SAN DIEGO - The Orioles have made a selection in the major league phase of baseball’s Rule 5 draft at every Winter Meetings since 2006. Pitcher Alfredo Simón began the streak, though the Orioles traded him to the Phillies for catcher Adam Donachie.
It’s a streak that’s certain to grow this morning with the Orioles holding the second-overall pick behind the Tigers.
Which position is the only element of mystery. The pitching pool is much deeper than last year, when the Orioles chose shortstop Richie Martin from the Athletics organization and traded for infielder Drew Jackson. And executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias indicated yesterday that the selection could compete for a spot in the 2020 rotation.
Pitcher Randor Bierd came to the Orioles in 2007, catcher Lou Palmisano in 2008, left-hander Ben Snyder in 2009, pitcher Adrian Rosario in 2010, infielder Ryan Flaherty in 2011, left-hander T.J. McFarland in 2012, third baseman Michael Almanzar in 2013, pitcher Logan Verrett in 2014, outfielder Joey Rickard in 2015, outfielders Aneury Tavárez and Anthony Santander in 2016 and pitchers Nestor Cortés Jr., Pedro Araujo and Jose Mesa Jr. in 2017.
They aren’t all keepers.
The Orioles should have held onto José Bautista in 2003. A skinny infielder who would turn into a power-hitting outfielder and a villain in Baltimore.
Jay Gibbons ranks among the organization’s best Rule 5 selections, his arrival from the Blue Jays coming in 2000. He was listed as a first baseman but also played the outfield.
The roster expansion to 26 players next season gives teams more freedom and courage to make a selection.
There’s a buzz surrounding hard-throwing right-hander Jordan Sheffield, 24, of the Dodgers organization. His fastball touches 98 mph and his curveball and changeup can be plus pitches. However, he’s been challenged to find the plate and teams have to weigh his stuff versus the streaks of wildness that don’t figure to suddenly disappear in the majors.
Sheffield walked 43 batters and struck out 74 this year in 55 innings between the Single-A and Double-A levels. He’s walked 128 and struck out 240 in 211 1/3 professional innings.
The Astros traded for pitcher Brandon Bailey in November 2017 and he’s available, which automatically places him on the Orioles’ radar.
Bailey, 25, was the Athletics’ sixth-round pick in 2016 out of Gonzaga. He made 22 appearances (17 starts) this summer with Double-A Corpus Christi and posted a 3.30 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and .212 average-against in 92 2/3 innings. He walked 41 batters and struck out 103.
Bailey has registered a 3.07 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and .208 average against in four minor league seasons.
Baseball America wrote of Bailey: “There’s nothing particularly sexy about Bailey’s stuff. He’s a short (5-foot-10) right-hander with a 92-94 mph fastball and a plus changeup. His pair of breaking balls are both fringy at best. But he competes very well, he’s coming off of a very solid season with Double-A Corpus Christi and he has the craftiness and feel to potentially succeed as a swingman.”
The Nationals didn’t protect right-hander Sterling Sharp, who would be quite a catch.
That’s right, I said it.
Sharp, 24, hasn’t pitched above the Double-A level and was limited to nine starts this year at Harrisburg due to an oblique injury. He’s 25-21 with a 3.71 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 75 career games.
Sharp pitched in the Arizona Fall League and registered a 1.50 ERA in six starts. He’s healthy and a possibility.
MLB.com wrote: “The best athlete in Washington’s system and one of the premier ground-ball artists in the Minor Leagues, Sharp could be appealing to a club looking for either rotation or bullpen depth.”
Right-hander Zack Brown from the Brewers system also ranks among the top Rule 5 prospects.
The Orioles will find out whether they’re losing former first-round pick Cody Sedlock, left off the 40-man roster despite a bounceback season with Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie. The other risk involves Gray Fenter, who spent the summer at low Single-A Delmarva and might be a reach for major league clubs.
Catcher Brett Cumberland wasn’t under consideration for the 40-man roster, but he owns a career .376 on-base percentage in four minor league seasons and a team might consider him for a backup role.
The Orioles chose pitcher Taylor Grover from the Reds organization last year in the Triple-A phase. He’s a minor league free agent again and the Orioles won’t re-sign him despite paying a $10,000 bonus and later covering the cost of his lat surgery.
Grover turns 29 in April and the Orioles want younger pitching at the Triple-A level. He’s drawing interest on the Asian market.