In selecting the pair, with Tavarez closer to the majors and Santander one of the most interesting bats available but coming off shoulder surgery, the Orioles used the annual draft to add outfield depth.
“We picked up a couple of young hitters, one with very good speed and one with power from both sides of the plate, to add to the organization,” executive vice president Dan Duquette. “And they’re both young. ... We’ll see if they can address our need for outfielders in the organization.”
The Rule 5 draft is for players who have been professionals for at least four seasons and were not placed on their organization’s 40-man roster. They must remain on the selecting team’s 25-man roster for the entire 2017 season or be returned to their original club.
The Orioles are frequently among the most active teams in the draft, and have outfielder Joey Rickard, infielder Ryan Flaherty, and left-hander T.J. McFarland to show for it, among others.
Tavarez, 24, has steadily improved since joining the Red Sox organization in 2010. He hit .335/.385/.506 with 39 extra-base hits for Double-A Portland last season, and while his speed is his best asset, stole 20 bases in 31 tries a year ago. He began his career as a second baseman, but projects as a corner outfielder going forward. Tavarez has also refined his approach since becoming a pro, cutting down his strikeouts drastically and simplifying his swing over the years.
“Aneury Tavarez is a good hitter,” Duquette said. “He had an excellent year in Portland. He ended up making the Eastern League All-Star team and he was the MVP of the Portland club. … This kid is a good offensive player, excellent speed, and he’s playing in the Dominican [Republic.] We’ll need to find a position for him. He can hit, he can run, and he does have some power. If you take a look at the 13 triples that he had, that’s reflective of his power as well as his very capable speed. So, we’re glad to add him to our club. We were looking to add some speed to our ballclub from a year ago, and although he’s not a base-stealer, Tavares has excellent speed and good offensive capability.”
Tavarez has some Triple-A time, but is still closer to major league ready than his fellow Rule 5 pick.
Santander, a 22-year-old Venezuelan, was one of the best hitters in the High-A Carolina League a season ago, batting .290/.368/.494 with 20 home runs and 95 RBIs.
“He’s the youngest player we were considering for the draft,” Duquette said. “We like his capability to hit in the big leagues, to hit from both sides of the plate with power. He recently had surgery on his shoulder, but at 22 years old, we think there’s enough ability there, particularly with the bat, to take a chance on him and get him into our organization.”
His bat is his carrying tool, and the scouting backs up the statistics. Duquette compared him to fellow Venezuelan Victor Martinez. However, even scouts who liked him wondered whether he’d be able to stick on the major league roster. That could be complicated by offseason shoulder surgery that the Orioles need to learn more about before they know the extent of.
“It’s in his right shoulder,” Duquette said. “We didn’t have access to all the medicals on him, but we had [some] access and we’re comfortable in that we think he’s worth a shot based on his talent as a hitter to add him to our roster. … We’re going to find out a little bit more about [whether he will be ready for spring training], but I believe he’s got good ability and power from both sides of the plate. He has youth and very good offensive ability.”
Should he need to be put on the disabled list, Santander must spend at least 90 days on the active roster or his Rule 5 roster restrictions will carry over to 2018.
In the Triple-A phase of the draft, the Orioles selected right-hander Jefri Hernandez and left-hander Brian Moran. Hernandez recently signed as a minor league free agent for the Cincinnati Reds, and had a 3.06 ERA in 24 appearances in Double-A and Triple-A in the Texas Rangers organization last year.
Moran, the nephew of former Oriole B.J. Surhoff, signed out of the Atlantic League with the Atlanta Braves in 2016 and made six appearances for their Triple-A affiliate last year. A longtime Seattle Mariners farmhand, Moran has a career 3.11 ERA as a minor league reliever.
Major league Rule 5 picks cost $100,000, with half of that returned if the player does not remain with the selecting team. Minor league Rule 5 picks have no roster restrictions, and cost $24,000.