Orioles could find rotation candidates in Rule 5 draft, which offers ‘a little more diverse group’

Mike Elias is only one year into his run atop the Orioles’ baseball operations department, and has made plenty of changes to every corner of the organization in that time.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the necessity of the Rule 5 draft as a way to add players who can possibly help the major league club to an organization that, for all its improvement, still has a bit of a gap in the high minors. The Orioles pick second this year as opposed to first in the 2018 draft, and Elias said the player evaluation for who that pick might be was extending into Wednesday night as they parsed their files throughout the week.


The Rule 5 draft, which will wrap the winter meetings at 12 p.m Thursday, consists of players left off other club’s 40-man rosters, and selections must be on the major league roster the entire season.

“It’s different than last year,” Elias said. “Last year, we had Richie Martin as kind of a consensus pick at the top and we were a perfect team to take him on because of the our middle-infield needs and the fact that we’re rebuilding. This year, it sounds like there’s more arms in the mix. It’s just a little more diverse group.”

The similarities, however, might be that the draft’s strengths align with the Orioles’ greatest roster deficiency. Where they needed a shortstop after non-tendering Tim Beckham last December, the pitching-starved Orioles already needed rotation help before trading Dylan Bundy to the Los Angeles Angels.

Elias wouldn’t go as far as saying that a starting pitcher would be a priority, but certainly indicated the possible fits there.

“We don’t know that yet because there’s a couple of position players that we like, and if it ends up just being, ‘Boy, this is the top guy,’ we might take a hitter,” Elias said. “But I think there are, as I was saying, if we’re going to come out of this with a list of five or six guys we would use a pick on and build a board, there will be, it sounds to me, two or three guys that could credibly compete for our starting rotation.”

The Houston Astros’ Brandon Bailey, the Washington Nationals’ Sterling Sharp, and the Minnesota Twins’ Griffin Jax have some of the high-minors pedigree that could bode well for sticking in a rotation. Still, it’s not often that Rule 5 players compete for starting rotation spots. It’s far easier for those players to be relievers who pitch infrequently.

“It probably speaks a little bit to our pitching situation, but some of these organizations are pretty stocked and the 40-man roster is kind of tight, especially when you’re in the throes of a playoff kind of cycle and you need every bit of depth that you can,” he said. “There are good pitchers available this year."

On the position player front, Elias has said several times this week that the expansion of major league rosters to 26 players, with a maximum of 13 pitchers, could allow teams to be more aggressive in taking hitters who can be more easily hidden on the roster and then further developed once the roster restrictions are off. Rule 5 draftees must spend the entire season on the major league roster or else returned to their parent club after passing through waivers

Elias noted Anthony Santander, a 2016 Rule 5 pick who the Orioles held onto and finally broke out in 2019, as an example of that stashing strategy working.

It’s possible the Orioles address their rotation needs with the second overall pick and wait until the second round for a hitter as well, though Elias wasn’t sure they’d make the two picks they can before the 40-man roster is filled.

“I think it depends,” Elias said. “Usually there’s only, we’ll say, five or six players that you would even take. If none of them get to you, you might not. It is tough to carry two all year. It might be easier this year because of the extra position player on the roster, and last year when we took the two infielders, we had the idea of being able to see both of them ourselves in spring training and keep the one that we like more. Then, Drew Jackson ended up having a nice spring training. We were impressed with him, tried to carry him, and kind of saw the writing on the wall. But [carrying two Rule 5 picks], it’s a difficult thing to do for sure.”

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