The Orioles had three easy decisions at the Nov. 20 deadline to finalize rosters for the Rule 5 draft. They were assured of protecting first baseman Ryan Mountcastle, lefthander Keegan Akin and righthander Dean Kremer.
However, they also chose to protect 22-year-old outfielder Ryan McKenna, which required them to look past some of the numbers at Double-A Bowie and lock into the qualities that continue to intrigue.
McKenna appeared in 135 games with the Baysox and slashed .232/.321/.365 with 26 doubles, six triples and nine home runs. He also stole 25 bases.
Speed and defense separate McKenna from many of the other players in the Orioles’ system. The righthanded hitter has small-ball skills and a little pop.
A scout from outside the organization noted how McKenna played “a big league center field.”
“For me as a player, the gifts that I’ve been given, it’s always been a part of my game to be able to do those things,” McKenna said. “I take pride in that and being able to produce in different areas. I need to be more consistent with my tools, but I know I can produce in a lot of different areas. That is a focus for me.”
McKenna, a fourth-round pick in 2015 out of high school in Dover, N.H., had no idea whether he’d be protected or left exposed in the Rule 5 draft.
“I knew it was my Rule 5 year,” he said. “You have it in the back of your mind, but you can’t control that stuff. I thought there was definitely a chance.
“I love the Orioles organization, and they’ve been good to me. I was definitely excited to hear they were willing to take that chance on me and put me on the roster. It’s a happy moment when you find out.”
Austin Hays is penciled into center field next season and Anthony Santander and Trey Mancini are the likely choices at the corners, but McKenna will compete for a reserve spot in camp. He might have to repeat a stint at Bowie if the Triple-A Norfolk outfield is too crowded, but he’s inching closer to making his major league debut.
— The Orioles didn’t protect 2016 first-round righthander Cody Sedlock prior to the Rule 5 draft. The 24-year-old posted a combined 2.84 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and .202 opponent average between high Class A Frederick and Double-A Bowie.
— The Orioles also kept low Class A Delmarva righthander Gray Fenter off the 40-man roster, banking on teams passing on a South Atlantic League pitcher. The 23-year-old went 8-2, 1.81 with a 1.10 WHIP and 123 strikeouts in 94.1 innings.