(Photo Credit: Joe Robbins/gettyimages)
This past September the Orioles surprised a few people by taking 3 players in the Rule 5 draft. All three players they took were pitchers. Of the three players they took, only one of them had pitched at the AAA level, Nestor Cortes. Of the two remaining, only 1 has over 30 IP at the AA level, Jose Mesa. Pedro Araujo was the other pitcher the Orioles took in the Rule 5 draft. He has pitched only 2 innings above A ball. Araujo is also the oldest of the bunch. He has also impressed the most in camp and Spring Training games thus far.
In his 3 appearances during Spring Training so far, Araujo has allowed only 1 base runner, struck out 3, has 0 walks, and has allowed 0 runs. He also managed to pick up a win in his second outing. While most would claim that Spring Training stats mean nothing, that’s not always the case. While Spring Training stats will not always correlate to the regular season, Spring Training results mean everything to a player fighting to earn a roster spot.
Araujo relies primarily on his fastball which touches 93 MPH and is said to have some sinking action. He also features a plus curveball and a changeup. While in the Cubs Minor League system, Araujo eventually found himself as the closer at the A level with 10 saves last season. Araujo has a 2.63 ERA in his Minor League career and a 3.75 strikeout/walk ratio. He followed up his impressive ‘17 campaign with an equally impressive appearance in the Arizona Fall League with a 1.74 ERA in 10.1 IP and 3 saves. All of this culminated with the Orioles selecting him in the Rule 5 draft.
The names currently penciled in for the Orioles bullpen are Darren O’Day, Brad Brach, Richard Bleier, and Mychal Givens. Zach Britton will be a part of the bullpen as well when he returns from the disabled list around June. Currently this leaves 3 or 4 spots in the bullpen open to go with their 1 rotation spot available. Miguel Castro is another name who could’ve been easily penciled in for the bullpen after his performance last year but the Orioles wish to try him out as a starter. If the Orioles are serious about Castro starting they should send him to Norfolk to start the season to continue working on it if he loses out on the 5th rotation spot to start the season.
So where does this all leave Araujo? The main competition Araujo is facing when it comes to making the team primarily comes from the other Rule 5 draft picks and 2 pitchers who are out of options, Mike Wright and Gabriel Ynoa. Though I have mentioned the possibility of 5 spots being available and 5 players competing for those spots the odds say only 3 of the ones mentioned will make the team due to their lack of roster flexibility status and the Orioles use of the “Norfolk Shuttle” during the season.
While the other 2 Rule 5 picks have been said to be competing for a starting rotation spot as well as a bullpen opening, Araujo is only competing for a bullpen spot. So far Wright and Cortes have done well while battling for the 5th spot rotation. With the struggles of Mesa (4 runs and 3 walks in 2 innings) and Ynoa (7 runs in 4 innings) so far in games, Araujo has been turning heads both with his lights out in game performances and his work during drills. He has surpassed everything the team has asked and wanted from him.
There are a few non-performance things working against Araujo. The Orioles would like another left handed reliever in their bullpen and Araujo is right handed. As mentioned before his Rule 5 status means he would have to remain on the roster for the entire season so he offers no flexibility if he struggles or if the Orioles need to call up another pitcher in an emergency situation. There’s also the fact the Orioles currently have 4 Rule 5 guys on their current roster, 3 pitchers and 1 OF. Outfielder Anthony Santander can be optioned down after completing 44 days on the roster which could offer the Orioles some reprieve in roster flexibility down the road.
He might lack the background family pedigree of Mesa or the numbers and experience of Cortes; Araujo continues to stand tall while being noticed while earning his way towards a roster spot. Pedro Araujo has done all the right things thus far to earn one of the few bullpen spots open. He will have to keep the momentum building to reach his goal of making the Major League roster. While he is not left handed, does not throw 100 MPH, and offers no roster flexibility his performance could leave the Orioles no option but to take Araujo to Baltimore.