After drafting 15 players over the first 15 rounds of the First-Year Player Draft the last two days, Orioles scouting director Gary Rajsich said he is quite pleased with the club’s haul of talent so far.
“I feel really good,” Rajsich said. “You know, this draft was considered a very shallow draft and I couldn’t be happier with what we were able to come up with.”
Rajsich was a guest last night on my radio show, “Baltimore Baseball Tonight,” on 105.7 FM The Fan in Baltimore. I asked him if he had planned to have 11 of the first 15 picks be college players going in to the draft.
“No, it wasn’t (by design). It just kind of worked out that way,” he said. “We were just looking for the best player, particularly early in the draft. I thought the selection of position players early was important. There weren’t as many of them, so you wanted to get as many as you could. But we also wanted to get some impact pitchers at the top too, so we tried to work a balance to get some of both.”
Rajsich said one pick that surprised him in where he got the player was in round seven where he said “one of the college players fell right into our laps, Mr. Price from South Carolina.”
Matt Price, a right-handed pitcher was drafted by Arizona in Round 6 last year but did not sign, and the Orioles got him with the 222nd overall pick and did not expect to get him there. Price is 4-4 with an ERA of 3.63 and batting average against of just .197 so far for South Carolina.
Rajsich did say he expected to draft plenty of pitchers and 10 of his first 15 picks were pitchers.
“That is about right,” he said. “Half your ballclub is pitchers. You can never have too much pitching. It was by design that way and I expect it to continue tomorrow (Wednesday).”
Rajsich said the club had hoped to land the trio of Virginia pitcher Branden Kline, Miami area high school shortstop Adrian Marin and South Carolina first baseman Christian Walker among its first few picks. It worked out just that way as he hoped, as they were drafted in rounds two through four.
“We identified those three as target guys. In rounds two through four, our guys did a great job of identifying the players. We knew we wanted all three guys but in what order do you take them to get all three? Our guys did a good job of lining them up. It happened the way we thought and that was great,” Rajsich said.
Rajsich said the club has not signed any draft picks yet but that could happen shortly.
“Not yet, but we intend to very soon. All of our scouts have been in contact with all of our draftees. We’re excited because all of the draft picks seem excited and ready to go,” he said.
Under the new rules for the draft this year, teams are assigned a budget with which to sign all of their top 10 round picks and for the Orioles that number is just over $6.8 million. Rajsich expects that to be enough to get the job done, but he drafted one player in a spot that could save him some dollars to spend elsewhere.
“We drafted our 10th-rounder, (shortstop Joel Hutter) out of Dallas Baptist, that was a college senior so we could possibly save some money on to have a little bit of a cushion with our other top 10 picks. Not that we needed it, but it’s there if we have to have it. But all indications coming into the draft is that the guys we took one through nine are signable for a reasonable amount,” he said.
Rajsich said just about all the pitchers the Orioles drafted were taken to be starting pitchers.
“We definitely place an emphasis on starting pitching. We believe you can find bullpen help out there, but if you want starting pitching and good starting pitching, you have to draft it.”
That includes the Orioles second-round pick, University of Virginia right-hander Kline, who went 7-3 with a 3.56 ERA as a starter this year after making All ACC as the Cavaliers’ closer in 2011.
“We are going to develop him as a starter and we have high hopes for him. He’s got a big arm with good balance and he’s a good athlete. You can work with that and make adjustments with his delivery. He has a good arsenal of weapons. It’s just becoming more consistent with his delivery so he can improve his command,” Rajsich said of Kline, who is from Frederick and attended Thomas Johnson High.
Rajsich also has high hopes for Marin, the third-round pick who is a speedy middle infielder out of Gulliver Prep in Miami.
“Marin is a good athlete. He’s got big tools and we wanted to get younger and more exciting. He’s a speedy, exciting player with enough tools to stay in the dirt at short or second and be a dynamic player. He just needs to learn more about the game. He is one of those guys that doesn’t need a lot of development,” Rajsich said.
Rajsich and the Orioles will pick fourth in every round when the draft resumes at noon today with rounds 16 through 40.
Click below to listen to the entire interview from last night with Rajsich when he was my guest on 105.7 FM The Fan.