Orioles Think Tank

Orioles Coverage for the Information Age

Impact Rookie Pitchers

Posted by Mike on January 16, 2006

Well it’s been a couple of weeks since Miguel Tejada last attempted a tearful breakup with Peter Angelos. And, it looks like the front office isn’t going to sign another middle-aged player that is but a shadow of their former self. So, without further ado, I give you the rainy day post on the top of my list: What kind of impact can we expect from the next crop of rookie pitchers in 2006?

Chris Ray, 24, RHP

  • Ray barely sneaks onto this list, coming in 9 innings under the rookie limit of 50. He should easily be the Orioles’ rookie of the year and it wouldn’t surprise me if he posted a campaign worthy of a few league-wide ballots as well. I try to keep a cool head about me, but Chris Ray is a prospect worth being excited about. He was a 3rd round pick out of William and Mary two years ago. A closer in college, the O’s gave him a chance at starting in the low minors. In 2005, Ray was simultaneously promoted to AA Bowie and switched back to relief. No longer having to worry about developing off-speed stuff and solely relying on his mid-90’s heat, hard slider, and plus splitter, Ray took the Eastern League by storm. He posted a 40:7 K:BB ratio in 37 innings, en route to a 0.96 ERA. Promoted to the bigs, Ray again struck out over a batter an inning with a 2.66 ERA. He might not be BJ Ryan in 2006, but he’ll still be a capable closer at the highest level. And don’t forget, it took BJ Ryan until he was 28 to post a season as good as Ray did in 2005.

Hayden Penn, 21, RHP

  • Penn started out the year gangbusters at AA Bowie (ed. note: first time I’ve ever used “gangbusters”), but struggled during an abbreviated promotion to the show. Jim Callis, of Baseball America, recently reported that the major league trial coincided with a “dead arm” period and that Penn should be fine in the long run, so this should be nothing to get worked up about. Not surprisingly, Penn struggled when sent back to Bowie before pitching well again down the stretch. Penn throws a low-90’s fastball that can touch 96, with a plus change-up. His future success will likely hinge on the further development of his curveball. Look for him to get a few starts in AAA during April, when the sparse schedule makes a four-man rotation possible. After that, he would probably have to get injured to not be promoted, especially after the O’s reportedly held onto him over the likes of AJ Burnett, Carlos Delgado, and Josh Beckett. In 2006, look for slightly below-average production with stretches of promise long enough to make you look forward to 2007.

Sendy Rleal, 25, RHP

  • How long does a guy have to dominate AA before he at least gets a shot at AAA? And it’s not like we’re talking about some 18 year old kid that has to be handled with kids gloves either. Probably the most overlooked failings of the 2005 front office was the way so many prospects were mishandled. While Jeff Fiorentino and Penn were rushed along for no particularly good reason, Rleal was actually held back too long. He has the repertoire and track record to be a capable set-up man in the long run. Look for him to compete for a middle relief job out of spring training and thrive if given the chance.

Aaron Rakers, 28, RHP

  • Long considered a AAAA pitcher by the O’s due to his unimpressive repertoire, Rakers finally forced the O’s to give him a September trial last year. If his 2.57 ERA across 294.3 minor league innings doesn’t make you a believer, then his 11:3 K:BB ratio and 3.29 ERA in 13.6 major league innings should do a little to help his cause. Rakers is a good example of why signing players like Todd Jones for seven figure salaries is almost always a bad idea. For the league minimum, Rakers gives you just as good of a chance at 60 serviceable innings.

Others that could surprise: Cory Morris, Chris Britton, David Haehnel, Eddy Rodriguez


Think I forgot someone? Let me know and I’ll add them.


9 Responses to “Impact Rookie Pitchers”

  1. Anonymous said

    I’m not trying to put words in your mouth but are you saying that Chris Ray should be used as a 9th inning specialist?

    I like the blurbs on Real and Rakers, I always associate the two. I didnt know rleal had better stuff

  2. O's Fan since 2008 said

    What about John Maine? Is he not a rookie or will he just have no impact?

    Nice work

  3. Mike said

    “I’m not trying to put words in your mouth but are you saying that Chris Ray should be used as a 9th inning specialist?”

    Good question. And no, I am one of those uppity stat geeks that sees more value in deploying your best reliever in a game’s most crucial situation- be that in the 5th inning or the 9th. And Ray can definitely handle more than one inning of work at a time.

    “What about John Maine? Is he not a rookie or will he just have no impact?”

    That was mostly an oversight on my part. Although, this will be his third season making an appearance in the bigs, so he might have cracked the 130 day barrier- not sure. He does come in under 50 innings.

    I think Maine will make the team out of spring training, likely as a long-reliever/swingman until the rotation goes 5 deep full-time in May– then I see him in a similar role with Penn likely getting the nod over him in the rotation. Like many college pitchers, he breezed through the low minors but seems to have hit a wall in AAA. His 24:24 K:BB ratio is less than inspiring, and scouts have said that he has some mechanical inconsistencies. Hopefully, he will respond to an old-school Earl Weaver style break-in. I see his ceiling as a back of the rotation starter.

  4. Mike said

    This post has been removed by the author.

  5. Mike said

    And to head off further questions… I would love to see Penn get the majority of his starts in AAA this year. I just don’t see the O’s as having enough depth/patience to allow for it. they may feel pressured into breaking him in early because of their controversial refusal to depart with him in packages for players like Barry Zito, Burnett, Delgado, and Beckett.

  6. Anonymous said

    you’re going to compare Aaron Rakkers to Todd Jones?

  7. Mike said

    In the sense that they are both acceptable middle relief fodder, yes. Their salaries are quite different, but the quality of their pitching is a lot closer than you might think.

    This isn’t necessarily a compliment to Rakers.

  8. Anonymous said

    A player is a rookie if they have less than 130 at bats, 50 innings pitched or 45 days on the 25 man roster.

    Chris Ray has about 60 days of mlb time on the 25 man roster (which doesn’t include sept and oct 40 man time). He is no longer a rookie.

  9. Mike said

    Damn. Got me. Thanks for the clarification though.

    Is it disingenuous to edit my post? Eh, I guess if someone cares enough, they’ll check the comments.

    And I guess that rules out any “Chris Ray for ROY” campaigns…

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