Whether Ryan O’Rourke contributes anything of substance to the Mets or not, his name will always be the answer to a trivia question. When the organization announced his signing on November 15, it marked the first acquisition, although one of the minor league variety, in the tenure of Brodie Van Wagenen as general manager.
O’Rourke enters the organization in 2019 with something to prove. Following two seasons in the major leagues with the Minnesota Twins, the left-hander underwent Tommy John surgery in May of 2017. The Baltimore Orioles quickly scooped him up on a minor league contract after he was removed from the Twins’ 40-man roster and elected free agency, but it ultimately resulted in only 14.1 rehab innings.
A 13th-round draft pick from Massachusetts’ Merrimack College, O’Rourke rose through the minor leagues by keeping the ball in the zone (career minor league 2.5 BB/9), in the park (0.7 HR/9), and away from left-handed hitters. In his 47.0 major league innings, O’Rourke faced 80 same-side batters and yielded just nine hits while striking out 30. Only two of those hits left the ballpark, which includes Curtis Granderson‘s walk-off home run against the Twins at Citi Field.
O’Rourke will head down to Port St. Lucie this spring with the hopes of returning to a major league mound for the first time since October 2, 2016.
Standing at 6’3″, O’Rourke relies on his four-seam and sinking fastballs, slider, and changeup. The slider, in addition to being his most-frequent offering, has been his most effective, yielding a .125 BA and .147 xBA.
Hitters failed to make any solid contact against the pitch… when they made contact, which was rare. In 2016, O’Rourke’s slider produced a 42.9 whiff rate. The league average for the pitch was 28.6.
In his most recent major league stint, O’Rourke’s park-adjusted ERA+ graded him at eight percent above league average. DRA- liked him even more, putting him at about 23 percent above league average.
How he fits
O’Rourke’s signing reminded me of that of Matt Purke, who was similarly a left-handed reliever brought in on a minor league deal early in the offseason. While Purke never saw the major leagues in 2018, O’Rourke will have also have a steep climb to get there.
In addition to having to prove himself fully healthy, his path to a major league role was made more onerous with the signings of Luis Avilan and Hector Santiago, southpaws with significantly more big league experience and production.
However, O’Rourke, unlike Purke, will play in a more pitcher-friendly Syracuse ballpark, leading to the belief that he would be able to serve a bullpen role if needed.
Statistics via Baseball-Reference, Fangraphs, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus, Brooks Baseball, Quality of Pitch, and Statcorner.