There’s no hiding the fact that the Baltimore Orioles have struggled in recent years. As a result, sometimes it seems like Baltimore and Pittsburgh collect all the retreads that have played their way off of every other team in baseball. This offseason has distinctly that sort of flavor for the Orioles, as they’ve acquired a rather inept backup catcher (Taylor Teagarden), a pitcher with a long track record of struggles (Dana Eveland), and an outfielder with horrific strikeout problems (Jai Miller).
In the midst of all that, though, they’ve made one possibly astute pickup: minor league free agent lefthander Ryan Edell.
Edell is a former Indians prospect, picked way back in the 8th round of 2005, who’s bounced to the A’s and Phillies organizations in recent years. He turns 28 in June and has yet to throw a pitch in the major leagues.
A classic finesse lefthander, Edell doesn’t excite scouts a whole lot. What he does do is pound the strike zone with all three of his pitches. He owns a career BB/9 of 1.8 in the minors, and he’s actually been significantly better the past two seasons. In 77 Triple-A innings in 2011, he walked just 11 batters while striking out 65.
It’s tough to be a truly awful pitcher if you have walk rates that low, so if Edell can translate his strong command to the big leagues, he should at least be serviceable. He’s not a groundball pitcher, but he’s not the sort of extreme Kevin Slowey-style flyball pitcher who could be rendered ineffective even with <2 BB/9. Obviously, he also isn’t completely unable to strike batters out, as his 7.6 K/9 in Triple-A and 7.3 career rate indicate. He provides some deception with an extended legkick and somewhat cross-body motion, owns a solid changeup, and can spot his fastball wherever he wants. He’s also shown the ability to cut or sink his fastball.
If nothing else, Edell is a durable pitcher who should eat innings. He’s been healthy for basically his entire pro career, and his delivery has no major red flags.
For the major league minimum salary on a rebuilding Orioles team, Edell could provide a lot of value as a back-of-the-rotation arm this year. He’s not going to blow viewers away, and he won’t make quite the same impact as Jeremy Guthrie, another former Indians castoff, did. But don’t be at all surprised if 2012 in Baltimore is the start of a solid major league career from this overlooked pitcher. In the midst of acquiring all these also rans, there may be one hidden gem here.
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