Baltimore Orioles: Top Starting Pitching Targets in Rule 5 Draft

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 18: Dan Duquette, general manager of the Baltimore Orioles, watches batting practice before a game with the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on April 18, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 18: Dan Duquette, general manager of the Baltimore Orioles, watches batting practice before a game with the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on April 18, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) /

The Baltimore Orioles need to improve their starting pitching, and one of the the less expensive ways they could do that would be through the Rule 5 Draft.

A majority of Baltimore Orioles fans will agree that this off-season must be dedicated to improving the pitching staff.  One of the less expensive ways that the Baltimore Orioles could do that is through the Rule 5 Draft.

The deadline to add players to the 40 man roster and protect them from being selected in the Rule 5 draft has now past.  Dan Duquette is a big fan of the Rule 5 draft for it allows for teams to select players from various farm systems and give them shot to prove themselves in the major leagues.  The system has allowed for players to move forward in their careers and not be stored in the minors for years without having a taste of the big leagues.

Here we’ll take a look at some of the potential pitching options the Baltimore Orioles could pursue through the Rule 5 Draft.

Jose Almonte (A+) RHP Arizona Diamondbacks

The recently turned 22-year-old right-hander is currently rated the #26 prospect in the Arizona Diamondbacks system.  He was a large $610,000 signing in 2012 out of the Dominican Republic by the Boston Red Sox but was traded along with another prospect in 2016 for Brad Ziegler.  Almonte has remained a starter and has performed very well in his young career.

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In a hitter-friendly California league, Almonte delivered a 3.55 ERA in 27 starts covering 139 and 1/3 innings with 162 strikeouts.  Almonte carries with him an above average fastball and has been able to touch 95 mph on a few occasions as he grows into his frame.

Almonte needs work with his control as he had issued 66 walks last year.  His slider and change-ups are works in progress but also have plus potential.  For the entire advanced A season, Almonte was 21 years old and led the league in strikeouts and was second in ERA.  The drawback is that the highest level he has pitched is high A.

Jordan Romano (A+) RHP Toronto Blue Jays

While Romano has not pitched above A+ in his career and has battled Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss the 2015 season, he has worked his way to getting consideration in the rule 5 draft.

The #19 rated prospect on the Toronto Blue Jays was drafted in the 10th round in 2014 out of Oral Roberts.  In 2017, he was able to prove his durability by pitching in 138 innings to a 3.39 ERA and generating 138 strikeouts along with a modest 3.5 BB/9 innings.

The soon to be 25-year-old right-hander has a plus fastball and plus slider.  His fastball can run up to 94+mph at times.  His change-up is a work in progress along with his control considering he was responsible for 14 hit by pitches in 2017.  Some view him better as a fastball/slider type of relief pitcher.  Nonetheless, he is capable of both starter and reliever type of roles.

Angel Perdomo (A+) LHP Toronto Blue Jays

Angel Perdomo is a big 6’6″ lefty that is currently rated the #30 prospect by the Toronto Blue Jays.  This, however, is a huge drop from other rankings performed the year prior.  In some rankings, Perdomo was rated as high as a top ten caliber talent in the Blue Jays organization.  Perdomo had a stellar 2016 with 156 strikeouts in 127 innings to a tune of a 3.19 ERA.

In 2017, Perdomo was more walk prone as he had 43 walks in 75 and 1/3 innings, however, he managed a 3.70 ERA with 65 strikeouts in advanced A ball.  The southpaw lost a degree of his command in 2017 as well as did not pitch past July 6th as he was shut down with an injury.

Perdomo was on the World team for the MLB Futures game in 2016 and was highly touted by many.  His growth has seemed to have taken a hit with injury.  However, he is a tall lefty with a lot of potential.  Many believed he was on course to make an appearance in 2017 in the bullpen.  Perdomo has flashed a plus mid 90’s fastball along with an average grade slider.

Control is the issue.  It would be quite intriguing to see if anyone does take a chance on him.  A lefty with that much velocity is a nice commodity and the Baltimore Orioles may be able to stash him given the season-ending injury he suffered.

