The Orioles have set the number of desired candidates for the rotation: eight. They used the Rule 5 draft to reduce the starter shortage.
Righthander Brandon Bailey was selected from the Astros organization with the second overall pick in the major league phase and will be given an opportunity to compete for a job. The 25-year-old’s lack of experience beyond Double-A won’t discourage the Orioles from auditioning him.
“Bailey has a strong track record of performance everywhere he’s been, including at the Double-A level in a starting capacity,” pro scouting director Mike Snyder said.
“He has a full assortment of weapons to lefthanded hitters and to righthanded hitters, and we’re excited to see what he can do in the spring.”
Bailey was the Athletics’ sixth-round pick in 2016 out of Gonzaga. He joined the Astros after the 2017 season in a trade for Ramon Laureano.
Bailey made 22 appearances (17 starts) in 2019 at Double-A Corpus Christi and posted a 3.30 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and .212 opponent average in 92.2 innings. He walked 41 batters and struck out 103.
Over four minor league seasons, Bailey has registered a 3.07 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and .208 average while failing to reach Triple-A. That should not deter the Orioles, a team that has broken camp in past springs with Rule 5 players from the Class A level.
“It’s a difficult jump for anybody to pitch in the major leagues, no matter where you come from,” Snyder said.
The Orioles were already familiar with Bailey prior to conducting their research for the Rule 5 draft. Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias worked for the Astros before the Orioles hired him in November 2018 and he brought assistant Sig Mejdal and minor league pitching coordinator Chris Holt with him.
Veteran righthander Alex Cobb and lefthander John Means, a rookie in 2019, are the only pitchers assured of rotation spots. Asher Wojciechowski will be given a chance to join them, but the Dylan Bundy trade createds an opening for other pitchers.
— The Orioles have made a selection in the major league Rule 5 draft every year since 2006. They kept shortstop Richie Martin on the roster for the entire 2019 season.
— The Orioles also selected righthander Michael Rucker from the Cubs organization in the second round of the major league Rule 5 draft. The 25-year-old was an 11th-round pick in 2016 out of Brigham Young, who made 34 relief appearances at Double-A Tennessee in 2019 and posted a 4.28 ERA and 1.30 WHIP with 89 strikeouts in 75.2 innings.
— The Orioles signed righthander Kohl Stewart to a major league contract on Dec. 29. He is expected to compete for a rotation spot. Stewart’s deal is a split contract that will pay him $800,000 if he can stick at the big league level all season. In 2019, Stewart pitched mostly in a relief role for the Twins and posted a 6.39 ERA and 1.46 WHIP with 10 strikeouts in 25.1 innings.