Orioles will add some talent tonight as MLB draft is set to begin (updated)

By the end of tonight, the Orioles will have added three new players to their organization. The First-Year Player Draft begins this evening at 7 p.m. The Orioles have the 22nd pick in the first round, the 37th overall selection - a competitive balance pick they were awarded - and the 61st overall pick in the second round.

MLB Network will televise the first two rounds which will include 73 picks tonight.

Counting their third round pick (98th overall), the Orioles have four of the draft’s first 100 picks this year.

This is the first time since 1998 that the Orioles’ first pick was 22nd or lower. That year, they drafted Georgia high school outfielder Rick Elder 26th, but he never made it past Single-A ball.

The last time they picked exactly 22nd was in 1997 when they selected a high school catcher from Illinois named Jayson Werth. Yes, the same player currently with the Nationals.

In four of the last five years, the O’s first pick was a pitcher:

2008 - Left-hander Brian Matusz, fourth overall
2009 - Right-hander Matt Hobgood, fifth overall
2010 - Shortstop Manny Machado, third overall
2011 - Right-hander Dylan Bundy, fourth overall
2012 - Right-hander Kevin Gausman, fourth overall

The Orioles drafted Billy Rowell with the ninth pick in 2006 and Matt Wieters with the fifth pick a year later. Rowell is no longer with the organization and only made it even briefly to Double-A, but otherwise the Orioles have had a pretty good first-round run since 2007.

I asked Baseball America draft expert Jim Callis about that.

“It is (a good run),” Callis said. “If people are running down Billy Rowell, I always point out that was about where he was projected to go in that draft. They didn’t reach for him.

“It’s a nice run, but on the flip side, look where they are picking every year. When you are picking in the top five pretty much every year, you should be having a nice run. There are any number of draft studies that show that even from the top five picks to the rest of the first round, that is a severe drop off. When you are picking that high, you have to hit on those picks.”

So this year, after winning 93 games last summer, the Orioles will be part of drafting after that big dropoff later in the first round. It is the price of having a good season, but something different for this organization, which has picked in the top 10 every year but one since 2001. The Orioles drafted Brandon Snyder 13th overall in 2005.

Scouting director Gary Rajsich will have his draft board lined up and likely take the player the Orioles have rated the highest after the first 21 picks go off the board. He admits he won’t know who those first 21 picks are until they are selected. He can make educated guesses, but that is all.

Rajsich does say the Orioles will target certain players for each pick in all 40 rounds. Whether the player they want each time will be there, they are going to find out.

“We go into the draft with targets and we have an idea of who we like where. If that player is available, that is who we are going to take there. We have an idea of the players we like - call them target players if you like,” he said.

In Rajsich’s first draft with the club last year, the Orioles drafted 40 players and signed 30. Of the 30, 22 were college players and eight were from high school. Of that group 16 were position players and 14 were pitchers.

Last year the Orioles selected pitchers with five of their first seven picks and 12 of their first 17.

Rajsich said to expect to see the O’s draft a lot of pitching again this year.

“Pitching is always important and pitching will be the bulk of our draft again overall,” he said. “I’m not saying a pitcher will be our first choice, but it’s a good way to add pitching to your organization through the draft, so we always have some focus on pitching.”

What is your take on the draft tonight? Should the O’s go for a college player that can get to the majors faster than a high school player? Should they draft a pitcher with that first selection?

Callis’ last mock draft: In his fourth and final mock draft out this morning, Callis has the Orioles selecting Jacksonville University right-handed pitcher Chris Anderson with the 22nd pick. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder has a fastball that has touched 97 mph this year. This season, he went 7-5 with a 2.49 ERA and walked 27 with 101 strikeouts over 104 2/3 innings.

In two of his three earlier mock drafts, Callis had the O’s taking Nick Ciuffo, a high school catcher from Lexington, S.C., and in the other, he had them selecting Alex Balog, a right-handed pitcher from the University of San Francisco.

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