Orioles face tough decisions on 40-man roster additions - BaltimoreBaseball.com


Orioles face tough decisions on 40-man roster additions

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

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.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB






  1. Behemoth

    October 28, 2021 at 7:14 am

    Gray Fenter is eligible for minor league free agency, and I haven’t heard of him being re-signed. Is he still in the organization?

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 28, 2021 at 8:56 am

      As far as I know.

  2. millboy

    October 28, 2021 at 7:18 am

    I had high hopes for Grenier when I watched him playing for the Shorebirds, but it seems he hasn’t taken that next step to be better than good. He did have a good glove though…

  3. HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

    October 28, 2021 at 8:30 am

    Thanks for the thorough review of the leading Rule 5 candidates, much appreciated. Any thoughts on Felix Bautista? He seemed to have a good 2021 at three levels in the minors and is Rule 5 eligible.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 28, 2021 at 8:59 am

      I think he’s eligible for minor league free agency as well, Joe. While he struck out nearly 15 batters per nine innings in the minors, he also walked nearly six batters per nine, and that’s not a recipe for big league success.

      • HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

        October 28, 2021 at 7:29 pm

        Rich, Bautista register 4.4 BB9 at Norfolk with a 1.091 WHIP and 0.5 HR9, that’s a recipe for success. Kind of disappointed to see myopic focus on 5.8 BB9 for entire 2021 season to dismiss him…no push back, got it.

  4. Orial

    October 28, 2021 at 8:39 am

    My gut tells me that if teams were to snag players off the Rule 5 list the majority would be pitchers. So Mr. Elias tread carefully in that area. DL Hall/Bradish keepers,Fenter a sleeper,then the rest a crap-shoot. Thought Neustrom hit better than .232. Adam Hall/Grenier–the time seems to have passed them by.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 28, 2021 at 9:03 am

      Al, I think Adam Hall was affected by the lost minor league season, but he’s still only 22. I think both Hall and Grenier could play in the big leagues, but there may be too
      much competition here for them to be protected.

  5. Bman

    October 28, 2021 at 9:08 am

    I never thought Grenier was a good draft pick that high. How do you pick a Light hitting SS with the 38th pick? That was mind boggling to me. Wasted pick. Unfortunately the Os organization will be targeted in the rule 5. Is there any limit how many players can be taken from one system? Hopefully Elias and co protect as best they can the top quality players.

  6. willmiranda

    October 28, 2021 at 11:09 am

    Two thoughts. Of the ten players protected 2019-2020, only not protecting Mountcastle would have been a real blunder. Second, players, even college grads, spend a long time in the O’s minors to have so many qualify for Rule 5.

  7. Orioles20

    October 28, 2021 at 11:22 am

    It’s time to cut dead wood. Greiner and Fenter are not worth keeping. One was a reach by duquette and the other was a waste of money. Imagine giving a guy in the seventh round third round money to forego Mississippi St and he’s this bad. Sedlock I think deserves a spot he’s gotten better each year. Smith and Adam hall are the guys that are most interesting to me. Adam hall is way to inconsistent. Smith had a terrible September in Norfolk. He may have reason 1 they fired the pitching coach down there

  8. Buzz1979

    October 28, 2021 at 11:42 am

    No worries! Plenty of dead wood to cut off the roster, just look at some of the pitchers still on the roster, a good 9 or 10 of them could go!

    • WorldlyView

      October 28, 2021 at 5:00 pm

      Excellent point, even though it’s probably only 7 or 8 roster pitchers who are clearly expendable. But add in the marginal infielders and outfielders who wouldn’t be missed or claimed as free agents and there should be enough openings to add more than the five new Rule 5 eligibles suggested by Rich. Leaving an open spot for us to claim a new Rule 5-er can be accommodated if you assume that Severino is gone. Bottom line, I think that protecting most of our elite Rule 5 eligibles need not be all that difficult. I look forward to the day when it will be difficult.

  9. Buzz1979

    October 28, 2021 at 11:48 am

    Abad, free agent. Non tender Fry. Greene, Hanhold, Krehbiel, Kriske, Watkins, to get started, Next?

    • DcOsfan

      October 28, 2021 at 1:59 pm

      Agree except maybe Fry. I think he could get back to form

  10. jimcarter

    October 28, 2021 at 12:27 pm

    Aside from DL, it’s a sorry lot. I don’t see them being gobbled up by anyone.

  11. OriolesNumber1Fan

    October 28, 2021 at 4:41 pm

    Hey Rich – This is the second time you mentioned – “One, veteran left-hander Fernando Abad, will be removed when the World Series ends and free agency begins.”. What about Matt Harvey??? Doesn’t he become removed when the Worlds Series ends also???
    Also, I stated this same issue with tough decisions on 40-man roster and the Rule 5 draft some 2 – 3 plus weeks ago and you didn’t think this was an issue.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 28, 2021 at 4:56 pm

      Dario, Matt Harvey is on the 60-day injured list, so he doesn’t count against the 40, so yes he will be removed soon. I don’t think they’ll have tough decisions to who to remove, just tough ones on who to add.

  12. OriolesNumber1Fan

    October 28, 2021 at 5:15 pm

    You mentioned the following: “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.” But you didn’t mention Matt Harvey.
    So how do you know which of these six (6) players including Matt Harvey will all be added or not??? I think they will only keep Jorge Mateo and Jorge López. So they will need to remove more players to keep more than three minor leaguers that now need to be protected.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 28, 2021 at 5:33 pm

      Dario, as I said, I didn’t mention Harvey because he doesn’t count against the 40 and will go directly into free agency. The five other players on the 60 will return to the 40, and then they will decide who to remove to add the minor leaguers they want to protect.

  13. MDNative58

    October 29, 2021 at 9:38 am

    It’s difficult to hold onto a rule five position player for the entire season. Pitchers on the other hand can be hidden and used judiciously to determine if you want to keep them long-term. Therefore I think Elias learned his lesson last year with Pop and will protect mostly pitchers. All of those position players could be taken and then likely returned because they don’t have the skill to be on the major-league level for the entire year and teams can’t waste a roster spot like that. And don’t be so easy to write off a position player that has been in our organization for sometime. Case in point Cedric Mullins.

  14. birdroppings

    October 29, 2021 at 10:09 am

    Neustrom is a tough one for me. It seems like they can’t carry 7 outfielders on the 40. i mean they can, but should they? Unless they are going move one (Stewart, Santander), I’d be tempted to risk losing Neustrom. Stewart still has some value and they’ll need to protect Stowers at least next year, someone’s not going to make the cut.

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