Name: Eric Orze
Weight: 190 lbs.
Acquired: 2020 MLB Draft, 5th Round (University of New Orleans)
2022 Stats: 34 G (0 GS), 50.1 IP, 44 H, 32 R, 27 ER (4.83 ERA), 14 BB, 69 K, .295 BABIP (Triple-A)
After graduating from Glenbard North High School in Carol Stream, Illinois, Eric Orze attended Northwest Florida State College, a community college in Niceville, Florida, for two seasons, and then transferred to the University of New Orleans in 2018. His time on the mound in his first year there was brief, as pain in his abdomen eventually made pitching, and even mundane tasks almost impossible; a visit to the doctor revealed that he had testicular cancer. He underwent surgery to remove the tumor and the initial prognosis was good, but he returned to the hospital a few days later as fluid had built up in his lungs, making it hard to breathe. The process to drain the fluid was a simple one, but while he was in their care, doctors made another grim discovery: a mole on his back was diagnosed as melanoma. The surgery to remove the skin cancer was successful, and Orze was pronounced cancer-free once more, but the sickness and the surgeries had taken their toll on his body and the right-hander sat out the entire 2019 season recovering. He finally returned to the baseball diamond on opening night 2020, but fate once again kept him off the diamond, as the NCAA ended the 2020 early due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All in all, the right-hander posted a 4.79 ERA in 123.1 innings, most of them as a starter, with Northwest Florida State College and a 4.97 ERA in 35.2 innings, most of them as a reliever, with the University of New Orleans.
The Mets selected Orze with their final pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, signing him for $20,000, well below the MLB assigned slot value of $357,100. Because the Minor League season had been cancelled due to COVID-19 as well, the right-hander would need to wait until 2021 to make his professional debut. Initially assigned to the High-A Brooklyn Cyclones, the right-hander’s surface numbers were only pedestrian, but his peripherals looked good. He was promoted to Double-A Binghamton in July and excelled there, posting a 2.60 ERA in the month he pitched there, with 12 hits allowed, 1 walk and 25 strikeouts over17.1 innings. The Mets promoted him to Triple-A Syracuse in mid-August and finished out the season there, posting a 2.19 ERA in 12.1 innings with 7 hits allowed, 7 walks, and 16 strikeouts. All in all, the right-hander finished his first professional season with a 3.08 ERA in 49.2 innings thrown over 34 appearances with 38 hits allowed, 14 walks, and 67 strikeouts. He experienced a sophomore slump in 2022, though perhaps injuries were in part to blame. Assigned to the Syracuse Mets, Orze posted a 5.13 ERA in 47.1 innings with a pair of 7-day injured list visits sandwiched in July and August, with 42 hits allowed, 14 walks, and 64 strikeouts. Of note, he was extremely home run prone in 2022, allowing 11.
Orze throws from a high-three-quarters arm slot, short-arming the ball while dropping his body as he drives off the mound, lowering his release point. His fastball generally sits in the low-to-mid-90s, and the pitch has heavy sink. Earlier in his career, it sat more in the high-80s-to-low-90s, but since returning to the mound after recovering from cancer, he was able to add additional velocity to the pitch through some mechanical tweaks and added muscle growth and it now firmly sits in the low-to-mid-90s.
He complements the fastball with a splitter and a slider, the former of which generally is graded as an above-average-to-plus pitch. Sitting in the mid-to-high-80s, it features between 1200 and 1300 RPM of spin, giving it massive fall off the table. His slider, which is generally graded as fringe-average-to-average pitch, sits in the mid-80s and features late movement. He also occasionally throws a high-80s cutter, though this may not be intentional and these pitches might simply be sliders thrown with a little more velocity that flatten out and lose vertical and horizontal movement as a result.
Orze had a weird 2022 season. It started off bad, things stabilized, and then he had a less-than-stellar ending. He had success in Double-A and Triple-A in 2021, so it’s not like hitters are too advanced for him in the upper minors. For whatever reason, batters were hitting more balls in the air and he was giving up a ton of homers relative to the amount of innings he threw. Here’s hoping the undisclosed injury he dealt with in the summer was the cause of his struggles, and it’s all behind him going forward.
Orze’s season wasn’t quite as bad as the top-line numbers would indicate, but it wasn’t a great season either. Despite still running a strong 25.4% K-BB%, Orze was quite hittable, evidenced by the 22.9% HR/FB rate he surrendered and the elevated BABIP he ran down the stretch. Some of this was luck certainly, but I’d wager a peak at his Statcast reveals a troublingly high hard-hit rate due to poor command of his secondaries. I still quite like the fastball characteristics here, but Orze will have to improve to climb back into the immediate bullpen picture after the Mets made significant additions in that area this off-season.
2022 was generally pretty tough for Orze, as he spent most of the season getting shellacked in Triple-A and managed to go the entire season without appearing in a big league game. Orze had some issues with the long ball in 2022, but his strikeout and walk numbers were characteristically terrific once again. He struck out almost a third of the batters he faced in Triple-A and managed to keep his walks per nine innings well under three. If he can manage to keep more flyballs in the yard in 2023 - he allowed over two home runs per nine and almost 23% of the flyballs he gave up left the yard - its entirely possible that Orze pitch his way into a meaningful role in the Mets 2023 relief plans.
At this time last year, Orze looked like he was going to be the first reliever up for the Mets. He ran through the lower levels of the minors and positioned himself well. Unfortunately, he grew addicted to giving up home runs and stayed in Triple-A for the entirety of the 2022 season. While his career his far from over, and I would be surprised if he doesn’t see a Citi Field mound in 2023, he definitely took a step back.