The deadline to add players to the 40-man roster and have them protected from the Rule V draft was last night at midnight. Baseball America profiles some notable players who were left unprotected here in this immensely informative article.
The Orioles have four open spots on their 40-man roster. There is a good chance that a currently occupied spot (or two) opens up before the December 2nd tender deadline, with the most notable non-tender candidate being Nolan Reimold (the O’s could non-tender Reimold and resign him on a minor league deal while not using up a 40-man spot). Given the room on the 40-man, there is a solid chance the Orioles will look to draft a player in the Rule V draft.
The Orioles have successfully retained Rule V players in the past two drafts with Ryan Flaherty lasting all of the 2012 season in the Majors while T.J. McFarland repeated that feat in 2013. The organization has shown the ability to carry both a position player and pitcher taken in the Rule V draft an entire season while still contending, which might make them confident that they can do the same in 2014.
On a contending team, Rule V picks are almost always major league ready relievers or “last man on the bench” types who have the potential of providing at least some value, whether that be on defense or perhaps on the base paths. I’ve gone through BA’s list and picked out four candidates (two pitchers and two position players) that caught my eye as possible.
Kevin Munson (Arizona)
AAA – RH Reliever – 24 years old
Munson threw 54 2/3’s innings last year between AA and AAA striking out 66 batters and walking only 22 for a even 3.00 SO/BB ratio. For his career, Munson has good underlying numbers – 11.2 SO/9, 4.9 BB/9, and 7/6 H/9 – even if his career ERA of 4.42 is unimpressive. A native of Roanoke and a graduate of James Madison, Munson carries some semi-local ties which never hurts. His control issues are likely the reason he is not already in the Major Leagues and what could keep him from sticking with the Orioles or any other team if selected during the draft. According to Baseball America Munson combines a mid-90’s fastball with a plus slider.
Munson’s arm and experience in the upper levels of the minors makes him a possible bullpen candidate, even on a hopeful contender like the Orioles.
Darrell Ceciliani (NYM)
AA – OF – 23 years old
Ceciliani would fit on the Orioles as a 4th or 5th outfield type and has several attributes that make him an intriguing possibility. Baseball American touts him as a good defensive outfielder and he has played all three outfield positions in the minors (although mainly CF). He won’t turn 24 years old until June so he is relatively young. He has walked at an 8.3% clip and owns a career OBP of .353. On top of all that, he is a stolen base threat with 93 successful steals in 124 attempts for a 75% success rate (he stole at an 82% clip in 2013 on his way to picking up 31 stolen bases). The good defense, ability to move around the outfield, some potential value on offense (OBP), and good base running could potentially make him a relatively valuable “last man on the bench” sort of guy in 2014 who maybe ends up as a fringe starter in the future.
I see a few different ways that the Orioles roster could shake out where they would need a defensive-minded 5th outfielder (think Endy Chavez) and the team did carry Alexi Cassila in a similar role in the infield last season. Ceciliani has the potential to add value on defense and on the bases, which is about as much as one can hope for from the final player on the bench.
Mike Freeman (Arizona)
AA – SS/2B – 26 years old
Freeman doesn’t hit much and doesn’t hit for much power, but he does walk a lot (10.6% career walk rate over four seasons), is a high percentage base stealer (95 out of 114 attempts have been successful), and can handle the middle infield positions on defense. He also spent time in the Arizona Fall League in the outfield so he has quite a bit of defensive versatility. Freeman is probably redundant if Ryan Flaherty is going to be utilized as a super utility player, but he is intriguing nonetheless as a versatile bench player.
Marcus Hatley (CHC)
AAA– RH Reliever – 25 years old
Like Munson, Hatley is a high-strikeout pitcher who has some command issues. His career 8.2 SO/9 rate doesn’t look overly impressive, but he spent his first four seasons as a starter and has seen a spike in his K-rate since moving to the bullpen full time. In 58 AAA innings Hatley has averaged 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings and averaged an even 11 K’s per nine between AA and AAA in 2013. The problem is he averaged 5.2 walks per nine in 2013 and has a career SO/9 IP rate of 4.3. Baseball America believes he has the potential to be more than your typical mop-up duty Rule V reliever with command being the biggest concern. He is currently pithing in the Mexican Winter League and pitching well there.
Very early into this offseason, the Birds have shown an interest in high upside, hard throwing relievers with potential command issues. Hatley also fits that profile (as does Munson) so it is conceivable the O’s could take a shot on him, allow him to compete with the likes of De La Cruz and Escalona in Spring Training, and make a decision from there.