SAN DIEGO—The Orioles concluded the Winter Meetings by making two selections in the Rule 5 draft, right-handed pitchers Brandon Bailey, taken from the Houston Astros organization, and Michael Rucker, from the Chicago Cubs. Both are 25.
Bailey, who was a sixth-round pick by Oakland in 2016 and traded to Houston in 2017 for outfielder Ramón Laureano, was 4-5 with a 3.30 ERA for Double-A Corpus Christi in 2019.
“Bailey has a strong track record of performance everywhere he’s been, including at the Double-A level in a starting capacity,” said Mike Snyder, the Orioles’ director of pro scouting.
“He has a full assortment of weapons to left-handed hitters and to right-handed hitters, and we’re excited to see what he can do in the spring.”
Rucker, an 11th-round choice of the Cubs in 2016, was 0-3 with a 4.18 ERA in 36 games with Triple-A Iowa and Double-A Tennessee in 2019.
“Rucker pitches off a riding fastball, two-plus breaking balls, and he mixes in a nice changeup as well,” Snyder said.
“We think both players have an interesting mix of strike-throwing ability as well as strong pitches to help them compete in the American League East.”
The Orioles have been searching for starting pitcher options, and they’re hoping that Bailey could be one.
“It’s a difficult jump for anybody to pitch in the major leagues, no matter where you come from,” Snyder said. “It certainly takes a strong individual to make that jump, no matter where you come from.
“… With these guys, in particular, this is a calculated risk. We like both these players. We think they have a good shot.”
Bailey and Rucker must be kept on the roster all season.
“For them, it’s a great opportunity to win a spot,” Snyder said.
This is the 14th straight Rule 5 draft that the Orioles have selected at least one player, and the fourth consecutive one that results in two selections.
The Orioles’ roster is now at 40 players. They didn’t lose any players. The most prominent players left unprotected were right-handed pitchers Gray Fenter and Cody Sedlock.
“It’s a strategic decisions on who to protect,” Snyder said. “It’s always a risk. We were hopeful, and it worked out well for us.
In the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft, the Orioles drafted 21-year-old outfielder Cristopher Cespedes and 23-year-old second baseman Wilbis Santiago, from Cleveland.
Cespedes hit .326 with a .930 OPS for an Indians rookie league team, and Santiago hit .312 for High-A Lynchburg and Low-A Lake County in 2019.
“Cristopher Cespedes had kind of a breakout season this year,” said Kent Qualls, the Orioles’ director of minor league administration. “A real interesting, toolsy kid.
“… Santiago has always hit throughout his career, hits for a high batting average, a really low strikeout rate.”
Qualls thinks Cespedes will play for Low-A Delmarva, and that Santiago will play for Double-A Bowie in 2020.
They lose right-handed pitcher Ruben Garcia, who pitched for Short Season Aberdeen and Delmarva, to Detroit and right-handed pitcher Jhon Peluffo to Cleveland.
“We’re developing a deeper farm system,” Qualls said. “Certainly hate to lose any player, but those are some of the decisions and choices we have to make … As we go forward and the farm system gets deeper, I think the reality is most clubs, as you saw today, that have deep farm systems, lose a few players.”