This O's prospect is racking up K's ... and cutting down on walks

April 17th, 2024

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 -- racked up strikeouts while ascending the upper levels of the Orioles’ Minor League system in 2023. However, he also stacked up walks.

Over 126 2/3 innings between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk, Povich had 171 strikeouts, fanning batters at an exceptional pace of 12.2 per nine innings. But he also issued 66 walks, an average of 4.7 per nine. The left-hander especially struggled when he reached Triple-A, posting a 5.36 ERA and 29 walks in 45 1/3 innings over 10 starts.

A change in mindset has helped Povich (Baltimore’s No. 9 prospect, per MLB Pipeline) fare better upon his return to Norfolk to open 2024. Through three starts, the 24-year-old has allowed only two runs in 16 1/3 innings (1.10 ERA) while notching 24 strikeouts and, most importantly, only five walks.

“Last year, I got a little too antsy with trying to chase the strikeouts, and that led to me falling behind early. Although the strikeouts came, the walks also came with them,” Povich said. “This year, the attack is more so to try and make the hitters hit each pitch and kind of just mix it up enough to where we’ve been seeing weak contact.”

And still plenty of strikeouts, too. That’s because Povich has great swing-and-miss stuff across his five-pitch arsenal.

Povich has already induced 35 whiffs this season, including 16 in each of his past two starts (April 7 at Charlotte and Saturday vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre). He’s leaned heavily on his four-seam fastball -- throwing it 44.7% of the time (109 of his 244 pitches) -- but his changeup, sweeper, curveball and cutter have all been sharp, too.

When Povich was traded from the Twins to the Orioles on Aug. 2, 2022 -- one of four pitchers sent to Baltimore in exchange for Jorge López -- his changeup was still a work in progress. It needed refinement in order to play better off his fastball, which sits around 91-92 mph and can get up to 94-95.

Now, Povich’s changeup is his second-most-used offering. It has generated five whiffs, four of which came during the April 7 outing.

“It’s just trying to stay consistent with that [pitch],” said Povich, who was named the International League Pitcher of the Week for April 1-7. “I still have some instances where I’m trying more so to aim it -- babying it in the zone, trying to make it do too much -- rather than just throwing it. So I think just continuing to get the feel for that, continuing to throw more.”

Povich’s other secondary offerings have been producing strong results as well. He’s forced seven whiffs with his sweeper and five apiece with his cutter and curveball.

It’s clear Povich has stuff capable of getting big league hitters out. For him, it’s about continuing to keep the walks down while maintaining a consistent, focused routine. That approach could get him to the Majors as soon as later this year.

“Just going out there and pitching and not making anything seem too big. It’s 60 feet, 6 inches, the same in a stadium as it is in a bullpen or a Little League field. It’s all the same,” Povich said. “I just turned 24, so I’m still pretty young and I’ve continued to grow -- and I know there’s still a lot of growing to be done.”

Here are some additional recent Minor League highlights:

• Double-A Bowie: Tuesday was a milestone day for Samuel Basallo (the O’s No. 2 prospect and MLB Pipeline’s No. 17 overall). The 19-year-old belted his first Double-A homer in a 10-4 win over Altoona, and he also started at first base after making his first eight appearances of the season as the club’s designated hitter while recovering from a right elbow stress fracture.

Basallo, who still isn’t expected to catch until later this month, is hitting .250 (10-for-40).

• High-A Aberdeen: Creed Willems (Baltimore’s No. 29 prospect) is leading the South Atlantic League in home runs after going deep for the fifth time this season in Tuesday’s 3-2 loss at Hudson Valley. The 20-year-old catcher is batting .370 (10-for-27) with 10 RBIs in seven games.

• Single-A Delmarva: Luis De León (O’s No. 17 prospect) has a 2.35 ERA through his first two starts of the season. The 21-year-old left-hander has nine strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings.