The youth movement is forging ahead with the Orioles.

General manager Mike Elias protected six minor-league players from the Rule 5 draft scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 10. The Orioles claimed multiple players off waivers in recent weeks as well.

“It’s just an important step closer to these guys contributing to the major league team,” Elias said of the six prospects added to the 40-man roster. “A lot of these decisions are difficult. One thing that made it easier with this group is we feel that each of these six guys will be able to contribute in 2021 if called upon by the major league team. While they are not finished products, they are developed enough to be functional members of the roster this year. That makes these decisions easier.”

Here’s a look at the recent additions. Since this story was published, the Orioles also claimed reliever Ashton Goudeau from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Goudeau, 28, made his big-league debut in 2020 for the Colorado Rockies. The 6-foot-6 right-hander threw 8.1 innings for the Rockies last summer.

Yolmer Sánchez

The versatile 28-year-old infielder was claimed off waivers from the Chicago White Sox Oct. 30. Sánchez has hit .245/.300/.360 across seven minor-league seasons and won a Gold Glove as a second baseman in 2019. He can play second base, third base and shortstop, which provides extra value to the club, especially with the recent departures of Jose Iglesias and Hanser Alberto.

“We didn’t have him last year, so there’s not a lot of internal familiarity with our coaches,” Elias said of Sánchez. “I don’t think anybody in our organization has ever really had him, but a stellar reputation. Not just on the field and particularly defensively, but the versatility and also leadership, makeup, hustle.

“He can also play third if needed. He’s a very good defender, a very versatile defender.”

Chris Shaw

The Orioles claimed the 27-year-old first baseman/outfielder on waivers from the San Francisco Giants in late November. Shaw, who was drafted in the first round in 2015 out of Boston College, appeared in 38 games with the Giants from 2018-2019 and batted .153 (11 for 72) with two doubles and a home run. However, he slashed .279/.340/.520 with 109 home runs in five minor-league seasons. He is potentially a valuable left-handed option for Orioles manager Brandon Hyde.

Yusniel Diaz

The 24-year-old outfielder is the Orioles’ No. 8 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. Diaz was acquired with Rylan Bannon and Dean Kremer from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Manny Machado in 2018. Diaz has slashed .278/.355/.440 with 68 doubles, 42 homers, 209 RBIs and 28 stolen bases across four minor-league seasons. He also has a deft glove and is expected to be a high-impact player in the future.

Michael Baumann

The 25-year-old right-handed pitcher is the organization’s No. 9 prospect. Baumann went 7-6 with a 2.98 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 24 games (22 starts) between Double-A Bowie and High-A Frederick in 2019. He also struck out 142 batters in 124 innings. Baumann will have to get healthy for spring training after suffering a flexor mass strain in his right forearm at the club’s alternate site in Bowie this past season.

“It’s very exciting,” Baumann said of being added to the 40-man roster. “We all kind of went through the system together, played together. Seeing [other prospects] have success in Baltimore is great and very exciting, very encouraging. I think it shows the future is bright. There are a lot of good things coming.”

Zac Lowther

The left-handed pitcher is the Orioles’ No. 11 prospect after being selected with the 74th overall pick in the 2017 draft out of Xavier. Lowther went 13-7 with a 2.55 ERA for Double-A Bowie in 2019 and was the organization’s co-Pitcher of the Year with Keegan Akin a year prior. Lowther spent part of the summer at the club’s alternate site.

“Once I got to Bowie it was working on basically just getting some innings,” Lowther said. “A lot of stuff we wanted to develop this year during the season, it was at an accelerated pace. But going to Bowie and then to instructional camp was probably the most beneficial two months that I’ve had in baseball in a long time, in terms of development.”

Alexander Wells

The left-handed pitcher is the Orioles’ No. 19 prospect. Wells has gone 30-24 with a 2.82 ERA and 1.067 WHIP across four minor-league seasons. The Australian has also struck out 369 batters with a mere 76 walks. In 2019, he went 8-6 with a 2.95 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP in 24 starts with Double-A Bowie.

“Getting protected by the Orioles just gives me an extra bit of confidence to know that they trust me enough to go up to the big leagues and compete with my type of pitching,” Wells said. “It gives me a lot more confidence.”

Rylan Bannon

The versatile infielder can play second or third base and is the Orioles’ No. 25 prospect. Bannon was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the eighth-round of the 2017 draft after being named the Big East Conference Player of the Year at Xavier. After arriving in Baltimore via the Machado trade, Bannon batted .266/.345/.421 across 110 games with Bowie and Norfolk in 2019. Overall, Bannon has slashed .280/.375/.481 with 63 doubles, 10 triples, 43 homers and 161 RBIs with a .856 OPS in 291 minor-league games

“He’s a guy that can move around,” Elias said. “I think if you ask what his best position is, you might get some different opinions whether that is second or third base. That is a good thing, it’s interesting. But it’s also about the bat with him. He’s had a terrific minor league career and he’s got power.”

Isaac Mattson

The reliever, along with Kyle Bradish, Zach Peek and Kyle Brnovich, was acquired from the Los Angeles Angels in December 2019 for Dylan Bundy. Mattson posted a 2.33 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP in 37 relief appearances between Single-A-Inland Empire, Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Salt Lake in 2019. Mattson can provide valuable depth to Baltimore’s bullpen.

“I think every year is important and every step is important,” Mattson said. “This one was a big one for me and I’m thankful for all the people who have helped me get here, but the job’s not done and there’s still a little ways to go for me and I know the Orioles have their sights set on competing well in the East, so I hope to be able to contribute at that level.”

Photo Credit: William Vaughan/Bowie Baysox

Todd Karpovich

See all posts by Todd Karpovich. Follow Todd Karpovich on Twitter at @toddkarpovich