The Baltimore Orioles have the first pick in the upcoming Rule 5 draft. Based on their prior history, and their current roster, the O’s seem poised to make at least one selection; here are five potential targets for the O’s
The Baltimore Orioles have a history of using the Rule 5 draft to add players to their major league roster. It’s not the most efficient way to acquire prospects and the Orioles have had varying success with their drafted players, but the franchise has spent so little in scouting and player development; the draft has been a quick, cheap method of improving the roster.
In 2017, the Orioles made three picks, taking LHP Nestor Cortes Jr. RHP Pedro Araujo, and RHP Jose Mesa Jr. Araujo threw 28 innings of 7.41 FIP, 22.5% HR/FB rate baseball in Baltimore last year before dealing with elbow inflammation which prematurely ended his season. Cortes made the Opening Day roster but he was returned to the Yankees after getting shelled in April, and Mesa didn’t make it out of camp.
2016 saw the Orioles take OF Aneury Tavarez and OF Anthony Santander; Tavarez was immediately returned to the Red Sox and Santander looks positionless on a rebuilding O’s squad. OF Joey Rickard was the lone selection in 2015; he’s still on the roster after providing nothing with the bat and middling outfield defense for three years.
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While the Orioles haven’t found much success in the Rule 5 draft, they’re certainly going to use their number one pick this year. Ideally Mike Elias and his team will do a better job identifying available talent and bring aboard a player who can help this Orioles team.
What will the Orioles be looking for in the Rule 5 draft? It feels unlikely that they’ll go after an outfielder, with Cedric Mullins and DJ Stewart on the roster, Trey Mancini looking like an outfield starter in 2019, and Austin Hays and Yusniel Diaz on the way. They need a catcher, but there aren’t great options in the draft, so they’re likely staying in house, or going through free agency for one. Most likely they’ll be looking for utility players who can play up the middle and bullpen arms.
Rays 2B prospect Kean Wong is MLB-ready and will likely be a top selection this year. Wong is a good defender and has seen time at both 2B and 3B in the Rays system. Last year at Triple-A Durham, Wong hit .282/.345/.406 with 9 home-runs. Wong isn’t a power hitter and doesn’t make a ton of loud contact, but he’s been successful putting the ball in play, driving the ball into the gaps, and avoiding strikeouts. (video)
It has taken A’s SS prospect Richie Martin a while to get the bat going due to multiple knee injuries, but he’s an above-average defensive shortstop with almost two full years at Double-A Midland. Martin might not be ready for major league pitching, but his .300/.368/.439 line this past year show that he’s on the right track. (video)
Mariners RHP Art Warren spent the majority of 2018 on the disabled list with a shoulder issue, but he’s a four-pitch reliever with fastball velocity in the high-90’s. Warren has high strikeout upside with the velo and an effective slider but he’s been inconsistent commanding his pitches in the zone. If he can find a rhythm, he’ll be a late-inning bullpen piece. (video)
Braves RHP Josh Graham is a former catcher turned reliever, with elite fastball velocity that hits 98-99 and a plus slider. He posted a 6.81 ERA at Double-A Mississippi last year, but that was with a .352 BABIP and a 59% strand rate. He’s been better than that, and will continue to be so. Similar to Warren, Graham has had trouble staying in the zone, but if he can find that consistency, he has the raw stuff to become a late inning reliever. (video)
Cardinals RHP Junior Fernandez is like the other two pitchers on this list, in that he has elite velocity, touching 99; he also has an average slider and a plus change-up. However, Fernandez has struggled consistently throwing strikes as he’s posted double-digit walk rates the past three years at High-A and Double-A. Similar to the other two pitchers on this list, if Fernandez can do a better job hitting his spots, he has the raw talent to be an above average major leaguer. (video)
The Orioles will be able to grab whoever they want with the first pick in the Rule 5 draft, and there’s a chance they’ll again take more than one player. The current MLB roster in Baltimore isn’t a good one and there’s plenty of room for improvement. There could be some diamonds in the rough in this group, and if Mike Elias can get a better development system in place quickly, the Orioles just might be able to pull a major leaguer or two out of it.