HOUSTON—The Major League Baseball draft is over, and Orioles general manager Mike Elias felt free enough to see his team on the road. It might have something to do with the opponent, the Houston Astros, the team Elias worked for from 2012-18.
Elias has plenty of work to do, starting with getting many of the 41 players the Orioles drafted this week into the organization.
“We’ve got a big effort now getting all these guys signed,” Elias said. “I’m working on that…We’re hopeful that next week we’ll start rattling off signings … I think it was a good class.”
The Orioles were lauded throughout the industry for drafting of Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman with the first pick. Elias expects Rutschman, whose team was eliminated in an NCAA regional last weekend, to sign quickly.
“I think so. I expect him to sign,” Elias said. “When that happens, I don’t really know right now, but I’m not anticipating a lot of trouble there.”
The Orioles have until July 12 to sign Rutschman, but they’d like to sign him more quickly. Once he signs, the Orioles are going to discuss plans for the summer.
“I’m going to have to sit down and talk to him about how he really wants to approach this summer,” Elias said. “For us, from the developmental standpoint, the at-bats are going to be more important.
“His receiving is so polished that I don’t see us wanting to do a lot of work on that. By the end of the year, it became apparent to us that this is a really special bat, a really special hitter. If he meets expectations offensively … it might be a discussion of how to pace him.”
Elias said he was happy that Alabama high school shortstop Gunnar Henderson was available when the Orioles chose to pick the second round.
“Gunnar Henderson was somebody that was starting to show up in mock drafts in the middle of the first round, late first round,” Elias said. “Most of the rankings on him were late first round. That he was there at 42, that kind of thing happens.”
For the first time since the draft began in 1965, the Orioles did not take a pitcher in the first seven rounds. In the previous three drafts, the Orioles had taken pitchers with seven of their first nine picks, and most of those pitchers including DL Hall, Blaine Knight, Zac Lowther, Drew Rom, Cody Sedlock and Grayson Rodriguez have shown promise.
Fewer of the Orioles’ top prospects are position players.
“That did make me feel liberated to take the top position players on our board knowing that we had some pitchers in the lower minors, throwing really well,” Elias said.
“The organization has used high picks the last couple of years, mostly on pitchers … we just happened to have a lot of position players on the top of the board when those first seven rounds happened. I didn’t feel the need to force a pitcher pick or reach for a pitcher because we feel pretty good about our pitching in the lower minors right now.”
Friday marked Elias’ first trip to Minute Maid Park since he took the Orioles’ job last November. There have been many comparisons between the Orioles and the Astros, who had the No. 1 draft pick in three consecutive years after Elias arrived.
“When you look back at when the Astros were in a similar competitive cycle to what we are at right now, there were players on that team who ended up being here on the back end of it when we had our first playoff team in 2015,” Elias said.
“I know that’s going to be the case, too. I just want the guys here on the team now to keep doing what they’re doing, keep grinding, playing hard. … They’re literally running into walls and hurting themselves. They’re doing the most they can to make the most of their opportunity. I think that’s smart because they’ve got a real shot to establish themselves here and be here a while.”