Five things we learned about Orioles fall instructional league

A five-item list is like air to a sportswriter.

Not four, not six, not more.

“Five things we learned” can’t be altered or you’ll be reassigned to the mailroom. And you don’t get five warnings.

We must have learned five things yesterday about the fall instructional league. I’ll take a stab at it.

* The plan to have all of the draft selections in Sarasota, Fla. was ruined.

Thumbnail image for Kjerstad Running Arkansas Sidebar.jpgOutfielder Heston Kjerstad, the second overall pick from the University of Arkansas, can’t make it to the Ed Smith Stadium complex due to a non-sports medical issue. For me, this was the biggest news of the day.

The club won’t provide specifics, which immediately leads us to the COVID-19 assumption. It happened with outfielders Anthony Santander and Dwight Smith Jr. in summer training camp and with first baseman Chris Davis and pitcher Alex Cobb during the season when they had to go through the intake process due to symptoms.

I wouldn’t necessarily jump to that conclusion with Kjerstad, but it’s all we’ve got at the moment. And this is an unfortunate development because the Orioles can’t get him on the field - not in Bowie or Sarasota.

They wanted him to move quickly through the system. Now he’s lost a year. But hey, there’s always spring training 2021.

* Players to be named later won’t be evaluated until later.

Shortstop Isaac De Leon (Marlins), outfielder Mishael Deson (Rockies) and shortstop Victor Gonzalez (Mets) can’t report to the camp because they didn’t obtain their work visas.

These things take time - more than five days - as we’ve learned from spring training late arrivals.

This isn’t a devastating development. More along the lines of an unfortunate one, because the Orioles would like to get eyes on this group of young players.

They didn’t receive alternate camp work, their inclusions just paper moves. It would have been nice to evaluate and learn more about them in Sarasota. But the Orioles didn’t know until about two weeks ago that the instructional league would become a reality.

The Rookie-level Dominican Summer League is an option only if there’s a minor league season in 2021. We still don’t know.

Meanwhile, the Orioles will seek ways over the winter to get them active.

* The Orioles might be showing their hand regarding the Rule 5 draft.

Saying “might” could contradict the idea that we learned something, but hear me out.

There are a bunch of players under consideration to be protected in the Rule 5 draft. The slam dunks include pitchers Zac Lowther and Michael Baumann and outfielder Yusniel Diaz.

Pitchers Alexander Wells, Cody Sedlock and Gray Fenter weren’t placed in the 60-man pool over the summer and weren’t invited to the fall instructional league. Teams passed on Sedlock and Fenter in last year’s Rule 5 draft.

Pitcher Brian Gonzalez and infielder Mason McCoy aren’t on the camp roster. However, Gonzalez was a late addition to the pool.

“This is a list that skews younger I think on the whole,” executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said yesterday during his 15-minute Zoom conference call.

Not five.

* The instructional league roster most likely is set.

The Orioles have 55 players in camp and there’s room for more, but it’s complicated because of the pandemic.

Players must go through the intake process. There’s a quarantine period. You can’t just show up and find a locker.

This also applies to staff members. Short-season Single-A Aberdeen manager Kevin Bradshaw is the camp coordinator, with a group of coaches at his disposal who weren’t identified yesterday. Additions would be subjected to the same process, delaying their arrival at a camp that’s going to close by the end of the month.

Elias was slowly able to funnel more players into the pool, but it can’t do it as easily with the instructional league due to time constraints.

* Playing games is more assumption than assured.

Elias said he hasn’t been told for sure that the Orioles will be allowed to play teams from other nearby camps. The Pirates, Braves and Rays are close.

“TBD,” Elias said.

Sounds a lot like the rotation.

“I think it’s certainly possible,” Elias added, “but there’s aspects of this that we’re still waiting for all the answers on and that’s one of them.

“I think that all the teams in Florida are hopeful for getting some intrasquad action, but it’s not clear yet whether we’re going to do that for sure.”

Catcher Adley Rutschman is being pushed hard this summer, perhaps to raise the level of his minor league assignment next year. He was in the pool and now he’s in Sarasota, but you didn’t learn that yesterday because I already told you that he’d definitely be on the instructional league roster.

One time, not five.

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