Just a few days before the start of February, the Orioles have added another starter for 2023. The O’s pick up left-hander Cole Irvin in a deal with the Oakland Athletics, giving Baltimore a second new starter for this upcoming season. While Irvin won’t excite anyone with his stats, the lefty did prove to be a innings eater for the A’s in 2022.
A Look at Irvin
New Orioles pitcher Cole Irvin was a workhorse for the Athletics last season, as the left-hander threw 181 innings for a group that only won 60 games. Irvin didn’t strikeout many batters in 2022 — the 28-year-old K’d just 128 batters last season, good for K/9 rate of 6.4. Among pitchers that threw at least 125 innings last season, only nine other starters possessed a strikeout rate lower than Irvin.
On the other hand, Irvin did boast one of the league’s best BB/9 rate in all of baseball. The ex-Athletics pitcher’s sparkling 1.8 BB/9 rate last season put him in very elite company. The new Oriole was one of just 16 pitchers last season to post a BB/9 rate less than 2.0, as well as a WHIP of 1.16 or better.
Control is the biggest asset when it comes to Irvin. In addition to a stout BB/9 rate, the lefty painted on the outer edges of the plate. Irvin posted well-above Edge% rates in each of the last two seasons, and his 44.3% Edge% from 2022 put him in the top 15 among qualified. But, pounding the zone too much does have its disadvantages. While the lefty boasted strong control rates, Irvin’s batted ball metrics were well below league-average.
The left-hander doesn’t possesses incredible stuff, but his stuff is serviceable. Despite the aforementioned low strikeout rate, Irvin did have a slightly above-average Chase% last season. Irvin’s arsenal of pitches includes a low-90’s fastball & sinker, to go along with a curve and a decent change.
Getting back to the full deal, Baltimore acquired Irvin — who has four years left of control —and right-handed pitching prospect Kyle Virbitsky. In return, the O’s sent infield prospect Darell Hernaiz to Oakland. Hernaiz — the 16th-best prospect in the O’s farm system according to MLB.com — hit .273/.341/.438 with 12 home runs, 38 extra base hits, and 62 RBIs in the Minors last season. Baltimore DFA’d former Red Sox left-hander reliever Darwinzon Hernandez after the announcement of the deal.
What it Means
Despite sporting an ERA below 4.00 over 181 innings last season, Oakland wasn’t going to bring in an elite prospect for a starter like Irvin. The 28-year-old can be an effective #4 or #5 starter for a competitive team, but those types of pitchers generally don’t bring in stars. Still, the A’s didn’t too bad here with the addition of Heraniz. And given the Orioles’ depth in its farm system, Baltimore could afford to move someone from the second tier of prospects to add another starter.
Sure, there are concerns with Irvin, namely how often he gave up hard contact. Not to mention, Irvin yielded 48 home runs from 2021-22. And, Irvin’s 1.43 HR/9 rate ranked among the bottom half of the league. Irvin could, however, benefit from Camden Yards and the “Great Wall of Baltimore” in left field. Per Statcast, the left-hander would have only given up 21 home runs — as opposed to 25 — in Baltimore last season.
Irvin is set to join fellow new Oriole Kyle Gibson in a rotation should be rather interesting to watch this season. Besides the presence of pitching prospects Grayson Rodriguez — one of our fantasy baseball rookies to watch in 2023 — and DL Hall, the O’s return Dean Kremer, Austin Voth, Tyler Wells, and Spenser Watkins to the pitching staff. Those may not be household names, but Baltimore did squeeze value out the bunch. Kremer and Voth both pitched quite well last season, while Wells and Watkins did provide some length for a group that won 83 games.
With the move to pick up Irvin, manager Brandon Hyde has options entering this upcoming season.