The basic outline of the plan was intended for players to find additional avenues to reach the majors, when a team limits the chances of a player making the parent club. There are three basic principles that make minor league players subjected to this process.
Major League Phase:
1. The minor league player is left unprotected off the the 40 man roster as of November 20th when the roster has to be submitted to the Major league front office.
2. Left unprotected and 4 years of MilB service at age 19 or older. This is typically JC and 4 year college drafted players.
3. Left unprotected and 5 years of MilB service at age 16-18 years. These are typically international free agents and drafted high school seniors.
Minor League Phase:
In addition to the qualification rules of the major league phase, teams can protect 38 players on their AAA roster and 37 players AA.
All teams do a solid job identifying their best prospects and stash away the top 75 players. Usually, it is pitching that is selected at the AAA and AA phases to help with depth.
With that, let us take a look at some of the Orioles’ players that could potentially be targeted by other clubs in the Rule 5 Draft. It should be noted that the “odds of being selected” listed are just for fun. It is essentially impossible to gauge what teams’ believe is valuable:
(Note: There are many players that are eligible within the system. I only named the ones that I feel have the best chance at being selected)
Ohlman was the best hitter in the O’s minor league system last year, outside of Henry Urrutia. He has missed a lot of time throughout his minor league career, but looks to finally be healthy after an early season shoulder injury. Ohlman is a good athlete but still has work to do behind the plate. He has all the tools to be a good catcher, but needs to improve footwork and blocking, although they have drastically improved in the past year. Most of this has lagged behind due to simply not being on the field enough. He has above-average arm strength but struggles to make accurate throws; which can be fixed with improved footwork.
The bat has above-average raw power. It is a solid bat with a good approach and plate discipline. Scouts have noted that the decision making at the plate has really improved over the past two years, which has led to his improved hitting performance. He is certainly a better game-caller now than in the past, and pitchers such as Zach Davies have noted how in-sync they are with Ohlman catching. He has potential to be a major league starting catcher, but will need to improve defensively and will need to show stability in terms of health and performance at the higher levels.
On that note, I think it is possible that a team takes a flier on Ohlman as a bench bat or backup catcher. However, it’s really tough to keep a player like this on the 25-man roster since they are in such an important role. If a team thinks that Ohlman’s bat is that valuable – they could snag him. It is also important to keep in mind that he has not played above A+ ball yet, and AA is really were you truly start to see whether a player has true potential to perform in the MLB. The Orioles should protect Ohlman, but there is a possibility they will not. It’s clear that the defense is a work-in-progress still, but will that be enough of a deterrent? I am not 100% sure.
Odds of being selected: 20%
Gurka is a solid athlete, but a smaller framed pitcher. The Orioles have him working on conditioning and he is currently in the Arizona Fall League. He is a bullpen arm all the way and could end up being a potential LOOGY, as he handles lefties extremely well.
His arsenal consists of a 87-92 mph fastball with heavy sink and late tailing action, a 80-83 mph change up with average fade and a 79-82 mph slider with more of a slurve to it. The slider has good bite and the plane he throws on makes the pitch more effective. Overall, it is the quintessential LOOGY arsenal.
I think Gurka is definitely someone that could be looked at. His ceiling may not be supremely high, but he offers a valuable asset that clubs routinely search for to fill out their bullpen. He is also easy to stash in a LOOGY role. I also do not think the Orioles will protect him, as they already have multiple LOOGY on the 40-man in Mike Belfiore, Chris Jones, Brian Matusz, T.J. McFarland and even Troy Patton. It really depends on whether a team believes the effort of stashing him is worth it.
Odds of being selected: 10%
The former Navy alum has already seen time on the Orioles 40-man roster. He was eventually removed and spent a year injured. He returned in 2013 and put together a very strong season in the Baysox bullpen. His fastball sits in the 91-93 mph range while touching 95 mph with sink. It is a good pitch that hasn’t seemed to regress with the injuries. His best pitch is probably a plus slider that sits in 82-85 mph range and really has some good bite on it. There is also some form of a change up, but it’s clearly behind the other two pitches.
