The Orioles love rolling the dice on players in the Rule 5 draft. Their love affair will continue at least another few months, as they made a selection in this year's edition of the draft, picking 24-year-old outfielder Joey Rickard out of the Rays organization in the major league phase of the draft.
It's a minority of teams who made selections. Only 11 of the 30 MLB teams took advantage of the opportunity to pick a player. Teams with a full 40-man roster are not allowed to make a pick, and some others just pass on the chance. Most teams don't seem to want to bother with the roster restrictions on marginal players, or maybe they just like who they've got already.
The O's ended up losing one player in the draft after all. That is first baseman Ji-Man Choi. You've probably never heard of Choi, and that's because he's never actually been an Oriole before. Choi was a minor league free agent signing earlier in the offseason. By the technical rules of the draft, those players are eligible - it's just weird to pick one because why spend your Rule 5 pick on a player you could have just signed a month ago when he was a free agent?
OK, so who did the Orioles get their hands on? Rickard was originally a ninth round pick by the Rays in the 2012 draft, which means this is the first year he was Rule 5 eligible. They probably left him off their 40-man roster because, prior to the 2015 season, Rickard had only played a total of 68 games above the Low-A level.
In the 2015 season, Rickard played across three levels, putting up a combined .321/.427/.447 batting line, with the bulk of it coming at Double-A, where he had an .899 OPS. Not bad, but there's a reason why someone's still at Double-A at age 24, and it's not because they're certain to be a big leaguer. Rickard played all three outfield positions at different times, and the right-handed batter also stole 23 bases in 29 attempts. But he also only hit two home runs in 117 games, so power is not really in his skill set.
As a Rule 5 pick, Rickard now has to stick with the O's on the 25-man roster all of next season. The O's have shown they have no problems finagling this in recent years. They've managed to keep Ryan Flaherty, T.J. McFarland, and now Jason Garcia after picking them in the Rule 5 draft.
Rickard looks like he could compete for the fourth outfield spot, so the O's don't need him to be great - just solid enough defensively and not a complete black hole at the plate while maybe playing 2-3 games a week. If they end up liking his defense well enough, he could even be a late-inning defensive replacement on some day where Mark Trumbo began out in left field. It's a lot easier to hide a guy if you've already got a limited role in mind for him.
Now let's all go back to panicking about Chris Davis signing somewhere other than Baltimore, or Davis signing with Baltimore for a gigantic amount of money.