The Orioles are hopeful that right-hander Alex Cobb will be ready to go for Spring Training 2020, manager Brandon Hyde tells Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. The 31-year-old righty (32 next month) is recovering from surgery to repair a labrum tear in his right hip as well as a separate procedure that repaired a meniscus tear in his knee. “We’ve missed Alex and having a veteran starter like that, there’s a lot of value to that,” Hyde added. There’s little hope of moving Cobb and the $29MM remaining on his deal (which is heavily deferred), though a healthy start to the 2020 season could eventually put him back on the map as a trade candidate. Beyond Dylan Bundy and breakout lefty John Means, the Orioles have virtually no certainty in their rotation, so Cobb should have plenty of opportunity to reestablish himself. The Orioles still seem likely to add some rotation depth in the offseason, although the new-look front office somewhat surprisingly made very few additions in that area last winter when Nate Karns was the team’s lone Major League free-agent signing.
Some more notes out of Baltimore…
- Hyde also informed reporters yesterday that right-hander Hunter Harvey has been shut down for the season (Twitter link via Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun). Harvey pitched just 6 1/3 innings at the MLB level (with an 11-to-4 K/BB ratio), but even that brief debut was a significant step forward for the oft-injured former top prospect. Baltimore selected Harvey with the No. 22 pick in the 2013 draft and he quickly came to be ranked among the game’s elite pitching prospects before injuries wiped out several key developmental years. Harvey missed the entire 2015 season and was barely able to compile any innings in 2016 (12 2/3), 2017 (18 2/3) or 2018 (32 1/3). To this point in his career, he’s undergone Tommy John surgery and batted shoulder troubles, making this year’s modest total of 82 innings between Double-A, Triple-A and the big leagues an encouraging sign of progress. That represents Harvey’s largest workload since tossing 87 2/3 frames back in 2014. It might be tempting to try Harvey as a starter again, but he pitched to a 2.81 ERA with a 33-to-7 K/BB ratio in 25 2/3 innings upon moving to the ’pen in the minors.
- Speaking of intriguing bullpen pieces, while Miguel Castro’s bottom-line numbers aren’t immediately eye-catching, Joe Trezza of MLB.com observes that there’s some reason for significant optimism when looking at some secondary metrics. Castro has improved his strikeout rate by six percent in 2019 while slightly trimming back his walk rate, and he’s seen a nearly two mile-per-hour increase in his sinker velocity. He’s also made substantial improvements in the quality of the contact he’s allowed, as measured by Statcast. In fact, the gap between Castro’s expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) in 2018 and his 2019 mark is the second-largest improvement among qualified pitchers, trailing only Lucas Giolito. Castro is still averaging 5.1 walks per nine innings and has been plagued by a well-below-average 68.5 percent strand rate, both of which have contributed heavily to his ugly 4.73 ERA. If he can restore his 2016-17 levels of control (3.6 BB/9) while maintaining some of the gains on his ability to miss bats and limit hard contact, there’s some breakout potential. At the very least, that profile seems intriguing enough to tender Castro a contract in his first offseason of arbitration eligibility — particularly given that his first-year salary will be rather modest.