Orioles Sign Oliver Drake to a Major League Contract

On Tuesday, the Orioles signed RHP Oliver Drake to a contract. Drake, who was drafted in the 43rd round of the 2008 draft by the Orioles out of the United States Naval Academy has spent his entire professional career in the Orioles minor league system and had become a minor league free agent following the 2014 season, which he spent entirely in Bowie (AA). In fact, Drake has only appeared in AAA once, throwing 2 innings for Norfolk in 2011. The fact that the Orioles signed Drake isn’t all that interesting (they signed a bunch of guys who aren’t expected to see much time in the major leagues yesterday). What’s interesting is that they signed him to a major league deal.

The fact that Drake gets a major league deal, doesn’t mean that he’ll be on the major league club, but it does mean that he’ll be occupying a spot on the 40-man roster (at least for the moment). Kiley McDaniel, the lead prospect analyst for Fangraphs gives the details of the deal.

Signing Drake to a major league deal was surprising, since not only is he a career minor leaguer who is about to turn 28 in January, but his minor league career hasn’t been all that special. Additionally, he suffered a shoulder injury in 2012 that limited him to just 18 innings pitched, and because of that injury, he’s been a full time reliever ever since. Shoulder injuries can be very difficult for a pitcher to come back from, but Drake pitched well in his return in 2013, and followed it up with a pretty impressive 2014 as well.

Statistics at AA Bowie

Statistics at AA Bowie

It’s important to remember that Drake was old for the AA level compared to the competition during his previous two years in Bowie, so those statistical lines need to be taken with a grain of salt. During my time with the Orioles in 2012, I didn’t get to see Drake pitch much due to his injury. I didn’t take any scouting notes of him (nor would I call myself a scout), but I do remember being impressed in the limited innings I saw him throw. However, since I don’t have a scouting background and that was more than 2 years ago, I’ll let Tucker Blair of Baseball Prospectus give some additional insight on Drake.

Based on his statistics and Blair’s tweet, it appears that Drake could be a useful player to the Orioles in 2015 (and possibly beyond). The deal doesn’t cost the team anything more than a roster spot, and if other teams were interested in Drake, the Orioles were probably wise to give him that roster spot to keep him around and see what they have. Plus, Drake has 2 options remaining, so if he makes it through spring training, there’s a good chance we’ll see him at some point in 2015, considering how much GM Dan Duquette and Manager Buck Showalter love to shuttle relievers back and forth between Norfolk and Baltimore. If he doesn’t perform, then the team can designate him for assignment, although that’s not what I’ll be hoping for, since based on the blurb about him in this Fangraphs post from February, he seems like a good person to root for.

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