Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette will oversee his first draft with the club next week. Duquette, it appears, has taken a more active role in the draft than his predecessor, Andy MacPhail. Duquette has even been scouting some of the amateur players himself in recent weeks.
"The draft is important as far as building a good team," Duquette said. "It's important that we have a good process to identify the best players and screen out some of the risk. Then, hopefully get some good players into the organization that we can train to be winning major league players.
"I want the Orioles to get a good player (with our top pick). I think we have the right people in place with (scouting director) Gary Rajsich and his staff. I am very comfortable with the experience and judgement of our scouting staff. We have some good talent hunters with us.
"I have seen some of the players. I saw some in the Cape (Cod college league) last summer. I've seen some this spring. We've had some players work out out at the ballpark this week. I guess I've seen about 15 to 20 to get an idea of the talent available. Hopefully we'll get some talent and hopefully some local kids. I'd like to see us get some local kids in the organization."
Among the local players available in this draft is Cal Ripken Jr.'s son, Ryan. Is he a player that will be on the Orioles' radar at some point in this draft?
"Ryan has been in to work out for the Orioles. Obviously we've seen him," Duquette said.
I asked Duquette if it would simply be a matter of the Orioles taking the player they deem best available when they select fourth in round one?
"We are trying to identify about six or seven players we'd like to get at No. 4 to be prepared for the potential scenarios that could come our way," Duquette said of team meetings this week to prepare for the draft.
"The draft is one of the more important annual events for the team. I think discussing players and their strengths and chance to help us is exciting."
Former scouting director Joe Jordan always made taking a lot of pitchers a priority with his drafts. Will it still be that way now with the Orioles?
"I think it's important to get good pitchers and some pitching depth," Duquette said. "Last year, we got Dylan Bundy and then Mike Wright in the third round. Wright is now in Double-A and Dylan in high-A. I'd like to get two more like those guys."
I asked Duquette how he weighed drafting a player that could get to the major leagues faster against one that might have more upside or future potential?
"We'd like the players to help us win games in the big leagues and the sooner they can help us, the better," he said.
So does that mean he is leaning toward a college player with that top pick?
"I wouldn't necessarily say that. We have thoroughly scouted the amateur talent available in both high school and college," he said.
So the Orioles say they are clearly ready for this draft, which begins with round one Monday night. One aspect that Duquette does acknowledge is how important the draft is to a team like the Orioles that is trying to end a 14-year losing streak.
"This is a competitive division. We need to be good on draft day," Duquette said.