The truncated Major League Baseball draft is on June 10 and 11, and the Orioles have the second pick and three selections among the first 39. They also have the largest bonus pool, $13,894,300, for the six picks they’ll make.
I spoke with Brad Ciolek, the Orioles’ domestic scouting operations supervisor about the draft. After interning with the Orioles in 2011, Ciolek came to the team in 2013 as scouting administrator under Gary Rajsich, and was the assistant director of scouting from 2017-2019 before assuming his current position.
Portions of this interview have been edited.
Question: Less than a week before the draft, are you happy with the research and planning that you’ve done?
Ciolek: “Obviously, there was an adjustment period with the shutdown, a lot of the NCAA and the high school games being canceled, but I think all things considered … we basically had to adjust on the fly with the circumstances we were given. Our scouts have done a really good job adjusting to evaluating players, essentially on video versus being at the ballpark.
“Our analyst team has done a lot of heavy lifting in conjunction with Sig Mejdal and Michael Weis in our analytics department to lay a foundation as far as the players in this draft and, ultimately, give us a starting point to build off with four weeks of the college season, and take it from there.
“Overall, real pleased with the effort of the staff across the board. I think they did a great job, and we’ll be prepared next week. We’ll see how it all pans out.”
Q: How much tape of the guys you’re considering for the number two pick have you watched?
A: “A lot, a lot of film. It’s getting to the point now with no new games being played, you’re starting to look at the same video clips over and over again. With some schools we were able to go all the way back to when they were freshmen in college.
“We have some film of those college players when they were in high school, and we can go that far back and see where they improved. I would say in a standard scouting year, I would write, maybe 120 reports, and this year I think I’m around 150.
“Being at home has made it a lot easier, not only for me, but for our scouts. They essentially fire up the computer and log in a report later that morning instead of jumping in a plane or in the car. Our reports as a whole are up across the board, I think.
“We’ve had more reports this year in the system than we’ve ever had. About 70 percent of our reports are from video.”
Q: After spending six years with Gary Rajsich, you’re in your second draft working under Mike Elias. How has your relationship with Mike changed?
A: “I knew Mike from my time when I helped scout previously with the old regime. I would see Mike out on the road. I got to know him a little bit. When he came on board, he was familiar a little bit with me.
“I essentially had to show him what I was capable of doing right off the bat. When he came on board and Sig followed him shortly after, the one thing I decided to do was put together a document of where we were as a department, and I showed that to him.
“It kind of snowballed from there, and he left me in that spot. I think, so far, he’s been pleased where we are as a department. We have a lot of room to grow and a lot of things we need to develop. Two years in, we’ve made steady progress in regards to the scouting department as a whole.
“There’s a level of trust that’s developed a little bit over time because he’s been with me through one draft, and this is our second draft together. So far, I think it’s gone pretty well.”
Q: How much harder is to pick second rather than first as you did last year?
A: “I guess the number one thing is you don’t have to be the first one to take a player. You can plan as far as, ‘OK, we can look at x amount of players,’ and see which one of them goes off the board in front of us.
“Picking one, you might only focus on three or four. In this case, we essentially have five or six names that we’re looking at and that process, I wouldn’t say that it’s too different because we’re still picking at the top of the draft. Obviously, you have a team in front of you that gets to go first, and is basically going to take one of those guys out of consideration for you.”
Q: If Mike said, of those five or six, pick one today, could you do it?
A: “I’m not at the point probably where I could pick just one guy. I go back and forth on it a lot. There’s a lot of soul searching that goes into the decision like this. Ultimately, it’s a group decision and we’ve had in-depth discussions, and we’re going to continue to have discussions.
“There’s an interesting mix of players there for us, and we’ll just have to see, let this process play out and see what the best fit for our organization is.”
Q: Is it more difficult to measure high school players this year because of a limited track record?
A: “There are going to be some high school kids that unfortunately will be hurt by this. I think the largest part of the high school demographics to be hurt is going to be the kids in the Northeast and the Midwest, where they didn’t get their seasons off the ground prior to everything getting shut down.
“A lot of teams will start to trend in that direction more in this draft. They will look to take guys with a track record, players from the SEC, ACC, Big 12 or the high school players that we were scouting heavily over the summer. With the exception of the warm-weather states, they just didn’t get their seasons off the ground.”
Q: Last year, the draft was considered light on pitching, and the Orioles didn’t choose a pitcher until the eighth round. Is pitching stronger this year?
A: “I would say so. Overall, I would say the overall depth of the college pitching class is much improved in comparison with last year. There’s a lot of guys with proven track records.
“Again, guys in the ACC, the SEC and the Big 12, there’s a pretty good depth in terms of college pitchers, and I think you’ll see a lot of them go off the board in the first 25, 30 selections.”
Q: Teams will be able to sign undrafted free agents for a maximum of $20,000. How many are the Orioles considering as possibilities?
A: “We essentially have 500 or 550 names on our big board now. Our selections end at 133, but the mindset here is to essentially cast a wide net and talk about all of them, where we think they’ll fit for us.
“Probably around 300 names, that’s where we’re going to cap it. We’ll look at those guys heavily, where they’ll fit in the grand scheme of things for us. Ultimately, if those names don’t end up going in the draft, we’ll reach out to them after the quiet period mandated by MLB and see what their interest is in saying.
“We’re not really looking for a certain demographic or age group of player to sign for $20K. We want to be aggressive and see ultimately if any of these guys want to start their career if they don’t end up getting selected in the draft.
“We really won’t have an idea of what that player pool looks like until that last selection at the end of that second day next week.”