Orioles look forward to draft - BaltimoreBaseball.com

2021 MLB Draft

Orioles look forward to draft

Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles

Brad Ciolek, the Orioles’ head of domestic scouting operations, met with the media on Friday to discuss the upcoming player draft, which begins July 11th. Here’s what Ciolek had to say. Some answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Question: Do you have a handle on what could happen before the Orioles have the fifth pick? How many players are under consideration for the fifth pick?

Ciolek: “At this point, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of consensus at the top. We’ve heard rumblings, but at this juncture, we’re keeping an open mind, doing the best we can to rank them ourselves. Ultimately, we’ll see want happens the night of the draft and what goes before us.”

Q: How important is signability for the fifth pick?

A: “It’s always an important factor. It’s a secondary factor. The first thing is we want to make sure we’re getting an impact player, especially with a top five pick. Signability does come into play, especially with the high school guys, more often than not and typically if there are college athletes that are sophomore-eligible and might have an extra year, we do weigh that in the process as well. I would say it’s secondary in terms of things that we’re looking at, but it does play a factor.”

Q: In the last two drafts, the Orioles have not drafted any pitchers in the first few rounds. Do you expect that to change this year?

A: “At this point, it’s hard to forecast what our strategy is going to be, but I will say we do put a lot of emphasis and time in taking a look at all pitching, including college pitching. There’s a lot of data for us to go through. That’s essentially what we’ve been doing here the last month, putting the pedal to the floor the last few days.

“There are a lot of pitchers we do like. We do our best to navigate through them and tier them correctly, but ultimately as the board shakes out, I don’t have a sense as to if we’re going to look at a certain demographical player at certain spots in our selections.”

Q: How much harder is it picking fifth instead of first and second, where the Orioles picked last two years?


A: “We have to wait and see what happens in those four selections before us and the preparation might be a little different in terms of the strategy. In years past, we might have had five or six options. This year, we might have 10 or 11 because we don’t know what might happen in front of us.”

Q: Last year, because of a shortened high school and college seasons, there wasn’t a lot of current data on some players. Is there enough information to make informed decisions on these players?

A: “Definitely much more data to work through. We feel a lot more confident in our models than in a year where you only had four weeks in a collegiate season. As far as the summer is concerned, it is unfortunate we didn’t have the Cape Cod League, but there were various other summer leagues going on where these guys were playing. We do our best to take that into account, but this year, we’re relying more on their performance for the 2021 season versus the abbreviated 2020 season.”

Q: Why in recent years have teams been hesitant to pick pitchers high in the draft?

A: “The injury risk factor. It’s not the easiest position to keep healthy at the big league level. Injuries are rampant, and there are a lot of injuries for pitchers in baseball, up and down, not only in the major leagues, but in the minor leagues. I think that does have a lot to do with it. Position players are less risky.”

Q: How did the new draft combine change your process?

A: “The whole draft combine has actually been a really interesting and beneficial experience because there are a lot of guys there that you wouldn’t have had the ability to meet face-to-face, talk to them, see how they think, pick their brain.

“The process has been a little bit different this year, but ultimately it’s been a win-win because we’ve had more time to talk among ourselves but also line our board up …  because we’ve had the opportunity to talk to these guys and get to know them on a personal level.”

Q: What’s the biggest factor driving your decisions? Is it models? Is it old-school scouting? Video? What gets weighed the heaviest?

A: “I would say it’s a blend of everything. We value the scouting that our scouts do at the grass-roots level. We also take into account the analytics. We also rely heavily on the makeup factor. I would say it’s a blend of all three items. I know that Mike [Elias] and Sig [Mejdal] came over here from Houston and essentially have a baseball think tank here in Baltimore.

“Mike did start as a scout with the Cardinals, and we still hold those fundamental roots of scouting to a high level and look to incorporate those in our process.”

Q: If you look at a lot of the mock drafts, there’s a lot of chatter about the Orioles under-slotting. How risky is that as a strategy?

A: “I’ve seen those mocks. I’m not exactly certain. Maybe they’re going off the strategy we incorporated last year, but in terms of riskiness, ultimately we have to make a decision on who is the best fit for the organization. Who is the best player for our organization. What happens after that depends on who we take with the first overall selection and fill out a road map from there.

“I wouldn’t say it’s risky, especially if there are guys you like further down in the draft that you go ahead and sign and ultimately add to the pipeline in the minor league system.”

Q: What’s the strongest area in this draft?

A: “I would say that in looking at the top 15, 20 selections, a lot of good high school position players, particularly the shortstop position. I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw four or five high school players taken in the top 12-to-13 selections. It’s entirely possible.

“There’s also some college hitters that have had very good years, and there’s always a good couple of college arms that have to be considered along with some high school arms. Overall, I would say in terms of depth, high school shortstops, high school infielders stand out among this group.”

Q: Some mock drafts have the Orioles taking a catcher (University of Louisville’s Henry Davis) even though Adley Rutschman is now the top prospect in the minor leagues. Can that happen?

A: “We don’t look at a certain demographic that we’re looking to draft from, what position. We want to take the best player available and if it’s a catcher, we’re not going to shy away from that, regardless of who we have in the system or who we have on the major league roster.”

Q: Because the draft is only 20 rounds this year, is there much attention on signing undrafted free agents?

A: “That is something we’re going to take a look at before we line them up on draft night and, ultimately, what will happen is there are guys that we still really like and they want to come out and play, we will kick the tires on those candidates very seriously if we’re able to sign them for $20,000.”

