While the Orioles are typically one of the most aggressive teams in terms of adding players in the Rule 5 draft, there’s also the important piece of business of protecting their own prospects from being selected.
Over the years, few Orioles players have been picked in the draft, which allows clubs without a full 40-man roster to select certain non-40-man roster players — typically prospects who don’t fit their organization’s long-term plans — from other teams. And those added haven’t always ended up appearing in an Orioles uniform.
But Wednesday’s roster additions could be different, with pieces that are expected to, at least at some point, play a role for the 2020 Orioles and beyond. The Orioles have five roster spots to work with, though they could leave at least one open to make a selection in the draft itself.
Here’s a breakdown of who could be added, who might not be, and when they could be expected to contribute to the Orioles.
As Mountcastle has moved down the defensive spectrum from shortstop to third base to now first base/outfield, his bat has trended in a positive direction. His age-22 season at Triple-A Norfolk was a fabulous offensive performance; Mountcastle hit .312/.344/.527 with 25 home runs and 25 doubles while earning International League Most Valuable Player honors.
He’ll certainly be added to the roster, but will likely spend more time in the minors as he executes the organization’s wishes of working on his defense and plate discipline until all the service-time dates have been hit, allowing the Orioles to gain an extra year of club control on a premium young bat.
Akin, too, spent all of 2019 at Norfolk in the rare high-minors developmental year, and the Orioles are pleased with his progress as he works to emphasize his secondary pitches more instead of his sneaky fastball. He was still a little loose with his command, walking 61 against 131 strikeouts in 112⅓ innings with a 1.51 WHIP, but in a lively offensive environment, kept opponents to a 4.73 ERA. Another certain roster addition who ranked No. 9 in the organization’s prospect list, according to Baseball America, Akin will compete for a rotation job out of spring training.
One of five prospects acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers for Manny Machado in July 2018, Kremer has looked to be a steal in that deal despite being one of the secondary pieces in the trade. The organization’s high regard for him was clear when he was a non-roster invitee to spring training, even if an oblique injury meant he didn’t pitch at all there.
Once he did get on the mound, he had a 2.98 ERA with over a strikeout per inning at Double-A Bowie before he got a taste of Norfolk in August. A standout spell in the Arizona Fall League has him primed to be added to the roster, though he’s likely going to spend another year at Norfolk to continue his seasoning.
McKenna’s breakout in the first half of 2018 at High-A Frederick feels like a long time ago, considering he’s hit .234 with a .684 OPS in 195 Double-A games since. Still, he has the ability to make better contact than he’s shown, can play center field with a good arm and will absolutely make an impact off someone’s bench as an extra outfielder if the Orioles do leave him unprotected. He’s the type of player who made an impression on scouts at his best, and being available will really set off alarm bells around the league.
That said, even with an expected addition, McKenna will likely need to finish off the high-minors before getting a chance to climb a crowded outfield depth chart.
Being added to the 40-man roster and protected would be a fine reward for Sedlock’s healthy and productive season, which stands in stark contrast with the ones that preceded it. He had a 2.84 ERA over 22 appearances (16 starts) with 100 strikeouts and a 1.20 WHIP in 95 innings between Frederick and Bowie. He’s been touted as one of the organization’s success stories this year by executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias.
However, Sedlock’s two injury-hampered years left a sour taste with a lot of outside evaluators, who haven’t liked his delivery. He’s on the fringe of being added, but the Orioles might not be punished if they don’t keep him.
A former bonus baby who is only now rounding back into form after Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery in 2016, Fenter spent all of 2019 at Low-A Delmarva despite being 23 years old the whole season and dominating there. Fenter had a 1.81 ERA with 123 strikeouts and a 1.10 WHIP in 94⅓ innings and struck out 13 in the Shorebirds’ final playoff game to end his season on a high note.
Many outside evaluators see him as someone who, despite his mid-90s mph fastball and two breaking balls, is going to be a reliever long-term and want to see him pushed. The Orioles might have done themselves a favor not pitching him against higher competition, and could end up keeping him even if he’s not protected because of it.