After years of taking a back seat to the undeniably impressive collection of hitters on the Orioles’ farm, their pitching inventory is coming into sharp focus with its quality and depth.

The same holistic, aligned developmental approach that delivered Grayson Rodriguez to the majors and polished talents such as Félix Bautista and Yennier Cano into All-Star form is developing intriguing and potentially valuable young pitchers at an unprecedented rate, at least compared to years past.

And it won’t be long until some of these pitchers are chipping into what could be annual postseason pushes in Baltimore. It’s probably best to learn about them before that time comes.

Throughout the season, in this series I’ll use firsthand observation, data analysis and insights from the pitchers and their coaches, along with opinions from professional scouts who cover the Orioles, to provide as much information as possible about these prospects.

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Year 2 of Arms on the Farm begins with Jackson Baumeister, who represents the Orioles’ most significant commitment to pitching in the amateur draft since Rodriguez was their top pick in 2018.

Where did he come from?

Baumeister was one of the top-rated high school prospects in the 2021 draft class at The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida, given his talent on the mound and as a catcher, but he wasn’t selected as he upheld his commitment to Florida State. (Former Orioles first-round pick DJ Stewart followed a similar path to Baltimore).

He ended up focusing on pitching for the Seminoles, striking out 41 in 27 1/3 innings with a 5.60 ERA and 1.573 WHIP as a freshman before joining the rotation as a draft-eligible sophomore. He struck out 95 in 69 innings, albeit with a 1.420 WHIP and 5.87 ERA, but he showed a handful of traits the Orioles liked.

One was his hoppy fastball. Another was the extension he gets off the mound with his compact, athletic delivery. And then there’s the quality of his curveball — his best secondary pitch — and the fact that he added a slider in college, a signal that he can manipulate the baseball and potentially expand his arsenal.

With all these factors and youth on his side, the Orioles made him their highest pitching draft pick under Mike Elias, signing him for an above-slot $1.605 million as the 63rd overall pick in 2023.

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What do the numbers say?

So far, not a ton. Baumeister didn’t pitch in games last year after signing, instead going to Sarasota, Florida, to work with the team’s pitching department after a long season in college and in the Cape Cod League.

Baumeister skipped Low-A Delmarva and began this year at High-A Aberdeen, where in 18 innings he has 21 strikeouts (10.5 per nine innings) against 13 walks (6.5 per nine) with a 1.50 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. The expected stats show Baumeister is a bit fortunate to have allowed so few runs, but he’s shown an early ability to get out of jams and manage game situations well in his pro debut.

Baumeister has been striking out a lot of hitters and walking a lot during his first pro season. (Courtesy of the Aberdeen IronBirds)

What does he throw?

This is where it gets fun with Baumeister; part of the motivation for seeing an April start of his was my conviction that he’d be a different pitcher by August.

While he added a slider in college and there was debate among the Orioles’ scouts and coaches as to whether it was better than his signature curveball, Baumeister heavily leans on both the fastball and curveball, with the slider and changeup lagging in usage.

As with so many of his Orioles pitching prospect peers, Baumeister has a hoppy four-seam fastball that an evaluator for another team said is “as good as you can look for” in the draft, and he’s carrying that in the 93-94 mph range this year. The Orioles believe a focus on using it up in the strike zone more than he did in college can unlock further potential with the pitch. His curveball, a pitch that lives in the mid- to upper 70s, has above-average traits and will improve with consistency.

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That’s a good starting point for a 21-year-old’s first professional season.

“The first thing is outlining what his strengths are and knowing they are the fastball and curveball, but long term, educating him on how the slider and changeup are going to be a big part of his arsenal when he does get to the big leagues, ideally,” Aberdeen pitching coach Jordie Henry said.

Baumeister described the development of his arsenal as a point of emphasis.

“I think I have a pretty good one-two punch with the fastball and the curveball; those are definitely the pitches I’m most comfortable with,” he said. “So the biggest step that I have to take, especially this year, is developing that third and fourth pitch with the slider and the changeup, and making sure I’m using all the pitches the right amounts and keeping hitters off balance while also going right at them and developing the correct shapes.”

In his start April 25 against Jersey Shore, he mixed in a handful of sliders throughout and a pair of changeups in his final inning, earning at least one strikeout with the former. With Aberdeen using tandem starters, Baumeister will have plenty of time between starts to improve those pitches.

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What does the future hold?

Baumeister’s demeanor, athleticism and the potential of his stuff give him the makings of a durable and reliable mid-rotation starter at his peak. Nothing he’s done in pro ball suggests that’s too lofty a goal, and being in Aberdeen is typically a stage in Orioles pitching prospects careers where development is accelerated.

Trace Bright had a year more of college experience out of the 2022 draft but came to Aberdeen for his full-season debut in 2023 with a similar pitch mix. By the end of the season, he had a useable slider and changeup and was striking out hitters at an elite level as he developed his pitch mix in season.

That’s the hope for the 21-year-old Baumeister, and it doesn’t seem like an outlandish one. And, with the high minors starting to get crowded on the mound, there wouldn’t be anything wrong with a full season of development at Aberdeen for him. But if the strikeout numbers creep up and the walks go down as the summer progresses, and there’s clear evidence of improvement in his pitch mix, Baumeister may be a candidate to move up and be challenged in Bowie.

The Orioles have a thoughtful, deliberate development plan for their pitchers, so there haven’t been many, if any, cases of someone being fast-tracked to the majors. Baumeister, though, has the highest upside of any pitcher they’ve drafted under Elias. So, if anyone is going to buck that trend, he could be the one.

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

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