The MLB Rule 5 Draft, where teams get to pick up the wannabes and misfits that other teams don’t want. I won’t bore you by explaining how the Rule 5 draft works, MLB.com does a great job of doing that already. What I do want to do is point out some players that might be on the Orioles’ radar, come the draft.
Delino DeShields Jr., Outfield, Astros
2014 stat line at AA: .236 /.346/.360
DeShields has seemingly fallen out of favor in the Astros organization after putting up an impressive line of .317/.405/.468 at High-A ball. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow has gone as far as saying he doesn’t think DeShields would get picked up in the Rule 5 Draft. DeShields was ranked in the top 100 prospects by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus in 2013 and is now ranked number 66 by MLB.com. DeShields is interesting for the Orioles, as they have lost both Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz, creating hole in the outfield, and Orioles GM Dan Duquette is looking to add outfielders. One of his biggest strengths is his speed, as MLB.com ranks it as a 70 on a 20 to 80 scale. His .362 career minor league OBP isn’t something to scoff at either.
Jared Mitchell, Outfield, White Sox
2014 stat line at AA/AAA: .256/.362/.444
Late bloomer would be the best description of Mitchell. Drafted out of LSU in the first round of the 2009 draft, Mitchell was on the verge of being a complete bust. That was until last season where he put up his best numbers yet. Mitchell is another outfielder for the Orioles to look at, along with DeShields. Though I highly doubt the O’s go for him, as he seems like more of a reclamation project than anything, but I would definitely think he’s on their radar.
Photo Credit: milb.com
Mike O’Neill, Outfield, Cardinals
2014 Stat line at AA/AAA: .278/.351/.353
O’Neill is another late bloomer, who turns 27 in February, but comes across as a more established version of Mitchell. His five seasons in the minors have totaled a stat line of .314 /.414/.391, which raised my eyebrows. An OBP of over .400 sounds like just what the doctor ordered for the Orioles, but there are some major concerns about his power with career slugging at .391 (including only four home runs). Baseball America also notes that his defense is very poor for center field. But that might be negated if he’s moved to a corner spot. A high OBP and a walk-first approach is what puts him on the O’s radar for me.
Photo Credit: The News Tribune
Steve Baron, Catcher, Mariners
2014 stat line at High-A/AA: .261/.319/.360
I highly doubt the Orioles select a Catcher in the Rule 5, but GM Dan Duquette said the O’s were actively looking to add catching depth. Baron would be the obvious choice if they go that route. Baron was selected in the first round of the 2009 draft, purely because of his strong defense, and with the hope his bat could catch up. That hasn’t been the case, but last year he put up his best offensive season so far, so there is definitely hope for him.
Andrew McKirahan. LHP, Cubs
2014 stat line at High-A/AA: ERA: 2.08/IP: 65/SO: 57/WHIP: 1.092
The Orioles are also looking to add a left hander to the bullpen, after their loss of Andrew Miller and the fact that they are currently shopping Brian Matusz. McKirahan (let’s call him Mickey) seems to be the best available lefty in the Rule 5. After having his career derailed in 2012 by Tommy John surgery, he has his fastball velocity back at 92-96, and mixes in an average breaking ball. The biggest knock on him is that he’s much worse against lefties than righties, lefties hit .343 against him and his WHIP ballooned 1.75 in 2014. Mickey is definitely intriguing, and with the scarcity of hard throwing lefties, the Orioles might take a chance on him.
The Orioles have found serviceable players in both Ryan Flaherty and T.J. McFarland in the Rule 5 Draft (Michael Almanzar not withstanding). Given their track record and needs, this draft could be critical for the Orioles. Even as I’m writing this, Steve Melewski tweets that O’s have a list of five players that they like. Could they be any of these five players? Well, I’m no Nostradamus, but I have been known to be right once in a while.