The Major League Baseball draft begins on Sunday, and here are some questions and answers about it.
This year’s draft is more than a month later than in previous years. This way, it doesn’t conflict with June’s College World Series and is part of the All-Star Game festivities in Denver.
Where do the Orioles pick? The Orioles tied for the fifth-worst record in baseball with Arizona in 2020, and they get the fifth pick. The draft begins shortly after 7 p.m. on Sunday, and the Orioles have only one pick in the draft’s first day.
On Monday, the draft begins at 1 p.m., and will include rounds 2-through-10 plus Competitive Balance Round B.
The Orioles’ second-round pick is the 41st in the draft. This year, they’re in Competitive Balance Round B, and get the 65th pick.
Their third-round pick is the 76th overall, and the fourth round is the 106th.
Tuesday will feature rounds 11-through-20 and begins at noon.
On Sunday, the draft will be broadcast on ESPN and the MLB Network. Monday and Tuesday’s proceedings will be streamed on MLB.com.
How much money can they spend? The Orioles are allowed to spend $11,829,300 on their first 11 picks (rounds 1-through-10 plus the competitive balance pick).
The Orioles are slotted to spend $6,180,700 on their first pick.
Each pick in the first 10 rounds is assigned a slot value. The second-round pick’s slot value is $1,813,500. Their Competitive Balance Round B pick is $1,025,100. Their third-round pick is $818,200. Their final slot value is $148,200 for the 10th-round pick.
Last year, the draft was only five rounds, and the Orioles signed a number of undrafted free agents for $20,000.
There’s been a lot of chatter about underslotting, where the Orioles will draft a player who they rate lower than fifth and pay him less than he would have gotten if he was truly rated fifth. The difference is used to draft players in lower rounds and pay them more money than their slot value.
This tactic is generally used to convince high school players to forego college and sign a professional contract.
Last year, the Orioles drafted outfielder Heston Kjerstad from the University of Arkansas, who was rated 10th in some mock drafts, second and used the difference to draft high school third baseman Coby Mayo and high school pitcher Carter Baumler.
Unfortunately, Kjerstad has yet to play because of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, and Baumler has undergone Tommy John surgery. Mayo is playing for one of the Orioles’ teams in the Florida Complex league.
Who will the Orioles draft? In mock drafts, there are a number of predictions.
MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo predicts the Orioles will draft Kahlil Watson, a North Carolina high school shortstop.
MLB.com’s Jim Callis and Baseball America’s Ben Badler predict the Orioles will draft Henry Davis, a University of Louisville catcher.
The Athletic’s Keith Law and FanGraphs predict the Orioles will pick Sam Houston State centerfielder Colton Cowser.
Bleacher Report suggests the pick will be Vanderbilt pitcher Jack Leiter.
Last year, many predicted the Orioles would draft Vanderbilt infielder Austin Martin, but they went for Kjerstad instead.
Unlike 2019 when the Orioles picked catcher Adley Rutschman first overall and last year when Detroit chose first baseman Spencer Torkelson first, there is no consensus on who will go first.
At the beginning of the season, Leiter and another Vanderbilt pitcher, Kumar Rocker, were considered the two top picks. Now, high school shortstops Marcelo Mayer, Jordan Lawlar and Watson are thought to be early picks.
The Orioles also have been linked with another college outfielder, Sal Frelick, from Boston College, as a possible underslot candidate.
When must players sign? This year, players must be signed by August 1st, so it’s going to be a busy month for general manager Mike Elias. There’s the draft, the July 30th trade deadline, and the signing deadline just two days later.
Where will the players start? It will be interesting to see if the Orioles want their players to get a few weeks of minor league play in or wait until the October Instructional League to begin their professional career.
The Orioles have two teams in the new Florida Complex League. Its schedule runs through August 28th, so newly signed players could get a quick introduction to pro ball. Low-A Delmarva, a possible destination for early-round college players, doesn’t end its season until September 19th.
How soon can a draft be evaluated? It’s not the NFL draft, where if a player hasn’t made it in three years, the teams move on. Top prospects are often given five years or more.
Players drafted at shortstop are often moved. The Orioles have done this with several of their infielders drafted in 2019 and 2020. That creates versatility.
Even if the Orioles draft Davis, who would be the second catcher selected in three drafts, they could move him to first base or the outfield.
The Orioles haven’t drafted pitchers high in Elias’ first two drafts. It will be interesting to see how quickly they draft their first in 2021.