At the major league level the Baltimore Orioles starting rotation has been a hot mess to start the season. With the exception of Dylan Bundy and, on occasion Kevin Gausman, the starters have struggled in Baltimore so far. Free agent signings Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner have not yet settled in.
While the big league club has started off slowly, there is hope on the farm. Especially at the lower levels. The Delmarva Shorebirds of the South Atlantic League have a rotation full of promising arms that should be on the radar of both the Orioles and dynasty league owners. After three turns through the rotation the Shorebirds pitchers have looked dominant. All seven names featured below were in the top 30 of my preseason Orioles Top 50 prospects. Some of these pitchers will surely climb higher when the list is updated.
Leading the way is lefty Zac Lowther. He was ranked 11th on the preseason list and has frankly looked dominant so far. Through three starts he has a 0.56 ERA and has struck out 31 batters in 16 innings. The 2nd rounder from last June’s draft has blown away hitters at the Low-A level, earning the Pitcher of the Week award. As an experienced college arm who is destroying his level, a promotion to Frederick in the Carolina League could be coming in the near future. Dynasty league owners should look to roster Lowther now, as he will be a fast riser on prospect lists.
Also showing promise early on is 2017 first rounder DL Hall, who ranked 5th on our preseason list. The 19-year-old was drafted 21st out of high school last year and was considered one of the best lefties available in the draft. He had an abbreviated debut in the Gulf Coast League last season and is innings are still being monitored at this point in the season. He has started 3 games for the Shorebirds, but has only logged 8 innings. This is by design as the Orioles are trying to build up his innings. Though his appearances have been brief, Hall is showing the promise that made him so highly thought of as an amateur. His ERA sits at 1.13. He has struck out 6 batters but has also issued 6 walks. As he builds up stamina and gets his control in check, Hall should improve on these numbers. He continues to be an interesting follow for dynasty purposes.
So far this season Hall has been used in a piggyback system with Gray Fenter. While Fenter isn’t starting, he is entering games after Hall exits and is pitching 3 innings per game. The Orioles are clearly trying to build up his arm strength as he comes back from Tommy John surgery. Finally healthy, the 2015 draft pick is finally delivering on his promise. In 9 innings, spanning 3 appearances, Fenter has struck out 12 batters while only giving up 2 walks. Fenter was 26th on our list preseason and could move up with more innings and evidence of health.
Another starter off to a scalding start is Michael Baumann, number 14 on the preseason list. Like Lowther, Baumann is posting absurd strikeout rates early on. The 2017 3rd rounder has punched out 24 batters in 16 innings during his 3 starts. Baumann is out of Jacksonville University in Florida, the same small college as Orioles top prospect Austin Hays. The birds may have found a pipeline to talent in the Florida school. Baumann had a great debut in Aberdeen and has carried it forward early on in full season ball.
Cameron Bishop, our 16th ranked Oriole prospect, is also showing early promise for the Shorebirds. Through 3 starts he has 1.89 ERA and has struck out nearly a batter per inning. Bishop was a late round, overslot bonus, who slid in the draft as a result of injury concerns. He missed his entire Junior year, but the Orioles had confidence that he would regain his health and form. The Orioles paid up for his services and so far he has rewarded them.
Two other names to keep in mind in the Shorebird’s rotation are Brenan Hanifee and Matthias Dietz. They were both in the 20’s in our preseason ranks, and while they are not off to the blazing starts that the pitchers listed above are off to, they are more than holding their own. Hanifee is making his full season debut and putting up respectable numbers and has not been overwhelmed by the situation. Dietz was a 2nd round pick in 2016 who is repeating the early part of the year in Delmarva. He struggled a bit last season, but has already shown in improvement in 2018, striking out more than a batter per inning. He needs to get the walks under control, but he is still a name to remember.
Article featured image of Zac Lowther – courtesy of Joey Gardner/FotoJoe Photography via MiLB.com