It was a year when National Football League teams in Indianapolis and Dallas opened new stadiums. The movie “Fever Pitch” debuted at the box office. The Chicago White Sox won their first World Series since 1917. The Tampa Bay baseball team was still named the Devil Rays.
The year was 2005, and that was the last time the Orioles did not make a pick in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft.
In fact, in three of the last four drafts, the Orioles have taken more than one player.
In 2016 they selected outfielder Aneury Tavárez No. 12 from Boston and outfielder Anthony Santander No. 18 from Cleveland. Santander was the last Rule 5 pick that December. In 2017 the Orioles selected three players. Yep, three pitchers. They added Nestor Cortes Jr. No. 9 from the Yankees, Pedro Araujo No. 16 from the Cubs and José Mesa Jr. No. 18 from the Yankees. Cortes and Araujo made the opening day roster, but both were gone by mid-April. Last December the Orioles selected two right-handed pitchers. They took Brandon Bailey No. 2 from Houston and Michael Rucker No. 11 from the Cubs. Both were returned last March to those clubs.
We know that Bailey will not be taken in the upcoming Rule 5 draft. The Reds added him to their 40-man roster on Friday after acquiring him for cash considerations earlier in the day from Houston. Bailey pitched to a 2.45 ERA in five big league games for the Astros during the 2020 season.
So after doing so in 14 consecutive drafts, will this be the year the O’s break their streak of making at least one Rule 5 selection?
There are some reasons to suggest the answer is yes. For one, the club’s minor league depth continues to grow and the organization is now ranked No. 8 in MLBPipeline.com organizational rankings. For another, there are reasons to think we may see fewer selections than normal made this draft. Not having a minor league season to scout in 2020 is a big reason for that possibility. Will teams draft players they haven’t even seen on the field since 2019? They could even be drafting an injured player, for all they know.
I recently interviewed MLBPipeline.com’s Jonathan Mayo for an upcoming story. And after we talked about the O’s farm (you’ll see that conversation here soon), I asked for his take on the upcoming Rule 5.
“I can’t imagine there are going to be many players taken in the major league phase,” said Mayo. “I don’t see how you can do it. There has been some shared video from alternate sites, not a lot. Unless there is someone that you have a history with, from 2019 you have a ton of reports and you want to roll the dice. Or maybe it was someone you drafted out of high school and they went to college. And even with that, think about how many years have passed.
“I think we put the over-under at five. I think there were just 11 (selections) last year. But you know, since they changed the rules of the Rule 5 to give teams an extra year, the impact has been minimal. There have been some exceptions. The Royals got Brad Keller. But you are not finding guys that end up being impact players. Because of what happened this past year - and I know it’s a low risk, but you are sort of shooting darts blindfolded. It’s a shot in the dark anyway, and now it’s even more so. I just don’t see there being a ton of guys taken.”
Even if that analysis proves true, of course, the O’s could still make a pick. All it takes is for them to find one player they see either as an upgrade over what they have or someone worth taking a chance on. You can always send the player back. Yes, a Rule 5 selection can hamstring your roster, but it’s all your choice. If that player is holding someone back, you can simply return him.
So it seems there is a decent chance the O’s might not make a selection this year. But then again, they hold the fifth pick, and some intriguing player could be available.