The Orioles always pick someone in the Rule 5, and a competitive team shouldn’t change that.
Next Wednesday is a national holiday in Birdland, as the Orioles are gearing up for the Rule 5 Draft. The Orioles front office has picked at least one player in each of the last 15 Rule 5 Drafts dating back to 2006, so expecting another is a very safe bet. There are even a few success stories on the active roster, namely Anthony Santander and Tyler Wells.
There are some fans who think the Birds will pass now that the team is contending, but that assumption ignores relevant context. The active streak includes the last competitive window when Dan Duquette drafted Santander and Ryan Flaherty, among others. The Orioles also have open spots on both the active roster and the 40-man roster, so picking someone would not create a logjam. The front office could have protected another eligible prospect, but they chose to leave space open. This would be a great opportunity to add a backup catcher, a bullpen arm, or even a utility infielder. As I said on the latest episode of the Section 336 podcast, it would be the shock of the offseason if the Birds did not make a selection.
Having said that, there is one scenario where I could see the team passing on a pick. Unlike recent years, the O’s do not have one of the first picks in the Rule 5 Draft. They are picking in the middle of the round, and some of their targets will be going to other teams who pick higher. It is possible the Mike Elias regime has one player that they really want above all others, and if he is gone before their turn, then the Orioles might pass. But given how much preparation goes into this short event, I seriously doubt the Birds are only looking at one player, especially when they could address a few different positions.
Here are my top targets, split up by position. There will surely be other players taken that don’t fit in the Orioles plans, such as outfielders or a right-handed first baseman.