Orioles claim Fox, add six players to 40-man roster

The Orioles are protecting six players again in the Rule 5 draft that’s scheduled for next month in Orlando, Fla., placing pitchers DL Hall, Kyle Bradish, Kevin Smith, Félix Bautista and Logan Gillaspie, and infielder Terrin Vavra on the 40-man roster at tonight’s deadline.

The day began with 32 openings, heavy subtractions made since the last game. The most recent transaction impacting the roster before today was the claiming of pitcher Bryan Baker off waivers from the Blue Jays on Nov. 8.

However, the Orioles claimed infielder Lucius Fox off waivers from the Royals this afternoon, and the additions from within the organization left them with 39 players on the 40-man.

At least one subtraction could be coming with the Orioles probably wanting to have a couple of openings to select players in the Rule 5, if it’s held.

Fox, 24, is a switch-hitter from the Bahamas who’s played shortstop, second base, third base and center field in five minor league seasons. He’s a career .244/.339/.332 hitter and he stole 19 bases in 21 attempts this summer at Triple-A Omaha. He’s notched 142 career steals.

Fox’s splits were almost identical this summer with Omaha, slashing .241/.349/.333 versus left-handers and .242/.346/.373 versus right-handers.

The Giants gave Fox a club-record $6 million signing bonus in 2015, when scouts considered him one of the top athletes on the international market. His hands, arm strength and range were viewed as ideal for the middle infield.

The Royals acquired Fox from the Rays in August 2020 for outfielder Brett Phillips. He was the Rays’ No. 26 prospect. The Giants dealt Fox to Tampa Bay in August 2016 for pitcher Matt Moore.

Fox has been ranked as high as No. 4 in the Giants’ system and No. 7 with the Rays. He brings the latest dose of elite speed to a club that also claimed infielder Jorge Mateo during the summer.

Hall, Bradish, Smith and Vavra were the locks today. Bautista and Gillaspie appeared to be bubble guys at best, with the former’s blazing fastball making him more likely between the two.

Hall, 23, began throwing on flat ground Wednesday in Sarasota, Fla., to continue his progression from a stress reaction in his left elbow that ended his season after seven starts with Double-A Bowie. He struck out 56 batters in 31 2/3 innings.

Protecting the No. 3 prospect in the organization, a first-round selection in 2017, was the easiest decision of the bunch.

Bradish, 25, was acquired from the Angels in the 2019 Dylan Bundy trade and reached Triple-A this summer, with a major league debut right around the corner. He tossed 13 2/3 scoreless innings with Bowie and struck out 26 batters before joining Norfolk, where he was 5-5 with a 4.26 ERA and 1.431 WHIP and 105 strikeouts in 86 2/3 innings.

Smith-Throws-Bowie-White-Sidebar.jpgSmith, 24, came to the Orioles from the Mets in the 2020 Miguel Castro deal. He was promoted from Bowie to Norfolk in June and had a combined 4.59 ERA and 1.62 WHIP in 22 games. He struck out 105 batters in 82 1/3 innings.

Six games and 26 innings with Bowie produced a 1.04 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and .196 average against. He struck out 37 batters.

Smith had 68 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings with Norfolk, but also a 6.23 ERA and 1.86 WHIP.

Vavra, acquired from the Rockies in the 2020 Mychal Givens trade, batted .248/.388/.430 with 10 doubles, one triple, five home runs and 20 RBIs in 40 games with Bowie. He also played in a combined eight games with Single-A Aberdeen and both Rookie-level Florida Complex League teams while rehabbing.

The Orioles placed Vavra, 24, on the minor league injured list in June with a back strain that cost him two months, and in September with a sore hip.

MLBPipeline.com ranks Bradish eighth among Orioles prospects, Vavra 13th and Smith 14th.

Bautista, 26, tickles triple digits with his fastball and he averaged 14.9 strikeouts per nine innings this summer in 40 games between Aberdeen, Bowie and Norfolk. He also registered a 1.54 ERA and 1.071 WHIP with only two home runs allowed in 46 2/3 innings. But the walks have been troublesome and he averaged 5.8 per nine innings this year, which threatened to keep him off the 40-man.

The Orioles signed Bautista to a minor league deal in 2016 after the Marlins released him from the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League. He’s struck out 258 batters in 222 2/3 innings and could compete for a bullpen job in spring training if his control improves.

Gillaspie, 24, had a 4.97 ERA and 1.32 WHIP this summer in 26 games between Aberdeen and Bowie. He walked 11 and struck out 52 in 41 2/3 innings.

The Orioles signed Gillaspie to a minor league deal in June after the Brewers released him. He’s appeared in five games with the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League and allowed 14 runs and 18 hits in 14 innings, with seven walks and 18 strikeouts.

The bubble popped for a handful of prospects who didn’t make the 40-man.

Outfielder Robert Neustrom, 25, a fifth-round pick in 2018 out of the University of Iowa, appeared in a combined 126 games between Bowie and Norfolk and slashed .258/.344/.446 with 31 doubles, three triples, 16 home runs and 83 RBIs over 518 plate appearances. He plunged into the mix of outfield prospects in the system and could reach Camden Yards next summer if he isn’t selected in the Rule 5.

Blaine Knight, 25, was chosen in the third round of the 2018 draft out of the University of Arkansas and given a $1.1 million signing bonus. He pitched at three levels of the system this year, beginning at Aberdeen, and registered a 5.40 ERA and 1.362 WHIP in 86 2/3 innings.

Knight allowed 22 runs and 33 hits in 23 1/3 innings with the Tides, and he walked one more batter than he struck out.

Infielder Adam Hall, 22, a second-round pick in 2017 who’s ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the No. 15 prospect, batted .248/.335/.337 with 13 doubles, two triples, three home runs, 27 RBIs and 26 stolen bases in 27 attempts over 81 games with Aberdeen. He slashed .298/.385/.395 with 22 doubles, four triples, five home runs, 45 RBIs and 33 stolen bases in 122 games with Single-A Delmarva in 2019.

Hall played second base, shortstop and center field with the IronBirds.

The Orioles took infielder Cadyn Grenier 37th overall in the 2018 draft, based more on his defensive prowess. He appeared in 108 games with Bowie this summer and batted .226/.336/.354 with 19 doubles, one triple, nine home runs and 43 RBIs. Grenier, 25, went 1-for-13 with Norfolk to close out the season.

Left-hander Nick Vespi, who’s 26 and pitching for Mesa, had a 1.42 ERA and 0.947 WHIP with 26 strikeouts in 19 innings with Bowie. He registered a 6.86 ERA and 1.525 WHIP in 16 games with Norfolk, striking out 25 batters in 19 2/3 innings.

Infielder Greg Cullen, acquired from the Braves in the 2020 Tommy Milone trade, hit a walk-off homer today in Mesa’s last regular season game. Cullen, 25, has a career .393 on-base percentage in 223 minor league games and reached Double-A this summer, though he twice went on the injured list with hamstring ailments.

Right-hander Cody Sedlock will again be exposed to the Rule 5 draft.

The 40-man roster still doesn’t include a catcher, with the Orioles declining to protect Brett Cumberland.

The additions don’t currently leave room for the Orioles to select two players in the Rule 5 draft, as they’ve done in each of Mike Elias’ three Winter Meetings as executive vice president/general manager. They traded for Drew Jackson in 2018 after making Richie Martin the first overall pick.

The Winter Meetings remain in jeopardy with the collective bargaining agreement expiring on Dec. 1.

Players from outside the organization can be added to the 40-man, but no other minor leaguers in the system.

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