General manager Mike Elias said that the Orioles’ preparation for the two-day Major League Baseball draft that begins on Wednesday is “near complete.”
The Orioles have six picks in the draft, and they choose second for the first time in club history. Elias said the team is considering five players.
“A lot of our attention has been directed debating the candidates for the No. 2 pick,” Elias said in a Monday video conference call.
“We also have a tremendous opportunity given that we have pick number 30 and also pick 39 to really impact our organization and our farm system.”
Elias said that the draft, which begins at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, is a good one but, with five rounds instead of 40, it’s bound to be different.
“The abrupt end of the baseball season this spring has definitely made the scouting process different,” Elias said. “I think it will affect the nature of the draft a little bit.
“We have not made up our mind about our top two players on the board. We have choices that we like, and we’re trying to pick between players that we like, and that’s a good thing, and the most important thing, but we have not made a decision as to how we’re going to finalize that grouping, and we may not until the day of the draft.
“We’re still actively discussing five players for that pick. I think there are some more likely than others at this point. We are keeping alive five possibilities at this point in time.”
Among the players the Orioles are considering are Vanderbilt third baseman/outfielder Austin Martin, New Mexico State middle infielder Nick Gonzales, Florida high school outfielder Zac Veen, Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad, Texas A&M left-handed pitcher Asa Lacy and Georgia right-hander Emerson Hancock.
Veen and Kjerstad are lower on many mock drafts than the others, and there’s some thought that the Orioles could try to pay their choice less than the $7,789,900 slotted for the draft’s second pick. They could use that money to pay for players selected later in the draft.
“I think the short draft will constrain your ability to spread bonus pool money around,” Elias said. “Or at least the opportunity to do so. If a team does sign their first pick for less than slot, they’re going to be under more pressure to apply that savings in the first few rounds whereas in a normal draft, you could sign one player with all of that money with an early pick. You can kind of spread it out through the rest of the draft.”
The Orioles’ draft pool is $13,894,300, highest among all teams, but it’s lower because of fewer rounds.
“We feel it’s important that if you’re taking a guy with a high pick that he’s your favorite guy,” Elias said.
“We’re focusing on taking the guy that we feel is the best player for us, the best investment. We’ll listen to or consider signability factors, but it’s important that we maximize our draft class and getting that first pick right is the most important part of that.”
Though Elias didn’t mention Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson by name, he indicated that by reading mock drafts, there’s a near unanimity that Detroit will select him first.
Elias said the draft preparation has gone smoothly, and he saluted the Orioles’ analytics team in helping with technology.
“I think it has been a little more tiring for all of us to conduct these meetings over the phone and over video,” Elias said. “Usually, a draft room is a really energetic, fun experience. We’re not getting that this year, which is a shame, but it hasn’t stopped us from being productive at all.”
One of the first questions after a draft and signing is the organization’s plans for the players. With no minor leagues playing, Elias isn’t sure what will happen.
“That’s a little weird, like everything is this year,” Elias said. “It’s certainly not ideal. As we get more concrete information from major and minor league baseball about what their respective seasons are going to look like, how they’re going to be structured, what their roster rules may be, we will consider opportunities to get a player or players from this draft professional competition in our environment if those opportunities present themselves.
“We don’t know yet. I really hope so. I really hope that we can get, not only these draft picks, but our minor leaguers out doing something at some point. We’re all waiting with a lot of anxiousness for that opportunity to present itself.”
Elias is optimistic that there will be a major league season in 2020.
“I think we’re going to play,” Elias said. “I don’t know what the length and structure of the season is going to be. That’s really hard to predict right now with the discussions that are ongoing, but I’m very confident that we’re going to play.”