Dan Duquette’s favorite holiday has officially passed. And with another Rule 5 Draft in the rearview mirror, the Orioles are just a bit richer in pitching talent as the offseason progresses.
Manny Machado, for obvious reasons, will be the name we’re all focused on for the next few days — but regardless of what happens over the rest of the Winter Meetings, Duquette didn’t leave Disney without cashing in at his favorite event of the season.
It was a busy Thursday morning, one that put two more pitching names on the radar for 2018. And even though they’re not the biggest splashes of the offseason, the moves are, at the very least, storylines.
Here’s a guy who you wouldn’t believe would even be available when you take a look at his numbers. Cortes did nothing but mow down opposing hitters in 2017 with the Yankees double-A and triple-A affiliates. Overall, he posted 105 strikeouts in 104.1 innings, allowing a .211 average against with a 2.06 ERA. Every number that he compiled screams potential starter, which is why it wasn’t surprising when Duquette said this:
Duquette thinks Cortes could vie for a rotation spot.— Brittany Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) December 14, 2017
Those numbers plus the current options in the Orioles rotation equals a sure-fire opportunity for the 23-year-old to make an impact throughout the spring.
His fastball appears unremarkable — multiple sources have it sitting just under or at 90 miles per hour — but the overall reports have Cortes as a reliable arm with deceptive stuff and a knack for finding the zone and getting outs. For a Rule 5 pick who tossed well at triple-A last year, could you ask for much more?
He hasn’t pitched in the big leagues yet and there’s no telling how he’ll fare once he’s thrust into action. But taking everything into consideration, it seems Duquette might’ve found a legitimate competing pitcher for the start of spring training. With the way the rotation currently stands, there’s no reason Cortes won’t have as good of a shot as anyone to crack the roster, especially considering he might have a bit more leeway with his Rule 5 status.
Here’s an interesting case of a long-shot Rule 5 reliever, especially considering Araujo has just pitched two career innings above the single-A level in his professional career. Last year he spent most of his time with high-A Myrtle Beach for the Cubs, throwing 64.2 innings over the course of the year.
Sure, he allowed just 42 hits and struck out 83, but there’s no good reason, on paper, for the Orioles to expect him to essentially skip two levels and be in the bullpen to begin 2018.
The case for expecting Araujo to make the leap and contribute immediately is two-fold — he’ll be 25 years old in July and he’s done nothing but completely dominate since joining the Cubs system back in 2011 (he played ‘11-’14 in rookie ball).
In 341.2 career innings, he’s allowed a total .211 average against. That includes a .177 number in Myrtle Beach last year and a .194 mark in 2016 between Myrtle Beach and single-A South Bend. Araujo just hasn’t allowed hits.
One would imagine that for Araujo to make the roster, the Orioles are going to have to make a move that deals away one of the current bullpen pieces. In theory, bringing in Araujo could at least signal that Duquette has ideas about trading away a member of the ‘pen, opening the door for the Rule 5 addition to have a solid spring and crack the roster.
It’s no guarantee, but it’s not impossible that there’s going to be a path to his addition on the Opening Day 25.