The Baltimore Orioles added some players to their 40-man roster this offseason in order to protect them from the Rule-5 Draft this winter. One of those guys is right-handed pitcher Joe Gunkel and I expect to see him make his MLB debut in 2017.

Gunkel, 25, was acquired by the Orioles in June of 2015 in part of the trade with the Boston Red Sox that sent Alejandro De Aza to Boston. Since joining the Orioles’ organization, Gunkel has performed very well as a starting pitcher.

In 2016, Gunkel began the year with AA Bowie where he quickly showed he was ready to make the jump to AAA for the first time in his career. After posting a 8-4 record with a 2.59 ERA in 17 starts with Bowie in 2015, Gunkel picked up where he left off by posting a 3.66 ERA in four starts with the Baysox in 2016. He was getting hit a little more than he was accustomed to (.310 batting average against in four starts at Bowie), but the Orioles felt it was time to move him up to AAA.

Pitching at AAA for the first time in his career, Gunkel did not appear intimidated whatsoever. Over 24 starts with the Tides, Gunkel went 8-11 with a 4.08 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP.

One of the things that I like most about him is that he is not afraid to throw strikes and pound the strike zone. Over 141.1 innings with the Tides, Gunkel walked just 18 batters. O’s fans are all too familiar with the frustrations of free passes, and that’s something they do not have to worry about with Gunkel. Over 430.1 minor league innings, Gunkel has walked just 75 batters!

If you haven’t seen Gunkel pitch, he has a low three-quarters release point that helps him get some run and sink on his fastball, as well as add some deception. His fastball, from what I saw, normally sits in the 90-92 mph range and he brings a decent slider and changeup as well.

In my eyes, he projects to be either a back-end of the rotation starter, or serve in that Vance Worley-type of swing man position in the bullpen. He is a guy that you like to have in your organization for depth purposes, and I fully expect to see him make his MLB debut in 2017.

By: Josh Michael

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