After a strange 2020 season, the 2021 MLB season will be starting on time. Currently, teams are slated to play all 162 games which means pitchers’ workloads will return to normal. More innings and more batters on more teams mean pitchers will actually have time to ramp up, unlike in 2020. During spring training, teams will need to start getting a feel for what their rotations might be. Here is an early look at the Baltimore Orioles projected 2021 pitching rotation.
1. John Means
Means pitched 155 innings in 2019, compiling an ERA of just 3.60. In the shortened 2020 season, he pitched just 43.2 innings in 10 starts and his ERA shot up to 4.53.
This is a shining example of the toll the difficult circumstances took on younger pitchers. Means needs more work to be truly effective and he will get it in 2021. His ace pedigree is still very much in question, but on a team like Baltimore that features very little talent, he deserves a spot at the top. 2021 will be the year for the Orioles to really see what Means can do.
2. Keegan Akin
Akin’s first and only year in the MLB was the 2020 season. He pitched in eight games, but started six and pitched a grand total of only 25.2 innings. His ERA stood at 4.56 last season and he racked up 35 strikeouts.
Given that Baltimore does not quite know what Akin can do quite yet, it would make sense to place him second in the lineup. He will likely only sink in the rotation if he performs poorly and would have to truly impress to move up to first.
3. Dean Kremer
The second pitcher on the Oriole’s roster to only have the 2020 season on his resume is Dean Kremer. His innings pitched stood at 18.2 last year, but started only four games. His 4.86 ERA does not invoke too much confidence, but, again, the 2020 season was fraught to say the least.
Baltimore is still very much in a rebuild, and the pitching rotation needs to be felt out. But placing a (virtual) rookie in the middle of the order is the baptism by fire the Orioles’ rotation and Kremer both need right now.
4. Jorge Lopez
Lopez has had an interesting career, moving from Milwaukee to Kansas City to Baltimore all in only (around) five years of MLB service time. But, as it sits now, he is one of the most veteran starting pitching options on the Orioles, so he may as well be on the roster.
With Baltimore last season, Lopez started six games but played in nine. He pitched 38.1 innings, racking up a big ERA (6.34). His 28 strikeouts in 2020 seem promising, but not promising enough to save him from near the bottom of the Orioles’ rotation.
5. Felix Hernandez
“King” Felix Hernandez was one of the faces of Seattle Mariners baseball for over a decade. Debuting in 2005, Hernandez has one a Cy Young, two ERA titles and six All-Star Game appearances. He has also thrown a perfect game.
Now, on the downswing of his career, the 35-year-old Hernandez is staying in the game with the Orioles. His name alone should earn him a spot in the rotation, but he can also be a secondary pitching coach to some of Baltimore’s young talent. If he performs well, expect him to move up significantly.
Featured Image courtesy of Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images
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