BALTIMORE—Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias is narrowing his list of candidates for the team’s first pick in the Major League Baseball draft, which begins Sunday. The Orioles have the fifth pick.
“We’re getting close,” Elias said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen ahead of us. I imagine I could take a guess, but you just never know. I think we came into this with 12 players under serious discussion. We’ve definitely narrowed that down. It’s sort of a tradition, and the way these things go that you don’t really decide until you pick.”
The Orioles picked first in 2019, Elias’ first year, and second in 2020.
“It’s a huge opportunity,” Elias said. “It’s a high-stakes game. We look historically at the picks. The way baseball works, you don’t often do very well. If you do get the right one, it could be aircraft carrier for your franchise for six, seven, 10 years.
“It’s not easy to do. The odds are against you. The possibility is there.”
The Orioles have not selected a pitcher before the fifth round in Elias’ first two drafts. In the previous three drafts, the Orioles drafted Cody Sedlock, DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez with the first pick.
“We definitely have candidates for five this year that are pitchers in our narrowed down group,” Elias said. “It doesn’t mean we’re going to take them. It doesn’t mean they’re going to be there. It’s a complicated thing. There’s a lot of injury risk along the way, It’s not easy to project from the amateur level all the way to the major league level.
“You look at the aces around the major leagues, and they tend to be early first-round picks, so you’re mindful of that. We want as much pitching as possible, I think the organization did a great job in the 2017 and 2018 drafts with first-round picks, those high school players, but they’re not here, either.
“We’ve already had some injury bumps there, and that’s just the nature of pitching. Those guys are doing really well, and that’s exciting and we’re brought in a lot of good pitchers in trades, Kyle Bradish, Kevin Smith, those kind of guys are doing well. We’re going to need as many of those kind of guys as possible just because the nature of pitching.”
Elias said the Orioles aren’t committed to taking a pitcher first just because they haven’t done it since 2018,
”We’re not going to force the amateur draft if the draft doesn’t give it to us,” he said.
Elias said that there are four high school shortstops the team is looking at, too.
“It’s a talented group,” he said. “There are pros and cons to all of them. There’s risk/reward to all of them, but any time you have four of them in the same draft class, and all should go in the top 10 picks, that’s pretty rare.”
Elias has employed underslotting in the past, paying less to top picks and more to later picks.
“You have a finite amount of money that your team is allowed to spend in the draft,” he said. “It’s not like you can put the money back in your pocket if you don’t give it all to your first pick. You give it to later picks or you underpay later picks and overpay a higher pick. You’re just trying to get the most value out of your entire draft class as possible.
“I think a big part of being successful at that is being a little cagey about what our strategy is, exactly, and keeping the agents and the industry on their toes. We have demonstrated here and in Houston that at times, pursuing that strategy and at times not. We don’t know what we’re going to do right now, but even if we did, it wouldn’t be something to talk about.
“It’s something we do when it makes sense for the pick. That may or may not be the case this year.”
Minor league injury ipdate: Bowie left-handed pitcher DL Hall’s left elbow is improving, and he’ll resume throwing in about two weeks, according to Elias. “It’s not something we want to rush along,” Elias said. Hall should be able to pitch again this season. … Baysox infielder Joey Ortiz will have surgery for a torn labrum. Elias thinks he’ll be ready for spring training. … Bowie infielder Terrin Vavra, who’s out because of back soreness, should be back by mid-August. … Delmarva infielder Anthony Servideo should be playing in rehab games next week in Sarasota and should return to the Shorebirds a week after that. … Right-hander pitcher Carter Baumler, who was the Orioles’ fifth-round draft choice last year, is recovering from Tommy John surgery and should be ready for spring training. … Infielder Richie Martin, who’s on the 60-day injured list because of a broken left wrist, began his hitting progression on Frida, and should come off the injured list at the end of this month or the beginning of August.