O's add No. 2 prospect Rodriguez, 4 others to 40-man

November 16th, 2022

Grayson Rodriguez was added to Baltimore’s 40-man roster. And that move came as the easiest decision the Orioles will make all offseason.

The deadline for MLB teams to add Rule 5-eligible players to 40-man rosters was Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET. Those who are eligible and weren't protected can potentially be taken by any other MLB club during the Rule 5 Draft, which is set for Dec. 7 at the Winter Meetings in San Diego.

Among all of this year’s Rule 5-eligible players, none were higher in MLB Pipeline’s prospect rankings than Rodriguez (No. 4 in baseball and No. 2 in Baltimore’s system). So it was obvious the O’s wouldn’t leave him exposed.

It’s not always that easy to pick whether or not to protect a player, and the Orioles had some other tough decisions to make this year. In addition to Rodriguez, they opted to select the contracts of right-handers Noah Denoyer and Seth Johnson, shortstop Joey Ortiz and left-hander Drew Rom ahead of Tuesday's deadline.

There are now 39 players on Baltimore’s 40-man roster. The O’s could leave a spot open so they can select somebody in the Rule 5 Draft (which they did every year from 2006-20, though the event was not held in ‘21).

Rodriguez, who was selected by Baltimore with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, likely would have already been added to the 40-man roster before the end of the ‘22 season were it not for a right lat strain that sidelined him for three months. The 22-year-old appeared on track to make his big league debut this year before the injury.

Now, Rodriguez will come to Spring Training next year looking to earn a spot in the Orioles’ 2023 starting rotation.

“Grayson is the No. 1 pitching prospect in the Minor Leagues, and it’s for good reason,” general manager Mike Elias told MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi at last week’s GM Meetings in Las Vegas. “There’s really nothing negative from a scouting standpoint that I can say about him. He throws hard, he’s got four or five pitches, he commands, [has a] great makeup.

“My point of view is he’s kind of on the inside of the competition to break camp in our rotation, and I hope he does it.”

Johnson (No. 10), Ortiz (No. 17) and Rom (No. 19) are also among Baltimore’s top prospects. Denoyer isn’t ranked in the Orioles’ Top 30 prospects, but the 24-year-old had a solid showing in the Arizona Fall League, going 3-1 with a 4.50 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 20 innings over six games (five starts) for the Scottsdale Scorpions.

The 24-year-old Johnson came to the Orioles from the Rays in the Aug. 1 three-team deal that sent Trey Mancini to the Astros. Johnson, the No. 40 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, has yet to pitch since joining his new organization, as he underwent Tommy John surgery two days after the trade.

Ortiz was selected by the Orioles in the fourth round of the 2019 MLB Draft. This year, the 24-year-old hit .269/.337/.455 with 15 homers and 71 RBIs in 111 games for Double-A Bowie. Then, he was promoted to Triple-A Norfolk, where he hit .346/.400/.567 with four home runs and 14 RBIs in 26 games.

Rom was also a fourth-round Draft pick by Baltimore, which selected him in 2018. The 22-year-old posted a 4.37 ERA and struck out 101 in 82 1/3 innings over 19 games (18 starts) for Bowie this year. After being promoted to Norfolk, he had a 4.54 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings over seven starts.