Manny Machado, Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman are the three players the Orioles selected with their first pick in the last three First-Year Player Drafts.
When the first round of this year’s draft takes place Thursday night at 7 p.m., the Orioles are unlikely to get a talent on that level. That is because they drafted that threesome third, fourth and fourth overall, respectively. This time, after winning 93 games in 2012, the O’s don’t have a selection until the 22nd pick.
Baseball America draft expert Jim Callis said this year’s draft does not appear to have a bumper crop of talent.
“Average is probably a little too kind, mediocre maybe too harsh,” Callis said. “We like to apply the 20 to 80 scouting scale to everything at Baseball America. It’s probably a 40 to 45 draft. Not great.
“There is a lot of left-handed pitching it seems, maybe not a lot of guys to go in the top 10 or 15 picks though. There is some high school catching, but it’s not a particularly deep draft.”
So what does that mean for the Orioles and that 22nd pick?
“You are not going to get Matt Wieters, Manny Machado, Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman. They are picking too low for that.
“When you are picking 22, the bad news is you are picking low in the first round. The good news is the way the draft works out with everyone’s draft board looking different, you are picking 22, but they might get a player than ranks 12th on their draft board. Maybe when they pick, they’ll see it as good value for where they are picking, but they won’t get one of the blue chip guys at the top.”
Callis realizes it is almost impossible for him or anyone to project exactly which player the O’s might get with its first-round pick.
“That is always the case,” he said. “I feel like I have a pretty good handle on most of the top 10 picks. But down at 22, once you get a few surprise picks, then it snowballs and it’s very hard to figure.
“There also could be a guy that falls. We have all these college bats like D.J. Peterson and Hunter Renfroe and Phillip Ervin going ahead of the Orioles, but maybe one of those guys falls and the Orioles really like him. But those players are not linked to them because no one expects them to be there at 22.
“When you are trying to project the bottom of the draft, it’s a lot of guesswork. You try to make educated guesses. Even if Gary Rajsich (Orioles scouting director) would tell me who they want at 22, neither he nor I know if that guy is going to be there.”
In two of his three mock drafts so far, Callis has projected the Orioles to take South Carolina high school catcher Nick Ciuffo.
“I think he is the second best catcher in the draft, behind Reese McGuire of Washington,” Callis said. “He’s an all-around type of guy with the defense maybe a little ahead of the offense. But he’s got some upside with the bat and got some power. He’s got some A.J Pierzynski comps. That type of player.
“Not that you draft on demographics, but Matt Wieters, they drafted out of Georgia Tech, was a high school catcher out of South Carolina. Ciuoffo is probably the best high school catcher from South Carolina since Matt.”
When he published his second mock draft May 24, Callis projected the Orioles would select University of San Francisco right-handed pitcher Alex Balog with their top pick.
“Alex Balog has the potential for three plus pitches. He’s 6-foot-6, 225. He was not real great in the West Coast Conference tourney. It’s funny how these things change, but if I was doing a mock draft today I probably would not have Balog going 22. But he has the upside to go there.”
He also has an older brother, Nik, who is currently in the O’s organization, playing first base and hitting .284 in 45 games for Single-A Delmarva.
The Orioles have four of the draft’s first 98 picks. They also have the 37th pick, which comes between the first and second rounds and is a competitive balance pick the team was awarded. Those picks can be traded, not that there this is any indication it would be. The O’s second-round pick is the 61st overall and they have the 98th overall pick in round three.
Callis feels that a lot of college pitchers could be drafted between picks 20 and 50. That being the case, perhaps the O’s go for a position player at 22 and get one of those college pitchers with pick 37.
The first two rounds are set for Thursday night. Rounds three through 10 will be held starting Friday at 1 p.m and rounds 11 through 40 will be held Saturday at 1 p.m.
Pick 22 trivia: The last time the Orioles first pick was No. 22, they selected Jayson Werth, a high school catcher from Glenwood High in Chatham, Ill. That was in 1997. Werth was a catcher in the O’s farm system through the 2000 season. On Dec. 11, 2000 he was traded to Toronto for pitcher John Bale. On Dec. 6, 2010 he was signed to a seven-year, $126 million free agent contract by the Washington Nationals.
From earlier: If you missed this from last Wednesday, here is my story with quotes from Rajsich on the upcoming draft and that 22nd pick.