Unheralded Noah Denoyer Opens Orioles’ Eyes In AFL

The Orioles’ preference for position players with high draft picks has forced their scouts and analysts to cast a wide net to find potential major league pitchers.

How wide? One of the best to emerge so far is 24-year-old righthander Noah Denoyer, an undrafted free agent signed in 2019 after the analytics team identified him as a potential target in the summer college Northwoods League.

Scout Ryan Carlson agreed and found Denoyer too impressive to pass up.

Now, Denoyer has showcased potential MLB stuff in the Arizona Fall League after a breakout year in the minors in which he struck out 99 in 71.2 innings with a 2.89 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP between High-A Aberdeen and Double-A Bowie.

“I think there’s enough to be a spot starter or a long man at the very least,” one scout who saw him pitch twice in the AFL said.

Through six appearances in Arizona, he struck out 21 in 20 innings with a 4.50 ERA. But with a hoppy mid-90s fastball, a sweepy slider and an effective splitter highlighting a four-pitch mix, Denoyer could be an attractive Rule 5 draft option if left off Baltimore’s 40-man roster.

Denoyer’s ascent has been as improbable as his signing. He pitched at San Joaquin Delta (Calif.) JC in 2017 but hurt his elbow in the Northwoods League that summer, necessitating Tommy John surgery.

He got back on the mound in 2019 and was set to pitch in the Northwoods League again before committing to Oklahoma State for the 2020 season. But Carlson was too impressed by the 6-foot-5 Denoyer’s build, velocity and feel for his secondaries to let him join the Cowboys.

After missing the 2020 season because of the pandemic, Denoyer pitched well in his first full pro season in 2021, fanning 81 in 71.2 innings between Low-A Delmarva and Aberdeen.

Now, he’s part of a wave of once-unheralded pitchers pushing into the high minors, including organizational pitcher of the year and fellow undrafted free agent Ryan Watson and righthander Justin Armbruester.

“We’ve got guys popping up,” Orioles head of baseball operations Mike Elias said.

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