Standing just outside the spotlights focused on Grayson Rodriguez and D.L. Hall, Mike Baumann has reentered the future-starter conversation for the Orioles.
Quick! Think of an Orioles prospect. Did you go with Adley Rutschman? No one could blame you. But what if I prompt you for an O’s’ pitching prospect? Grayson Rodriguez? Oh, okay. Again, that’s perfectly acceptable.
How about D.L. Hall? His trip to the injured list does not discount him from whatever game we’re playing. Or maybe, just maybe, you chose the guy with his name in the title of this article. Nothing gets by you.
Mike Baumann checks in at number seven on MLB.com’s ranking of Orioles top prospects. It’s difficult for a top-10 guy to be off the radar, but Baumann has managed to evade the hype so far this season.
The lack of buzz around Baumann is completely understandable. Rodriguez and Hall have been absolutely dominant this season. Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg are the new kids on the block, and Rutschman is still Rutschman.
Baumann appeared set to start the season with Triple-A Norfolk, but tendinitis slowed his debut. The former third-round pick started the year with a pair of rehab starts at Delmarva, but struggled once he reached Bowie.
Struggled may be an understatement. Baumann lasted just two-thirds of an inning his first time out for Bowie. He allowed seven runs in his first June start, and allowed six in another brief outing later that month. Something wasn’t quite right with Big Mike.
However, Baumann finally appears to be returning to form. The Minnesota native has completed at least five innings during all five July starts. He has yet to allow more than two runs in an outing and tossed six scoreless innings his last time out. Baumann limited the Hartford Yard Goats to just two hits while striking out seven and walking only one.
Baumann suffered a right flexor strain at the alternate site last August and dealt with related issues this spring. It made sense that Baumann needed to regain his strength, but a 1.692 WHIP in the month of June showed he was not in top-prospect form.
Flash forward to July, and Baumann’s monthly WHIP has dipped to 0.773. The ERA dropped over five runs from 7.62 to 2.05, and his K/9 has jumped from 7.2 to 10.2. The summer sun has done him well.
Zac Lowther, the Orioles number nine prospect according to MLB, has struggled with an inconsistent role this season. The lefty took his lumps during his only start, and his relief appearances have been a mixed bag.
Alexander Wells has flashed some potential after a long journey to the bigs. The Australian prospect has utilized his above average control to experience modest success in his few outings.
Spenser Watkins has folks writing puff pieces already. And no, it’s not too early for them.
Baumann still projects to eclipse the trio. With the recent struggles of Dean Kremer and Keegan Akin, it’s extremely possible that Baumann will be the most talented pitcher to emerge from the group. Bruce Zimmermann may have something to say about that when he returns from left-bicep tendinitis, but I think O’s fans would be up for a friendly competition.
Baumann uses his big frame to generate a mid-to-high 90’s fastball. Reports have him hitting 96 MPH on the radar gun this month, but he flashed up to 99 MPH prior to getting hurt. The 6-foot-4 hurler boasts an impressive slider and a four pitch mix. He still projects as a successful starter at the major league level.
The Orioles had played it safe with Baumann, but his June numbers did not exactly demand a promotion to Norfolk. Baltimore finally elected to promote the Jacksonville alum to Triple-A yesterday. At 25 years old, Baumann should be up for the challenge after proving he is back to 100 percent.
Like Rodriguez, Baumann gained valuable experience by working with Rutschman. Baumann clearly projects to reach the bigs before Rodriguez and all. He could sniff the show by the end of this season if his hot streak continues into August.
There’s plenty of action in the Orioles’ system right now (that’s what makes the daily minor league recaps so exciting), and the recent additions of Kyle Bradish, Kevin Smith and others have taken even more attention away from Baumann. Still, there is no doubting that the potential is there. Baumann will need to pitch his way to Baltimore, but he could be a force once he arrives.
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