On Monday night, general manager Mike Elias will make his most important player decision when the Orioles have the first selection in the Major League Baseball draft. A number of fans are familiar with the inner workings of the NFL and NBA drafts, but don’t know as much about the baseball draft.
Here are some frequently asked questions:
- How many picks do the Orioles have?
They have 41. They’ll pick first in each round, and they’ll have an additional pick in the competitive balance round B. The 10 lowest revenue teams and 10 smallest markets are eligible for a pick. The Orioles will pick first, 42nd and 71st in the draft’s first day.
- Who will the Orioles pick?
On Friday, Elias said the Orioles are considering four players. It is believed they’re Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman, Texas high school shortstop Bobby Witt, University of California outfielder Andrew Vaughn and Georgia high school shortstop C.J. Abrams.
Most believe it will be between Rutschman and Witt.
- If the Orioles draft Rutschman or Witt, how soon can they play?
Oregon State’s season came to an end on Saturday in the NCAA regional. Fans were excited when Rutschman was walked intentionally with the bases loaded on Friday night in the Beavers’ loss to Cincinnati.
Last year, the Orioles selected Rutschman’s teammate, shortstop Cadyn Grenier. Because Oregon State won the College World Series last year, Grenier played in only 43 games for Low-A Delmarva.
Rutschman, who could also begin his professional career with the Shorebirds, might be similarly restricted, especially because catching is such a punishing position, but Oregon State’s early exit could get him to pro ball sooner.
As a high school player, Witt would probably begin his professional career with Rookie League Gulf Coast or Short Season Aberdeen.
- What would Rutschman or Witt sign for?
The Orioles can spend up to $13,821,300 to sign their picks in the first 10 rounds. MLB’s recommended maximum slot value for the top selection is $8,415,300.
- Can the Orioles trade players to pick up additional draft picks?
The only picks that can be traded are competitive balance picks. Unlike the NFL and NBA, picks in the rest of the draft can’t be dealt.
- When can we determine if a draft was successful?
It usually takes about five years to measure how successful a draft was. In 2014, the Orioles didn’t have a first- or second-round pick because they signed free agents Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez.
Four of their selections that year have played for the Orioles this season: pitchers David Hess (5th round), Tanner Scott (6th), utilityman Stevie Wilkerson (8th) and John Means (11th).
Means didn’t get a real shot at the majors until this year, and the player selected in the round before Hess, pitcher Pat Connaughton, is playing for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks.
- The Orioles took catcher Matt Wieters in the 2007 draft. How does Rutschman compare to Wieters?
Many scouts believe that Rutschman is better than Wieters, who was also considered a top-shelf college catcher. The argument for taking Rutschman, a switch-hitter like Wieters, is that good catchers are hard to find, and that the Orioles, who selected pitchers in the first round the last three years, need a catcher to nurture those young pitchers.
Wieters was heavily hyped at the time, and some incorrectly believe he was a disappointment. He was a solid catcher for the Orioles from 2009-16, but just didn’t live up to the hype.
If the Orioles take Rutschman, they’ll hope he’s better than Wieters.
- What would a Rutschman selection mean for Chance Sisco?
This isn’t the NFL draft. MLB teams rarely draft specifically for positional need.
If Sisco comes up later this year and proves that he’s a legitimate major league catcher, he could always be traded because teams need catchers. He could change positions or become a backup to Rutschman.
When Wieters was taken in 2007, he came to the major leagues about two years later. Rutschman could take a similar path, and the Orioles would need a catcher until he’s ready, and if Sisco is good enough, he could be that guy.
- Why aren’t the Orioles considering pitchers for the top pick?
This is thought to be a draft year bereft of pitchers worthy of a top selection, but the Orioles will probably still take pitchers with many of their succeeding 40 picks.
- Even the best catchers play only about 120 games. Is that an argument for selecting Witt?
Should the Orioles select Rutschman, the betting is that the Kansas City Royals, who pick second, would take Witt.
If Rutschman and Witt are selected with the top two picks, they’ll forever be compared and debated, but the argument is that excellent catchers are rarer and have a greater impact on a game than great shortstops.
The Orioles probably can’t lose if they pick Rutschman or Witt.