Top prospects in O's pitching plans?

December 17th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Jake Rill’s Orioles Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

BALTIMORE -- A crowded rotation mix is likely to get more congested for the Orioles this offseason. They’re in pursuit of a big league-caliber starting pitcher, a goal that general manager Mike Elias first stated at the GM Meetings in November and then reiterated at the Winter Meetings earlier this month.

Whomever Baltimore acquires will join a rotation picture that already features four pitchers who made at least 20 starts for the O’s in 2023 -- right-handers Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer, Grayson Rodriguez and Tyler Wells. There’s also lefties John Means (now healthy after missing most of ‘23 while recovering from Tommy John surgery), Cole Irvin and DL Hall.

It seems likely a new starter would slot into the rotation alongside Bradish, Means and Rodriguez, with Kremer, Wells and Hall left to battle it out for the fifth spot in Spring Training. The other two could then join Irvin in the bullpen and serve as starting depth.

How about and ? When could the Orioles’ top two pitching prospects also be viewed as viable big league rotation candidates?

Maybe not quite yet.

“Our plan with McDermott and Povich is hopefully we can bring enough in on the Major League side to where we can prioritize their development,” Elias said at the Winter Meetings. “They both got to Triple-A [Norfolk], but I don’t think their work there is done, at least from what we’ve seen so far.”

With plenty of solid big league starting options, Baltimore has the luxury of not rushing the top arms on its farm. McDermott and Povich likely have bright futures ahead of them -- as they’ve shown in the Minors -- but both just completed their first full season in the O’s system after being acquired at the 2022 Trade Deadline.

McDermott (the Orioles’ No. 10 prospect per MLB Pipeline) came over from Houston in the Trey Mancini trade. The 25-year-old right-hander had a 3.56 ERA in 16 games (14 starts) for Double-A Bowie this year, then reached Triple-A for the first time and recorded a 2.49 ERA in 10 outings (eight starts).

“I think people overlook sometimes that getting traded is very hard,” McDermott said in September, when he was named Baltimore’s 2023 Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

“I feel like it was a super smooth transition. It was super easy, I loved everyone in the Orioles’ organization, and they’ve been super helpful to my career.”

Povich (Baltimore’s No. 11 prospect) was one of the four pitchers acquired from Minnesota in the Jorge López trade.

After impressing in his first big league camp last Spring Training, the 23-year-old left-hander had a 4.87 ERA in 18 Double-A starts and a 5.36 ERA in his first 10-start stint in Triple-A. He racked up strikeouts, though, fanning 171 in 126 2/3 innings.

Last spring, Povich stated his intentions of reaching the Majors as quickly as possible. McDermott has those plans, too.

“I mean, I think that’s always the end goal,” McDermott said. “Obviously, it’s not up to me, so that’s a question for some other people. But for me, I think I’m right there on the brink.”

It’s up to the O's, and because of that, both McDermott and Povich will open the 2024 season in the Minors (barring any unforeseen circumstances or injury situations).

However, either could force his way into the picture later this year, as a team’s rotation landscape is always changing and evolving.

For now, Elias is eager for two of the organization’s most promising young pitchers to continue working with a staff that includes vice president of player development and domestic scouting Matt Blood, director of pitching Chris Holt, Minor League pitching coordinator Mitch Plassmeyer and others.

“We have slowly and quietly and steadily built out a really first-rate pitching department,” Elias said. “We’ve got the lab. We’ve got all the resources of a large-market team, as it pertains to pitching development. We’ve got the wherewithals of whoever you want to name.”