LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The Rule 5 draft is the final event of the Winter Meetings and it happens at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning. The Orioles have made at least one Rule 5 selection every year since 2006.
Even though they are likely to carry outfielder Anthony Santander on their roster to start the 2018 season, no one would be surprised by the Orioles selecting another player tomorrow. Santander still has to spend 44 days on the active major league roster to fulfill his Rule 5 obligation before he can be optioned to the minors.
If the club does make a pick, it sure seems likely that it would be a pitcher. Finding starters in the Rule 5 is difficult and few are available. Perhaps a bullpen arm can be added. O’s vice president Dan Duquette has said the club is seeking a power left-hander for the bullpen.
This morning, during “MASN All Access,” I asked J.J. Cooper of Baseball America to size up a few power arms - both lefties and righties - that the O’s could look at tomorrow.
“If you like Tanner Scott, take the attributes of Tanner Scott and take it up to 11,” Cooper said. “Jake Brentz for the Pirates throws probably harder than Tanner Scott. Tanner Scott is a little wild. Brentz is much wilder. When he was in A-ball last year he was OK. He went to Double-A and walked more than a batter per inning. There are guys out there like that. How much do you want to live with the risk of the wildness? There are not many lefties that throw 100. This guy does.
“I don’t know if he will be there when the Orioles pick, but (right-hander) Nick Burdi (of the Twins) was one of the top arms coming out of college in 2014 coming out of Louisville. He was pitching well at Double-A last year. He’s always had some control troubles but he can throw 100 (mph). He later had to be shut down and had Tommy John surgery.
“Whoever takes him knows you will have to carry him on the DL for a while. But you are talking about a guy that has a legitimate seventh-, eighth-, ninth-inning type of arm and you can get him for $100,000. Might be worth kicking the tires on. If healthy, he would not be available in this draft.”
Cooper said right-hander Julian Fernandez of the Rockies touched 102 mph this year. He may be the second-hardest thrower in pro ball behind Aroldis Chapman. The 22-year-old Fernandez, who is lacking quality secondary pitches, could be had in this draft.
Lefty Sam Selman of Kansas City throws low to mid-90s and fanned 97 over 67 2/3 innings this year between Double-A and Triple-A. He also held lefty batters to a sub-.100 batting average.
Earlier this week my MASNsports.com colleague, Roch Kubatko, listed lefty Austin Davis of the Phillies as a player on the O’s radar. Davis, a 6-foot-4 power lefty who turns 25 in February, was a combined 6-2 with a 2.60 ERA in 42 appearances with Single-A Clearwater and Double-A Reading. He struck out 75 batters in 69 1/3 innings.
Cooper did not project any Orioles to get taken in the Rule 5. His extensive Rule 5 preview lists over 80 players that could be selected, but none are Orioles.
“The strength of the Orioles system is more guys who are a little further away,” he said. “We are talking about 2013 or earlier high school picks and 2014 college picks. The best players in the Orioles system are generally guys that were drafted in ‘14 and later. None of those guys are eligible for this. It doesn’t mean there won’t be an Oriole taken. This is the draft unlike the others. There is not a consensus on players.”
O’s minor leaguer Steve Wilkerson, who was yesterday suspended for the first 50 games of next season following a positive test for an amphetamine in violation of the minor league drug program, is still eligible to be take in the Rule 5.