The Baltimore Orioles have improved a lot as a franchise.
Last year, they lost 110 games and won just 52.
This year, they are fighting to make the postseason and own a solid, totally unexpected 65-59 record.
It’s hard to think about a similar transformation after just one year, but here we are: Baltimore is full of excitement, and the franchise is already dreaming about playing in October.
A big part of their 2022 success can, and should, be attributed to improvements in player development.
They have taken a lot of young guys, worked with them, and maximized their skills.
One of these players is relief pitcher Felix Bautista.
When the Orioles decided to trade All-Star closer Jorge Lopez to the Minnesota Twins, some said they were giving away a reliable ninth-inning option.
They were, and there is no doubt about that.
They did it, however, because they knew they had a similarly talented player in Bautista ready for prime time.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) August 26, 2022
Bautista is not exactly a young prospect: he is already 27 years old.
He Finally Learned To Consistently Throw Strikes
His career in the minor leagues was full of years with elite fastball velocity, but subpar control.
With the help of Orioles coaches, he took a sizable step forward with his ability to throw strikes, one that guaranteed him a spot on Baltimore’s active roster.
He has taken off in 2022: in 55.2 innings, he has struck out 11.80 guys per nine frames and walked just 2.59.
In the minors, he used to run BB/9 in the range of 5, 6, or even more than 7.
He wasn’t going to succeed that way.
By learning to consistently throw strikes, every part of his game came together: he is now able to challenge MLB hitters with fastballs at the letters clocking around 100 and 101 mph.
His 1.62 ERA makes him one of the best rookies in baseball.
The Orioles are looking like geniuses for working with him and having faith in him.
That’s how a franchise goes from bottom-tier to playoff contender: by developing its own stars.