The Baltimore Orioles top 30 prospects list was released by MLB Pipeline this week and there are likely some names that Orioles’ fans do not really know. Right-handed pitcher Jesus Liranzo may be somewhat familiar, but get ready to really know him in 2017.
Liranzo, 21 (turns 22 in March), is a guy that prior to this offseason, few O’s fans have ever heard of. He was signed as a minor league free agent in 2013 after the Atlanta Braves released him, and didn’t make his organization debut until 2015. Prior to last season, he had never pitched professionally stateside (all minor league appearances were in the Dominican Summer League).
Enter 2016, where Liranzo opened the year with the Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds in their bullpen. All the hard-throwing righty did was dominate South Atlantic League hitters. He owned a 1.05 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP over 34.1 innings pitched. He also held opponents to a .109 batting average.
That dominance prompted the Orioles to promote him, but instead of heading to High-A Frederick, the O’s elected to send him right to AA. Why you ask? Well Liranzo was coming up on Rule-5 eligibility, so they wanted to see how he would do against higher competition.
All he did was post a 3.38 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP, while holding Eastern League hitters to a .127 batting average and striking out 20 over 18.2 innings pitched.
With one more chance to see him against higher competition, Baltimore sent Liranzo to the highly touted Arizona Fall League, but due to a minor injury, Liranzo only appeared in one game.
The reason I say fans will get to know him in 2017 is because of his stuff, and the fact that the Orioles did indeed add him to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule-5 Draft. Being on the 40-man roster, Liranzo is in spring training camp, will make appearances there and is also one phone call away from coming to Baltimore.
Liranzo has a power fastball in the 93-95 mph range, and I have seen him top out higher. His slider is also above average and is devastating to right-handers. His stuff plays as a back-end reliever and his low batting average against and high strikeout totals certainly suggest the same. He will be a guy the Orioles likely try to avoid bringing to Baltimore too quickly, but if he begins 2017 the same way he pitched all of 2016, we will see the young Liranzo in Baltimore at some point this season.
By: Josh Michael