The Orioles played it conservatively Monday night, placing oft-injured pitching prospect Hunter Harvey on the 40-man roster to make sure he is not eligible to be selected by another team in the Rule 5 draft.
It’s the right move, especially given the Orioles’ dearth of pitching talent in the upper-end of the organization’s farm system.
Harvey who turns 23 in December, has pitched in only 144 1/3 innings as a professional since being drafted by the Orioles in the first round (22nd) in 2013.
Due to injuries, including elbow-ligament-replacement (Tommy John) surgery in 2016, Harvey hasn’t reached beyond Low-A Delmarva, where he allowed two earned runs and four hits while striking out 14 in 8 2/3 innings last August.
That’s a huge jump to the majors in 2018, which is where another team would have to keep Harvey all year if they wanted his long-term services.
So, frankly, Harvey was probably a longshot to stick with another organization all of next year, but the Orioles couldn’t take that chance. A team that is in full rebuilding mode, like the Miami Marlins, for instance, might have grabbed him, put him in the bullpen and rolled the dice, hoping Harvey would be serviceable enough that it would be worth the long-term upside.
That sounds like an Orioles thing to do. Therefore, the Orioles had no choice but to be proactive now. Harvey appears to be recovered from surgery and will be in spring camp in Sarasota.
Given his lack of experience, the Orioles won’t be tempted to bring him north for Opening Day; I’d expect Harvey would start at High-A Frederick or Double-A Bowie, which I know is where some within the organization would like him to begin 2018.
The fact he is now on the 40-man roster means he could leap into the majors in 2018. The Orioles had to make sure if he gets that opportunity it is with them, and not someone else.
Hard to argue with that logic.
Wynns and Hess placed on 40-man; Wilkerson isn’t
One of the cooler stories each winter is when long-time minor leaguers are placed on the 40-man roster to avoid selection in the upcoming December’s Rule 5 draft.
Besides Harvey, the Orioles also added two others to their 40-man roster Monday to bring their total to 33: right-hander David Hess and catcher Austin Wynns.
Hess, 24, was the Orioles’ fifth-rounder in 2014, but was actually the club’s third pick that year because it had forfeited the first two selections for free agents the previous winter (Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz.). By the next season, several in the organization believed Hess could be the best of the 2014 group, because of a varied arsenal and a solid acumen for pitching.
This was his second full season at Double-A, and he acquitted himself fairly well in 2017, going 11-9 with a 3.85 ERA in 27 games (26 starts). He’s put himself on the radar for a spot — at some point — in the major league rotation, perhaps later on in 2018 or in early 2019. But he could stick in a big-league bullpen, too, and so he might have been snagged by another organization that viewed him as a potential middle-inning reliever now.
Wynns turns 27 in December and has played only eight games above Double-A in his career. But he is a defensive specialist and hit .281 in 105 games at Bowie in 2017. With the Orioles down to Caleb Joseph and Chance Sisco as catchers on the 40-man roster, it made sense to add Wynns.
It’s probably unlikely, given his age, that another team would have taken Wynns. But the Orioles need this type of player anyway to boost their catching depth, and it is a nice reward for a former 10th rounder (in 2013).
We often seem to make a big deal about who was left of the Orioles’ 40-man roster at this time of year, yet other organizations rarely take anyone from Baltimore’s system in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft. Since 2011 only one player was selected away from the Orioles’ organization in that phase: Korean first baseman Ji-man Choi, who had been signed as a minor league free agent a month earlier.
So, there may not be much to worry about this year. But perhaps the most surprising name the Orioles needed to add to the roster to protect and didn’t was 25-year-old infielder Steve Wilkerson. The Clemson product and former eighth-round pick hit .305 between High-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie in 2017 and also has hit well in the Arizona Fall League.
Wilkerson is viewed as a utility infielder type, and that’s probably not the kind of player a team will keep all year on the major league roster (though the Orioles did that with Ryan Flaherty in 2012). Still, it was a bit of a surprise he wasn’t added since Wilkerson is potentially in the mix for the Orioles’ utility job in 2018, though his ability to play shortstop at the big league level is questionable, and that’s usually a pre-requisite for a utility player.
Hall of Fame O’s connections
The 2018 Hall of Fame ballot was announced today and there are plenty of former Orioles on the holdover list including Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Vladimir Guerrero and Sammy Sosa. The first-year nominee list includes ex-Orioles Aubrey Huff, Kevin Millwood, Jamie Moyer and Jim Thome, as well as Johan Santana, who was in the Orioles’ minor-league system in 2014.
This is probably the year Guerrero gets in, and Thome has an excellent shot, too. Mussina’s vote totals climb annually, but he’s probably a few years away from potential induction.
The problem right now is there are so many good candidates, created in part by the “steroid logjam,” that it’s hard to predict which players will receive 75 percent of the vote.
I am a Hall of Fame voter, and I think this one is going to be extremely difficult. At first blush, I have 12 candidates I think are worthy, and another three to five that are on the bubble. And I can only vote for 10 each year.
I take it seriously, so I won’t be throwing away a vote to give some props to Huff and Millwood, both of whom I enjoyed covering.
How I’m going to whittle it to 10, though, I don’t know yet.