Is Ryan Flaherty the Baltimore Orioles New Third Baseman?

Zachary Ball@MLBDraftCntdwnAnalyst IDecember 8, 2011

Usually the Rule 5 Draft isn't the best place to pick up big-league-ready talent, but for the Baltimore Orioles, it seems like just the right time and place to find a new third baseman.

With Mark Reynolds headed for first base and very few options in the pipeline, former Cubs prospect Ryan Flaherty might find himself spending the entire season at the hot corner in the big-leagues.

The team selected Flaherty, a 25-year-old Vanderbilt product, with the fourth pick in the Rule 5 Draft. He spent the 2011 season splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A and did very well for himself, hitting .280 with 31 doubles, 19 homers and 88 RBI.

If Flaherty doesn't crack the active roster out of spring training, he'll have to be offered back to the Cubs, who would likely pay the $25,000 fee to retain his services, especially considering how close he is to the big-league level.

Chances are, however, that the O's will choose to keep him on the roster, either as the team's everyday third baseman or as a bench player.

After all, he has seen time at second base, shortstop, first base and in the outfield, in addition to his regular spot at third, during his time in the minor leagues. Last year alone he spent at least 10 games at five different positions.

The versatility that Flaherty offers defensively is just one of the many reasons that the new front office in Baltimore has decided to bring him aboard. Unlike a few other players in the system (namely Josh Bell), he's not prone to excessive strikeouts. That should be more than enough to get O's fans excited.

He's also been incredibly consistent during his three full minor league seasons, never hitting below .271 and never driving in fewer than 71 runs. He's drawn an average of 50 walks per season, while striking out just over 90.

Flaherty isn't exactly Prince Fielder, but he does offer much more potential than the average Rule 5 Draft pick.