When it comes to projecting what might happen in the First-Year Player Draft, few are more clued in and informed then Jim Callis of Baseball America. With the first-round of the draft set for Monday night, Callis is projecting that the Orioles will wind up with a college pitcher with the fourth pick in round one.
"So much can change between now and the draft," Callis said. "But I still think Mark Appel, the Stanford right-hander, is going one (to Houston). Still think Byron Buxton the Georgia high school outfielder is going two (to Minnesota). That narrows the field a bit.
"I think the Orioles would look at those two if they fell, but I don't think they will. The arms seem the obvious choice, but I keep hearing a lot of Carlos Correa, the Puerto Rican shortstop. I think he is quite comparable to Manny Machado and probably goes third to Seattle. I think Baltimore would look at him at four.
"But as of right now, probably it's a college pitcher for Baltimore like LSU's Kevin Gausman. Seems like he has moved ahead of San Francisco's Kyle Zimmer with a lot of teams. If I had to guess, I would guess Kevin Gausman.
"I don't think anyone in this draft has separated themselves, even at one for the Astros. I think Byron Buxton is the best prospect in this draft, but I could see arguing others against him. Let's say Buxton and Correa were available to the Orioles, which I think is unlikely, I think the O's could go either way with them.
"I have heard the Orioles even on Deven Marrero, the Arizona State shortstop, but I can't imagine they would take him as high as No. 4. Anything can happen in the draft, but I think it's those four at the top in some order in Appel, Buxton, Correa and Gausman."
The Orioles also had the fourth pick last year and got Dylan Bundy after Pittsburgh, Seattle and Arizona took college pitchers. Callis said the 2012 draft is not as strong at the top as last June's draft.
"Yes, that is fair to say," Callis said. "You are not going to get a Dylan Bundy with the fourth pick in this draft. I don't think they will get a guy quite that good, but they will get a good player. Last year's draft, at least in its early returns, looks like one of the best drafts of all time. But the Orioles pick high enough this year at four to get one of the very best players.
"Not every team would agree with this, but I think there are probably four players who have set themselves apart from the rest. It's kind of like the year the Orioles picked third (in 2010) with Bryce Harper, Jameson Taillon and Manny Machado. The Orioles didn't know which one they would get, but they knew they'd get a good player and this year is similar to that."
Gausman, who goes 6-foot-4 and 185 lbs., is a draft-eligible sophomore that is 10-1 with a 2.84 ERA for LSU heading into this weekend's NCAA regionals. Over 107 2/3 innings he has allowed 93 hits with 24 walks and 125 strikeouts.
The 6-foot-4, 220-lb. Zimmer was a junior this season for San Francisco, going 5-3 with a 2.59 ERA. Over 83 1/3 innings, he has walked 15 and fanned 96.
"Gausman has performed very well this year for LSU," Callis said. "He's tall, he throws hard and has a very good changeup. The knock on him is he doesn't have a consistent breaking ball like some of the other pitchers, like Appel or Zimmer at the top of this draft.
"I've heard opinions all over the place on him. I've had some say he has a below-average breaking ball and they don't like him much at the top of the draft. Others project him with a plus breaking ball as the best pitcher in the draft and others somewhere in between. The one question is how good is that breaking ball going to be and that will determine how good he is in the long run."
What if the Orioles had a choice between those two college pitchers? Which would Callis take?
"I go back and forth on that. I wrote a column Friday and I took Zimmer," Callis said. "It's tough, it's a coin flip. I would probably take Zimmer because he is so athletic and he's got a chance to have a better three-pitch mix than Gausman. That said, Gausman has a much longer track record and Zimmer has not pitched for a while (after the end of their season).
"Zimmer's velocity fluctuated more this spring and he had some hamstring issues down the stretch. I could see the argument for Gausman, too. There is not a whole lot to separate those two. Or to separate them from Appel, either."
Joe Jordan was the Orioles' scouting director for the last seven drafts and now Gary Rajsich is the scouting director and Dan Duquette the vice president of baseball operations. With new people in charge of the draft, perhaps that makes it a little harder to get a read on just what the Orioles will do in this draft.
"Sure. Nobody can point to Gary Rajsich and say this is the type of guy he likes. Dan Duquette has been out for 10 years," Callis said.
Coming tomorrow: Check here on Thursday morning for an interview with Orioles scouting director Gary Rajsich just days before his first draft with the team.