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Rule 5 pick Pedro Araujo has a chance to make the Orioles’ Opening Day roster

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Araujo was plucked from the Cubs’ system.

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As I write this, former Cubs prospect Pedro Araujo was scheduled among the Baltimore relievers behind Andrew Cashner on Friday. I was ready for some game audio, but neither side is streaming the Orioles/Mets game today. Nonetheless, revisiting the Rule 5 hierarchy seems applicable on a mid-March Friday.

The Orioles are currently rolling with three Rule 5 pitching options in camp. Not all three will make the opening day roster. The second of the trio selected, from the Cubs in the second round of the major-league phase, Araujo was the only one of the three poached from someone other than the Yankees. Baltimore also paid the $100,000 fee for lefty Nestor Cortes and Jose Mesa, son of the former MLB closer.

With the Rule 5 Draft, the player can be selected for the fee only. However, stipulations exist. He can’t be optioned to the minors directly. If not making the MLB roster, he needs to be run directly through the waivers process.

If selected by another team, they have the same list of burdens and benefits as the original club. If he clears waivers, he has to be offered back to his original team at half-price. And, by clearing waivers, he ceases to be on the 40-man roster.

At the point of the return offer, three possibilities exist. (At this point, I’m jumping to that point with Araujo.) The Cubs can buy him back for $50,000, and the experience he gained in Orioles camp is probably better than the learning he would have had in Mesa.

The Cubs could be “Thanks, no thanks” and Baltimore keeps him. This seems horribly unlikely, as the Orioles are teetering about keeping Araujo, who seems a nice protect at the Double-A level.

The third seems almost as unlikely. The teams could trade, with the Orioles retaining Araujo, and the Cubs getting something back in exchange. The hiccup here is, it’s unlikely the Orioles would be willing to offer the Cubs something they prefer to Araujo in return.

***

Before I get to Araujo this spring, I return to a rather regular campaign or two of mine. The Cubs prospect pool is often mocked as being substandard, or “bottom of the barrel.” That said, the Cubs lost three players to other organizations in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft.

The Mets selected IF Andrew Ely. The Astros chose LHP Chris Nunn. The Blue Jays added C Alberto Mineo.

I don’t remember hearing the scouting services criticize the Blue Jays and Astros systems for taking a Cubs prospect that wasn’t included on the Triple-A protection list.

***

The Orioles are notorious for not signing international talent. However, they dine at the Rule 5 Draft like some dine at Applebee’s.

It seems incongruous to me.

I’ll leave it there, but you can comment below.

***

Heading into Friday, Araujo has pitched in five games for Baltimore. In four of them, he fired a scoreless inning. A pure reliever, that’s what you’d expect from Araujo in terms of duration.

The $100,000 signing from “the previous administration”, Araujo took all or parts of four seasons to escape the Dominican League. The 6-3, 215 pound right-hander reached full-season ball in 2015, and split 2017 between Advanced-A Myrtle Beach and (very briefly) Double-A Tennessee. His total ERA was 1.76, with a WHIP below 1.

He also represented with the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League.

***

Through five spring innings, Araujo has limited spring hitters to three hits and a walk, fanning seven. He’s given up two earned runs. His “opposition average” in Florida has equated to between Double-A and Triple-A level.

I really doubt Baltimore wants to give him back.

However, they seem destined for a seven-man bullpen. In the American League. (Why would an American League team need five pinch-hitting options, when the pitcher isn’t in the starting batting order? You’ve got me.)

I could run reliever names you aren’t necessarily familiar with to handicap the roster race, but it looks like the Orioles’ 25 for opening day are still up in the air. It’s going to be a tight call, either way. With Araujo, the necessity is to stay on the roster the entire season.

I hope he does.

Yeah, it would be useful for the Cubs to add another lively arm at the Southern League (Double-A) level.

However, the “bottom of the barrel” premise still rubs me wrong, like a stone in my shoe.

If the Cubs were bottom of the barrel, nobody would want the guys the Cubs don’t have room for.

***

The Cubs pipeline is very deep. Players aplenty are somewhat “lost” in the system. They’re good enough at their level to perform well, but it’s a tough pathway to see them getting MLB innings with the Cubs.

As an example, catcher Erick Castillo is a traditional “back-up catcher” type who had an OPS of .625 in Tennessee last season. Which isn’t earth-shattering, but as a defense-first catcher, that’s rather acceptable.

In many years, Castillo would be a logical to move to Iowa this season, and be in-line for a short-term call-up if needed.

Except Victor Caratini and Taylor Davis seem a bit entrenched in Iowa, along with a veteran like Ali Solis.

In Tennessee, PJ Higgins and Tyler Alamo move up from Myrtle Beach. Castillo will play, but his innings will be far from guaranteed.

If in another system, one with a backstop weakness, Castillo might be getting regular Triple-A repetitions. Instead, nobody figures to trade for him. Even though he’d be a perfectly useful fill-in. And, if he performs well in his cup of coffee, he might be on the short-list for executives seeking a reserve catcher.

But, remember, the Cubs have a horrible pipeline.

On Friday, Araujo gave up a leadoff double, and stranded the runner there. Not too shabby.

As he fights for an opening day spot.