The Orioles have six openings on the 40-man roster, but we don’t know if they’re going to use all six spots on Tuesday when they add players eligible for the Rule 5 draft.
Grayson Rodriguez, the top pitching prospect in baseball, will be added. So will infielder Joey Ortiz, the fourth-round pick in 2019, who finished the season at Triple-A Norfolk with a .346 average and .967 OPS in 26 games.
Left-hander Drew Rom, a fourth-round pick in 2018, seems certain to be protected, as well. He was 8-3 with a 4.43 ERA with 144 strikeouts in 120 innings at Norfolk and Double-A Bowie.
Right-hander Seth Johnson, whom the Orioles obtained from Tampa Bay in the three-way deal that sent Trey Mancini to Houston, also is likely to be protected even though he had Tommy John surgery after the deal was consummated. Johnson is rated 10th on MLB Pipeline’s list of top 30 Oriole prospects. Ortiz is rated 17th and Rom 19th.
If the Orioles decide to fill all six slots with prospects, they could consider catcher Maverick Handley and reliever Noah Denoyer. Handley was taken in the sixth round in 2019 from Stanford and was a college teammate of Kyle Stowers. He hasn’t played above Double-A, but he hit 11 homers and drove in 45 runs with the Baysox. He hit .only 236 but drew enough walks for a .352 on-base percentage. Handley has thrown out 43 percent of runners attempting to steal during his pro career.
Although it’s unlikely he would jump from Double-A to the majors to serve as Adley Rutschman’s backup, he could play for the Orioles sometime in 2023—if he stays with them.
Denoyer was 3-1 with a 4.50 ERA in 20 innings with Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League, so scouts from other teams are familiar with him. Signed as an undrafted free agent, Denoyer had a combined 5-2 record with two saves and a 2.89 ERA at Bowie and High-A Aberdeen. His most impressive stat is his strikeout/walk ratio, 99 strikeouts and 17 walks in 71 2/3 innings.
Last year, the Orioles protected six players — starters Kyle Bradish, DL Hall and Kevin Smith, relievers Félix Bautista and Logan Gillaspie and infielder Terrin Vavra. Bautista and Gillaspie were surprises, and Smith, who remains in the organization, was removed from the 40-man roster early in the season.
Right-handers Kyle Brnovich and Zach Peek, who were obtained along with Bradish in the trade that sent starting pitcher Dylan Bundy to the Los Angeles Angels in December 2019, had Tommy John surgery during the season but could be drafted if left unprotected.
Infielders Cadyn Grenier and Adam Hall and outfielder Robert Neustrom were left off the 40-man roster last year and are likely to be left off again.
There was no Rule 5 draft last year because of the Major League Baseball lockout.
Changes to the 40-man roster can be made after Tuesday, but players from the minor league system can’t be added to the roster until after the December 7th Rule 5 draft.
Rutschman finishes second: Adley Rutschman finished a distant second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting. One voter, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, who covers the Toronto Blue Jays, gave Rutschman his only first-place vote.
I was one of 29 who cast a first-place vote for Seattle outfielder Julio Rodriguez. Rutschman and Cleveland’s Steven Kwan were my second- and third-place votes.
It was another strong year for rookies. Rutschman, who was voted Most Valuable Oriole, helped the Orioles improve from 52 to 83 wins in a year in which the team wasn’t eliminated from playoff consideration until the season’s final week.
Rutschman, 24, didn’t start the season with the Orioles because of a sore right triceps and didn’t arrive until May 21st. He played 113 games, and the Orioles were 63-50 in those games. Rutschman hit .254 with 13 home runs and 52 RBIs with an .806 OPS in 113 games.
Rodriguez, 21, who was with the Mariners on Opening Day, hit .284 with 28 home runs, 75 RBIs and an .853 OPS. He stole 25 bases in 32 attempts and finished runner-up to Juan Soto in the Home Run Derby. He had a 6.2 WAR (Wins Above Replacement).
Kwan, Rutschman’s teammate at Oregon State, had an impressive year, too, and finished third in the voting. Kansas City shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., who was chosen with the pick after Rutschman in 2019, finished fourth, and Houston shortstop Jeremy Peña and Mariners pitcher George Kirby were fifth and sixth.
I thought about Witt and Peña, and even Oriole closer Félix Bautista in the final weeks of the season, but Bautista faltered at the end of the season.
Rutschman receives a year of service time for his second-place finish.
No Orioles rookie has won the award since relief pitcher Gregg Olson in 1989. Perhaps Gunnar Henderson, who remains eligible in 2023, will win it next year.
It seemed likely that Rutschman would be a finalist for a Gold Glove, but he wasn’t. It’s possible he could receive some down-ballot votes for Most Valuable Player. He came up too late in the season to be considered as the Orioles’ representative for the All-Star Game.
In the future, it’s likely he’ll receive many All-Star Game invitations, win some Gold Gloves and be in consideration for MVP. It’s just that Rodriguez was better this season.