A look at some possible O’s first-round draft picks (O’s take Harvey, Hart, Sisco)

As the First-Year Player Draft is set to begin tonight, here are a few things to keep in mind.

For one, teams seldom draft for need in the first round. The baseball draft is mostly about what a player can become in the future and not how he can help you now, or maybe even next year. Some players can get to the majors faster, but it’s mostly about taking the best player when you pick and less about taking a player that can get there the fastest.

For two, the draft rules changed last year. As part of the new collective bargaining agreement, the days of high-dollar overslot signings are mostly over. Now teams get a set budget for their top-10 round picks and there are severe penalties for exceeding it. The Orioles last year mostly went by the book and the players they signed were given basically the amount allotted for where they were chosen.

For three, the O’s will likely draft a lot of pitchers again over the draft’s three days and 40 rounds. Last year, they selected pitchers with 12 of their first 17 picks. Look at any big league roster and it is filled with nearly 50 percent pitchers. You need a lot and you need to draft a lot just about every year.

There have been a whole lot of players mentioned in various mock drafts in national publications as being taken with the Orioles’ first-round pick, which is the 22nd overall. Here are just some of them:

* RHP Chris Anderson of Jacksonville University is 7-5 with a 2.49 ERA and 101 strikeouts over 104 2/3 innings. His fastball has touched 96 and 97 this season as he is trying to become the first player taken in the first round from that school.

* C Nick Ciuffo, a high school player from Lexington, S.C. He has a college commitment to the University of South Carolina and is considered the best high school catcher in that state since Matt Wieters.

* LHP Marco Gonzales from Gonzaga, who is 7-3 with a 2.80 ERA and also batted .311 as a first baseman. Some scouting reports say he has the best changeup in the draft and above-average command. Will that make him a favorite of Dan Duquette who seems to like pitchers with a good fastball-changeup combo?

* RHP Alex Balog from the University of San Francisco is 3-4 with a 3.63 ERA over 91 2/3 innings. His fastball sits in the 92-95 mph range and his older brother Nik is the first baseman for the O’s Single-A Delmarva affiliate.

* OF Josh Hart is a high school player from Georgia that has very good speed and is a solid gap-to-gap hitter. He has a college commitment to Georgia Tech.

* RHP Aaron Blair from Marshall has gone 5-5 with a 2.85 ERA over 13 starts. He has fanned 84 in 82 innings with a batting average against of just .198.

* OF Michael Lorenzen from Cal State-Fullerton has good speed and a very strong arm. He is batting .335 with seven homers and 53 RBIs.

* 3B Eric Jagielo of Notre Dame is a lefty batter hitting .388 with nine homers and 53 RBIs. Reports say he has the potential to hit both for a good average and with power. Plus, his defense at third has improved this year.

One potential strategy that Jim Callis thought we could see from the Orioles is to take a position player with their 22nd pick and then a pitcher with their next pick at No. 37. The reason is that there are so many pitchers that are rated to go between the 20th and 50th picks that one the O’s like should be there at 37. Baseball America lists 18 pitchers - eight out of high school and 10 from the college ranks - in their rating of players between 20 and 50.

Right now, this is all still a guessing game, even for the best draft analysts. While these players have been mentioned as possible O’s picks, we don’t really know which specific players the club likes the most. Also, it’s possible some players rated in the O’s top 20 will fall to them tonight and it could be someone that has never been linked to the club. So stay tuned starting tonight at 7 p.m although the O’s selection could come closer to 9 p.m., some project.

The O’s will make three picks tonight as the first 73 selections are made. They draft 22nd in round one, 37th in the supplemental first round and 61st in round two.

You can get real good players even if you are not picking in the top five of the draft. Rafael Palmeiro was the 22nd pick in 1985. Adam Jones was the 37th pick in 2003.

Let’s see what tonight holds for the Orioles.

Please do leave some questions and comments here during the draft tonight. I’ll check in often and answer any questions sent to me as best I can. Also, Roch Kubatko and I both will have draft stories later and I’ll be posting comments late tonight from O’s scouting director Gary Rajsich when he talks with reporters after the O’s three selections.

Harvey selected: With pick No. 22, the Orioles drafted high school right-hander Hunter Harvey from Bandys High School in Catawba, N.C. He is the son of former big league closer Bryan Harvey.

The 6-foot-3, 175-pound Harvey does not have a college commitment and was throwing in the mid-90s at times during his senior year, although the scouting report of ESPN’s Keith Law said he sits 90-94 mph with his fastball with a solid curveball. Law said he needs to develop better command and a third pitch.

What is your take on the O’s pick of Harvey?

With their second pick: The Orioles selected Georgia high school outfielder Josh Hart. He is 5-foot-11, 172 pounds, and both bats and throws from the left side. Keith Law rated his speed as a 60, above average on the scouting scale, and he is said to be a gap-to-gap hitter. A center fielder from Parkview High School, Hart has a college commitment to Georgia Tech.

In the second round: The Orioles’ second-round selection, 61st overall, was California high school catcher Chance Sisco, who bats left and throws right. He was originally a shortstop and has a college commitment to Oregon.

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