Between three teams last year, Rickard hit .321/.427/.447 with 28 doubles, eight triples, two homers and 55 RBIs. He stole 23 bases and scored 62 runs. The Rays selected Rickard, a Las Vegas native, in the ninth round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Arizona.
Rickard began the 2015 season in high Single-A ball, moved to Double-A and ended it in Triple-A. In those 29 games with Triple-A Durham, Rickard hit .360/.437/.472 and he hit .413 against right-handed pitching. He has a career .283 average and .390 OBP.
“This kid has had a great year,” Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said. “Started out in A-ball. They move him to Double-A and he did even better. They sent him to Triple-A and he did even better there. At the end of the season, he went to the Dominican and did well there. He’s been one of the top players in the league in the Dominican.
“He has good on-base capability, good speed. Excellent contact hitter, can steal a base. And he’s a good defensive player, and he played center field and left. We think he gives us some depth. He just looks like he learned how to play. Looks like a good solid, overall ballplayer. Good discipline in the strike zone and we look forward to taking a look at him in the spring.”
Rickard would have to stay on the Orioles roster all year as Rule 5 pick or be offered back to the Rays organization. Were the Orioles looking to target an outfielder in today’s draft?
“Well, we looked at some outfielders,” Duquette said. “We have a need and opportunity in the outfield. We recognized Joey Rickard’s improvement. You look at how he is trending and he’s trending up. Very rarely do you see a player get moved up as quickly as he moved up this year. Outfield was definitely the depth of this draft.
“Who knows, with more experience, maybe he can be a setup hitter in the big leagues. He started out as the leadoff man on his Dominican winter league team, but he hit with authority and they moved him to third in the lineup. They project him to be the top player in that league, so that’s a pretty impressive year that Rickard had.”
With the addition of Rickard today, the Orioles’ 40-man roster is now full.
The Orioles lost a player in the major league portion of the Rule 5 when the Angels selected first baseman Ji-Man Choi, a player that has never played for the Orioles. He was signed by the club to a minor league contract this offseason. Choi, 24, has hit .302/.404/.481 with a .886 OPS in 335 career games over five minor league seasons.
“I was kind of surprised he got drafted to the major leagues because he was out there for a while as a free agent. That was a bit of a surprise,” Duquette said.
In the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft, the Orioles added two pitchers. First, they selected right-hander Cory Jones, 24, from the St. Louis organization. Jones had Tommy John surgery in July 2014 and missed all of last year. But he is well down the road in his rehab from the surgery at this point. He was drafted in round five by the Cardinals in 2012. Jones is 9-4 with a 3.81 ERA in 21 starts over three seasons and the O’s will use him as a starter in the minors.
They then selected 25-year-old left-hander Chipper Smith from the Marlins. In high SIngle-A and Double-A last year, he went 5-7 with an ERA of 4.39 in 108 2/3 innings. Smith was drafted in round 38 by Miami in 2012. He is also expected to pitch as a starter this year.
Even though these players are taken in the Triple-A phase of the draft, they can be assigned to any affiliate at any level when the season starts.
The Orioles lost three players in the minor league phase. The Chicago Cubs selected catcher David Freitas, who was the player to be named in the Jim Johnson trade to Oakland. Tampa Bay selected left-handed pitcher Adam Kolarek, a product of Catonsville High School who played at the University of Maryland. Detroit selected right-handed pitcher Santiago Garrido.
Kolarek and Garrido had just been signed by the Orioles this offseason.