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  • Writer's pictureGrant DeVivo

Chaycing The Dream

Updated: Apr 2

Chayce McDermott, Orioles’ No. 9 prospect, looks to break into starting rotation in 2024

*Cover Photo Credit: John Topoleski


In August of 2022, Chayce McDermott found himself in a three-team trade that involved the Baltimore Orioles, the Houston Astros, and the Tampa Bay Rays. As Baltimore’s beloved slugger Trey Mancini went to Houston and as outfielder Jose Siri went to Tampa Bay, McDermott, then the Astros’ 13th best prospect, was en route to Birdland.


Upon hearing the news, he felt a mix of just about everything, “excitement and nerves.”


“I was super excited to be going to the Orioles and getting the chance to play with some really talented guys,” the Anderson, Indiana native said. “But it is also frightening a little bit. You are leaving friends and a sense of comfort and being thrown into a whole new situation.”


McDermott landed in High-A Aberdeen and while many Orioles fans could not get over the loss of their hero in Mancini, still a fairly large group of fans reacted excitedly about bringing in a touted pitching prospect.


McDermott’s time in the Orioles’ organization began with two solid starts in Aberdeen. He struck out 10 batters while allowing just 3 hits and 2 earned runs. He walked just one lone batter. This led to an immediate promotion to Double-A Bowie and as a small crowd of fans started buzzing about him, I, a humongous Bowie Baysox fan, had to go out and see McDermott for myself.


Things got a bit tougher for him at Bowie. There, he tossed 26.2 innings in 6 starts, posting an elevated 6.08 ERA with a 1.388 WHIP and 20 walks. In the starts that I observed, he had great swing-and-miss stuff, and I was very impressed with his curveball. However, he had trouble commanding the zone, leading to even more damage when a batter ran into a mistake pitch.


So that winter, McDermott went back to the lab, working on some mechanical things in his delivery but trying to keep everything simple.


“I really tried to keep it simple during the offseason,” the 25-year old said. “I made some mechanical adjustments that allowed me to feel more comfortable and fluid through my delivery. I also tried to find ways to improve my pitches without constantly making massive changes. These little changes allowed me to be more comfortable on the mound and find easier ways to make adjustments.”


Regardless of those late-season struggles, McDermott continued to live out being in the Orioles’ organization and had a fun beginning with his new team. He said that being around talented players like top prospects Colton Cowser, Coby Mayo, Connor Norby, Joey Ortiz (now a Milwaukee Brewer), and John Rhodes, while pitching in a rotation consisting of Cade Povich, Garrett Stallings, Justin Armbruester, and Grayson Rodriguez, helped make the transition to the Orioles more enjoyable.


"My first two months with the O’s were awesome!” he said. “It’s always more fun playing when you are surrounded by great players that make you want to get better.”


When I came back to Bowie in 2023, I saw a whole different Chayce McDermott. He did not tinker too much with his pitches, but he had adjusted his delivery. McDermott’s fastball sat in the mid-90s and he was painting corners with it. That same big overhand curveball had the same very late break, resulting in a lot of swings and misses.


Everything that could have gone right for McDermott in 2023 went right.


O's No. 9 prospect Chayce McDermott was unhittable at both the AA and AAA levels in 2023. Photo: John Topoleski

The Eastern League is known for top elite Minor League offense. McDermott was up against top hitting prospects including the Pirates’ Henry Davis, the Yankees’ Jasson Dominguez, and the Nationals’ James Wood. He held the Eastern League offense down really well. In 16 Double-A starts, he dominated with a 3.56 ERA, striking out 88 batters in 68.1 innings while posting a 1.259 WHIP. On May 19, he was one of three pitchers (Nolan Hoffman, Easton Lucas) involved in a combined no-hitter at home versus the Altoona Curve.


As I would talk to him before and after games, I felt like I was talking to a happy, hard-working man who was very excited for the road ahead. Then, off he went to Norfolk, Virginia, until we met again. On July 14, McDermott got promoted to the Triple-A Norfolk Tides, making him a step away from the big leagues. The Major League dream was within reach for him.


“The whole point of Minor League Baseball is to progress through the system in order to get to the big leagues, so getting promoted to Triple-A was super exciting,” he said. “It also was a boost of motivation because the next promotion gets you onto an MLB field which is the dream.”


McDermott finished the season with Norfolk, where his numbers got even better. He struck out 64 batters in 50.2 innings while posting a 2.66 ERA and a 1.007 WHIP. For the entire season, his ERA sat at 3.33 while his WHIP sat at 1.151. He struck out 152 batters in 119 innings, making for an 11.5 K/0. He also kept the ball in the park and saw the number of home runs surrendered drop from 17 in 2022 to just 9 in 2023. He was named the Orioles’ Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year.


McDermott also got a taste of what being a professional champion feels like, as he helped the Tides to both champions of both the International League team and all Triple-A baseball.

           

“Getting to win two championships in a matter of days was a great way to end the season,” he said of the Triple-A championship, “and the best part was getting to celebrate with all the people that worked so hard all year to make it happen.”


McDermott is very thankful for his peers and coaches that have gotten him to this point. He thanks Mitch Plassmeyer, Justin Ramsay, Forrest Herrman, and Adam Schuck.


“There are people helping us every day that the public doesn’t get to see the help they provide us,” McDermott said of the pitching development staff.


Chayce and I caught up at the 2024 Birdland Caravan, and he could not be anymore excited for the season. Photo: Grant DeVivo

McDermott did not make it to the big leagues in 2023, but he could very well be on the verge of a promotion given early and unfortunate injuries to Kyle Bradish (UCL sprain) and John Means (elbow). He knows that and after catching up with him at the 2024 Birdland Caravan, his sights are set on the biggest championship of them all.


“The main goal this year is obviously to be in the big leagues and help win games in hope to win a World Series,” McDermott said. He is ready to embrace the growing process that 2024 will be for him. “I’m also looking to improve as much as possible going into this season, so I am looing to make my splitter a pitch I can use more this year while also improving command on all of my pitches.”


With Bradish and Means starting the season on the injured list, there are two rotation spots open for the time being. Do not sleep on McDermott, whom MLB Pipeline lists as the Orioles’ 9th best prospect right now. Should he get the call this season, he has the tools to sneak up on a ton of fans and catch the league off guard.


Catch McDermott in action at Spring Training as he fights for a role on the 2024 Orioles. He is a non-roster invite to big league camp this spring.

 

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