Kohl Stewart (AA/AAA) RHP Minnesota Twins

Kohl Stewart was the first high school pitcher drafted in the 2013 draft at 4th overall.  While Stewart has not lived up to his full potential as a true ace or number 1 starter for the Twins, it was a surprising decision to see that he was not protected on the 40 man roster.

Stewart put together respectable seasons from when he was drafted producing sub 3.20 ERA’s from rookie ball to AA.  In 2016, he had his best season with 143 and 1/3 innings in 25 starts between A+ and AA with a 2.88 ERA.

What seemed like he would be a shoe-in for the 40 man roster after the 2017 season did not happen as he was placed on the disabled list for left knee tendinitis three times during the year.  In AA, he was still able to manage a 4.09 ERA but his WHIP climbed to 1.52.

While the injury and durability issues are there, it is important to keep in mind that Stewart will be 23 for the entire 2018 season which is still young for the once considered Top 100 prospect.

Brandon Leibrandt (AA/AAA) LHP Philadelphia Phillies

Brandon Leibrant has been an under the radar pitcher but has shown success at every minor league level.  Leibrant is lefty starting pitcher drafted out of the sixth round in the 2014 draft by the Philadelphia Phillies.

While Leibrant won’t wow you with a blazing fastball that tops out at 90 mph, he has a change-up, curveball, and cutter that are all at least average pitches with great control.  His change-up has been even rated up to a 60 on the 20-80 scale.

In 25 total starts between the Eastern League (AA) and the International League (AAA) in 2017, he logged in a career-high with 136 and 2/3 innings with an 11-5 record and a 3.62 ERA.  Leibrandt can work as a long reliever or even a spot starter type of role.  He has proven what he can do in the minors and is now looking for a chance in the majors.

Nestor Cortes (A+/AA/AAA) LHP New York Yankees

Nestor Cortes is also a similar caliber pitcher as Leibrandt in that they are both control pitchers that are capable of providing help as long relievers or spot starters.  The southpaw was drafted out of high school in the 36th round in the 2013 draft by the New York Yankees.

For a player that does not have a plus fastball, he has two different pitching styles that generate a lot of deception along with good secondary stuff.  In the past two years, he has worked out of the bullpen and made spot starts.

In 2017, he was a key part of a powerful Trenton Thunder (AA) team along with a strong Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders team that both won their divisions and made pushes into the playoffs.  Between the two affiliates, Cortes had 105 strikeouts in 104 and 2/3 innings in 30 appearances that included 13 starts.  The young man would be 23 for the entire 2018 season and has a solid change-up, curveball, and slider as secondary offerings.

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Honorable Mention

Austin Coley (AA) RHP Pittsburgh Pirates

Very quietly, Coley was one of the best pitchers in the Eastern League in 2017 with a 3.01 ERA over 143 and 2/3 innings and a solid 1.22 WHIP.  Drafted in the 8th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2014, Coley has been a model for durability as he has pitched at least 139 innings for the past three straight years.

Jordan Guerrero (AA) LHP Chicago White Sox

Jordan Guerrero has struggled to get past AA in the last two years but is also a model of durability.  In a repeat of his AA time with the Birmingham Barons, Guerrero made significant improvements from the 2016 season in 2017 and generated a 4.18 ERA in 146 innings along with 1.32 WHIP and 136 strikeouts.  Guerrero, who is currently rated the #21 prospect by the White Sox, has pitched at least 136 innings for the past three straight seasons.


The task will be difficult considering that the Baltimore Orioles will have to keep Anthony Santander for another month and a half as his Rule 5 status will carry over to 2018.  For a team that wishes to compete and make a push in 2018, it is hard to envision taking up a 25 man roster spot for a borderline major league player.

At the end of the day, the Rule 5 draft is a $100,000 investment in a player that may not be perfect but has the potential to contribute at the major league level.  Truthfully, it does not hurt to give a guy a shot in spring training and seeing whether he can stick at the major league level.  Even if the player reaches the major league level but does not perform, the player can be returned to the original team for $50,000.

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The Baltimore Orioles in the past have shown that they are not afraid to even dip into the A+ level to find players such as Jason Garcia and Anthony Santander.  Will they go for a player that has a high potential later in the future like a Jose Almonte or someone that can contribute now like a Nestor Cortes?  The Rule 5 draft is set for December 14th, 2017.