Orioles director of scouting Gary Rajsich said he and his staff are ready for the challenge. The challenge is to find and sign some good players in this week's First-Year Player Draft without having a pick until the third round.
After picking Kevin Gausman fourth and Hunter Harvey 22nd overall in his first two drafts with the Orioles, Rajsich and the Birds won't select until the 90th overall pick on Friday afternoon. When the draft's first two rounds unfold live on MLB Network starting Thursday night at 7 p.m., the Orioles will be on the sideline.
"We are going to watch a lot of good players slide off the board and it's going to hurt a little bit not being in that mix. But at the same time there are players down through that we do like and hopefully one of them will drop to us," Rajsich said as he took a break from pre-draft meetings for an interview this week.
"It's a challenge to us to be even better as a staff and find value all the way down through the draft. That is our focus."
The Orioles lost picks No. 17 and No. 55 when they signed Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz. Rajsich said his staff's reaction to that news was to beat the bushes even harder and put in the time to produce what he called the best draft prep of his three years with the Orioles.
"I think it's been even better than the last two years," Rajsich said. "Guys have worked even harder and I'm proud of all of them. There was a renewed focus. There is as much energy in our draft meetings as there has ever been. A lot of positive discussions."
Major League Baseball now allots each club a certain amount of money to sign its top 10 round picks. Each individual pick is assigned a value. Because they don't select until Round 3, the Orioles have the smallest total allotment of any team this year at $2,204,400.
The allotted amount to sign the 90th pick is $594,200. The Orioles' second pick will be in the fourth round, No. 121 overall, and then the club will select every 30 picks after that through 40 rounds.
So what is the O's strategy during this very unique year for the club?
"We have three or four different ones we can employ depending on what we are looking at with our first pick or two," Rajsich said. "We are prepared for different scenarios depending on what happens in front of us."
One scenario that is unlikely is for the Orioles to spend most of their pool money on only one or two players. What if a top player falls to the O's at No. 90, but it would take most of their pool money to sign him? The Orioles would basically have to almost give up signing any players in rounds four through 10.
"We are going to consider everything and not say no to anything, but I don't really want to blow our whole bonus pool on one player," Rajsich said. "I don't think that would be fair to the ballclub. There is value to be found down through the draft.
"We are approaching it just like any year and trying to find the best player available. I know it sounds like a cliche, but it's true. We are looking for players and pitchers with tools that have upside.
"I know there are good players to be found all through the draft. That is kind of what we are trying to focus on this year. It's more important than a year when you have a one and two (round picks) or three top picks. You have to find value throughout the whole draft to add depth to your system."
Player and Pitcher of the Month: Double-A Bowie first baseman Christian Walker is the O's organizational Player of the Month for May. On the year, Walker is batting .319 with 15 homers and 47 RBIs. He is tied for the Eastern League lead in homers, is first in RBIs and third in slugging.
In 29 games in May, Walker hit .308 with nine homers, 27 RBIs and a 1.011 OPS.
Single-A Delmarva's Hunter Harvey is O's organizational Pitcher of the Month for May. Harvey went 2-2 with an ERA of 1.30 in five May starts. Over 27 2/3 innings, Harvey walked seven and struck out 35.
Earlier today, Harvey was named a starting pitcher in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game and is one of five Shorebirds to make the team.