After his junior season at Arizona State University, Brett Bordes was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 24th round. He decided to return to school in hopes of improving his draft stock and it worked, with Bordes going in the 9th round just one year later. The Orioles came away impressed by Bordes' willingness to adapt to a full-time conversion to relief, as well as his successful transition to a lower arm slot. After signing, the scrappy left-hander wasted no time getting acclimated to professional hitters.
DOB: 11/30/83 Height: 5-10 Weight: 175 B/T: R/L
Brett Bordes' age 22 season:
Until his senior season, Bordes worked with an overhand delivery. He was able to work consistently in the low-90‘s with his fastball, but it flattened out in the strike zone. Leaving his starting days behind him permanently, Bordes embraced a high three-quarters arm slot that caused his fastball to top out at 91 MPH (still plus velocity for a lefty), but added greatly to its downward movement. The net result was a much more effective pitcher who induced groundballs nearly four times as often as flyballs. Maybe he couldn‘t blow the ball by as many people, but it became much more difficult for opposing hitters to square the ball.
Although Bordes has never had a consistent breaking ball, his new arm slot could impede its development. In Aberdeen, he was showing a slurvy breaking ball, although it was tighter than reports from his senior season suggested. It certainly seemed to work against lefties, who were a miserable 2-for-49 against him. Small sample size or not, that's dominance. He was more than a LOOGY, though, as he also held righties to a .664 OPS. In fact, he actually had a reverse platoon split in college.
Bordes will likely begin next season in High-A Frederick‘s bullpen, skipping over Low-A Delmarva entirely. If he can tighten up his breaking ball, Bordes could advance to Double-A Bowie in short order. Were this a season ago, with so many moving parts in the big league bullpen, Bordes would even have an outside chance of a September cup of coffee. That‘s how advanced he is. As it is, with the Orioles' bullpen making more money than the Florida Marlins, a strong showing in Bowie to close out the year is a realistic goal.
Bordes profiles as more of a left-handed Todd Williams than he does as someone who could close out games but, hey, those guys have value. In fact, it‘s these types of players that keep a team from having to spend eight figures to sign a 36 year old who has thrown 48 innings each of the past two years. For all the misconceptions about Peter Angelos not being willing to spend money, it is as much a lack of these types of pre-arbitration players as it is the escalating payrolls of the American League East that the Orioles have not been able to contend. It's not that Jamie Walker doesn't improve the Orioles- he does- it's just that tying up that much payroll into a player with such a limited role has a serious opportunity cost, both now and for the life of the contract.
Joe Jordan did very well to spend a 9th round pick on a low-risk player that will soon help round out the Orioles' bullpen. Hopefully, Bordes' presence will ensure that the next time the Orioles spend $12 million on a player, it will be a league-average first baseman, left fielder, or designated hitter.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com