It’s time for our final monthly mailbag of 2021. We received many excellent questions, and I’ll answer some of them today and some on Monday. Questions are edited for length, style and clarity.
Question: Do you think after the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is signed, the Orioles will still be picking number one by the time the draft takes place next summer? From: GR via email
Answer: GR, I’m guessing that in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that no longer will the team with the worst record be guaranteed the first pick. The owners have proposed a draft lottery for the top three picks, and the players favor a formula based on won/loss record and market size. Teams like the Orioles that benefit from revenue sharing would get extra picks if they finished above .500 or make the playoffs. In the union’s proposal, teams couldn’t pick in the top five in consecutive years.
It’s obvious that there will be a change, and the question is if it will take effect for the coming draft in which the Orioles would have the top selection, or in 2023. I think it’s 50-50 that there’s change for 2022.
Question: Who do you envision the Orioles targeting in the draft? I’ve heard Brooks Lee (Cal-Poly) is gaining some traction as a possible Orioles target. I mean after all, the kid is named after Brooks Robinson. From: Kevin Aspelmeier via Facebook
Answer: Kevin, I received similar questions from Adam Saft on email, and @OrioleMax_5
Some of the players who, according to various mock drafts, could be considered for the top pick are Lee, who is a shortstop; high school outfielder Elijah Green; Texas Tech infielder Jace Jung; Vanderbilt infielder Carter Young; LSU infielder Jacob Berry; high school outfielder Andruw Jones; high school pitchers Dylan Lesko and Jackson Ferris.
In his three drafts, Mike Elias selected a college catcher, Adley Rutschman, and two college outfielders, Heston Kjerstad and Colton Cowser with the first pick, so I’ll guess he’ll pick another college position player.
Question: Will the Orioles go back to physical tickets in 2022? I hope so. I’m not a fan of electronic tickets. Physical tickets are much easier to deal with. From: OrangeDNA via BaltimoreBaseball.com comments
Answer: I know a lot of fans enjoy hard tickets, and they like to collect them or keep them to mark special games, but I think they’re a thing of the past. Electronic tickets are easier to sell on the secondary market, and that’s where a lot of sales take place now, OrangeDNA.
Question: Any idea who the Orioles might pick in the major league Rule 5 when it happens? From: Bman via BaltimoreBaseball.com comments
Answer: If the Orioles are looking for a catcher in the Rule 5 draft, Tampa Bay prospect Blake Hunt is unprotected. If they’d prefer a pitcher, some intriguing names could be Oakland right-hander Brady Feigl, Nationals left-hander Tim Cate, Pittsburgh right-hander Tahnaj Thomas, Colorado right-hander Tommy Doyle; and San Francisco left-hander Seth Corry.
Question: What is the attraction to playing in Japan for foreign players? Is it for the cultural experience? Is it more popular with aging players who aren’t ready to give up the spotlight but are comfortable with less compensation? What are the biggest obvious differences between playing the MLB vs. NPB game? How are American players viewed over there? From: Icterus Fan via email
Answer: Marty, both you and Will Miranda had questions about foreigners playing in Japan.
Traditionally, Japan was more popular for veteran players from the major leagues, and for Adam Jones, a player who liked to travel and experience a different way of life, it could be a fulfilling way to conclude a productive career.
Increasingly, Japan and South Korea have been a destination for players who have had trouble sticking in the majors. A year or two in Japan can make a player more marketable in the United States. Take St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Miles Mikolas. He spent several years in the San Diego and Texas organizations trying to establish himself, went to Japan from 2015-2017 and, after an excellent record there, was able to sign a two-year, $15.5 million contract with the Cardinals, then signed a four-year, $68 million extension with St. Louis.
In the late 1980s, I saw two Japanese games at the Tokyo Dome, and the style of play wasn’t fun to watch. There was a lot of playing for one run and, at the time, pitching was more finesse than power. I noticed that all public address announcers in Japan were women. There were six umpires instead of four, and years before it was mandated in the U.S., there was protective netting down the foul lines. There was also a lot of organized cheering.
Question: Is Isaiah Kearns still with the organization? He is a pitcher who was signed as an undrafted free agent after the shortened 2020 draft. Why has he been on the restricted list and not pitched the last two seasons? From: @Eastern_Av
Answer: Kearns decided not to play professional baseball and was put on the restricted list. He can’t play for a team other than the Orioles unless compensation is arranged.
Question: Why have the Orioles became the most hated tanking team? They didn’t invent it. Many other teams lack farm system talent and have also been bad. I’m confused why they zone in on the Orioles From: @MDSportsChat
Answer: I’m not sure that I agree with your definition of the Orioles being hated because of so-called “tanking.” Nationally, I think they’ve been more ignored than hated. Fans and baseball observers have belittled the philosophy, but there’s one certain way to stop the chatter, and that’s to win more games.
I do think that the Orioles have provided useful ammunition to the Players’ Association in their negotiations with the owners, and no one thinks it’s good for baseball if a team loses more than 100 games in the three most recent full seasons.
Question: Have you heard any names to watch out for in coming years out of the international signing period? Curious how Koby Perez is doing so far. From: @Briski715
Answer: Brian, Koby Perez, who runs international scouting, and the Orioles have been given high marks for basically starting an international program from scratch. The next signing period begins on January 15th, and it will be interesting to see if the Orioles are able to sign more of the higher-profile international players. According to MLB.com, the Orioles are favored to sign Dominican outfielder Braylin Tavera and Dominican shortstop Leandro Arias.
Since they’re signing 16- and 17-year-olds, this is a long process, and it probably will take at least five years to properly measure how they’ve done.
Note: Richie Lewis, a right-handed pitcher who began and ended his career with the Orioles, died on Wednesday at 55. Lewis made two starts in 1992 and pitched in two games in 1998. Lewis also pitched for the Marlins, Reds, Athletics and Tigers.