Three Losses of the Rule 5 Draft

The Orioles took a gamble leaving Steve Johnson off their 40-man roster and now he, and the Giants, will benefit from it. But, it does not mean he is gone for good. ITO breaks down the three losses of the Rule 5 Draft inside.

Steve Johnson

SP, 22 years old, Double-A Bowie to San Francisco Giants

This was the biggest gamble, albeit fairly low risk. Leaving a 22-year-old pitcher with success at the Double-A level off the 40-man roster would be tempting to many teams in the Rule 5 Draft. It is also a low risk move for the Giants to put him in a long-relief role in the bullpen if they so desire.

For now, the Orioles lose a young pitcher who was eating up innings in the minors. He posted decent numbers after arriving from the Dodgers in the George Sherrill trade. In seven starts (38.0 IP) with the Double-A Bowie Baysox, Johnson established himself as an anchor in a rotation that saw a lot of turnover in 2009. Johnson posted a 3-2 record with a 2.84 ERA, striking out 37 batters. He struck out 154 batters in 145.1 IP over High-A Inland Empire, Double-A Chattanooga and Bowie. He was also virtually unhittable upon his arrival to the Eastern League. Johnson held batters to a miniscule .179 batting average. There were times where he would settle into grooves and retire double-digit batters in a row, but like many young pitchers, there were some inconsistencies in 2009.

He walked 17 batters in his time with the Baysox, good for a 4.02 BB/9 IP average. Over the entire season, he walked 62 batters, a 3.84 BB/9 IP average. Many of his walks in Bowie came in his first and second innings of starts when he walked 10 of the 57 batters he faced in the first two frames. Once he got settled in, he was fine, walking just seven batters from the third inning on.

In addition to his walks, he also left the ball up. He had a 0.38 Go/Fo ratio, something that would give him trouble in a park like The Yard, but maybe not as much in San Francisco's AT&T Park and the other National League West pitchers' parks. With a fastball that topped out at 92 mph and struggles with location, this could cause some trouble for Johnson in the big leagues. But, he uses his secondary pitches well (changeup and curve) to set-up batters, allowing him to rack up the strikeouts in the minors.

While Johnson was picked in the Rule 5 Draft, do not rule out a return to the Orioles organization. If the Giants do not want to keep him on the 25-man roster for all of 2010, he must be placed on waivers. If he is cleared, he can be returned to the Orioles for half the $50,000 drafting price. For Johnson, it is an opportunity to pitch in the majors right away. In the Orioles system, there are a number of pitchers ahead of him, still in the minors in what is going to prove to be a crowded competition for three starting rotation spots. There is no question, though, for the time being, the Orioles have lost a smart pitcher and some pitching "inventory."

Rodolfo Cardona

INF, 23 years old, Double-A Bowie to Triple-A Indianapolis Indians (Pirates)

Cardona was moved around the organization all year. He played in Single-A Delmarva, High-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie, getting into 66 total games. Cardona did not show much with the bat, hitting .218 in 2009 after hitting .283 in the previous two seasons with the GCL Orioles (Rookie) and the Bluefield Orioles (Rookie). He struck out 53 times in 188 at-bats and was overmatched in his full season debut. Cardona did, however, show his versatility in the field. He played second base, third base and shortstop and posted a .953 fielding percentage on the year, committing 11 errors in 237 total chances.

Jake Stevens

LHP 24 years old, High-A Frederick to Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies (Giants)

Stevens, who spent 2008 out of professional baseball, was signed by the Orioles prior to the 2009 season. He was once a highly regarded prospect when he was selected in the third round (79th overall) of the 2003 Amateur Draft by the Atlanta Braves. He was released by the Braves after he could not find his control in 2009 with the Frederick Keys. Stevens walked 31 batters in 59.0 IP for a 4.7 BB/9 average. On the plus side in 2009, Stevens held lefties to a .243 average and surrendered no home runs to them. At the very least, he could be a good situational lefty. While Stevens is not the top prospect he once was, he is a left-handed pitcher who is healthy, and at one point has shown great promise. In the pitcher-heavy Orioles organization, he may have a better opportunity to showcase what he can do in the upper levels of another organization.


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