Right-handed pitcher Dean Kremer and outfielder DJ Stewart are among the younger Orioles making significant impacts on the team late in the 2020 season.
Former Orioles manager and current MLB Network analyst Buck Showalter is familiar with what both players bring to the table. Kremer, 24, made his debut against the New York Yankees Sept. 5. He has a 1.69 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP and has not allowed more than one run in any of his first three starts.
The rookie was one of the key players the Orioles acquired in the trade that sent Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018. The Orioles also got Yusniel Diaz, Rylan Bannon, Zach Pop and Breyvic Valera in return for Machado. Baltimore traded infielder Jonathan Schoop and pitchers Zack Britton, Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day for prospects that summer as well.
“I love some of the young pitchers they’ve got in the system. I thought of all the trades we made, that Dean Kremer was the best player that came back in those trades,” Showalter said on Glenn Clark Radio Sept. 16. “I’m glad to see him. … That’s the guy that caught my eye. I mean, it’s easy to say now.”
When asked to identify what stood out about Kremer, Showalter said, “Body language, bio, talking to people in the clubhouse that have been around him after the trade — the clubhouse guys, coaches, pitching coaches in the minor leagues — his ability to spin the ball for a strike and an unconventional breaking ball.”
“He just had good body language, handled adversity well,” Showalter added, “… and everywhere he had been, people talked about what a good teammate he was.”
Stewart is also enjoying a nice stretch with the Orioles. The 27-year-old outfielder has found his confidence after a rocky start to the season (17 consecutive hitless at-bats). Since his recall from the alternate site at Double-A Bowie in early September, Stewart has hit seven home runs.
Showalter had the opportunity to manage Stewart late in 2018 when the outfielder was called up to the big leagues for the first time. Stewart was the club’s first-round pick in 2015 but has been in and out of the major-league lineup for the past two years due to injuries and inconsistency. Stewart is a career .230/.337/.455 big-league hitter.
“[Stewart’s] one of those guys that if you tell him he’s not going to be able to do it he’s going to show you [that] you are wrong, and I like that about him,” Showalter said. “He’s a confident kid. You can tell by his body language. Not a lot knocks him on his heels and I like that about him.”
The Orioles will not take part in the playoffs this year, but more teams will have an opportunity to compete in the postseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic. MLB and the MLBPA agreed to in late July to expand the postseason to 16 teams in 2020. Long term, Showalter said he is opposed to “more bad teams in the playoffs.”
Prior to this change, three division winners and two wild-card teams in each league would make the postseason. It’s unclear what the future holds after 2020.
“I want good teams in the playoffs,” he said. “We knew what the schedule was. We knew what the competition was going to be. If you finish under .500, you’re going to have a tough time selling me why you have met the test of the regular season and you deserve to be in the postseason.”
The Oakland Athletics, Minnesota Twins, Tampa Bay Rays, Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres have already clinched spots in the 2020 playoffs. The Orioles hope to join the postseason mix in the years to come.
“What a lot of these big-money places like New York and L.A. and whatever, they are able to not only develop young talent, acquire young talent, but keep talent — pitching. All the other stuff is kind of peripheral,” Showalter said. “Until you can pitch, especially out of your rotation, you are kind of spinning your wheels.”
* All stats are heading into play Sept. 23.
For more from Showalter, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles