The Orioles qualified for the postseason for the first time in seven years, won their first division title in nine years and won 100 games for the first time in 43 years.
Next month, Gunnar Henderson should be named the American League’s Rookie of the Year, breaking a 33-year drought for the team.
I’m sure you’re familiar with all those milestones, but here’s another one worth watching: In December, the Orioles could bypass the Rule 5 draft for the first time since 2005.
The odds are the Orioles will continue this streak, which began when Sam Perlozzo was the manager and Mike Flanagan and Jim Duquette ran the front office.
Because of the Orioles’ formerly weak farm system, the Rule 5 draft was a necessity for years. During their 2012-2016 playoff run, two useful players — infielder Ryan Flaherty and left-handed pitcher T.J. McFarland, who pitched for Triple-A Norfolk this season — were selected and filled necessary roles.
When Mike Elias took over in November 2018, one of his first acts was to decide on who the Orioles would choose with the top pick in the Rule 5 draft. They picked shortstop Richie Martin, and force-fed him to the majors in 2019. Martin hit .208 in 120 games and because of injuries and better players being acquired, he played 50 games in 2021 and 2022.
Martin’s final game with the Orioles was the game their 10-game winning streak started on July 3rd, 2022. He spent 2023 with Triple-A Rochester in Washington’s organization.
Elias has often spoken of the good fortune he had, inheriting several quality players and prospects from the Dan Duquette regime. One of those was rightfielder Anthony Santander, a Rule 5 pick in December 2016.
Santander played just 46 games in the major leagues in 2017 and 2018, belatedly fulfilling his Rule 5 obligations on May 12th, 2018. Because of a right elbow injury, Santander’s major league debut was delayed until August 18th, 2017.
A Rule 5 draftee must be on the active roster for 90 days to fulfill Rule 5 obligations. After the Orioles sent Santander to the minor leagues, he didn’t return for good until June 2019.
Santander had an excellent first season, hitting .261 with 20 home runs and 59 RBIs and a .773 OPS in 93 games in 2019. He won the Most Valuable Oriole award in the truncated 2020 season despite playing only 37 games and has been a steady presence in the lineup the last three seasons. In 2022 and 2023, he hit 61 home runs and drove in 184 runs.
Santander is the best Rule 5 pick in Orioles history, but while they may well continue their streak and make another selection at the Winter Meetings in Nashville on December 6th, they won’t select another outfielder or any other position player.
Their depth is too great to allow them to allocate roster space to a rookie who can’t be sent to the minor leagues for a full season and wouldn’t play much. Instead of another Santander, they’ll try to find another Tyler Wells.
Wells was picked in December 2020 and, like Santander four years earlier, was the second of two picks that year.
Pitcher Mac Sceroler was returned to the Cincinnati Reds after just five games in 2021. Outfielder Aneury Tavárez never made it out of spring training in 2017 and went back to the Boston Red Sox. Sceroler hasn’t been back to the major leagues. Távarez played in Mexico this season.
Wells has been successful, first as a reliever, and then as a starter before relieving again at the end of this season.
The Orioles aren’t likely to find an instant starter in the Rule 5 draft, but they will look for another reliever.
Despite an outstanding bullpen performance in 2022 and most of those pieces returning, Elias drafted reliever Andrew Politi. He had a decent spring training, but the Orioles couldn’t afford to keep a reliever who wouldn’t have been able to be optioned during the season. Politi was returned to the Red Sox, and he was 7-5 with 17 saves and a 4.45 earned-run average for Triple-A Worcester.
The Orioles will have a late pick in the Rule 5 draft, but that shouldn’t deter them. Santander was the 16th and final pick in 2016 and Wells the 17th of 18 selections in 2020.
Of next year’s possible bullpen, Mike Baumann, Danny Coulombe, Cole Irvin, Cionel Pérez, Jacob Webb and newly acquired Tucker Davidson are out of options. Adding another reliever who can’t be optioned would make it difficult to manipulate.
That may not deter Elias from a 17th consecutive year of an Orioles Rule 5 selection and add another story line for next season’s spring training.