The Rule 5 is one of the most overblown events of the year. You will easily find more talent on waiver wires throughout the year than you do in the Rule 5 draft. The Orioles have been particularly adept over the past two seasons in finding players that fit their active roster, something that other teams are unable or incapable of doing. However, this success could make some expect the team to be successful in finding pieces year in and year out. My perspective though is that is probably not the case this year.
Michael Almanzar, CIF/DH
23 years old
6'3 190 lbs
In the MLB portion of the draft (which requires the team to hold selected players on their active roster for the entire season), the Orioles selected Michael Almanzar. Almanzar is a product of the Red Sox international effort in the Dominican who paid him 1.5 MM for a signing bonus in 2007, which also employed his father as a minor league pitcher at the time. Michael was viewed highly when he dominated rookie ball as a 17 year old while his struggles in low A ball that same year were ignored. Those struggles have followed him over the years. However, he has seen some marginal success these past two year in HiA and AA.
I asked an evaluator who was familiar with him for his thoughts:
There's leverage in the swing and [Almanzar] can hit it out of big league parks, but he has sizeable holes on the inner third and struggles with velocity up. Defensively he is a first baseman or DH, though I guess Baltimore could give him time at third in Spring Training and see where it goes -- especially if Machado's not going to be back. They might be able to stash him as a pinch hit and occasional first base/DH option, but it's more likely he gets shipped back to Boston at some point in March, or when Machado makes his way back to the team.It may well be that the team, having no obvious holes in the bullpen or outfield or infield that a Rule 5 could fix, took a 25k chance on a player with some promise in the hope they could teach him how to field. The Baltimore developmental system is not well known for much, but there has been some attention paid to their ability to refine fielding skills. It is a long bet as you are betting on a bat that profiles around a .270 wOBA who has little fielding skill. I don't think anyone expects Almanzar to break the season with the big league club.
Julio Borbon, OF
28 years old
6'0 195 lbs
In the AAA portion, teams simply pay 12.5k to acquire players who are neither on the 40 man roster or the 38 man AAA roster. There are no conditions other than that. For the Orioles, they helped address a major issue with the organization, upper minor league outfield depth. They have seen Jason Pridie, L.J. Hoes, Xavier Avery, Trayvon Robinson, Chris Dickerson, Eric Thames, Lew Ford, Yamaico Navarro, Conor Jackson and Russ Canztler leave the organization. The only Norfolk outfielders still in the organization are Buck Britton, Henry Urrutia, and Danny Valencia who made up only 49 plays in the outfield.
Julio Borbon is part of the resupply of the organization of high minors depth. He joins other offseason acquisitions Ronald Bermudez, Chih-Hsein Chiang, and K.D. Kang. I imagine that Henry Urrutia and Dariel Alvarez will also be in the conversation. I also imagine a player like Tyler Colvin will likely be added to provide some corner power. Regardless, Borbon is a solid option in the outfield who will be capable of filling in if a player goes down in Baltimore. You probably do not want him up there for any significant time, but he can man the field.
Jim Johnson Trade
When Jim Johnson was dealt last week, it included a player to be named later. Original speculation were that the PTBNL would be someone like fringe prospect Miles Head or a promising raw one tool player like Renato Nunez. Those expectations were not met as the player to be included is catcher David Freitas.
David Freitas, C
25 years old
6'3 225 lbs
As I write, Freitas looks to pair up with the loser of the Steve Clevenger and Johnny Monell spring training battle to be Matt Wieters' back up. Last year, Luis Exposito and Luis Martinez sat behind the plate, but find themselves out of the organization. Brian Ward and Caleb Joseph may be in the conversation as the Orioles likely plan to stick Michael Ohlman behind the plate as much as possible in Bowie. Joseph may find himself at 1B or in LF. Some Orioles fans (and some local writers) do not understand why he was not placed on the 40 man roster, but it seems fairly clear that he is not a catcher and hitting well in Bowie at age 27 in not exactly a promising thing.
Beyond the nuts and bolts, what light does this put the Johnson trade in? It was a salary dump where the Orioles acquired useful AAA players as depth. Weeks never had a high upside, but he is missing out on what scouts envisioned. He does not particularly field well and he does not particularly hit well. He has been this way for a couple years and most are doubtful anything will change. He has one more option and could visit Baltimore if anyone gets injured or fails immensely. Freitas doesn't show much power, doesn't have much of a hit tool, and has struggled behind the plate. He should be useful in Norfolk. It is hard to see much beyond that.
Well, the team is still talking with players. As I write this, the team has a two-year deal out to Grant Balfour. Supposedly, they have an offer out to a position player as well who is not Nelson Cruz. By my calculation, they are about 20 MM under budget if last year's mark is also this year's. From my perspective, I would like to see the team acquire John Axford, Franklin Gutierrez, and Masahiro Tanaka if he is posted. If Tanaka is not available, then I would probably be interested in someone like Matt Garza or even A.J. Burnett. In other words, there are still several options out there. Some of those options are shinier than others.