The Orioles must protect players from the Rule 5 draft no later than November 19th, and there are many candidates to consider.
In the last two years, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias has added 10 players—four in 2019: pitchers Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer, first baseman/designated hitter Ryan Mountcastle and outfielder Ryan McKenna; and six last year: pitchers Mike Baumann, Isaac Mattson, Zac Lowther and Alexander Wells, outfielder Yusniel Diaz and infielder Rylan Bannon.
All remain on the roster.
According to RosterResource, the Orioles have more than 30 players eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft, but it’s likely that Elias will choose more than a handful to add.
The Orioles have 35 players on their 40-man roster. One, veteran left-hander Fernando Abad ,will be removed when the World Series ends and free agency begins. Five players on the 60-day injured list — Akin, right-handers Hunter Harvey and Jorge López, infielder Jorge Mateo and outfielder DJ Stewart — must be put back on the roster after the Series.
The Orioles will have to remove about five players to add the newly eligible to the roster. The team’s two top prospects, catcher Adley Rutschman and right-handed pitcher Grayson Rodriguez, don’t need to be added until they’re placed on the major league roster next season, which seems certain, or November 2022.
Here are some of the top candidates for a 40-man roster spot.
Left-handed pitcher D.L. Hall
Hall was the Orioles’ top selection in the 2017 draft and was making steady progress when he suffered an elbow injury that ended his 2021 season at Double-A Bowie. In his seven starts for the Baysox, Hall was 2-0 with a 3.13 ERA and 56 strikeouts, and allowed just 4.5 hits per nine innings.
Hall will be added.
Right-hander Kyle Bradish
Bradish was one of four right-handed pitchers acquired in the December 2019 trade with the Los Angeles Angels for Dylan Bundy. Mattson, Ryan Brnovich and Zach Peek were the others.
In three starts at Bowie, Bradish threw 13 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out 26 and walking five. That earned him a promotion to Triple-A Norfolk. His time in Norfolk wasn’t as smooth — a 5-5 record and 4.26 ERA. Bradish struck out 105 and walked 39 in 86 2/3 innings.
Although he might still need time at Triple-A, Bradish also seems certain to be added.
Left-hander Kevin Smith
Smith was obtained from the New York Mets in the trade for reliever Miguel Castro in August 2020. At Bowie, Smith was 0-1 with a 1.04 ERA in six games, five starts.
When he moved up to Triple-A, Smith struggled. He was 3-6 with a 6.23 ERA and allowed 14 home runs in 56 1/3 innings.
While the Triple-A stats might not impress, the Orioles are high on Smith and if he isn’t protected, he would be a good bet to be taken in the Rule 5 draft.
Right-hander Cody Sedlock
Sedlock is an interesting case. In 2016, he was the Orioles’ top draft pick. In 2021, he finally got his first shot at Triple-A at 26. Sedlock was 1-3 with a 4.45 ERA in seven games, four starts, after he was 5-3 with a 4.60 ERA in 17 games at Bowie.
Sedlock wasn’t drafted in 2019 or 2020, but perhaps a team might take a shot at him if the Orioles leave him unprotected again.
Right-hander Gray Fenter
Fenter and right-hander Zach Pop were selected in last year’s Rule 5 draft. Pop was 1-0 with a 4.12 ERA with a save in 50 games for the Miami Marlins while Fenter was returned to the Orioles during spring training by the Chicago Cubs, who took him.
At 25, Fenter pitched at Double-A for the first time last season and was 6-4 with a 5.47 ERA in 21 games for the Baysox.
Fenter could be taken in consecutive Rule 5 drafts if the Orioles don’t protect him.
Infielder Terrin Vavra
In August 2020, the Orioles sent reliever Mychal Givens to the Colorado Rockies for infielder/outfielder Tyler Nevin, who played six games for the Orioles in 2021, outfielder Mishael Deson, who played in the Florida Complex League, and Vavra.
Vavra’s 2021 season was marred by back and hip injuries. He played in just 48 games, 40 for Bowie, where he hit .248 with five home runs and 20 RBIs. He walked 29 times and struck out 42 and had a .388 on-base percentage.
It seems a good bet that the Orioles will protect Vavra.
Infielder Adam Hall
Hall, who was born in Bermuda and raised in Canada, was taken in the second round of the 2017 draft. He had good seasons for Short-Season A Aberdeen in 2018 and Low-A Delmarva in 2019 but had trouble this past season at High-A Aberdeen, hitting just .248 with a .672 OPS. Hall hit only three home runs in 81 games and missed extended time because of a strained quadriceps.
The Orioles have taken many infielders with early picks in the three drafts under Elias, and it would be a surprise if they protected Hall.
Infielder Cadyn Grenier
Grenier was the 37th overall pick in the 2018 draft and a former teammate of Rutschman’s at Oregon State. His offensive numbers in the minors aren’t impressive, a 230 average, but he walks often enough that his on-base percentage is .337.
At Bowie, Grenier hit just .226 with nine home runs and 43 RBIs and 12 stolen bases. His glove is solid. He didn’t commit an error in 28 games at second and only five in 78 games at short.
The large number of infield prospects make it unlikely that the Orioles will protect either Grenier or Hall, though Grenier did get a brief trial at Norfolk, where he was 1-for-13 (.077) in five games.
Third baseman Patrick Dorrian
Dorrian might be the closest call. At Bowie, he hit 22 home runs, drove in 67 runs, but hit just .242. He did walk 69 times while striking out 143 and had an .815 OPS. He made 13 errors in 85 games
At the end of the season, Dorrian played four games for Norfolk, hitting .125 (2-for-16).
His power numbers and good eye make him intriguing, but his defensive numbers could keep him off the 40-man roster.
Outfielder Robert Neustrom
Neustrom was the Orioles’ fifth-round draft pick in 2018, and his .284 average with an .831 OPS in 62 games at Bowie earned him a promotion to Norfolk. With the Tides, Neustrom hit .232 with nine home runs and 33 RBIs in 64 games.
He stole 12 bases and was thrown out just three times in 2021 and played both left and right field. If the Orioles don’t protect Neustrom, he seems like a good bet to be taken.
Right-handers Blaine Knight, the Orioles’ third-round pick in 2018, Ofelky Peralta, left-handed reliever Nick Vespi and right-handed reliever Cameron Bishop seem unlikely to be added to the 40-man roster. Peralta and Vespi recently signed minor league contracts for 2022 with the Orioles.