A deadline looms by midnight tonight for teams to decide who to add to their 40-man roster in order to protect players from the Rule 5 draft. The good news is that the Orioles will not have very many tough choices to make. The bad news is that not having tough choices to make is reflective of a barren farm system.
Players become eligible for the Rule 5 draft at different times depending on how old they were when drafted. For the most part, high school draftees are eligible in the fifth Rule 5 draft after they were drafted and college draftees are eligible in the fourth Rule 5 draft after their draft. This year, that means that high school draftees from the 2011 draft and college draftees from the 2012 draft become eligible.
One reason they don't have many tough choices to make is that the most interesting players from those drafts are already on the 40-man roster. Dylan Bundy, a high schooler picked in 2011, would have to be added to the 40-man, but of course he signed a major league contract that placed him on the 40-man roster immediately. 2012 college draftees Kevin Gausman and Christian Walker have also already made their way on before the point where the Orioles would need to make any choice about them.
Another is that there simply aren't any interesting names on the fringes. At this time last year, the Orioles had to add Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson, who were eligible then since they were 2011 college draftees. Those were easy choices. There's nobody like that hanging around this year. Zach Davies would have been an easy choice to add to the 40-man, but he got traded. More's the pity.
In the whole system, there looks to be a total of one player who deserves to get a serious look at protecting. That's Chris Lee, acquired from the Astros earlier in the year in exchange for two international bonus slots the Orioles weren't going to use anyway. Lee, drafted out of high school in 2011, would be eligible for the draft this year. He had a promising enough year between High-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie's rotations that he looks like a player the O's will want to make sure they hold on to for another year at least.
Other than that, players who are eligible this year include people like Steel Russell, Glynn Davis, and Bennett Parry. With no slight intended to any of those gentlemen, I don't think the Warehouse will be losing any sleep over the prospect of any one of them being drafted by another club and sticking with that big league club all season.
A few others who had been Rule 5 eligible before had moderately interesting years for Bowie. Writing a couple of weeks ago, MASN's Steve Melewski tabbed Parker Bridwell, Ashur Tolliver, and Andrew Triggs as other players the Orioles might think about adding.
Tolliver, soon to be 28, posted a 2.91 ERA out of the Bowie bullpen this year, though he also had a 1.36 WHIP. You may have heard of Bridwell before, once seen as a high-upside arm who could just never develop control. That was a problem again for the 24-year-old righty. Triggs, 27 next March, was originally a Royals draft pick in 2012 who bounced into the O's organization this year. The 6'4" righty pitched to a 1.03 ERA in 61 innings for Bowie's bullpen this year.
It was a solid achievement for Triggs. Maybe the Orioles will think highly enough of him that they want to keep another team from potentially getting their grubby mitts on him. But for the most part, there's a reason guys are still in Double-A at age 26. That doesn't mean you can't find an undervalued gem here and there. Triggs could be that kind of player.
They could stash him in Norfolk's bullpen next year and already have him on the 40-man as an emergency arm for a day, or even as a player to check out for a couple of weeks if he continues to pitch too well to ignore his results.
Right now, the Orioles have 37 players on the 40-man roster. So, they can add up to three if they want. If they fill the 40-man up, that would mean they'd have to start releasing people in order to sign free agents. Of course, that would require the O's to actually sign free agents. And it's not like there's not some dead weight on the 40-man. You've probably never thought about Andy Wilkins before and you may never think about him again. Sorry if you are Andy or if you're related to Andy and you had to read that sentence.
The deadline is 11:59pm tonight. Hopefully the Orioles will take kindness on loyal bloggers like yours truly and not either announce during dinner time or wait until the last minute. If I had to guess - though remember that I know even less than Jon Snow - only Lee will have his contract selected. The Orioles are always capable of surprising me.
Once we know who's on the 40-man roster for other teams, we can start to think about who the O's might covet in the Rule 5 draft. Wouldn't that be fun? No... it wouldn't. We're not going to really do that.