The Orioles have made at least one selection in the Rule 5 draft for the past 15 years, the longest run by a major league team. That streak has lasted through four different heads of baseball operations and has produced some worthwhile finds.
In 2017, on the recommendation of Frederick Keys manager Keith Bodie, the Orioles selected outfielder Anthony Santander, who hadn’t played above High-A in the Cleveland Indians organization.
Last season, reliever Tyler Wells, the second of two draft picks, was taken from the Minnesota Twins, and he’ll enter 2022 as a potential closer.
Ten years ago, the Orioles snatched infielder Ryan Flaherty from the Chicago Cubs, and he was a valuable utility man during the club’s playoff years.
Left-hander T.J. McFarland, taken in 2012, was with the Orioles for four seasons and had a 2.76 ERA in their 2014 run to the American League Championship Series. McFarland has been in the major leagues ever since and had a 4-1 record and 2.56 ERA for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2021 and re-signed with them.
Since Mike Elias took over as the Orioles’ executive vice president/general manager three years ago, the Orioles have had multiple Rule 5 players in each spring training, and 2022 should be no exception.
The Orioles have the first pick in the Rule 5 draft, scheduled for December 8th and, after they add a handful of prospects to their 40-man roster on Friday, probably will have room for two picks.
Of the six players taken by Elias, Wells and shortstop Richie Martin, the first overall pick in 2018, remain with the team. Infielder Drew Jackson (2018), right-handed pitchers Brandon Bailey and Michael Rucker (2019), and right-hander Mac Sceroler (2020) were returned to the teams from which they were drafted.
During the last 10 years, the Orioles have lost just three players. In 2015, the Los Angeles Angels picked first baseman Ji Man Choi, who had signed a minor league contract with the Orioles. Last year, Arizona chose right-handers Zach Pop, who was flipped to the Miami Marlins, and the Chicago Cubs took Gray Fenter, who was returned during spring training and is a minor league free agent.
If not this year, then certainly in the coming years, the Orioles will lose players in the Rule 5 draft. For now, it seems that they’ll be able to protect the players they want — left-handed starter D.L. Hall, right-handers Kyle Bradish and Kevin Smith, infielder Terrin Vavra and perhaps outfielder Robert Neustrom or left-handed reliever Nick Vespi.
They have 32 players on the 40-man roster and will want to enter the Rule 5 draft with no more than 38.
Losing players is the sign of an improving farm system, though many of the team’s best prospects won’t need to be protected until next year at the earliest. In retrospect, the Orioles would have loved to protect Pop, who had a 4.12 ERA in 50 games for the Marlins last year, but Wells could turn out to be the better pick.
Last year’s Rule 5 draft was a strong one. Two players selected before Sceroler was chosen fifth, outfielder Akil Baddoo (Detroit) and right-handed reliever Garrett Whitlock (Boston), had excellent seasons.
The Orioles don’t have a catcher on the 40-man roster, but if there is a suitable one, perhaps they can choose one. Generally, the Rule 5 isn’t a great place to find catchers. There hasn’t been one taken in the last four drafts, and the Orioles last took a catcher in 2008 when they drafted Lou Palmisano from the Milwaukee Brewers. Palmisano was traded to Houston, and he never played organized ball again.
The obvious need is for pitching, and the success Wells had in 2021 should encourage the Orioles to take another pitcher or two.
Mullins finishes 9th: Orioles centerfielder Cedric Mullins finished ninth in the American League Most Valuable Player balloting, won unanimously by the Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani.
Mullins received votes on 27 of 30 ballots. He got one fourth-place vote, two fifth- and sixth-place votes, three seventh-place, nine eighth- and ninth-place, and one 10th-place vote.
Diplán re-signed: The Orioles re-signed right-handed reliever Marcos Diplán to a minor league contract. Diplán was 2-0 with a 4.50 ERA in 25 games. The agreement was first reported by MASNSports.com and confirmed by an industry source.
Minor league housing: Major League Baseball announced that they would provide housing to the majority of minor league players in 2022. Players at all levels will receive furnished housing. The only exceptions are players with existing major league contracts and minor league players who sign for at least $100,000.