The Orioles under Dan Duquette have been somewhat obsessed with the Rule 5 Draft. Ryan Flaherty, T.J. McFarland, Logan Verrett, Michael Almanzar, and others have been chosen in this draft. Many franchises don't even bother with the Rule 5 process. Duquette lives for it.
The Orioles have used this to add cheap depth to a system that needs it. Even in cases like Almanzar's and Verrett's where they didn't initially hold on to the player, they ended up re-acquiring them later on.
Coming into the 2017 season the Orioles had two Rule 5 picks that they were trying to keep around. The first, Aneury Tavarez, was returned to the Boston Red Sox before the season started because the Orioles could not find room on the roster for him. He is batting for a .748 OPS across three levels in 2017. It appears he has been out quite some time with an injury as well.
The second player the Orioles drafted was Anthony Santander from the Cleveland Indians. Santander, who is only 22 years old, had never played above A-Ball. However, the switch-hitting Venezuelan hit .290/.368/.494 at the age of 21 in High-A. And if you read our fellow SB Nation friends at the Indians blog Let’s Go Tribe, he was a somewhat coveted prospect at the time.
Primarily an outfielder, Santander has struggled with injuries throughout his career. That's why the Orioles were able to stash him until now. Santander was coming off of right shoulder surgery in 2016 and was unable to throw during spring training due to a forearm issue. After a minor league rehab assignment that the Orioles stretched out to the maximum allowed length of time, Santander will be arriving in Baltimore this week.
Throughout Santander's rehab, he has been only creating more hype for himself. He has hit .382/.453/.745 in 16 minor league rehab games. That includes 10 total extra base hits and five home runs. Santander has walked seven times and struck out only ten. It suggests a mature approach for someone his age.
Looking at the scouting reports many people, including our own Nick Cicere, compare Santander (especially from the left side) to Victor Martinez. If you watch the video below from his time in Lynchburg, well I cannot necessarily disagree.
Or how about this bomb from spring training against Phil Hughes?
#MLB | ¡PA' LA CALLE! El venezolano Anthony Santander (#Magallanes) sigue luciéndose con los Orioles de Baltimore en el #SpringTraining ⚾ pic.twitter.com/y5IRnjN0yY— Mánager de Tribuna (@Manager_tribuna) March 12, 2017
Those swings look pretty good to me. However, if you want more expert analysis Fangraphs Lead Prospect Analyst Eric Longenhagen rated him as the 10th best Orioles Prospect coming into 2016. He gave him a future value of 40 on the 20-80 scale. That means a fringe big league contributor is the expectation.
Santander did receive a 60 on potential raw power, a 50 on potential game power, and a 50 on his future hitting ability. Everyone believes that Santander can hit. If he's able to realize those things, he'll be more than a fringe big league regular.
However, his defense leaves something to be desired. The Orioles have said as much. Buck Showalter even said “...The thing that I’m trying to get a feel for and haven’t gotten a real definitive answer is what kind of defender he's going to be...”
The scouting reports agree, going back to Longenhagen he wrote “It’s on the fringe of profiling at first base or in left field, a situation further complicated by the logjam of corner bodies Baltimore has stockpiled at the upper levels.” back in March.
Also, Longenhagen describes his right handed swing as fringe, but the numbers he has put in the minors tend to disagree. In 2015 as a right handed hitter he posted a. 948 OPS in 70 plate appearances and in 2016 he posted a .881 OPS hitting right handed. Both numbers are better than the numbers he posted as a left handed hitter.
Either way, it looks the Orioles are going to give Santander a shot. He may not fill the need of a speedy corner outfielder, but it sure looks like he can hit. If he is on the roster on Thursday through the end of the regular season, that will give Santander 46 days of service. He will need another 44 days of service time in 2018 until he is completely under the control of the Orioles.
It seems pretty likely that at this point that seems to be the Orioles intention. Whether or not he can stick at the major league levels remains to be seen, but the Orioles did hide Jason Garcia for 90 days on the major league roster a couple of years ago. They can probably do it with Santander, who at the very least could be a bench bat and part time designated hitter. Either way, the Orioles have once again proven that being flexible, creative, and willing to bend the rules can be worth it.