December 1, 2022

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Why prospect's debut is turning point for O's

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This story was excerpted from Zachary Silver’s Orioles Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Kyle Bradish’s debut itself on Friday was wholly important. The club’s best pitching prospect not named Grayson Rodriguez or D.L. Hall had arrived, wide-eyed and full of promise. And he delivered, allowing three runs (two earned) over six innings, good for the second quality start by an Oriole this season.

But more significant was the turning tide it signaled.

Bradish’s debut marked just the third for a prospect acquired since executive vice president Mike Elias took over prior to the 2019 season. Right-hander Isaac Mattson, who was acquired in the same Dylan Bundy trade that netted Bradish, made the first. Mattson has been in Triple-A this season. The second came courtesy of outfielder Tyler Nevin, who was promoted alongside Bradish on Friday for his second big league callup.

But Bradish is easily the highest-caliber prospect of the three — and the one who has brought about the most intrigue in this season’s early going.

His debut is a sign that the O’s rebuild, now in its fourth season, is starting to hit a de facto second phase: the arrival of prospects.

“Yeah, I think it’s important,” manager Brandon Hyde said this week. “Since Mike’s been here, the Drafts, a lot of the guys who we’ve traded away, the returns, seeing Tyler make his debut last year. … Yeah, I think it’s important that we’re getting homegrown guys here and guys that either Mike’s acquired or drafted here in the last few years. That’s fun to have these guys come up.”

The tide is starting to turn
Elias has been clear: Every move he makes is for “the overall health and long-term success of the organization.” For much of the past four years, that has involved subtracting from the big league roster with an eye toward future talent. Look no further than the trade that sent Cole Sulser and Tanner Scott to the Marlins in exchange for two younger players as well as a high Draft pick that Elias called the most “salient” part of the deal. 

There are pieces on the current roster that could be flipped by this year’s Trade Deadline. But not too far down the road, the club will want to surround Bradish, Adley Rutschman (who started a Minor League rehab assignment this week) and their other top talent with more marquee free agents and acquisitions to build a winning culture.

Words precede action
There was intrigue surrounding when Bradish might have gotten the call. When he impressed in Spring Training against the Yankees’ and Phillies’ varsity lineups, some wondered if he could make the team out of spring. Meanwhile, the Orioles had a glaring opening in their fifth rotation spot.

But the O’s held true to their original plan. They opted to keep Bradish on a regimented buildup at extended spring training and then employed him for three starts at Triple-A Norfolk. After the fact, it was revealed that was their plan all along with Bradish. But ahead of time, the club had made clear any injuries or trends at the Major League level wouldn’t impact the timeline of a prospect’s arrival.

Ultimately, the injury to starter Chris Ellis (as well as the one to swingman Alexander Wells) left the Orioles without many options for the last spot in their rotation. Partly by need but mostly by pedigree, the answer was Bradish. And he did all he could to make his roster spot unquestionable.

The best is yet to come
And that’s no fault of Bradish’s. When it’s all said and done, he might be the fifth-best Orioles prospect to debut this season, with Rutschman (No. 1), Rodriguez (No. 2), Hall (No. 5) and Kyle Stowers (No. 8) expected to follow him at some point this season.

Bradish’s debut might just have been a dry run of what can be expected over the remainder of the summer. 

But the excitement is only going to build. It’s the storyline of the Orioles’ 2022 season — for both fans and players alike. 

“Yeah, it’s cool to see,” Nevin said. “It’s cool to see guys that you’ve seen work as hard as they have to get to this point.”

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