With Chris Tillman not able to be ready for Opening Day, the starting rotation out of the gate is more question marks than anything. Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy look to be solid starters for the upcoming year, but beyond that is already a mess. Jimenez and Miley are almost certainly assured rotation spots, but moreso due to their contractual obligations than any confidence that they will be any good...and a total lack of anyone to pressure them out of the rotation.
Beyond that Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson, Joe Gunkel, and Chris Lee look to compete for the #5 spot. Of those four Chris Lee seems to have the highest upside, but missed substantial time with injury last year. Wilson and Wright have struggled in what is approaching what some might consider an ample sample size. Gunkel threw to an ERA over 4.00 in his first try at AAA last year. Can any of them physically eat innings for the team? Sure. Confidence inspiring for a team looking toward the playoffs? No.
This team's pitching is starting to look a little too much like 2013 for my liking. If you recall, the Orioles made no real moves to improve the starting pitching after their Wild Card berth in 2013 and were forced to burn prospects in desperate mid-season trades for pitching. What made those trades even more painful was that there was cheap starting help available in that off-season that the Orioles had passed on.
That was the case again this off-season, but as exhibition player rapidly approaches those options have quickly dwindled. Inexplicably the team most recently let Vance Worley walk to the Nationals for an absurdly cheap $1 Million base salary.
Two of the most intriguing names left on the table in my opinion are Doug Fister and a rehabbing Henderson Alvarez.
Fister struggled last year but has had a very solid career. He wouldn't be an exciting acquisition but at a minimum I think he could be counted on for 175 innings and an ERA in the mid 4.00s. Can we say that about Mike Wright or Tyler Wilson? They have both shown some promise here and there, but to count on?
There's not a lot to say about him. He's a solid, cheap, veteran that would add much needed stability.
Henderson Alvarez is a more interesting case. He's going to start the season on the disabled list but claims he could be ready as early as May. Obviously take that with a grain of salt, but that's only two months from now so if he's really that close team physicians should be able to get a good idea of that.
But even if he's not ready until July, he would still be a wonderful bullet to have in reserve. He is young and potentially still has upside he hasn't shown yet. He was fantastic in 2014 before getting hurt. Someone is going to get him for a steal and reap the rewards, and we can hope that the Birds are that team.
Chris Tillman we're told isn't going to miss much time. That's a relief, but he's not going to be the only pitcher to miss time this year. Odds are that at some point, someone is going to miss at least a few starts ...and it's not really that unlikely that someone misses a lot of time either. These things happen.
With the rotation looking iffy even with Chris Tillman in it, the Orioles can't pass on these potentially cheap options and simply pray that everyone has a healthy and successful year...unless they want to repeat 2013.
Author's note: A reader pointed out that I didn't mention Gabriel Ynoa. I think he was a good pick up but I don't think he's ready for the big leagues. He has been very good in lower level MiLB play but struggled to throw strikes last year in AAA and a bad MLB cup of coffee.
He's young, and needs some more work. He should be low on the depth chart this year unless he proves he's made adjustments early on. The chances of him breaking camp with the team as a starting pitcher are very low.