The two classic certainties in life are death and taxes. As long as Dan Duquette is the GM of the Orioles, we can add a third: The Orioles picking someone in baseball's Rule 5 draft. On Thursday morning, Duquette went into turbo mode at the draft, picking three different players, all pitchers, in the draft.
The Rule 5 draft is the annual experiment where teams can select non-40-man roster players from other organizations, provided those players have been professionals for long enough.
No one but the maddest of madmen would ever try to take three players in the same year, but the Orioles entered the draft with only 34 players on their 40-man roster and their pitching was a mess last year, so I guess they thought they might as well do something crazy. Maybe some other GM bet that he wouldn't do it and then he replied, "Hold my beer."
The players the Orioles selected are:
- LHP Nestor Cortes, originally a Yankees 36th round pick out of high school in 2013
- RHP Pedro Araujo, a Dominican-born player from the Cubs organization
- RHP Jose Mesa, son of the former Oriole of the same name, a Yankees 24th round pick in 2012
All will be subject to the typical Rule 5 restrictions, which is that they must be kept on the active roster or MLB disabled list all season or else be offered back to their original teams. Remember, the Orioles will also have this restriction for last year's Rule 5 pick, Anthony Santander, who wasn't returned but didn't get the required number of days on the active roster, either.
Probably not even the Orioles are crazy enough to try to carry multiple Rule 5 pitchers at once, although I guess you never know, especially if they get desperate enough by continuing to strike out on getting free agents. If I had to guess right now, I'd say they will just keep one of them but take all of spring training to evaluate all three and see who they like the best and more importantly, who might fit in with how the roster shapes up.
The Orioles telegraphed that they wanted a lefty and they got a lefty who looks like he can pop up in the long relief/spot starter role, based on how he's been used in the minors. Cortes just turned 23 earlier this week.
The lefty spent about half the year with Double-A Trenton and half the year with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, pitching a combined 104.2 innings. That included 30 games, 13 of which were starts. The Scranton performance is probably what caught the O's eye: 57 strikeouts in 48.1 innings, only 11 walks, and no home runs allowed.
Cortes is only 5'11", which is a little short for both pitchers and Stormtroopers, but he's had success climbing the minors, so now the O's can see if he has any MLB value.
This 6'3" righty turned 24 in July but spent most of the 2017 season in the bullpen of High-A Myrtle Beach. If that doesn't sound very interesting, that's because it's not, but he struck out 83 batters in 64.2 innings for that club and walked just 17.
High-A to MLB would be a huge jump, of course, so it would be a surprise if he sticks around. His chances probably increase if the Orioles end up dealing one or more relievers this offseason.
Yes, he's the son of the Oriole with the same name. This 6'4" righty turned 24 in August and spent most of the season with High-A Tampa, though he got some time at Double-A Trenton towards season's end. Mesa had been exclusively a reliever in his professional career before this season, when eight of his 29 games were starts.
ESPN's Keith Law tweeted that he saw Mesa at Trenton, and Mesa was pitching with an 88-89mph fastball. That is a textbook definition of unexciting. But he made it work, though he was also old for his levels, striking out 101 batters in 84 innings across both levels this season. You may have noticed a theme here with these picks.
The odds of seeing more than one of them pitch a regular season game in an Orioles uniform are small, although if anybody was going to try to carry three Rule 5 players and two pitchers at once, it'd surely be Dan Duquette.
Minor league phases
The Orioles did not lose any players in the MLB phase of the Rule 5 draft, when players are subject to the roster restrictions. There are also minor league phases of the draft, which tend to matter even less than the MLB phase, if you can believe that.
In the Triple-A phase, the Orioles had six separate players picked off the Bowie roster. One of those, Angelo Mora, was only just signed as a minor league free agent earlier this offseason. The others:
- Catcher Yermin Mercedes to the White Sox
- Infielder Brallan Perez to the Athletics
- Lefty Mitch Horacek to the Rockies
- Outfielder Jay Gonzalez to the Diamondbacks
- Righty Brandon Barker to the Marlins
If you've heard of any of these guys, give yourself a cookie. If any of them ever turn into regular big leaguers, pick an adult beverage of your choice (unless you're not old enough) and drink responsibly. Don't lose any sleep over this possibility.
Barker came to the Orioles in the Brian Matusz salary dump deal. Perez was one of the O's returns for one of their international signing bonus money trades.
So that's the Rule 5 draft, with triple the Orioles excitement. I can just feel how excited you are right now. Don't even try to lie.