O's protect two prospects from Rule 5 Draft

O's protect two prospects from Rule 5 Draft

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles selected the contracts of right-handed pitchers Joe Gunkel and Jesus Liranzo on Friday, adding the pair to the 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 Draft.

Gunkel is ranked as No. 26 among Orioles prospects by MLBPipeline.com, while Lirizano was not ranked. Notable players who were left off include Double-A Bowie pitchers Stefan Crichton and Jimmy Yacabonis, No. 17 Mike Yastrzemski and No. 30 Branden Kline, who is coming off Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2016.

"Joe Gunkel is able to use a three-pitch mix effectively to keep hitters off balance and has excellent command of his pitches," executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duqette said. "Jesús Liranzo has a power arm, as well as a sinker and slider with strikeout potential. He advanced quickly through our Minor League system this past year by limiting walks and hits."

Gunkel, 24, went 8-14 with a 4.02 ERA last season between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk, making the majority of his starts for Norfolk. The 21-year-old Liranzo moved from Class A to Double-A this year, and went 1-1 with a 1.87 ERA over 27 games.

All players on a Major League Baseball team's 40-man roster, regardless of other eligibility factors, are protected and ineligible for the Rule 5 Draft.

So, who can be picked?

Players who were signed when they were 19 or older and have played in professional baseball for four years are eligible, as are players who were signed at 18 and have played for five years. The Rule 5 Draft is essentially designed to keep other teams from hoarding players and helps guys who may be blocked in other organizations get another look.

One thing that is certain is that the Orioles will be active in the Rule 5 Draft. The O's have placed a lot of emphasis on uncovering talent in the Draft and were able to keep outfielder Joey Rickard last season. Other recent Rule 5'ers with the O's include Ryan Flaherty and T.J. McFarland.

The Rule 5 Draft takes place on the final day of the Winter Meetings. Teams that select a Rule 5 player during the Major League portion of the Draft must keep him on their 25-man roster for the season, meaning they can't option or designate him. The player also has to be active for 90 days to avoid teams drafting a Rule 5 guy and stashing him on the disabled list.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.