As the New Year approaches, the Baltimore Orioles are still without any notable pitching acquisitions. Is it time to panic?
The Baltimore Orioles expressed great interest in acquiring a hard tossing lefty reliever entering the MLB Winter Meetings.
About a month later, and the Orioles are still in search of that game-changing reliever. As a result, Birdland grows angry and realize most Orioles trade rumors don’t come to fruition.
Unfortunately, the injury to Zach Britton has taken the power sinker pitcher to the disabled list. Worst case scenario, Britton doesn’t return until Aug. 2018.
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Given these circumstances, the Orioles will have to find a way to piece together an already excellent bullpen without its star. Most noteworthy, the Orioles bullpen considers somehow success each season.
In 2017 when Darren O’day and Zach Britton battled injuries, Miguel Castro and Richard Bleier emerged as consistent pieces along with moving Mychal Givens into the set-up role and Brad Brach as the closer.
The Britton injury opens the door for power lefty relievers to make a case to join the 25 man roster. Here are two prospects that are very intriguing.
Baltimore Orioles Pitching Prospect Chris Lee
The 25-year-old pitcher Chris Lee was added to the 40 man roster before the start of the 2016 season to be protected from the Rule 5 draft. During the 2016 season, he was excelling at Bowie with a 2.98 ERA in eight starts despite only having 19 strikeouts over 51 and 1/3 innings.
Lee seemed he was destined to make a start in Baltimore that year before suffering an injury that keeps him out for the rest of the year. The Orioles were aggressive in their promotion of players and sent Chris Lee to Triple-A Norfolk after an injury year and had very inconsistent results.
While Lee’s ERA was in the six range the entire year as a starter, Lee spent his final six appearances as a reliever where he excelled in generating a 1.77 ERA over 20 and 1/3 innings along with 16 strikeouts in August. Considering Lee had been coming back from injury along with adding 20 pounds of muscle over the off-season, a bounce-back year from Lee could be in effect.
Additionally, the lefty has been mentioned by Buck as having a lefty fastball comparable to Britton and the ability to generate ground balls. Lee, while challenging to view as a starter, still provides solid depth as a reliever. Lee, when healthy, is able to sit in the 92-95 mph range and can go a few tick higher in shorter stints.
Given that he has one more year on the 40 man roster before he must be added to the 25 man roster, this would be an opportunity to see what he really has.
Baltimore Orioles Lefty Tanner Scott
Tanner Scott is a gifted power throwing lefty that easily touches triple digits with his fastball. At Double-A Bowie, he was able to work on a regimented schedule of throwing three innings as a starter and focus on developing the slider which is now considered an MLB average grade.
In 24 starts at Bowie totaling 69 innings, Scott had a 2.22 ERA with 87 strikeouts. Along with that high 11.3 K/9 innings, he also had 46 walks in that span for a 6 BB/9 innings.
The fastball-slider combo is one that was put on notice in both the 2017 MLB Futures Game and him 2017 Arizona Fall League All-Star Game.
In both games, he was able to strike out Ronald Acuna, whom many consider as the overall number one prospect in the game. While those are only two at-bats, Scott has improved a lot in 2017 to the point where he was called up to make his MLB debut. Scott will have to battle consistency with fastball command and solidifying his secondary pitches.
The Orioles have considered working Scott as a starter, but to be effective, he must refine his change-up to make strides. Lastly, he’s a natural talent hoping to be unleashed in 2018.