Give Dan Duquette three open 40-man roster spots and by golly, he will protect three players from the Rule 5 draft. Facing a deadline to select contracts of minor leaguers in order to keep them from being open to be picked by another team, the Orioles added minor leaguers Parker Bridwell, Chris Lee, and Andrew Triggs to the 40-man roster.
So, who are these guys?
RHP Parker Bridwell - 9th round pick, 2010 draft (BAL)
Bridwell, 24 was first Rule 5 eligible last year, though the Orioles did not feel the need to protect him since he was coming off a season where he had a 4.46 ERA for High-A Frederick. That after spending the previous two seasons in Delmarva. Bridwell made 18 starts for Bowie this year, putting up a 3.99 ERA, which was apparently enough for the O's to want to keep their hands on him.
Bridwell has always had control problems. That's what has him still kicking in the minors at this point in his career. He posted the lowest BB/9 of his minor league career this season - a 3.5 that's still on the high side, but a marked improvement from last year's 4.5. If he maintains or improves again in the upcoming season, better if the Orioles are the team to benefit from continued development. Some players are later bloomers than others. They can still be very good. Just look at fellow Texan and Orioles draftee Jake Arrieta.
LHP Chris Lee - 4th round pick, 2011 draft (HOU)
Lee, 23, was acquired from the Astros in May in exchange for two international bonus slots that the Orioles weren't going to use anyway. The 6'4" lefty made 14 starts for Frederick and seven starts for Bowie, combining for a 3.07 ERA. That's good enough to get you a 40-man look. You can't just give up on lefty starters. Some team might have plucked him like the Orioles once did with T.J. McFarland, figuring they could stash him as a long man and see what happened later.
Although Lee had a nice enough ERA, that comes along with his posting a 1.38 WHIP. That's higher than you'd like to see. But, one thing to keep in mind is not to totally judge a player based on minor league box scores. There are pitchers who suffer from having inferior minor league defenses behind them. Is Lee one of them? Well, maybe, but that high-ish WHIP is probably the result of his walking 49 batters in the 114.1 innings he pitched in the O's organization this year.
RHP Andrew Triggs - 19th round pick, 2012 draft (KC)
Triggs, 26, migrated to the Orioles organization this year after the Royals gave up on him. He was a senior when drafted from the University of Southern California. Not many of those players have big league trajectories, nor do many 19th round picks. The Royals probably though that the modest success of Triggs at Double-A at age 25 didn't mean a whole lot. The Orioles, on the other hand, don't care if most of their Double-A team is populated with old-ish guys.
Both the O's and Triggs were rewarded by him being given a chance in this organization. Pitching out of the back of Bowie's bullpen, Triggs posted a 1.03 ERA this season, striking out 70 batters in 61 innings. That's really good! So's the fact that he only walked 11 batters. That adds up to a 0.87 WHIP, also really good. No one thought much of him a year ago, but you can see why the O's would want to protect him from being snatched in the Rule 5 draft.
With a full 40-man roster, the Orioles will have to remove someone later if they want to make a Rule 5 selection themselves. They'd also have to remove someone in the event they sign any free agents. There are some names on the roster that the Orioles don't seem likely to miss, so the roster being full right now isn't a very big deal. It's not hard to designate someone for assignment.
Of the trio, Triggs is probably the only one added with an eye on having him on the big league roster next season. The O's can have him at Norfolk to see how he performs against higher competition. If it's still well, he can be the kind of guy to get a call-up for a desperate day where they need a fresh arm in the bullpen. If someone gets hurt, or if Triggs performs too well for them to ignore, they can find a way to make room for him, like they did with Oliver Drake and Chaz Roe this season.
Maybe none of them will end up mattering. That's the nature of minor leaguers on the fringes. They might, though, and now the Orioles have a better chance of being the team to capitalize on any success they might have.