There may not be a team in MLB that loves the Rule 5 draft more than the Orioles under Dan Duquette. On Monday, however, the O’s faced a deadline to protect their own players from next month’s Rule 5 draft, with eligible players needing to be added to the 40-man roster to keep them safe. They chose to protect _ players, including 2013 first round pick Hunter Harvey.
A player becomes eligible for the Rule 5 draft at a different time depending on when they entered professional baseball. Those who were 18 or younger on the June 5 before signing are eligible for the fifth Rule 5 draft after they are in the professional ranks. Players 19 or older on the June 5 before signing become eligible for the fourth Rule 5 draft after signing.
That means that, generally speaking, this year’s newly-eligible players are those who were high school draftees in 2013 or college draftees in 2014. International signees from 2013 or earlier are also eligible this year, not that the Orioles do very much of this.
The Orioles entered the day with ten open spaces on the 40-man roster. Having so many departing free agents does have that benefit. That means that they had the option of protecting any player they thought might interest another team. The team was not in a position, like others may have been, of having, say, five intriguing players but only three spots.
One other thing that made the O’s have an even easier time with this process today is that they added two players to their roster in September call-ups who would have been eligible. Chance Sisco, a 2013 draftee from high school, and Tanner Scott, who came from the college ranks in 2014, both joined the O’s in September. If that had not been done, they would certainly have been added today.
The new additions to the 40-man roster are:
This was the biggest no-brainer decision of the day. The 2013 first round pick has been working his way back from Tommy John surgery. There seems to be at least some push within the Orioles - based on repeated suggestions in Roch Kubatko articles - to fast-track Harvey now that he’s healthy. No way they were going to risk losing him in the Rule 5 draft, even if he’s never pitched above Low-A due to all of his injury problems.
Wynns, a soon-to-be 27-year-old catcher, was Rule 5 eligible last year and nobody took him then, largely because at that point in his career, he’d played only 33 games above the High-A level. However, Wynns made his way into the team’s plans with a solid 2017 season for Bowie, batting .281/.377/.419 over 105 games.
That’s old for the level, so it’s only worth so much, but the O’s could probably use a third catcher on the 40-man to sit in Norfolk in case either Chance Sisco or Caleb Joseph gets hurt.
The 24-year-old Hess, a righty who the O’s picked in the fifth round in the lost draft of 2014, repeated at Double-A Bowie this season after a rough 2016 season there. To his credit, Hess did much better this year, posting a 3.85 ERA over 154.1 innings in 27 games. Hey, it’s better than his 5.37 ERA from two years ago.
With so many open spots on the roster, I was surprised to see the team add only three players. Infielder Steve Wilkerson was left off after a successful Arizona Fall League. The same happened with lefty reliever Luis Gonzalez. The Orioles either don’t think any of the rest of the guys will be picked, or that they won’t miss them very much if they are. Hopefully they’re right about that.
A year from now, we’ll be wondering who the Orioles will add out of the 2014 high school draftees - they essentially had none - and 2015 college draftees like DJ Stewart and Cedric Mullins.