One of the perks of having the worst record in baseball is the ability to select first not only in the June draft of amateurs, but also in the December Rule 5 draft.
In theory, having the opportunity to draft the best player who isn’t on a team’s 40-man roster sounds like a plum. In practice, the first pick in a Rule 5 draft is lucky to play even a supporting role on the team that selects him.
Victor Reyes was the top pick in last December’s draft by the Detroit Tigers. Reyes, an outfielder who was plucked from the Arizona Diamondbacks, made the Tigers but hit just .222 in 100 games. Even worse, Reyes’ on-base percentage was only .239 because he walked just five times in 219 plate appearances.
The Orioles have been the most active user of the Rule 5 draft in recent years. They’ve made a selection in every Rule 5 since 2006, the longest active stretch in baseball.
In Dan Duquette’s seven drafts, the Orioles selected 10 players. Seven played for the Orioles, and three remain: reliever Pedro Araujo and outfielders Joey Rickard and Anthony Santander.
Duquette made lone selections from 2011-15, and in December 2016 chose two outfielders, Santander and Aneury Tavarez, who was returned to Boston in March 2017. Tavarez remains with the Red Sox, hitting .226 for Triple-A Pawtucket.
When Tavarez was sent back to Boston, Duquette said that when the Orioles were drafting him they were unaware of Cedric Mullins’ potential. Mullins came to many Grapefruit League games in 2017 and showed enough promise that the Orioles thought they could part with Tavarez.
Santander was on the disabled list for most of the 2017 season because of a right forearm injury and used up about half the required 90 days to lose Rule 5 status. He remained on the Orioles’ active roster to start 2018 and was sent to Double-A Bowie on May 13 after his 90 days were up.
Santander, who hit just .198 in 33 games, failed to click in the minor leagues and batted .249. He missed time late in the season because of a staph infection in his knee.
He is still on the 40-man roster, but because there will be a new regime evaluating him, Santander’s place on the Orioles isn’t secure.
Nor is Araujo’s, who must remain on the active roster for the first 17 days of the 2019 season. Araujo had a right forearm injury that sidelined him in mid-June. In 20 games, Araujo, who had no real experience above High-A, had a 7.71 ERA.
Rickard has proven to be an acceptable reserve outfielder. In three seasons with the Orioles, Rickard has hit .252 with an unremarkable OBP of .298.
One of the qualities that attracted Rickard to the Orioles was his ability to get on base in the minor leagues. Before he got to the majors in 2016, Rickard had an OBP of .388.
Rickard, who is 27, could stick because he can play all three outfield positions. He’s been used a pinch-runner and defensive replacement. He’s also been valuable facing the Tampa Bay Rays, the team the Orioles drafted him from in December 2015.
Rickard is a career .306 hitter against the Rays, and 26 of his 61 RBIs came when facing Tampa Bay.
In 2017, Duquette chose not only Araujo from the Chicago Cubs, but Nestor Cortes and Jose Mesa from the New York Yankees. Mesa was returned to New York when Alex Cobb was signed, and Cortes was gone after allowing 10 hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings.
Duquette was criticized for saddling former manager Buck Showalter with three Rule 5 picks (Araujo, Cortes and Santander) on the 25-man active roster to begin 2018, but he had made some good selections in the past.
Ryan Flaherty was an effective utility infielder for six seasons after Duquette selected him in December 2011. Flaherty was useful because the Orioles failed to produce a major league ready swingman in his time with the Orioles.
T.J. McFarland was a useful left-hander for parts of the four seasons he was with the team (2013-16), and Rickard has occasionally come in handy.
Michael Almanzar, who was taken in the December 2013 Rule 5 draft, has never played in the majors, and Jason Garcia, a right-handed pitcher, who had a 4.25 ERA in 21 games in 2015, drifted to Independent ball in 2018.
There was some thought that the Orioles were getting ahead of this year’s draft when they acquired three pitchers from the Yankees, Cody Carroll, Josh Rogers and Dillon Tate for Zach Britton.
Because the Yankees’ farm system is flush with prospects, perhaps one or more of the three might not be protected. This way, the Orioles have three options on each of them and aren’t forced to keep a raw prospect on the major league roster.
If the team carries 13 pitchers, it would seem unlikely that the Orioles would draft another position player. With a three-man bench, including a backup catcher, the other two reserves must be flexible, and utility players are valued highly by teams and likely to be protected.
Because the team is in flux, and getting the top pick in the Rule 5 draft is so tempting, it seems likely that the Orioles will make a selection. But they might not be as committed to keeping the player as they were under Duquette.
The Orioles signed 16-year-old outfielder J’Rudjeanon Isenia from Curacao.
“Isenia is a right-handed-hitting outfielder with above average tools and a good swing. He is a very coachable young player who we look forward to developing,” Brian Graham, Orioles director of player development said.
Adding to the 40-man roster
The Orioles’ 40-man roster is full because of the promotion of right-handed pitcher Branden Kline from Bowie. Kline, a native of Frederick, was a second-round pick in 2012 but slowed by injuries.
Kline had a 1.64 ERA in 44 games with the Baysox and Frederick.