The Orioles on Friday added three prospects to their 40-man roster, including their minor league pitcher and player of the year, but did not protect 2006 first-round pick Billy Rowell.
That means that Rowell, a 22-year-old infielder who was picked ninth overall in 2006, one slot ahead of two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, will be available to other teams in next month's Rule 5 draft.
However, it's unlikely that Rowell will be picked as Rule 5 selections have to be kept on the acquiring team's 25-man roster for the entire season or be offered back to their original club.
Rowell has played three consecutive seasons at Single-A Frederick, showing few signs that he's near major league-ready. He hit .275 with 11 homers and 61 RBIs in 117 games in 2010, and if he stays with the organization as expected, he'll likely get his long-awaited promotion to Double-A Bowie in 2011.
The Orioles did protect top pitching prospect Zach Britton, first baseman Joe Mahoney and outfielder Matt Angle.
Britton, the winner of the organization's Jim Palmer Award as its minor league Pitcher of the Year in 2010, went 10-7 with a 2.70 ERA in 26 starts between Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. Though it's unlikely that the 22-year-old starts the 2011 campaign in the Orioles' rotation, he's expected to make his big league debut during the season.
A 23-year-old first baseman, Mahoney won the Brooks Robinson Award as the organization's minor league Player of the Year after hitting .307 and tallying 18 homers and 78 RBIs in 124 combined games for Frederick and Bowie. Mahoney, a sixth-round pick in the 2007 draft, will start the 2011 season at either Bowie or Norfolk.
Angle, a 25-year-old outfielder whose best tools are his speed and defense, hit .383 in 14 games for Bowie before moving up to Norfolk, where he batted .260 with one homer and 24 RBIs in 87 games. The 2007 seventh-round pick out of Ohio State will likely return to Norfolk for another season.
Minor leaguers who have been in the organization for four or five years, depending on their age when they signed, and have yet to be put on the 40-man roster are eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft.
The list of Oriole minor leaguers who are eligible to be drafted Dec. 9, the final day of baseball's winter meetings, includes infielders Ryan Adams and Brandon Waring; outfielder Tyler Henson; starting pitcher Steve Johnson (St. Paul's); and relievers Pedro Beato, Brandon Cooney, Pat Egan and Wynn Pelzer.
Johnson, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the July 2009 George Sherrill trade and is the son of former Orioles pitcher and current broadcaster Dave Johnson, was taken by the San Francisco Giants in last year's Rule 5 draft. He didn't make the club out of spring training and was returned to the Orioles. He had a disappointing 2010, going 7-8 with a 5.09 ERA in 28 starts for Bowie.
NOTES: With the three additions, the Orioles' 40-man roster stands at 35. … Reliever Armando Gabino, who cleared waivers and was outrighted to Norfolk on Thursday, declined the assignment and opted to become a free agent.