With a few hours to go, uncertainty remains atop the draft (update)

As of about 3:30 this afternoon, it appears that Orioles officials are still not certain who the top three selections in tonight's First-Year Player Draft will be and they are hoping to learn that before the draft starts so they can determine their best move with the fourth pick.

In some past drafts, those top few picks were known among scouting directors with hours to go before the draft but not this year.

No one seems certain even which player Houston will take with the draft's top pick. It is also possible that Houston is playing some negotiating games at this hour by putting out information that they are still considering several players.

The Orioles still seem to be centered on the four players I wrote about last night, and it appears likely that one of these four will be their pick tonight: Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa, Los Angeles area high school pitcher Max Fried, or one of two college pitchers, LSU's Kevin Gausman or San Francisco's Kyle Zimmer.

It sounds to me like the Orioles have Fried ranked right there on their draft board with the college hurlers and his name keeps coming up. The Orioles seem to feel he could move quickly through the system if they take him tonight.

One industry source indicated this afternoon that the Orioles were still debating which of those four is the best player to take and there was not a consensus in the draft room on that.

High school outfielder Byron Buxton is ranked as the draft's top player by Baseball America and MLB.com. If he somehow falls to the Orioles, they would probably take him over the four mentioned earlier.

Signability should not be an issue for the Orioles with any of the top players. It appears they are confident they will sign any player they draft and no player has scared them off with any contract demands.

The clock is ticking and in a few hours the Orioles will be on the clock. I'll pass along any new news I hear between now and then and provide full coverage with interviews later tonight.

Other notes: Norfolk catcher Luis Exposito suffered a broken hamate bone in today's game and is likely to miss several weeks for the Tides. For now, Norfolk is down to just one catcher in Chris Robinson and this will bring about some catcher shuffling in the organization.

In other news, catcher Brian Ward's 50-game suspension for a second violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program for a drug of abuse is now over.

Ward has been playing since Saturday in extended spring training games and could soon be sent to one of the high-level affiliates (Double-A or Triple-A) once he gets back into catching shape.

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