In the midst of selecting 41 players in 40 rounds over three days of the First-Year Player Draft, Orioles scouting director Gary Rajsich also made himself available for an interview after each day, which was much appreciated as we all got a better understanding of what the Orioles did and why they did it.
Here is the Q and A we did Sunday to wrap up three days of the O’s draft selections.
How did you feel about the three days of the draft?
“Well, after reviewing what we had done the first two days, we clearly targeted pitching (for day three on Saturday). We got almost 20 of the last 30 picks as pitchers. That is what we set out to do and I think we did a good job.”
I’m sure some reasons are obvious, but why go heavy on pitching?
“Pitching through the draft, cost-effective pitching, that is the best way to get it and that is what we set out to do every year. This year, it seemed like the first two days it was position player heavy and younger players was where the value was in the draft and then pitching was the way to go the third day.”
Did you get most of the guys you wanted Saturday, the third day?
“We did. Overall we got some power arms. We are not going to be able to sign them all, but we want to target the ones that we think can help us in the big leagues. We will probably look to sign around 30 of the 40 players and I’m not sure yet how many of those will be pitchers.”
The Orioles certainly drafted some tall pitchers. Did you look to take pitchers with some size?
“It’s not something we targeted, it just happened to work that way, but we do like big, durable, strong pitchers. That is an industry-wide philosophy and the fact we got a bunch of guys that are not only tall and big but throw hard I think that was the way it worked out.”
Several pitchers drafted were bullpen pitchers at their school. Will some move into starting roles or will they stay as relievers?
“Some of them whether it was the situation they pitched in or how we evaluated them or how we think of them in the future, there are various reasons for selecting those guys and there are a wide range of reasons why we selected them.
“Obviously we think some can be starters while some can be left on left guys and some relievers. For various reasons like their potential or upside, we selected them.”
Note from Steve: Among the drafted pitchers that worked out of the bullpen for their school team this season were Jacob Bray (round 12), Jimmy Yacabonis (round 13), Caleb Kellogg (round 17), Reed Reilly (round 18), Donnie Hart (round 27), Eric Green (round 36) and Augey Bill (round 39).
Which ones will be starters?
“We want to sign as many starters as we can but they can’t all be starters. We are clearly going to develop some of them as relievers. We drafted over 20 pitchers and we don’t have that many slots for starters.”
There is a famous name that got some attention when the O’s drafted Mike Yastrzemski in Round 14 out of Vanderbilt. What is your take on him?
“He is a legitimate prospect and we did not draft him on his name. He has the potential to be an extra outfielder in the big leagues. He is talented and can hit and has instincts for the game. He’s a great outfielder and can play center field. We didn’t do anyone a favor in drafting him, he’s a legit prospect.”
Your picks in Round 11 with Steven Brault and in Round 12 of Jacob Bray were two-way players (also played in the field) in college. Will they be pitchers for the Orioles?
“Yes, they are pitchers. Brault just the other day in the Northwest League pitched 6 2/3 innings and struck out 13. He can control the strike zone and throw strikes and that is number one. That fact he can miss some bats in the zone is number two.
“Bray only pitched 15 innings this year and was also a third baseman. We see upside in the chance to develop him as starting pitcher. To get two arms with that potential in the 11th and 12th rounds, we are very excited about.”
Last year the O’s signed all but one of their top 10 round picks. Could you do that well or better again?
“We expect to sign them all, yes. Our people have spoken with the kids and they want to play so we need to arrive at a reasonable price and get them out playing. I don’t expect any surprises.
“I don’t think we will run up against the signing deadline (July 12 at 5 p.m.) in any of our cases. There might be one or two down in the draft that we make a run at later, but, for our top guys I don’t see that being an issue this year.
“The process has already started. To say that today (Sunday) is an off day, not really. The Perfect Game showcase starts Thursday and I’ll be there on the phone negotiating with some of these guys and their agents. We’ll try to get as many done as soon as we can.
“But it starts for next year starting Thursday and I’ll be out on the road starting to scout the guys for next year.”
Some fans asked why the Orioles didn’t draft a second baseman since it is currently not a strong offensive position for the Orioles?
“The draft presents different things in different years and this year it was strong in high school catching and college pitching. It wasn’t strong in middle infield players.”
You were not told to draft a second baseman?
“Correct. I don’t think I would be given a dictate to draft for (an attempt at immediate help) to our major league team. This year we had Kevin Gausman make the big leagues but you can’t expect to do that every year. We draft based on what is available and the best talent available for the short and long term.”