kyle Bradish and second-year man Bruce Zimmermann, fans are clamoring as to who is next and what does the stable have waiting in the wings.
D.L. Hall – LHP
Of course, you can’t look after Grayson without stopping on the next flame thrower, who has been moving step by step with Rodriguez through the system.
Though he started the season rehabbing before making it up to Triple-A Norfolk, Hall is the next big thing coming to a mound near you.
Hall has pitched in nine games this season, collecting a 1-3 record. He has only pitched 34.0 innings, as the O’s are building him up from the elbow situation last season.
Currently, opponents are hitting just .195 against Hall, and he has a 55 to 17 strikeout to walk ratio. Hall has also surrendered 24 hits across his nine starts.
The goal for Hall right now is to start stretching him out for longer starts. He has hit five innings only once so far in 2022, so he will need to start working deeper into games and continue to improve on his control.
Hall is the lead candidate to be the next big pitcher behind Rodriguez and possibly make a late 2022 appearance or two for the club.
Kevin Smith – LHP
Forgotten in the shuffle of Adley Rutschman making his way to the big league club and Rodriguez making noise before his injury, Kevin Smith has been another young phenom as the Orioles’ No.18 prospect.
The crafty lefty is another one of those hidden gems the Orioles’ brass acquired in the 2020 trade that sent Miguel Castro to the New York Mets.
Standing at 6-foot-5, Smith is a big presence on the mound. He has an average fastball and slider, with an improving changeup that could be his goal to becoming a back end starter.
He dominated in Double-A Bowie in 2021 but struggled with control and the home run ball when promoted to Triple-A Norfolk.
This year, Smith has pitched in a swingman role across 10 games, six of which were starts. Though he has an 0-3 record, his ERA is at 3.60 across 30 innings of work.
The biggest thing Smith is still struggling with are walks, as he has issued 22 free passes. He has improved on keeping the ball in the yard, as he has only yielded four home runs this season (In 2021 across 56.1 innings, Smith allowed 14 home runs).
Smith will need to work on cutting back on his walks. His size allows for deception, and without an over powering fastball, his pitchability will be what determines his ceiling and floor.
Mike Baumann – RHP
Baumann has already tasted big league action for the Birds as a bullpen arm (four games in 2021 and six games in 2022), but the big righty still slots in as the Orioles’ No. 13 prospect.
At 6-foot-4, Baumann is another imposing figure on the mound for the Orioles. His fastball can touch 98-99 mph but sits more consistently in the mid 90s, with an average curve and improving changeup.
Baumann’s biggest issue is walks. Because of his long arm action, it causes him to be up in zone and sometimes lose command. He has the tools to be a starter but also can slot in as a swingman and strong bullpen arm.
For the season, Baumann struggled out of the bullpen in his six appearances. Collecting a 1-2 record and working 11 innings, walks and hits allowed are what plagued him.
Baumann walked six batters and allowed 11 hits, giving way to 17 base runners, which contributed to his 4.91 ERA before being sent back to the minors.
Though he will get the work and ability to tweak mechanics, base runners are plaguing him during his current stop in Norfolk.
Baumann has allowed 28 base runners (19 hits, nine walks) across 16.1 innings of work. His ERA currently stands at 7.71 in nine games, though he currently has not started a game for Norfolk.
The Orioles’ will tweak his mechanics and simplify his delivery to help work on the command issues and prepare him for the opportunity to start. His stuff will give him the chance, but will he seize the opportunity?
Drew Rom – LHP
The Orioles’ farm system seems to be a haven for left-handed pitchers. With John Means, Keegan Akin and Bruce Zimmermann coming up through the system already, Drew Rom becomes the next lefty to keep an eye out for behind Hall.
Rom was a 2018 fourth-round pick by the Orioles. Quickly making a name for himself, Rom has risen to Double-A ball with his crafty pitching and athleticism.
He doesn’t overpower batters, but he uses different arm angles and off-speed pitches. His fastball has improved in velocity but still sits in the low 90s. He counters his fastball with a slurve and a changeup that appears more like a split finger.
He is tall and lanky, which suggests some room for growth that will increase his velocity but has already worked his way into being the O’s No. 17 prospect.
Rom has a 2-1 record across eight games this season, holding a 4.15 ERA. He has pitched 30.1 innings, totaling 36 strikeouts against eight walks on the season.
Though Rom is projected to debut in 2024, his improvement could escalate that and force the Orioles’ brass to reconsider that timeline.
Of course, baseball is a business, and anything can happen at any given time. The one thing the Orioles have going for them is a young and budding minor league system that keeps improving with new talent.
These four pitchers offer depth to an already talented rotation, but also provides options when players like John Means and Grayson Rodriguez are lost for extended time due to injury.
Which one of these pitchers becomes the next best arm to turn heads? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to follow The Baltimore Battery on Facebook and Twitter! And make sure to use the hashtag #baltimorebattery when sharing our content to show your Birdland swag!
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