The Orioles kicked off what’s become their yearly tradition of trying to get a Rule 5 draft pick to stick on the roster on Wednesday evening, selecting right-handed pitcher Andrew Politi with their pick in the draft. Politi, a 26-year-old who spent most of this season with the Red Sox Triple-A Worcester affiliate, was originally a 15th round draft pick in the 2018 draft. No Orioles players were selected in the major league portion of the draft.
Politi really seemed to blossom this year, at least in terms of his results, after several years of unremarkable performance lower down in the minors. The 6’0” righty split the season between Double-A and Triple-A, posting a combined 2.34 ERA in 69.1 innings over 50 games. That included a strong strikeout rate and strikeout/walk ratio, as well as a combined WHIP of under 1.00.
Boston did not choose to summon Politi to MLB with that performance, nor add him to their 40-man roster last month, so he was there for the taking by the Orioles.
MASN’s Roch Kubatko relayed a Baseball America scouting report on Politi:
From Baseball America: Politi is an undersized righthander with a high-effort delivery. He features a three-pitch mix led by an average four-seam fastball that sits 93-95 mph and touches 97 mph at peak with cut and a flatter approach angle and an upper-80s slider https://t.co/PUIPehaNSk— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) December 7, 2022
It’s not surprising to see the Orioles take a reliever in the draft. That’s the spot where it will be easiest to try to break in a player onto the MLB roster, if they like enough of what they see from Politi to try to do this. Three years ago, the Orioles selected two pitchers in the Rule 5 draft and did not end up keeping either. In the last Rule 5 draft to be held, they chose Tyler Wells, who has turned into an intriguing pick.
Somewhat like Wells, Politi is an older pitcher who’s beyond when you could call him a prospect. Wells’s rookie season was his age 26 season. Politi, if he is an MLBer in 2023, will be in his age 27 season. Some guys are late bloomers. On the 2022 Orioles, Félix Bautista and Joey Krehbiel were each at least that old in their rookie seasons. A guy can suddenly be a useful MLB pitcher at that time, if things work out right.
This was a bit of a different position for the Orioles than recent Rule 5 drafts because they had to wait a while to make their pick. They were set to pick 17th, although teams with full rosters couldn’t pick and some other teams passed, so the O’s pick was effectively ninth.
As a reminder, there are special rules regarding these draft picks. A player must remain on either the active roster or MLB injured list for all of next season, or else the team must offer him back to his original organization. Politi can’t be optioned to the minor leagues, so if the team keeps him, there is less flexibility to shuffle the roster. Eligible players are those who were 18 or younger upon signing in 2018, or 19 or older upon signing in 2019, who were not added to their teams 40-man rosters last month.
This was actually Politi’s second year being eligible for the draft. The Red Sox didn’t protect him after a 2021 season where he had a 6.36 ERA at Double-A. That’s more understandable. Last year’s MLB phase of the Rule 5 draft was canceled because of the lockout.
The Orioles have had some success stories in the last decade with this draft. The Dan Duquette era saw them draft Anthony Santander, T.J. McFarland, and Ryan Flaherty. Santander eventually turned into a useful player for the team; the others bore more immediate dividends in niche roles. Mike Elias has so far only made one Rule 5 pick who stayed with the organization: Wells. He had some flashes as a reliever in the 2021 season and had some flashes as a starting pitcher this year.
There is also a minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. Life is too short to spend time caring about it.