Getting caught up in the Orioles' draft as the day arrives

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Orioles are playing their final game of the first half this afternoon, entering the All-Star break two games above or at .500, depending on the result. A chance to win another series. A chance to remind everyone that these aren’t the same Orioles, though that much already should be clear.

Players will bolt from the clubhouse to catch their own flights. The charter back to Baltimore is going to echo.

At least four Orioles can drive from St. Petersburg to their Florida homes, including outfielder Austin Hays and reliever Joey Krehbiel. The team is expected to open the ballpark Thursday for workouts. Knock off any rust.

The relaxation period this week will be delayed for the front office and scouts. The MLB Draft begins tonight with the first and second rounds, and the Competitive Balance A and B rounds.

The Orioles hold the first overall pick, along with the 33rd, 42nd and 67th.  It’s going to be a late night.

The process has moved along to the point where manager Brandon Hyde was included on a Zoom call yesterday with the draft room regarding the five players on the board in the race to go one-one.

A final decision might not come until shortly before the Orioles are on the clock.

They never show their hand, but there’s nothing to reveal this morning. We can’t know until they do.

You won’t find a single mock draft that expresses absolute confidence in the selection. There’s always the caveat that the Orioles are impossible to predict.

The five finalists, which haven’t been confirmed by the club, of course, are Georgia prep outfielder Druw Jones, Oklahoma prep shortstop Jackson Holliday, IMG Academy outfielder Elijah Green, Georgia prep infielder Termarr Johnson and Cal Poly shortstop Brooks Lee.

There’s no straying from the board. No last-minute substitutions. These are the finalists.

Lee is the only college player in the bunch. The Orioles won’t base their choice on prep versus college or infield versus outfield. They seem comfortable going in either direction.

They might snag a pitcher as high as the 33rd overall selection, but none warranted consideration at one-one.

DraftKings Sportsbook lists Lee as the favorite to go first at -350, followed by Jones at +265. Green was a very early favorite, and Jones later moved to the top.

He was a -145 favorite to go first on Tuesday. also has Lee as the favorite at -325, with Jones next at +275.

Jones, the son of 10-time Gold Glove winner Andruw Jones – in case you somehow missed that nugget of information – is rated by as the draft’s No. 1 prospect. He led Wesleyan to a Class 1-A private schools state championship after batting .570 with seven doubles, three triples, 13 home runs, 39 RBIs, 72 runs scored and 32 stolen bases.

I was convinced that the Orioles would take him, until I switched over to Johnson, who’s rated as the best pure hitter in the draft, college or prep. I just had a feeling.

“He’s easily the best high school hitter that I’ve seen,” said Baseball America’s Carlos Collazo. “It’s a special, special bat.”

The Orioles got a close-up look during Johnson’s workout at Camden Yards. Let’s just say they were really impressed. And he could be an underslot signing that allows them to go over on some other picks farther down the line.

I was sold on Johnson, just my hunch, until I let Lee’s odds get inside my head.

A switch-hitting shortstop who could move to third base. Who batted .357/.462/.664 in 58 games in 2022, with 25 doubles, one triple, 15 home runs, 55 RBIs, 46 walks and 28 strikeouts in 286 plate appearances. Who slashed .351/.426/.647 in three seasons at Cal Poly, with 53 doubles, four triples, 25 home runs, 114 RBIs, 64 walks and 63 strikeouts in 538 plate appearances. Who was described by The Athletic’s Keith Law as “the best pure hitter among college prospects this year.”

Who was named after Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson.

The walks-to-strikeouts are an obvious attraction for the Orioles.

Enough to select him?

Law had the Orioles picking Lee in his penultimate mock, then dropped him to seventh yesterday, where the Cubs are waiting, and linked Baltimore to Holliday.

I’ll just wait. And after the pick is announced - I’m fairly confident it won’t be Green but otherwise am in the dark - I’ll be able to say that I definitely thought he could go to the Orioles.

It's draft day in MLB and O's pick 1/1 tonight
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