For the first time in the 2017 season, the Orioles need a fifth starting pitcher. Chris Tillman is still sidelined with his shoulder injury, so the Orioles will reach down to AAA Norfolk and promote Alec Asher to make the start on Saturday. Asher will be on regular rest on Saturday because he last pitched on Monday, and that's probably why the Orioles chose him. It's nevertheless a fortunate choice because (1) Asher was the only Norfolk starting pitcher who hadn't had a terrible start and (2) our own Jon Shepherd's performance projection model is most optimistic about Asher than any of the other candidates.
I was the datacaster for Asher's Monday start against the Gwinnett Braves (Norfolk's home opener) and will share a few details about the start. This is only one start, and there's no guarantee that this performance is typical. I was going to also say that Gwinnett is not a good hitting team, but the Braves scored 23 runs in the next two games, so Gwinnett may be better offensively than I thought. Also, the conditions were generally favorable, with a strong wind that started out blowing out to left field but shifted toward a right-to-left crosswind.
There's nothing wrong with the basics: 4 1/3 IP, 4 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts. He was pulled in the fifth inning after - I am guessing here - nearing a 75-pitch limit.
Asher faced sixteen batters and ten put the ball in play. It's a little concerning that only one batter hit the ball on the ground. I consider five of the ball put in play to be fly balls and four to be line drives. Two of the fly balls were hit to the right-field warning track (Pedro Alvarez was able to catch them - but that's another story) and may have been home runs with a less-strong wind. That doesn't agree with Jon's observations. I can assume that this game was an aberration - perhaps he was too pumped up for a home opener or to be with a new organization, and so his sinker may have been less effective - but it still happened.
Asher did have good control. He had 3 2-0 counts; 1 3-0 count (which was, of course, one of the 2-0 counts), 1 3-1 count, and 4 3-2 counts.
On the other hand, Braves batters were able to spoil a lot of his pitches. Fourteen of his 74 pitches were foul balls and there were six at-bats of six or more pitches. For completeness, Asher had 27 balls, 13 called strikes, 10 swinging strikes, the 14 foul balls, and 10 balls put into play.
Again, I wouldn't read too much into this one game. My overall take is that it was (obviously) a good outing, but hardly a dominant one. Based on this performance, I would be surprised if he had a dominant start on Saturday; but otherwise he could range from fairly effective to utterly ineffective. Which doesn't say much.