Drake is an interesting case. I think he eventually will be in the MLB and might even end up being productive for a long time – barring injuries. If a team thinks he is fully healthy, I would not be surprised if he is selected. He was good enough once to be protected, so that alone should show that there is some value here.
Odds of being selected: 10%
Schrader has long been a favorite of mine. I am a stuff kinda guy. He has some serious stuff. He works with a plus fastball in the 92-95 mph range and a 83-85 mph slider. There’s a lot of effort in his delivery, which puts some extra pressure on his back, neck and arm. He is the definition of a power arsenal, and the stuff can be unhittable at times. However, his command and control fluctuate with each outing. Sometimes he will look absolutely dominant – other times he struggles to throw a strike.
Schrader has hit a road-block at AA Bowie. I’ve seen him plenty of times in the past two years and he is certainly frustrating to watch because you know the stuff is so good. I think there is a small possibility a team could take a flier on Schrader and see if some new voices can help fix his command and control issues. Most likely, he doesn’t get selected because there is still too much to worry about with his game and he is primarily a one inning guy.
Odds of being selected: 5%
Berry has taken a long road to success, but he may finally be at a corner to take the turn. He has slowly risen up through the system, and has not garnered much buzz until this past season. His arsenal consists of a sneaky fastball that hovers around 90-92 mph, an improved change up around 82 mph and a good curveball with a sharp spin that comes in around 75 mph. At this point last season, Berry still was refining his change up and his command was wavering. Both have improved in 2013 to the point where he is giving the Orioles a tough decision.
I think Berry needs to see time at AA to work on the above mentioned areas. His command is borderline fringe at this point and it could be exposed at higher levels. However, he has really improved his game and there is definitely value in a lefty with a good hook and a decent fastball that has some life to it. I doubt he is selected but a team could view him as a guy to stash and give mop-up duty to while he continues to refine his game.
Odds of being selected: 10%
Eddie Gamboa was one of the best stories in 2013. He went from being pure organization filler to an asset on the rise. It was all about the addition of the knuckleball. Let’s be honest, we do not have much experience watching knuckleballers pitch – so his season may be impressive simply because of the innovative twist. Gamboa actually throws two variants of the knuckle – 65-69 mph and 75-80 mph. Both have good movement and improved as the year went on. The great thing about Gamboa is that he still works with his 90 mph fastball, a decent curve and an average change up. None of those pitches are standouts or really anything more than fringe – but it doesn’t matter when they become secondary offerings to the knuckleball.
Gamboa is a really interesting case. I think he is the exact type of player I would target in the Rule 5 if I was running a club. He is unique and also has suddenly improved drastically. I think a club could find a spot in the bullpen for him where he can play mop up duty and continue to harness his knuckleball. I am not sure how he correlates to the MLB though, as the knuckleball is such an unknown area.
Odds of being selected: 15%
He has essentially cemented his role in the Baysox hall of fame, but Joseph has piqued the interest of some after a terrific 2013 season. It is important to note that he has really played a long time at the AA level, and he is no spring chicken at this stage of his minor league career. However, there has been serious buzz within baseball about whether he deserves a shot to prove his worth at the next level. I think most of that buzz has primarily come from the media.
Joseph is a decent bat. He has calmed the swing down from years past and the plate approach has improved. I am not sure how much of that is from extended periods of time in AA. If a team thinks the bat has potential to play at the MLB level, they could look to take him as a backup C/LF/1B option off the bench. I do not think Joseph sticks as a catcher in the MLB though. The footwork is just not there, and it affects some other aspects of his game like throwing. He is not below-average behind the plate, but not on the level that a team needs as a backup catcher. He does call a good game though. I think it is unlikely he is selected, but a NL team could view him as a decent guy off the bench.
Odds of being selected: 5%