O’s fans by now are well aware of Dan Duquette’s infatuation with the Rule 5 draft. The most recent draft back in December was yet another shining example of his love affair when the Orioles selected not one or two, but THREE pitchers. Only one other team, the Marlins, made multiple selections in the draft, and they made just two selections.
The Orioles were certainly in need of pitching depth last offseason; but, going into the season with a bullpen full of stalwarts including Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Darren O’Day, and Mychal Givens, along with some other returning arms, there didn’t appear to be enough roster spots for the Rule 5 draftees. And there wasn’t.
The team’s selections in the Rule 5 worked themselves off the Orioles active roster one by one in Wonka-esque fashion until only Pedro Araujo remained. And now he’s been on the DL since mid-June.
According to Rich Dubroff at Baltimore-Baseball.com, Araujo received a PRP injection in his throwing elbow last Thursday which will further push back his return to the Orioles. When he eventually does make his return, there will certainly be space in the Orioles bullpen after dealing away Britton, Brach, and O’Day in addition to Richard Bleier’s season-ending injury.
It seems like Araujo was only on the Orioles roster for a short period of time, but he’s already logged 75 days on the active roster. If Araujo is able to return to health by at least mid-September, he should be able to easily satisfy the 90 day requirement stemming from his Rule 5 selection before the season ends. He won’t be able to be sent down to the minors in 2018 after he hits his 90 days, but that shouldn’t be an issue with expanded rosters in September.
Orioles fans probably won’t be too thrilled with Araujo’s return to the big league club this season, but next season he should represent another live arm in the upper minors of the Orioles’ system. It’s easy to look at Araujo’s ERA of 7.71 this season and want to write him off completely, but it’s important to remember that this is a guy that had only logged two career innings above A ball before he was suddenly on the Baltimore Orioles. Putting him in Norfolk to start 2019 gets him right back on his original track to the big leagues.
Even with his struggles in 2018, there are some things to look forward to with Araujo as we go forward. Despite an FIP of 7.41, Araujo struck out more than a batter per inning at the big league level. He definitely struggled with command and suffered the consequences, but there was a noticeably live arm when he had his pitches working, particularly his changeup.
In a lost season for the Orioles, it wasn’t the worst year to stash a Rule 5 selection in hindsight. Hopefully Araujo can develop into a quality arm and help clue us fans in to why Dan Duquette loves the Rule 5 draft so much. And if he gets hit up again, well that’s one step closer to the first overall pick in next year’s MLB draft. Win-win.