One of the bigger items on the checklist for player concerns during last year's owner-imposed lockout was that they wanted teams to stop suppressing the service time of the best prospects. That is, when a player is ready to play in the majors, just bring him up instead of worrying how much it'll cost in player control and arbitration salary in future years.
Perhaps, very soon, a top prospect starting with the team out of spring training won't be a story. It still is, though, just like it was when the Mets brought Pete Alonso north with them in 2019 and last year the Mariners started Julio Rodríguez in the majors. Will Orioles pitcher Grayson Rodriguez have as much success as a rookie?
He'll have the chance right away, as Orioles general manager Mike Elias said on MLB Network Radio that the team expects Rodriguez to start the season in the big-league rotation.
Of course, Rodriguez probably would have debuted last season if not for a lat injury that held him to 17 starts, so maybe the new CBA doesn't have much to do with the plan.
Rodriguez, 23, was the Orioles' first-round pick (11th overall) in 2018 out of high school. In his 14 Triple-A starts last season, he was 6-2 with a 2.62 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 97 strikeouts against 21 walks in 69 2/3 innings.
Rodriguez as the seventh-best prospect in all of baseball, writing the following about his arsenal:
Rodriguez has a power pitcher's frame and an impressive arsenal that includes three well-above-average or better pitches: an upper-90s fastball, a slider, and a changeup.
The other four members of the Orioles' rotation to start the year will likely be Kyle Gibson, Cole Irvin, Dean Kremer and Kyle Bradish. The Orioles would surely like to limit Rodriguez's workload at some point. He threw 75 2/3 innings last season, 103 in 2021 and didn't pitch competitively in 2020 due to the minor-league season being shut down. Maybe there's a natural hand-off to John Means at some point later in the year? Remember, the Orioles' ace lefty had Tommy John surgery late last April and could return sometime around the middle of the season. They could even go to a six-man rotation to protect Rodriguez and Means. That's far down the road, though.
The Orioles were 83-79 last season, finishing just three games out of the last AL wild-card spot. They'll be looking to take another step forward in 2023.