Over the last five-plus years, Mike Elias’ Orioles front office has gotten a lot of the big things right. Its high draft picks, many of which are now lineup fixtures at Camden Yards, and the hire of reigning AL Manager of the Year Brandon Hyde come to mind.

The Orioles also have refined a lot of what they do on the less visible aspects of the game, and Wednesday’s impressive spot start by Albert Suárez demonstrated one in particular. Through an integrated pro scouting department, the Orioles may have for the second year running found a gem as they were sifting through depth options in areas of need.

Last year, it was Ryan O’Hearn who emerged from a deep pool of lottery-ticket sluggers to become a meaningful part of the Orioles’ roster. Now, Suárez is going to get a chance to show their offseason search for pitching depth was, potentially, just as productive.

The thesis was straightforward ahead of the 2023 season. The Orioles were coming into their own when it came to helping hitters get better. Through waiver claims, cash trades and minor league free agent signings, they ended up with a large group of hard-contact specialists with a flaw that kept them from fully harnessing it.

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Out of a group including Franchy Cordero, Lewin Diaz, Josh Lester and Nomar Mazara, O’Hearn emerged as the best. In spring training of last year, co-hitting coach Ryan Fuller told me O’Hearn was correcting detrimental lower-body loading patterns through movement and swing work. Combined with emphasis on his swing decisions, those efforts allowed him to get to pitches on different planes and unleash the hard, line-drive contact that the Orioles have enjoyed for a year now.

O’Hearn came up relatively early in the season, and outside a brief option back to Norfolk, he has been with the team ever since. He entered Wednesday with a 1.089 OPS and four home runs after an .801 OPS last year. He’s been 31% better than league average as a hitter in an Orioles uniform, as measured by OPS+, and has 18 home runs in that span. His presence is a result of the effort to comb the discard bin for cheap power, and he’s delivered it.

Entering the 2024 season, pitching depth seemed to be the team’s focus. The Orioles had an interesting group of prospect starting pitchers at Triple-A Norfolk, but they lacked a great deal of depth. That explains all the waiver claims and DFA trades for the likes of Jonathan Heasley, Matt Krook and Kaleb Ort, plus minor league free agents Andrew Suárez and Ronald Guzman.

Albert Suárez, however, came before them all. Suárez was pitching in Korea for the Samsung Lions when he suffered a calf injury in early August. Because of limits on foreign players in Korea, the team released him to sign another one. The Orioles pounced and signed him in September, then brought him to Sarasota, Florida, to do delivery work that unlocked latent velocity on his heater.

It’s one start, but Suárez got 11 swinging strikes on a four-seam fastball that topped out at 97.8 mph and averaged 95.9 mph Wednesday. The pro scouting department under Senior Director Mike Snyder liked what it saw from a traditional standpoint, but Suárez also had the pitch shapes and arsenal that screened well from an analytical view.

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It’s not their first hit on the pitching side. In 2021, Spenser Watkins was a meaningful part of the Orioles’ rotation after being identified in a similar manner. As time has evolved, the pro scouting department has continued to demonstrate that it knows the types of players that can thrive with the instruction and expertise of the Orioles’ major league and minor league coaches.

It’s a collaborative process, one that has been ongoing since Elias took over in 2018. The result is, for at least one outing in the case of Suárez and one full year and counting for O’Hearn, an internal solution that helps the Orioles at spots where no homegrown alternative exists yet.

“That’s an amazing signing right there, helped us win a Major League Baseball game out there and looks outstanding,” Hyde said. “To go out and find someone like that, that ... hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2017, to go have that kind of performance and do more than what we asked him to do … it’s just a credit to everybody there. Especially to him, but I want to give a shoutout to our pro scouting department for finding a quality pitcher and person like Albert.”

Jon Meoli is the Baltimore Banner's Orioles columnist and head women's ice hockey coach at Loyola University Maryland.

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