The Orioles announced Friday that they had re-acquired 25-year-old righty Gray Fenter from the Cubs after he’d been selected in December’s Rule 5 Draft. That’s not a very surprising move since players chosen via that process are assigned directly to the drafting club’s 26-man roster and Fenter wasn’t a legitimate candidate to stick in the Cubs’ bullpen.
Originally rafted by the Orioles in the seventh round in 2015 out of West Memphis High School, Fenter received a $1 million bonus — significantly higher than the $178K slot value — to forego his commitment to Mississippi State. He was already throwing 97 mph as a prep player and had plenty of time and ability to develop his ancillaries, but his career trajectory took a detour when he experienced elbow pain in rookie ball.
Fenter missed the entire 2016 season following Tommy John surgery and pitched just 30.1 innings in 2017, almost all of which came at the rookie level. He worked up to 83.2 innings over 27 appearances (13 starts) the following season, running into trouble with a 6.75 ERA over 26.2 innings at High-A. That all changed in 2019, however, as he absolutely shoved in a return engagement.
Over 94.1 IP at High-A in 2019, Fenter logged a 1.81 ERA with 123 strikeouts (11.74 K/9) and 43 walks (4.10 BB/9), working primarily as a starter. He’s had a difficult time getting the velocity back up to where it was in his younger days, but the experience of having to rehab from surgery and work back to the mound helped him to improve as an overall pitcher.
Fenter showed enough promise for the Cubs to take the gamble of $100,000 and a temporary roster spot on him, then for the Orioles to pay $50,000 to get him back, but he’s still got a bit to work on before being MLB-ready. That could happen quickly even though he’s at a pretty advanced age for someone who’s never pitched above High-A, so here’s to hoping he figures it out back in the Baltimore system.