Rule 5 draft pick Anthony Santander said Saturday morning that the MRA on his right elbow showed only “small inflammation” and he should return to baseball activities soon.
“I think it’s just a matter of a few days,” Santander said through interpreter Ramon Alarcon. “Monday, I start my regular routine again, so I think it’s just a few days away.”
This is good news for the 22-year-old, switch-hitting outfielder. He’s had to overcome offseason surgery on his right shoulder, but he’s never had elbow issues besides having bone spurs removed when he was younger.
But for the Orioles’ roster plans? Not such good news.
If Santander can be back playing in a few days, it’ll be darn near impossible to justify a disabled list stint to start the season. And stashing him on the DL may be the only way the Orioles could keep Santander on a crowded 25-man roster for Opening Day.
Because he’s been rehabbing from shoulder surgery, Santander hasn’t yet played the outfield – and the Orioles don’t know if he can effectively. They do know he can hit and hit with power, though. And that’s something that is in short supply within the Orioles’ minor league system.
Santander, and another Rule 5 outfielder, Aneury Tavarez, must remain on the Orioles’ active big-league roster all season or be offered back to their original organizations at half their draft price.
For Santander, that’s the Cleveland Indians. And the sense in the industry is that the Indians weren’t thrilled with losing him in December. So, there’s no way they wouldn’t take him back.
Before that can happen, Santander would have to be put on waivers, and any team could claim him, so long as that club adheres to the Rule 5 restrictions as well.
At least one talent evaluator has said it’s 50-50 that Santander could pass through waivers given his upside and the fact he appears relatively healthy. The claiming team would have to be one that doesn’t believe it will contend in 2017, the evaluator surmised, but he also said there are several teams like that currently in the majors.
We all know how teams value prospects these days, so the bottom line is if the Orioles can’t keep Santander, they’re going to lose him. And it just doesn’t seem likely that they can keep him.
Joey Rickard and Craig Gentry are definitely making legitimate pushes to make this roster, and the Orioles also have to figure out what to do with the 24-year-old Tavarez, who was selected from the Boston Red Sox.
Santander said he and Tavarez have talked about their plights, and their hopes that they can stick on the roster.
“We definitely talked about that, but we understand the situation that we’re in. It’s a competition right now,” Santander said. “Both of us could make the team. At the same time, we could be returned to our previous team, so we understand it’s a tough situation, but we just go out there and work hard.”
Santander said he really wants to play the outfield this month to show the Orioles he’s not just a heavy-hitting DH – this spring he’s 7-for-28 with two homers and seven RBIs in limited action.
“It’s very important for me, because the team selected me in the Rule 5 for something and I really want to show them what I can do,” Santander said. “But the reality is that it’s out of my control, so I’m just taking it a day at a time.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette have been able to expertly juggle Rule 5 picks during the regular season in the past, but this one looks particularly daunting.
Unless another injury crops up – with Santander or another player ticketed for the 25-man roster – the Orioles may not have a choice but to let go of Santander, Tavarez or both.