LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Orioles were active in the 2017 Rule 5 Draft, taking three of the 18 Major League picks on Thursday morning.The O's picks included left-hander Nestor Cortes Jr. Jr. from the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate, righty Pedro Araujo from the Cubs' Triple-A roster and righty Jose
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Orioles were active in the 2017 Rule 5 Draft, taking three of the 18 Major League picks on Thursday morning.
The O's picks included left-hander Nestor Cortes Jr. Jr. from the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate, righty Pedro Araujo from the Cubs' Triple-A roster and righty Jose Mesa Jr., who was on the Yankees' Double-A roster. Baltimore, the last team to continue picking, passed in the fourth round to end the Major League phase.
:: Rule 5 Draft coverage ::
The Orioles picked ninth in the Draft, which goes in order of worst-to-best 2017 record. With just 34 players on their 40-man roster heading into the Rule 5 Draft -- the lowest total among the 30 Major League clubs -- the O's had targeted pitching. Given that they still have Rule 5 Draft pick Anthony Santander, who was their selection last year but spent most of the season on the disabled list, it would have been tough to carry another Rule 5 Draft position player. Baltimore will head to Spring Training -- barring any trades -- with four Rule 5 Draft players, trying to see if one can stick.
Cortes, who just turned 23, spent most of the 2017 season in Double-A and Triple-A, and he had an impressive end to the season. The lefty posted a 1.25 ERA in his final 10 outings and had a 1.49 overall ERA in 48 1/3 innings at Scranton. In '17, he went 7-4 with a 2.06 ERA, striking out 105 with 32 walks over 104 2/3 innings. Cortes was selected by the Yankees in the 36th round of the 2013 Draft out of Hialeah (Fla.) High School.
"He's advanced, and he pitched well at Double-A and he pitched well at Triple-A," executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. "And we think he may be able to compete for a spot as a starter with the big league club. He has good pitches and experience, and he has had success at every level.
"I think he can compete to be a starting pitcher. This is a guy that has very good pitching instincts. He knows how to locate his pitches. He knows how to field his position and combat the running game. He has a lot of skills, some very unique skills. Look at his record of success at every step of the way. The critics will say he doesn't throw hard, and that's true. He is not a hard thrower. But he can do a lot of other things that count in getting a hitter out."
Araujo, 24, is 26-9 with 2.63 ERA in 145 games (22 starts), with 394 strikeouts in 341 2/3 innings.
"We saw him [pitch] very good in the Arizona Fall League. [Scout] Dave Engle recommended him," Duquette said of Araujo. "He shows three good pitches with good control. He has also gotten very good results over his pro career and [he] is a bullpen option."
Mesa, 24, the son of former Orioles pitcher Jose Mesa, ended the season with the Yankees' Double-A Trenton affiliate. Mesa went 4-0 with an 0.79 ERA in eight games for Trenton. He was drafted in the 24th round of the 2012 Draft.
"He looks just like his daddy and has the same kind of build," Duquette said. "Very similar delivery. It looks like a flashback to when his dad was a closer with the Indians. He's got a good curve with good control, nice composure and a nice assortment of pitches. We like all three pitchers we took, and we feel like they have a legitimate shot to compete in the spring."
The Orioles did not lose any prospects in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft, but they did lose Yermin Mercedes to the White Sox in the Minor League portion. They also lost Brian Perez, a shortstop from their Double-A roster, to the A's, along with lefty Mitch Horacek (Rockies), and outfielders Jay Gonzalez (D-backs) and Angelo Mora (Dodgers).
In the Rule 5 Draft, players who first signed at age 18 must be added to 40-man rosters within five seasons or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations. Players signed at 19 years or older have to be protected within four seasons. Clubs pay $100,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, and they're only allowed to do so if they have room on their 40-man roster. If that player doesn't stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $50,000.
For this year, that means an international or high school Draft pick signed in 2013 -- assuming he was 18 or younger as of June 5 of that year -- has to be protected. A college player taken in the 2014 Draft is in the same position.
Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.