Predicting Orioles 2013 Pitching Staff After Jair Jurrjens Signing
For some Orioles fans, watching possibly 14 starting pitchers duel for five spots in the Orioles rotation come spring training will be fun to watch.
Yet for others, the same will be torture.
In this slideshow, I will project which pitchers make the Orioles’ starting rotation out of spring training after the Jair Jurrjens signing.
I will also predict what hurlers survive what is sure to be a crazy arms race for three or four spots in the Orioles bullpen.
Due to brutal nagging knee-injuries in 2012, Baltimore right-hander Jason Hammel did not get to fully unleash his huge potential.
The six-year veteran managed just 20 starts. He posted an 8-6 record with a 3.43 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 118 innings pitched.
But Hammel 100 percent healed and is prepared to rock for spring training, per Roch Kubatko of MASN,
Barring a major injury this spring, Hammel will bolster his spot as the ace in Baltimore’s rotation.
While some Orioles fans predict left-hander Wei-Yin Chen may fall victim to the sophomore slump, I think he will be even stronger in 2013.
While this Taiwanese import’s overall record was not impressive (12-11, 4.02 ERA and 1.26 WHIP), Orioles fans know Chen became a steadfast workhorse in the wake of Hammel's midseason injury.
Chen pitched 192.2 innings in his rookie campaign, striking out 154 and walking just 57 in 32 starts.
Chen is still learning the art of pitching in the major leagues. But all indications are this 27-year-old is on his way to doing great things for the Orioles.
Many Orioles fans are stoked to see what second-year right-hander Miguel Gonzalez is able to do in 2013.
Nationally, Gonzalez came from virtually nowhere last year taking Major League Baseball by storm.
In 18 starts, this Mexico native went 9-4 with a 3.25 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 105.1 innings pitched.
More impressive, Gonzalez pitched a gem in Game 3 of the ALDS against the New York Yankees.
In that game, Gonzalez squandered just one run in seven innings. He left with the lead, only to watch Baltimore go on to lose 3-2.
Now 28, Gonzalez brings a cool, calm demeanor to the Orioles rotation. He will use this unflappable demeanor to lock down the third spot in the Birds’ rotation in 2013.
It is difficult to imagine Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman is still just 24 years old.
A promising prospect early in his career, Tillman has battled with both his confidence and command in his three years of MLB service.
But this was not the case late last year. For in 2012, Tillman looked like the imposing 6'5", 200-lb hurler Orioles fans had been waiting for.
In 15 starts, Tillman posted a 9-3 record with a 2.93 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 86 innings pitched.
Perhaps Tillman can ride this huge momentum into spring training, and secure the fourth spot in the Orioles rotation.
Lastly, Jair Jurrjens will eek out the fifth spot in the Orioles rotation, barely ahead of Baltimore native Steve Johnson.
Jurrjens has a chip on his shoulder after he endured a tough 2012 campaign with the Atlanta Braves.
Like Hammel, Jurrjens battled injuries throughout the year. The Netherlands native made just 11 starts, posting a 3-4 record with a 6.89 ERA and 1.32 ERA.
This is a far cry from Jurrjens’ terrific performance in 2011. That season Jurrjens went 13-6 with a 2.96 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 152 innings of work.
If Jurrjens is able to return to 2011 form this spring, the Orioles may very well have pulled yet another productive string.
The Crazy Bullpen Fiight
The battle for starting spots in the Birds' rotation will set up a fascinating war for a plot in an already deep bullpen.
Looking at the Orioles depth chart, this team already has capable arms in Pedro Strop, Troy Patton, Luis Ayala, Darren O’Day and closer Jim Johnson.
This will leave just three or four spots for battling starters to break with the 25-man roster out of spring training.
I project Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta and Tommy Hunter will have the inside track at the bullpen. All three of these guys performed well in this role in 2012.
This may leave Steve Johnson in a precarious situation. Johnson pitched a perfect 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 12 games last season.
However, should Johnson outpitch Jurrjens, it may very well be Jurrjens that lands in the pen, is shipped to Triple-A or Tomahawk-chopped altogether.
But do not tell any of this to rookie phenom Dylan Bundy. This guy will be gunning for everyone come spring training.
I project Bundy will outpitch Arrieta or Hunter to steal the final spot in the Orioles bullpen. Matusz has one key going for him in that he is a lefty on a team that boasts a ton of right-handers.
Making the final bullpen decision, T.J. McFarland and Zach Britton will all be sent back to Triple A.
But if Britton pitches well, Bundy will go back for some extra seasoning.
Not an easy situation for Buck Showalter and Co. by any means. But unlike many teams in baseball, the Orioles have a tremendous amount of depth that will make them sharp AL East contenders in 2013.
Note: Per Roch Kubatko (MASN), Tsuyoshi Wada is not expected to return to full-throttle action until May or June.