The Orioles have a history with Rule 5 picks. Every year since 2006, they’ve selected at least one player in the Rule 5 draft, the longest streak in the major leagues. The players don’t have minor league options so they have to stay with the Orioles for the season if they’re going to keep them.
In Mike Elias’ three years as the team’s executive vice president/general manager, they’ve made two selections in each draft.
Three of those six picks are gone — infielder Drew Jackson, who was picked by the Philadelphia Phillies and dealt to the Orioles, was returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers after just three major league at-bats. Jackson was selected behind Richie Martin, who’s still with the team, in December 2018.
Last year, the Orioles returned right-handers Brandon Bailey to the Houston Astros and Michael Rucker to the Chicago Cubs. They did it before the pandemic shut down the season, which might have given them second thoughts.
This year, with just eight days left before their April 1st opener in Boston, the Orioles still have their two choices from last December’s draft, right-handers Mac Sceroler and Tyler Wells.
“We feel like they both have a lot of upside,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “They’ve both pitched very well in camp. I thought their last outing against the Yankees was very impressive. Both showed that they can throw strikes at this level in that outing. We’re going to continue to take a look at them in the next week. I like both their stuff.”
Initially, it was Sceroler who got the most attention because he’s the nephew of Orioles broadcaster and former pitcher Ben McDonald. Sceroler has allowed five runs on four hits in 4 1/3 innings this spring, walking five and allowing two home runs.
Wells, who was drafted from the Minnesota Twins, has allowed one run on six hits in six innings, walking two and striking out six.
Hyde likes his height, which is listed as 6 feet 8, and his 95 mile-per-hour fastball.
“He’s got some good secondary stuff,” Hyde said. “His fastball can really get on hitters and get by hitters. I like the four-pitch mix from Mac, a potential starter down-the-road type. He’s got that kind of ability. We’re going to continue to take a look at them this week. They’ve been impressive so far.”
Well has enjoyed his time with the Orioles.
“It’s been a big learning experience, for sure,” Wells said. “I’ve been a starter my entire career. I’ve talked a lot with Shawn Armstrong about that, Tanner Scott, Paul Fry, picking their brains on adopting a bit of a reliever role during spring. It’s been going very well, I will say that … Each outing that I’ve had, I’ve gotten better each time. I feel more comfortable each time. It’s been fantastic so far.”
Injuries to Hunter Harvey and Félix Hernandez have opened at least one spot on the staff. Harvey is on the 60-day injured list because of a strained left oblique. Hernández has had discomfort in his right elbow and might not be ready to begin the season.
In order for Wells to make the team, the Orioles probably would have to option a pitcher to Triple-A Norfolk. Fry, Travis Lakins, Cole Sulser and Dillon Tate have options.
Armstrong, 30, who has mentored his young teammates, has focused on preparing Wells for the majors.
“Control what you can control and be ready to go,” is Wells’ interpretation of the advice. “A relief role takes a lot of the thinking out of pitching, which goes against what a lot of the starter mentality really is. There’s a lot of preparation involved in being a starter. A reliever, it’s, ‘get up and go, and be ready.’”
Wells also has appreciated Scott’s help.
“A very physical guy and he talks about the preparation for the body as a reliever in major league baseball,” Wells said. “Daily activities that you have to do just to be ready to go out there and pitch every day. These lessons are very, very valuable for me.”
Wells, who had Tommy John surgery in 2019, never went to major league spring training with the Twins.
“Everything is very loose, very enjoyable, fun,” Wells said. “Whenever it comes down to getting the job done and getting to work, they expect you to work very, very hard.”
Martin was kept on the active roster for the 2019 season and played mostly shortstop. His hitting got better in September, but he missed 2020 because of injury. With three options left, he can be sent to Norfolk to begin this season.
Sceroler could be returned to the Cincinnati Reds, the team from which he was drafted. It seems unlikely that the Orioles will carry two Rule 5 picks.
“Me and Mac have grown really close,” Wells said. “He’s been a great dude away from the field, and he’s also been an awesome dude on the field. Me and him talk quite a lot each and every day about what we learned, what we’re trying to apply each day, and we really bounce a lot of different stuff off each other.
“We talk to each other about how we can make our pitches better, how we can execute pitches better. We talk about our outings. We really try to learn through his own personal experiences, through my own personal experiences.”
It can take time for picks to pan out. Anthony Santander was one of two outfielders chosen in December 2016. It took Santander three seasons to prove the Orioles’ faith in him was correct.
Wells, who was monitoring the Rule 5 draft last December, said he’s not studying the history of those picks.
“I haven’t really paid attention to it,” he said. “Primary reason being, the choice for me to stay is completely out of my control. All I’m really able to do is give myself the best opportunity to compete for a spot and to help the team win. I really just try and stick with what I can control and not really focus on whether stats are in my favor or against my favor.”
Wells has been getting feedback on his pitching, not on the odds of remaining.
“The team has been open and honest with me about my outings,” he said. “We don’t really talk about what the future holds because it’s something that’s out of my control. I like the way they’ve gone about it so far.”