Early Tuesday morning, Mike Elias sounded happy as he reviewed his first three draft choices as Orioles general manager. Elias’ first pick was one that most mock drafts had on top of their lists, Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman.
But Elias, who ran drafts for the Houston Astros before coming to Baltimore, was also delighted with his second-round pick, Alabama high school shortstop Gunnar Henderson, and Stanford outfielder Kyle Stowers, who was selected in the Competitive Balance B round.
“It’s a good blend,” Elias said in a conference call. “This is the start of our draft, a very important night. We view tomorrow as almost equally important.”
This afternoon, rounds 3-10 will take place. On Wednesday, it’s rounds 11-40.
Most of the attention will be on Rutschman, who was one of the four players Elias said he was considering on Friday for the top pick.
“We arrived at Rutschman. We’re thrilled to make that decision,” Elias said. “It was not a decision that we took lightly and didn’t examine from multiple angles.”
Rutschman’s season ended on Saturday in an NCAA regionals and he’s available to sign with the Orioles immediately.
“I’m not anticipating a lot of drama there, hopefully,” Elias said. “It’s still a process we have to go through. We’re still running the draft.”
Elias hasn’t decided where and when Rutschman will begin his professional career.
“He’s coming off a long season, and the first summer for these types of players is just kind of about getting your feet wet in pro ball,” Elias said.
Elias acknowledged that he and his staff discussed the possible timing of Rutschman’s arrival in the major leagues and whether it would coincide with what he hopes is the Orioles’ turnaround.
Perhaps if the Orioles had taken Texas high school shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., who was selected second by Kansas City, his ascension to the major leagues could be slower than that of Rutschman, who’s 2 years older.
“We had a little bit of that discussion,” he said. “It does come up. I don’t think it was a reason to pick one guy over another when you’re looking for tiebreakers.
“The top of the draft went very much in order of prediction … It was very similar to what our board might have looked like at the top. We really liked a lot of these guys. The first four picks were all pretty heavy discussion from us.”
Elias traveled to Corvallis, Oregon in January to meet with Rutschman and came away impressed.
“He strikes you as intelligent and present and [with] thoughtfulness, which are traits I’ve seen to be very important for these types of players,” Elias said. “He’s got a good mind for the game, a good motor to him, his energy level is strong.”
This wasn’t considered a pitcher-heavy draft. For the first time in draft history, position players were taken with the first six picks. The Orioles need pitching, but Elias didn’t seem in a hurry to grab any.
“I can’t guarantee that we’ll take a pitcher tomorrow,” he said. “Obviously, we have to take a whole bunch of pitchers. Odds are we’ll be taking a few pitchers tomorrow, but it’s known to be a position-heavy draft, and we had pitchers on the board for our [later] picks, but we just had Henderson and Stowers higher than them.”
It’s the first time since 1997 the Orioles didn’t choose a pitcher with any of their three picks.
Henderson, who is 6 feet 3, 195 pounds, has the option of attending Auburn. He could be moved to third base if he grows, Elias said.
“He’s got plus-power, and he hits well,” Elias said. “He fits the third base profile, but If he ends up staying at shortstop, I think that would be icing on the cake.”
Henderson, who was named Gatorade Player of the Year in Alabama, batted. 559 with 11 home runs and 75 RBIs for Morgan Academy in Selma.
Stowers, who was drafted during Stanford’s NCAA regional win over Fresno State, batted .304 with seven home runs and 35 RBIs in 49 games this season.