The Rule 5 draft is set for today at the Winter Meetings in San Diego. The Orioles have the second pick. At last year’s meetings in Las Vegas, the Orioles had the first pick in this draft and selected Oakland infielder Richie Martin.
Martin, who turns 25 on Dec. 22, was originally drafted in the first round (No. 20 overall) in the First-Year Player Draft by Oakland in 2015 and signed to a bonus of $1.95 million. But he batted .237, .235 and .234 in his first three pro seasons. That changed in 2018, when he hit .300/.368/.439 at Double-A Midland in 118 games. That, along with his solid defense, led to the O’s making him the top pick in the Rule 5 draft a year ago.
Baseball America rated Martin as the Athletics’ No. 5 prospect at the end of 2015, No. 9 a year later and No. 23 at the end of 2017. After the Orioles selected him last December, the publication rated him as the Orioles’ No. 14 prospect.
Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper is about as good an analyst on the Rule 5 draft as you can find. He believes the Orioles getting Martin was solid use of their pick last year.
“Yes, that is the value of it,” said Cooper. “Richie Martin may not be an everyday regular, but he showed value, showed athleticism and speed and showed where he can fit on a major league roster. Now he goes into spring training maybe not ticketed back for the minors and maybe with a chance to compete for a job.
“Now he has three options. If they sent him to Triple-A, he would still be up at some point in the 2020 season, very likely. Options are very valuable. That is the thing with the Rule 5 player. If you find someone useful, having three options later can be big.”
Cooper said this draft can generally produce two types of players.
“The Rule 5 draft kind of divides into the college guys that have some sort of clear flaw, which is why they are available,” he said. “Like one guy the Orioles have who could get picked is (pitcher) Cody Sedlock. If teams saw him on the right day, he could get selected. But I don’t think he will get picked.
“There are also Rule 5s available that are international signees who just are not far enough along in their career that you feel comfortable putting on a roster. On the one hand you have 25-, 26-year-old college players. On the other you have 21-year-old international players signed at 16 who become available that may still be in A ball. Two very different ends of the spectrum.”
Cooper named Sedlock and catcher Brett Cumberland as O’s prospects who would have an outside chance of getting selected today. Because he only pitched at Low-A Delmarva in 2019, Gray Fenter is even less likely to be taken, Cooper said. He further said he would not rank the O’s players among the top 20 available today, and noted that last season only 14 players were taken in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft.
Here is how one American League scout I talked to recently sized up Sedlock, who in 2019 went 5-3 with a 2.84 ERA between Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie:
“I saw him in spring training and once during the season,” the scout said. “He has a bit of a stiff, muscular frame, making the delivery somewhat stiff. I do really like his changeup. That was his best pitch. Everything else is fringe-average to average. What will really determine it for him is, will he be athletic enough and can he complete his delivery? It’s not like a natural, loose delivery.
“But when he has his upper and lower half in line and he’s throwing strikes at 92, 93 (mph) with good downhill angle, then it really does set up his changeup. He can work north and south with the fastball and bury that changeup. Those are effective pitches for him, and the change can be a swing-and-miss pitch. His breaking balls are fine, I just wouldn’t say either one was plus. I like him. He’s a top 30 guy for me, but maybe not a big impact guy.”
Cooper feels there is a chance the Orioles could essentially trade their pick today, which is No. 2 after Detroit selects No. 1.
“I wouldn’t be shocked at all,” Cooper told “MASN All Access” last night in San Diego. “Doesn’t mean they won’t take a guy, but if you told me the Orioles traded out of the two spot, it would not floor me.”
Were that to happen, unless something has changed from last year, the Orioles would make a selection and the trade would be announced after the draft ends. They got Drew Jackson that way last year. He was selected by Philadelphia and acquired by the O’s after the draft.
Cooper said the draft looks stronger for pitchers than for position players, and O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said the same last night to Orioles reporters. He even suggested the club might find a rotation candidate in the Rule 5 draft.
There is plenty of velocity available today.
“There are probably eight to 10 pitchers in this Rule 5 class that throw 100 (mph) or harder, and some won’t get taken,” Cooper said. “That is how much velocity has come into the game.”
Scott Boras is the man: He did it again. He got it done on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at the Winter Meetings. He is super agent Scott Boras. Love him or not, and most do not, he got clients $814 million worth of contracts this week.
Right-hander Stephen Strasburg re-signed with the Washington Nationals on Monday for $245 million over seven years. Tuesday, the Yankees got Boras client Gerrit Cole for nine years and $324 million. Late last night the Angels reached an agreement with third baseman Anthony Rendon for seven years and $245 million. Wow, what a three days for big deals.
Right-hander Dylan Bundy, traded by the Orioles to the Angels, will now pitch with Rendon and Mike Trout playing defense behind him and batting back-to-back in that lineup. If the Angels get any decent pitching they could make a run in the American League West against Houston.