What Orioles' prospect Cade Povich's surprise top-100 inclusion says about their pitching program
The recent trade acquisition's inclusion in ESPN's top-100 prospect list gives a headliner to a mid-minors pitching group that illustrates what they're trying to accomplish.
Over the course of the last few weeks, the rollouts of the leading national prospect lists have featured plenty of Orioles. ESPN’s list on Wednesday was the latest in a run of good ones, and included a name that wasn’t listed elsewhere: left-hander Cade Povich.
Acquired in the Orioles’ August trade of Jorge Lopez to the Minnesota Twins, Povich ended his first full season in pro ball at Double-A Bowie and is now by virtue of his inclusion on ESPN’s list the answer to a fascinating question: who is the next top Orioles’ pitching prospect?
The Orioles’ pitching program has been on a different trajectory in the minors than the hitting one, where loads of high draft picks and progressive coaching have rightfully produced the kind of high-level talent that typically populates these lists.
We’ve already recently set the stage for this being the year the Orioles’ international program really starts to bloom in producing the types of prospects that gain national recognition. It’s not unreasonable to say, whether Povich was included in this list or not, that the same could be said for their pitchers.
Where Povich and this ranking itself is concerned, it’s definitely on the high side but not unreasonable. I turned him in with a mid-rotation grade and high risk but ranked in the teens for Baseball America, which also seems reasonable. I saw him twice and was definitely impressed. I never saw the 97 mph fastball I was told was in there but he sat in the low-90s with a good sweeper, a swing-and-miss curveball he leaned on a lot, and a cutter and changeup to help round out his repertoire. It all helped his fastball play up, and when he stayed in the strike zone, he was hard for hitters to figure out post-trade.
To bet on him to reach his ceiling isn’t foolish, either. He seems to be taking well to the Orioles’ pitching program, and has all the stuff markers of someone they can help improve and get the most out of.
He won’t be the only player with breakout potential in that Bowie rotation to start next year, which is why the overall impact of the pitching program might reveal itself to a wider audience this coming year. The Norfolk rotation will probably be full of pitchers who don’t make the major league staff, plus the likes of Chris Vallimont, Ryan Watson, and Drew Rom.
That could mean the group that helped Bowie get so close to the playoffs in the second half of 2022 – with Povich, Justin Armbruester, Chayce McDermott, and likely Carlos Tavera among the top names in that Baysox pitching mix. It’s not as if anyone is precluded from making a national prospect list – Povich did after his first full season pretty much out of nowhere – but to say that group may not produce a second top-100 pitcher isn’t a knock.
What that group is, however, is a cross-section of all the ways the Orioles have chosen to build their pitching talent base without first-day picks, and all four being top-30 prospects with the chance to break out further in 2023 speaks well to the entire set-up.
McDermott is another pitcher acquired in an August trade, this from the Houston Astros for Trey Mancini. He, too, has the kind of high-quality stuff that shows up well in a database and impresses when you see it, but he comes with some control issues that will need to be ironed out. By and large, the emphasis on biomechanics and meaningful practice in between game appearances for Orioles pitchers have improved control and helped players smooth out those deficiencies.
The other two – Tavera and Armbruester – were drafted by the Orioles, showing that they weren’t completely neglecting the mound when taking all those hitters high. Tavera was a 2021 fifth-rounder who was dominant at High-A Aberdeen before he ran into health issues that slowed him down last year, but based on what he did when he was healthy and the expectation he will be again this year, he seems primed for a breakout. He struck out 32.9 percent of the batters he faced and
Armbruester, another 2021 pick who came in the 12th round, had a bit of a journey through college to get to pro ball but struck out over a batter per nine with a 1.07 WHIP and a 4.04 xFIP in his first full pro season.
Both have the prototypical Orioles pitch mix at this point – hoppy fastballs in the low-to-mid 90s, a bit of deception in their deliveries, plus the combination of a sweeper and a cutter to give hitters different movement planes to cover.
They were all, by and large, pitchers who weren’t really on the organizational prospect radar a year ago. There wasn’t really a lot to go on for the ones they drafted in 2021, but on a broader level, the pitching program didn’t really have its identity carved out yet. Players improved at every level on the mound in 2019, but then the pandemic stunted progress in 2020 and kept pitchers from fully being able to showcase what they had throughout 2021 due to innings limits.
The program isn’t without its successes on a large scale. Kyle Bradish’s ascent to the majors is an organizational win, especially if he’s the pitcher he was the last month of the season. Dean Kremer was the team’s best starter last year. Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall are set to make an impact this year as well.
But this group, headlined by a pitcher in Povich who is now much better known than he was a day ago, represents a lot of how they’ve had to build the program below that top tier in order to produce viable major league arms. It was a little surprising to see one as a top-100 prospect at this point (and not just because my own rankings were so far off from that), but in an offseason where these lists are pretty much the only unimpeachable positive thing the Orioles have going, who’s going to argue it?
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