Aneury Tavarez Tops Orioles Rule 5 Class
Continuing their well-established trend of making annual Rule 5 picks, the Baltimore Orioles made two selections in the major league phase of Thursday morning’s draft. The first of those selections was that of outfielder Aneury Taverez from the Boston Red Sox, a transaction that could affect the Opening Day roster.
If the Orioles do not opt to carry Taverez on the 25-man roster for the duration of the season, he will be exposed to waivers and offered back to the Red Sox. An alternative to that scenario is that the Orioles offer the Red Sox compensation to gain the right to assign Tavarez to the minors.
In the coming months, it will become clearer as to whether Tavarez, who turns 25 in April, is ready for the majors. However, an early look shows that the Orioles may have found decent value for a Rule 5 selection.
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First signed by the Red Sox as an international free agent in October 2010, Tavarez has spent the previous six seasons in the team’s farm system. The 2016 campaign was by far his best, as he posted a .330/.374/.495 triple-slash line in 111 games between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. Of those 111 contests, Tavarez spent 106 in Portland, where he hit .335.
The triple-slash line Taverez posted last season is well above his career totals which, including 2016’s numbers, stand at .270/.320/.420. Prior to last season, the best stretch of the left-handed hitting Taverez’s career came over a 39-game stint with High-A Salem in 2015 that saw him bat .280/.368/.447.
Over his 536-game minor league career, Taverez has 90 stolen bases in 133 attempts (when rounded up, that comes out to a success rate of 68%.). That would not come into play in Baltimore, as all signs point to the Orioles sticking to their usual strategy of attempting a very low number of stolen bases.
However, Tavarez’ss speed would be utilized in other ways. Under manager Buck Showalter, the Orioles have found ways to incorporate bench players whose best attributes are often their speed and defense by using them as pinch runners or defensive replacements.
In that sense, Taverez could be utilized in the same way Michael Bourn was at the end of last season. Like Bourn, his profile as a contact-oriented, left-handed hitter could allow him to see occasional playing time against right-handed pitching, while otherwise taking on the role of pinch-runner/defensive replacement.
Of course, Tavarez needs to crack the Orioles’ Opening Day roster to have any role in Baltimore next season. How Tavarez, who has played mostly right field over the past few seasons, fits on the roster depends on a variety of factors, including how the Orioles decide to handle their outfield situation.
As it stands, the only guarantees in the Orioles’ outfield are that Adam Jones will patrol centerfield every day, while Hyun Soo Kim will get a significant portion of the playing time in left field. Joey Rickard, last year’s Rule 5 pick, is expected to return after being limited to 85 games in 2016 because of a thumb ligament injury.
Rickard and Tavarez profile as a possible platoon in right field, but that scenario is only likely if the Orioles do absolutely nothing to address their outfield situation. If the club does re-sign Mark Trumbo, or finds another option, it minimizes the chances of a Rickard/Tavarez platoon.
The Orioles also have other needs to fill—it is doubtful that they will stick with their current catching corps, led by Caleb Joseph, and they may decide to pursue an external option at DH. In order words, the chances that the makeup of the Orioles’ roster changes between now and spring training is very likely.
Still, it is foreseeable that the Orioles keep Tavarez around in some capacity. As mentioned before, he could fill the role that has been vacated by Bourn, and give the Orioles a left-handed hitting reserve option. In addition, the Orioles have proven to be a welcoming environment for Rule 5 picks. Along with Rickard, the Orioles featured two of their previous Rule 5 selections on last year’s major league roster—infielder/outfielder Ryan Flaherty, and reliever T.J. McFarland.
The roadmap to the Opening Day roster for Tavarez could prove to resemble Rickard’s path to the majors in 2016. Despite an influx of outfield and bench options that left his status in question at the beginning of spring training, Rickard outperformed much of his competition and managed to earn the spot as the Orioles’ starting left fielder on Opening Day. If Tavarez finds similar success in camp, it improves his chances of being added to Baltimore’s roster.
While he was their first selection, Tavarez was not the lone player tabbed by the Orioles in the major league phase Rule 5 Draft, as switch-hitting outfielder Anthony Santander was tabbed from the Cleveland Indians in the second round.
Santander is coming off a breakout year that saw him bat .290/.368/.494 with 20 home runs in 128 games for High-A Lynchburg. The 22-year-old comes has some injury concerns, however, as he recently had right shoulder surgery.
The full extent of Santander’s injury, and subsequent recovery time, remains unreported at this point. That, along with the fact that he has never played above High-A, makes the switch-hitter’s ability to compete for an Opening Day roster spot uncertain.
If he is not healthy by the start of the season, the restrictions applied to Santander will not be as straightforward as the rules regarding Tavarez. Regardless of whether he is placed on the disabled list, Santander must spend at least 90 days on Baltimore’s active roster or be offered back to Cleveland. If Santander ultimately misses 2017, the 90-day requirement will roll over to 2018.
Following their selections in the major league phase, the Orioles ended the draft with two picks in the minor league phases. Right-handed pitcher Jefri Hernandez was selected from the Cincinnati Reds, while southpaw Brian Moran—the nephew of former Oriole B.J. Surhoff—was plucked from the Atlanta Braves. Since Hernandez and Moran were chosen in the minor league rounds, they will not come with the same restrictions as Tavarez and Santander. Both pitchers have primarily been relievers in their careers, and each logged time at Triple-A last season.
A graduate of the University of Massachusetts, and Loyola University; Spedden has previously spent time in the Washington Nationals organization as a videographer for the Hagerstown Suns. As a blogger, Spedden is an Editor / Writer for the Suns fan club. Additionally, he contributes to The Nats Blog as a prospect writer, and Ballpark Digest. For BSL, Spedden covers the Orioles Minor Leagues.