Does having the No. 1 farm impact O's draft strategy?

The first four drafts under Mike Elias and his staff with the Orioles saw the club select No. 1, No. 2, No. 5 and No. 1 overall in the MLB draft. That was from 2019 through 2022. They got Adley Rutschman, Heston Kjerstad, Colton Cowser and Jackson Holliday.

So yeah, pretty good.

You hope to hit it big at the top of the draft. It’s no guarantee, but the Orioles may have done just that. Clearly that foursome has been a big part of the Orioles' farm moving up the ranks the last few years and now having the No. 1 farm in MLB.

And now, as another MLB draft approaches starting Sunday night, the Orioles are no longer in rebuild mode and they are looking at a farm system with several of their top prospects playing at higher levels and five top 100s at Triple-A right now.

That leads some to wonder if the Orioles will look to take more high school players early in this coming draft to fortify the lower levels? Does having a farm stacked at higher levels impact draft strategy this year?

“I think that, if you were to look at this in a vacuum, it’s something you have to have in the back of your mind, but the bottom line is, we want the best player,” Orioles director of draft operations Brad Ciolek said. “Regardless of the situation, regardless of what the 40-man roster might look like a couple of years from now.

“But it is kind of in the back of your mind. There is a little bit of – I don’t want to say a bottleneck – but there are a lot of qualified guys up at Triple-A and Double-A. Guys that a lot of clubs, that are looking at our system, would love to have in their system.”

The Orioles will make the No. 17 pick in round one of the draft on Sunday night and the listed slot amount to sign the pick is $4,169,700. The Birds will also pick at No. 53, No. 63, No. 86 and No. 100 in the top 100. The draft continues over Monday and Tuesday through 20 rounds.

The last time the Orioles had a first-round pick outside of the top five selections was when they took Grayson Rodriguez No. 11 in 2018. The last time they had a pick this far down the board was when they selected high school lefty DL Hall No. 21 overall in 2017.

Ciolek is confident in the O’s draft prep this year and that they’ll get a good one at No. 17.

“I don’t want to say we’re overly confident, but we’re confident. We believe in our process. It’s worked so far, knock on wood obviously. As I always say, just put your best foot forward, do your homework, do you due diligence on all fronts. You just do the best you can and take the player and ultimately, it’s up to them how soon they ascend through the ranks.”

As always, the allotted dollars factor in. The O’s draft pool this year is $10.53 million, the 14th highest among the 30 clubs. You can sign players for more or less than the listed slot, but an overage would have to come from that pool. So, signing one for less means you can sign someone else for more.

Teams use strategies to try and maximize their total dollars, knowing a player that falls in the draft due to signability concerns could cost them more money and it has to come from somewhere.

“It is always kind of interesting looking around at what clubs do with their bonus pool,” said Ciolek. “Some teams kind of will look to potentially try to save money at the top and try to push those savings down. I’ve always kind of taken the approach that we want the best player, the best fit for our organization. And if there are savings to be had, that is kind of an extra bonus.

"First and foremost thing we’re going to do is find the guy that is the best fit for our organization and then take a look at what happens from there and if we are going to implement another strategy as far as pushing some money at other selections.”

Here are the Orioles top 10 round picks and assigned slot amounts:

Round 1 (No. 17) - $4,169,700

* Round 2 (No. 53) - $1,582,900

* Competitive Balance Round B (No. 63) - $1,243,300

* Round 3 (No. 86) - $808,200

* Round 3 compensation pick (No. 100) - $671,800

* Round 4 (No. 118) - $563,600

* Round 5 (No. 154) - $396,700

* Round 6 (No. 181) - $312,300

* Round 7 (No. 211) - $244,400

* Round 8 (No. 241) - $197,800

* Round 9 (No. 271) - $177,100

* Round 10 (No. 301) - $167,000

The Orioles have qualified every year for a Competitive Balance pick since MLB started assigning such picks with the Collective Bargaining Agreement that started in 2012. The 10 lowest-revenue clubs and the clubs from the 10 smallest markets are eligible to receive a Competitive Balance pick (fewer than 20 clubs are in the mix each year, as some clubs qualify under both criteria). There is a CB round A and round B with the A group having the higher picks and clubs alternate getting in round A or round B each year.

This year the O's also have pick No. 100 as a compensation pick for not signing their third-round selection last year, pitcher Nolan McLean from Oklahoma State University. In four drafts under Elias, he was the O's highest selection on a pitcher but did not sign last summer.

Speaking of taking a pitcher with a high draft pick, will this be the year the O's do just that? I will have more on that topic in the next few days in this space. 

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