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O's have room on 40-man roster to protect prospects

Right-handers Wilson, Wright should be safe from Rule 5 Draft
MLB.com @Britt_Ghiroli

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles will have to make some important decisions on Thursday, as all Major League teams have until 11:59 p.m. ET to set their 40-man rosters and protect any eligible prospects from being taken in next month's Rule 5 Draft.

The O's have had success in the Rule 5 Draft recently, as they have been able to keep infielder Ryan Flaherty and left-handed pitcher T.J. McFarland. They also re-signed last year's Rule 5 Draft pick, infielder Michael Almanzar, earlier this week.

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles will have to make some important decisions on Thursday, as all Major League teams have until 11:59 p.m. ET to set their 40-man rosters and protect any eligible prospects from being taken in next month's Rule 5 Draft.

The O's have had success in the Rule 5 Draft recently, as they have been able to keep infielder Ryan Flaherty and left-handed pitcher T.J. McFarland. They also re-signed last year's Rule 5 Draft pick, infielder Michael Almanzar, earlier this week.

So, who could Baltimore add? Right now, the Orioles have 34 players on their 40-man roster, with right-handed pitcher Oliver Drake signing a Major League deal on Tuesday. They have a free space of sorts, with first baseman Chris Davis still serving a 25-game suspension and not counting toward the club's 40-man roster. However, they will likely leave a space or two open in the event that they sign someone prior to the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place on Dec. 11, the last day of the Winter Meetings in San Diego.

The O's are expected to add at least three players, possibly as many five, to avoid losing some of their prospects to other clubs. The primary names are pitchers Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson, Parker Bridwell and Mychal Givens, and catcher Brian Ward.

What makes them eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter? A player not on a team's 40-man roster who was signed at age-19 or older and has been in the organization for four-plus years, or was signed at age-18 or younger and has been in the organization for five-plus years is eligible to be taken in the Rule 5 Draft. If selected in the Major League portion of the Draft, that player must remain on the 25-man roster of his new team for the whole season or be offered back to the original club.

Wilson and Wright seem like locks to be added to the 40-man roster, with both generating outside interest from other clubs and believed to be Major League-caliber arms. Wilson had a breakout season of sorts, going 14-8 with a 3.67 combined ERA at Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. A former 10th-round selection, he's a scrappy pitcher who scouts describe as smart on the mound, and he earned the Orioles' Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award.

Wright had a less successful campaign, but Baltimore believes the potential is still there, despite an 5-11 record with a 4.61 ERA at Norfolk. A part of big league Spring Training each of the past two years, it's hard to envision the Orioles not protecting him.

Bridwell and Givens each have upside, and they have steadily climbed the ranks in the O's organization. Bridwell went 7-10 with a 4.45 ERA at Class A Advanced Frederick, but he has shown flashes of dominance, and he has a fastball that hits the mid-90s. Givens is a converted infielder who had a solid showing (3.09 ERA) as a reliever in this year's Arizona Fall League.

Ward has progressed considerably on the defensive end, and he's well thought of in the organization for his abilities to control the opponents' running game. But the Orioles have four catchers on their current 40-man roster -- Matt Wieters, Caleb Joseph, Steve Clevenger and Michael Ohlman -- meaning Ward might be the odd man out.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Baltimore Orioles