With the First-Year Player Draft now just one week away, Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis is projecting the Orioles will take Oklahoma high school pitcher Dylan Bundy with the fourth overall pick.
But trying to predict the draft is tricky business at best, even for someone with Callis' background. This year, he said, even the first pick is unclear right now.
"Two years ago, we had the most hyped prospect and probably the best prospect in draft history in Stephen Strasburg. We knew he was going number one. Last year, Bryce Harper had even more hype and we knew fairly early he would be the number one pick," Callis said.
"This year, there isn't a (clear) No. 1 guy. The top two players coming into the year were (infielder) Anthony Rendon of Rice and (pitcher) Gerrit Cole of UCLA. Rendon has had a shoulder injury that has slowed him and limited him to DH duties most of the year and slowed his bat speed down. Not a long-term concern, but still hasn't been at his best. Cole has an electric arm, but his command hasn't been that consistent, throwing the field more wide open."
Callis did make his most recent predictions on how the draft will play out in his latest Baseball America mock draft. So I asked him what he expected the Orioles to do in the first round.
"The first three picks ahead of them could unfold in a bunch of different ways. My best guess this many days in advance has Rendon going No. 1 to the Pirates and I think he will be gone when the Orioles pick either way and go No. 2 if he doesn't go one.
"Probably the safest bet at the top of the draft is (Virginia lefty pitcher) Danny Hultzen. The Diamondbacks love him at No. 3. I think Rendon and Hultzen are definitely off the board before pick four."
Callis said Bundy may be the guy the Orioles are targeting at No. 4.
"They drafted his brother (Bobby) three years ago. Some scouting directors think he's the best pitcher in the draft, even better than all these college guys and it's an exceptionally deep college draft," Callis said.
Callis doesn't think it's a total slam dunk that Bundy will be the O's pick and said two college pitchers could factor in their decision as well.
"The other two guys the Orioles are probably looking at are UCLA right-hander Trevor Bauer and Cole, his teammate," he said. "I think Bauer has probably outperformed Cole. The stuff is probably a little bit below Cole, but it's pretty good stuff and I think he has more savvy and polish on the mound than Cole. The other guy that could go ahead of them and I don't think he's in their mix is Bubba Starling, the high school outfielder from Kansas that is the best athlete in the draft."
But for now, Callis believes the Orioles will take a pitcher and they may be choosing between three of them.
"I think it comes down to Bundy, Bauer and Cole and I think they're going Bundy. It's not like it's a slam dunk though but I think they are leaning Bundy right now," Callis said.