Tuesday’s deadline to protect players from this year’s Rule 5 draft came and went quietly for the Orioles. The team somewhat surprisingly chose not to add any of the eligible prospects to its 40-man roster this year. Whoever might have interested you is exposed to the draft and could be taken next month.
The decision to not add any prospects today is all the more surprising considering that the team cleared two spots on its 40-man roster earlier on Tuesday. Recently-claimed pitcher Tucker Davidson and utility guy Terrin Vavra were outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk after having passed through waivers without being claimed. The Orioles had two open spots on their 40-man at the start of today and those moves upped that to four. The team did not use even one of those four spots.
As a reminder, players who did not have their contracts selected by the Orioles today who are eligible for the Rule 5 draft could be taken by other teams when the draft happens next month. If a player sticks with his new team’s big league roster all season, then he’s lost to the original team.
First-time eligible players this year are, generally, 2018 international signings, 2019 high school picks, and 2020 college picks or undrafted signings following the shortened draft that year. Players who have been previously eligible are eligible again, though it’s rare for someone to be of interest suddenly when he wasn’t a year ago.
Of the players who might have been candidates for the Orioles to add to the roster, there are two who I’ll be watching for when the Rule 5 rolls around next month. Those are outfielder Hudson Haskin, selected by the team in the second round in 2020, and pitcher Jean Pinto, who was part of the José Iglesias trade in 2020.
Haskin, 24, was limited to just 23 games at the Triple-A level this year. He’s shown solid on-base skills in his time in pro ball, drawing walks nearly 9% of the time. In 2022 with Bowie, he flashed a little power, hitting 15 homers in 106 games. However, with three established outfielders on the MLB roster, plus prospects Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad, plus ex-prospect Kyle Stowers and recent waiver claim Sam Hilliard, the O’s opted not to make room for the righty-batting Haskin.
Pinto, 22, won some fans among the deep diving prospect hounds of Birdland with his performance in 2021 after arriving in the organization. The 5’11” righty struck out 84 batters in 66.2 innings between rookie ball and Low-A Delmarva that year. In 2022 with Aberdeen, the strikeout rate slipped and the walk rate increased. Pinto repeated at Aberdeen to start this year and made it to Double-A by season’s end, where he was missing fewer bats and giving up more hits.
Haskin is the lone one of these prospects on the MLB Pipeline top 30 Orioles prospects list. Other lists, such as Baseball America’s, don’t have either Haskin or Pinto on it. Tommy John rehabbers Kyle Brnovich and Zach Peek did not make the cut either. We’ll find out on December 7 whether any team wants to grab one of these eligible players from the O’s system, as well as if the O’s themselves want to bother with the Rule 5 coming off a 101-61 season.
I thought Davidson might make it on the roster a little longer if only because the Orioles already negotiated a 2024 contract with him. The 27-year-old lefty has a 5.98 career ERA in 58 games. He split time with the Angels and Royals this year and was out of minor league options.
Vavra, 26, appeared in 27 games for the O’s this year, posting a .560 OPS while playing a bit of infield and outfield. Vavra has a minor league option remaining for 2024, so the O’s could have kept him, but as you’ve probably heard, the team seems to be pretty set on infield depth just now and there’s not room for a guy who had good on-base skills but no power in the minors and hasn’t been able to translate that into big league success.
Elsewhere in the league, former Orioles prospect Darell Hernaiz was added to the Athletics 40-man roster, as expected. Hernaiz’s Double-A batting line of .338/.393/.486 in 71 games there combined with Cole Irvin’s pitching for the Orioles offered some heartburn. The 21-year-old infield prospect then posted a .794 OPS in 60 games for Triple-A Las Vegas. The Pacific Coast League is an offense-heavy league and that’s actually below average performance there. Take some antacid for that heartburn.