No. 9 prospect Baumann 'ready to go' for '21

January 19th, 2021

Asked recently about the strides he’s made over the past two-plus years, said he wanted to give Chris Holt “100 percent of the credit.” Surely, some deference is at play in this response. Surely, some truth comes caked in it, too.

Holt was in his second year as the Orioles' Minor League pitching coordinator in 2019, when Baumann -- then two years removed from being drafted in the third round -- enjoyed a jump at Double-A Bowie that turned him from something of a dark-horse prospect to one of the O’s system’s most exciting arms. In his third start at Bowie, Baumann fired a 94-pitch, 10-strikeout no-hitter. His strikeouts increased and his walks decreased, mirroring trends seen across Baltimore's entire farm system that season. By year’s end, Baumann was crowned the organization’s co-pitcher of the year with No. 2 prospect Grayson Rodriguez.

“He’s been phenomenal,” Baumann said of Holt, speaking recently at this year’s virtual MLB/MLBPA Rookie Program. “I love working with him. He’s there for anyone, too. He’s been a huge part of my development.”

Flash forward two years, and Baumann and Holt appear poised for a reunion. That’s entirely by design. After giving Holt full purview of the organization’s Minor League pitching instruction from 2018-20, the O’s added Major League pitching coach to his director of pitching title for ’21 -- the idea being that he’ll be in the dugout in uniform when a second wave of exciting pitching prospects reaches the Majors alongside him and already-arrived righty Dean Kremer and lefties Keegan Akin and Bruce Zimmermann.

Baumann, the club’s No. 9 prospect per MLB Pipeline, is the early headliner of this group, which also includes No. 11 Zac Lowther and No. 19 Alexander Wells.

“Seeing [Kremer and Akin debut in 2020] was encouraging,” Baumann said. “It gave guys hope, like, 'Hey, we’re almost there, with the potential to be in their position.'”

Many evaluators believe Baumann has a higher ceiling than all of them, given his 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame, strong performance and two plus pitches, including a fastball that flirts with triple digits and a wipeout slider**.** He finished his 13-game apprenticeship in the Eastern League with a 2.31 ERA and a 0.943 WHIP in 70 innings, success that set him up to open 2020 at Triple-A before the pandemic struck. Instead, Baumann spent the summer at the club’s alternate training site before being shut down with a right flexor strain in August. The injury did not require surgery, and it shouldn’t affect his status for '21.

“I’m ready to go,” Baumann said. “Everything has been running smoothly. The medical staff in Baltimore was really on top of things and been working with me step-by-step through he process. We’re on track, and everything is feeling good.”

The lack of Triple-A innings makes Baumann a long shot to make the Orioles out of Spring Training, his first big league camp after being curiously omitted last spring. But a midseason promotion is far from out of the question. It is likely, though there is no telling who among he, Lowther and Wells might arrive first.

For an Orioles team still rebuilding and planning to audition all of them in 2021, the timing is largely perfunctory. More important is how these young arms signal the chance that their rebuild could soon turn a corner.

“For me, the best part about last summer was being able to learn from the older guys who had time in The Show,” Baumann said. “They were great mentors and were really helpful. That was the beauty of the alternate site: You had guys learning from each other and pushing each other. I think everyone got better because of it.”