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB








  1. Hallbe62

    July 5, 2021 at 1:11 pm

    Rich, you’ll be happy to know that I’ve come to peace with the O’s “Underslotting Strategy”. Sometimes it works and isn’t all that risky if the guy you end up signing isn’t too far from the original spot.

    But I’ll mention this in closing…….we could still draft Rocker or Leiter (if available at #5), pay their full slot value, and wait to adopt the underslotting strategy on our next few picks. There are far more rounds to this years draft. Way more opportunities to successfully “underslot” and spread that pool money around. The Sun did an excellent article on just this notion.

    • Rich Dubroff

      July 5, 2021 at 9:24 pm

      Brian, when you’re happy, I’m happy. On this weekend, we remember your service to our country. Thank you.

      • Hallbe62

        July 5, 2021 at 10:22 pm

        I appreciate that Rich. Thank You

  2. Hallbe62

    July 5, 2021 at 1:15 pm

    My 1 big assumption is that Rocker or Leiter would accept “full slot value”. They may want more. They’ve certainly been hyped enough and who knows what their Agents are telling them.

    • CalsPals

      July 5, 2021 at 3:05 pm

      I would think Rocker’s value would’ve dropped somewhat from his performance in the CWS, Leiter is the real deal…go O’s…

      • Hallbe62

        July 5, 2021 at 3:38 pm

        Maybe “Big Game” jitters. I didn’t watch the game but the article I read said he lasted 4 2/3, gave up 4 or 5 (?) runs, couple of walks….etc. etc. Normally accurate, the article states he did not have his normal pinpoint control.

        Rocker got rocked. It happens.

        Drafting pitching has become such a crapshoot anyway. Too many injuries and setbacks at that position, hence the Orioles recent trend of drafting strong bat/position guys and then turning their attention to pitching in the later picks. Rocker or Leiter for that matter are as likely to succeed as they are as likely to fail. Could go either way. Neither are being looked at as a sure thing. Just the best this year.

        • Hallbe62

          July 5, 2021 at 3:40 pm

          I’m just a complete advocate of pitching, pitching, pitching, AND MORE PITCHING.

          Can’t get enough pitching. The game is won & lost on the mound

      • Baltimore Castaway

        July 5, 2021 at 11:04 pm

        Not sure about Leiter at all. He is highly talented however he comes from a very wealthy family and he has the option to return to College if he doesn’t get an offer to his liking.. I wouldn’t go anywhere near him if he’s available at Five–which is highly doubtful since the thinking is that Boston will take him at Four if he’s still on the Board.

        He also reminds me of a much better-looking version of Hunter Harvey…a Trust Fund Baby son of an MLB Star who may or may not have the juice to succeed at the highest levels of the game.

        It should be a very interesting draft this year.

  3. Orial

    July 5, 2021 at 3:17 pm

    Please no under-slotting. Best player available. Pretty soon(hopefully) they won’t have these chances to pick in the top 5. Take advantage of it. Quality over quantity.

    • CalsPals

      July 5, 2021 at 4:54 pm

      Totally agree, draft is a crapshoot anyway, shouldn’t gamble with this high pick & next yrs, best player available…go O’s…

  4. dlgruber1

    July 5, 2021 at 9:07 pm

    Rich, I wanna compliment you on the questions you asked Brad. They certainly were not softball questions and his answers, while being maybe a little coy, were probably as honest as he could be without telling all MLB what the O’s plans are. I really enjoy these articles the most, when the core fans who are getting tired of the product we’ve been seeing recently get to hear from someone in a position of prominence. Brad has a very difficult task at hand as do all those making these decisions which will determine the future of the franchise. Let’s hope they choose wisely. So far it seems they have but time will tell.

    • Rich Dubroff

      July 5, 2021 at 9:28 pm

      Dave, this was a group interview, as I thought I made clear. I only asked two of the questions, one on the team not drafting pitching high in previous drafts, and on underslotting.

  5. Buzz1979

    July 5, 2021 at 9:38 pm

    He looks about 12 years old!!!

  6. DcOsfan

    July 5, 2021 at 10:13 pm

    If you are picking 5th, why do you need a list of 10-11 for that slot. Sounds like they don’t have a firm grasp of what to do. Undermines my confidence in their analysis.

    • mlbbirdfan

      July 6, 2021 at 2:44 pm

      I have done drafts for about 20 years, admittedly in “fantasy baseball” never in professional ball. When trying to win a championship, I’m building a TEAM. I know my needs and I know the top three or four players at every position. In other words, at least 40 elite players in a draft. I might consider that I need a shortstop most of all, but the best talent is at starting pitching. Suppose I am drafting fifth and a 10, 12, or 14 team league. For my first round pick, I might have three or four starting pitchers, because the other teams in front of me might all take starting pitchers. I might have three or four short stops, for the same reason. And I might have three or four “best on the board“ players. Easy to see how I could have 12 players if I was drafting fifth.

    • DcOsfan

      July 6, 2021 at 5:09 pm

      MLB – I agree with your reasoning with respect to building a team. But for this purpose i would contend that you are picking the best player available that suits your criteria. Maybe you need 6 or 7 but 11 seems like overthinking

  7. Tileman

    July 6, 2021 at 8:31 am

    The guy looks young and maybe doesn’t have the finesse yet behind the dais. But seeing his answers vs Ravens answers regarding the teams draft process and projections doesn’t put me in a position of over confidence like the Ravens front office does.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login or Register Here

Leave a Reply

To Top