04 June 2018

O's Youth Movement Is Slow, But Tanner Scott Is An Early Part Of It

It's June 4th, and the Orioles are 24 games under .500. Understandably, many fans are frustrated, and they're tired of seeing many of the same players' names on the lineup card -- especially the underachieving and expendable ones. They're ready for a youth movement.

But one thing about a youth movement is a team can't just force it. Just because a team is young and interesting doesn't mean it's going to be good -- or, what matters more, good for the young players. One of the worst things a team can do is promote a bunch of players who aren't ready simply because frustration is mounting. The Orioles need to get younger and more athletic, but more importantly, they need to get better.

Unfortunately, the O's don't have a lot of players in the minor leagues who are close to the majors. Austin Wynns recently took Andrew Susac's place on the O's active roster, meaning the O's two main catchers are both rookies. It would be hard for Wynns to be worse than how Caleb Joseph and Susac have performed this season, and the hope is he performs adequately in his first dose of major league action and could be a fit as the backup.

But Wynns is also 27 years old (only a year younger than Susac). Right now, the most interesting names on Triple-A Norfolk's roster are the recently promoted Cedric Mullins, DJ Stewart, and maybe Yefry Ramirez. Almost everyone else who's intriguing is in Double-A Bowie or lower. That's not a bad thing, necessarily, but many of them still have more work to do and improvements to make.

It isn't time for the much-anticipated youth movement, but that doesn't mean the current roster is without youth and talent (not counting Manny Machado, of course, who is somehow only 25). Chance Sisco and Miguel Castro are both 23 and interesting, and David Hess, 24, is giving the Orioles innings and outs in his first major league work. And then there's Tanner Scott, who's only 23 and is already one of the O's best relievers.

With Scott, who many teams often asked about in potential trades, hoping to pry him away, the velocity has always been there. He can reach triple digits with his fastball, which is something the O's don't really have a lot of. In January, John Sickels of Minor League Ball said that Scott "may have best left-handed fastball in the minors." The hope was that he could control it. In 2016, he walked nearly 20% of opposing batters between High-A Frederick and Bowie. At Bowie in 2017, he struck out 30% of batters in 69 innings while lowering his BB% to 16% (with a 2.22 ERA and 3.17 FIP). He earned a brief call-up at the end of 2017, then was promoted to Triple-A Norfolk to start 2018. In 10 innings, he didn't allow a run while posting a 28.6 K% and a 14.3 BB%. His control has improved.

Because of pitcher injuries and roster needs, Scott is already on his third stint with the Orioles in 2018 alone. Most recently, he was recalled on May 9th, and with Zach Britton and Darren O'Day on the mend, there's always a chance he could be sent back to the minors. That's the way it goes for anyone who has options remaining. Still, Scott has more than earned his place in a bullpen that's struggled mightily at times. Scott's 4.70 ERA in 15.1 innings pitched doesn't do him justice. Among all O's relievers, Scott's FIP (3.25) is fifth best. His 33.3 K% is the best, and his 9.5 BB% is fourth best. And among all major league relievers with at least 10 innings pitched, Scott's K% is tied for 20th best. (O'Day is tied for 39th and Mychal Givens is 49th.)

The O's need more pitchers with swing-and-miss stuff, and Scott certainly has that. Even though he has a change-up (which is a work in progress), he really only throws two pitches: a four-seamer and a slider -- and he's throwing the slider more than ever this year. A pitcher could do worse than a high-90s fastball and a slider with sharp movement. In one brutal assignment over a week ago, Scott was summoned to deal with a bases loaded, no outs jam in the sixth inning against the Rays. He responded by striking out the three batters he faced, with the last batter, Joey Wendle, looking completely helpless:

See how Wendle drops the bat at the end there? He knows he had no chance on such a nasty off-speed pitch. That's how good Scott can be. He also followed that up by throwing a scoreless inning the next game (though with no strikeouts), in his first time pitching in consecutive games in the majors. That's obviously key for any reliever who should be used in high-leverage situations.

But he's still learning. In Friday's loss to the Yankees, Scott hung a slider to Aaron Judge. It's a bad idea to hang a slider to Judge, and he hit the ball a long way to left field for a towering solo home run. But Scott didn't get rattled. Before the Judge home run, he struck out Brett Gardner. After the homer, he struck out Greg Bird and Giancarlo Stanton. Not bad!

I'd show more GIFs of Scott's strikeouts this season, but there aren't any others besides Wendle's on MLB.com right now. No matter what, the O's have to like what they've seen from Scott so far, and there will surely be more clips to choose from in the near future. He looks like someone who could  be a mainstay in a major league bullpen for a while, and anyone looking for positives on this Orioles team shouldn't overlook Scott.

Photo: Keith Allison. Stats via FanGraphs and Brooks Baseball.


Unknown said...

I can't help but wonder what any trade offers for this kid would look like right now.

Pip said...

An interesting article at the Astros blog, The Crawfish Boxes, went into some detail about what relievers to add, and Scott figured prominently in the article.
I’m unsure whether it’s a good idea to trade him with such a short track record, but given the Oriole experience with pitching, I would certainly not make him untouchable.

bowerj09 said...

Can we trade him to the Braves for Ryan Flaherty so we can then trade him for Mike Trout and a PTBNL?