At a time when the Orioles are making real progress on the field and getting better in front of our eyes, another chance to greatly improve the organization is just around the corner.
The 20-round 2022 First-Year Player Draft will be held July 17-19, providing a great chance for the Orioles to add to the so-called elite talent pipeline. It's produced one of the best farm systems in the sport and now will see the influx from a draft where the Orioles not only have the No. 1 pick for the third time in team history, but have five of the first 81 picks for the first time in four drafts under executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias.
The Orioles selected Ben McDonald with the No. 1 overall pick in 1989 and Adley Rutschman in 2019. Now for the second time in four drafts, they pick 1/1 again.
This draft the O’s have selections at No. 1, No. 33, No. 42, No. 67 and No. 81. Perhaps they make a score as strong as the last time they selected No. 1 when their top three picks were Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson and Kyle Stowers.
MLBPipeline.com ranks the top five players in this order:
No. 1 – Georgia high school outfielder Druw Jones. He is the son of five-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner Andruw Jones. The 18-year-old Jones gets 70 tool grades for running and fielding and he could grow into plus power, too.
No. 2 – High school outfielder Elijah Green from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. His dad is former NFL tight end Eric Green, who once played for the Ravens. He has a very complete tool set but there are some concerns about the swing and miss in his game.
No. 3 – Oklahoma high school shortstop Jackson Holliday. Yes another son of a famous father, his dad is seven-time MLB All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday. The younger Holliday has an impressive advanced hitting approach and added size and strength this year.
No. 4 – Atlanta-area high school shortstop Termarr Johnson. Considered the best pure hitter in this draft, some scouts have even put an 80 grade on his hit tool. Could move to second base in the pros.
No. 5 – Cal-Poly shortstop Brooks Lee. The 2021 co-Big West Player of the Year, he’s got a 70 grade hit tool. This year he batted .357/.462/.664 with 15 homers, 46 walks and just 28 strikeouts.
In his latest mock draft, MLBPipeline.com senior writer Jim Callis had the O’s taking Johnson, their No. 4 rated player. He was quick to point out this is not based on any concrete behind the scenes information that he has gathered, and that the Orioles very likely have not even made their final decision yet.
“I will preface this by saying, I don’t think anyone knows for sure and I don’t think the Orioles are going to tip their hand,” Callis said in a recent interview. “This is just based on piecing some things together. This stuff is so fluid but I have heard after taking outfielders the last two years, that everything being equal, they prefer an infielder. That is one. And they are going to save money on that pick no matter who they take because the signing slot for No. 1 is $8.8 million dollars.
“They are going to spend some money over the whole draft, but the Orioles have always looked to find that sweet spot between talent and cutting a deal. The last two years they prioritized cutting a deal and pushed guys up the board. I think Termarr is worthy of the No. 1 pick, but I also think of the guys they are looking at, he might produce the biggest discount also. He’s got the potential to last the longest in the draft if he doesn’t go No. 1. I’ve heard that he wants to go No. 1 and he might be willing to cut a deal more than other guys might.
“So kind of reading the tea leaves. But he’s the best pure hitter in the draft. There is nothing to argue with there. That is the thinking of that projection and mock, but nothing is locked in stone by any means.”
So Callis seems to feel if the Orioles have several of these players ranked very closely, and Johnson does have an asking price better than others, it could make the difference here.
“If he doesn’t go No. 1, he might go No. 7,” he said. “The seventh pick is worth $ 5.7 million dollars. I’m not saying he takes $5.7 million, but who knows. Who knows what the No. 1 pick gets. All this is speculation. I don’t think anyone has yet set their board and we may not know before they make the pick. This is me trying to read tea leaves rather than having any hard and concrete intel.”
And Callis said he wanted to clarify that Johnson’s talent will very likely be seen by teams as worthy of going No. 1.
“Just be clear, Termarr is a worthy guy. Even though he could go as low as No. 7, coming into the year some people had him at No. 1. He is the best pure hitter in this draft and probably the best pure high school hitter in years. He might be a .300, 20-homer guy. Some scouts say he is better that that. This is not like taking a guy that is going to go No. 10 and running him up the board.
“I would say anytime, even if you take a guy and save money, you still like the guy a lot. You are not going to take a guy just to save money. You still have to believe in the player. Specifically, if they take Termarr Johnson No. 1, I do think they would have him right up there near the top of the their board. We are just not going to know who they are taking and who they prefer and I can’t say that he is one or three or five on their board. If they take Termarr No. 1 like when they took Heston Kjerstad No. 2, which was a big surprise to people, they liked Kjerstad a lot. You can’t take the guy that high unless you are all in on that player.”
If the Orioles did cut a deal so to speak at No. 1, would the savings be instantly used on their next pick at No. 33 overall?
“Well theoretically you are talking about a team that tried to do this two years ago and the Rays took Nick Bitsko (at No. 24) and he didn’t get to them. And last year they were going to pay Jud Fabian handsomely at No. 41 and the Red Sox took him at pick 40. The Orioles took a guy below slot, I don’t think Connor Norby even got full slot at his pick. It’s a good strategy but you can’t guarantee a specific player is going to get there. And after Fabian went, the Orioles didn’t go huge with that pick. They spent some money down deeper in the draft.
“Now this year could be different. You have all these pitchers that could have been first-round picks but got hurt and most of them aren’t going to go in the first round. That market is definitely going to be deep. At 33 I can’t say specifically which of the guys will be there but there will probably be at least three or four guys that would have been first-round picks this year were it not for health questions. So you take a guy coming back from Tommy John you feel pretty good about guys coming back from that and you may get very good value there as well.
"It’s no guarantee that as their pick at 33 or 42 they would spend extra money there. You saw what they did in 2020 when they spent overslot money on their fourth and fifth rounders (in Coby Mayo and Carter Baumler). It is safe to say whatever they save, if they do, they will spend. They may have guys they target to get to 33 or 42 and we’ll have to see if they get there.”
No matter which players they select, the Orioles do have those five top 81 picks. They added pick No. 67, a Competitive Balance Round B selection, that can be traded and was from Miami in the deal that sent relievers Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser to the Marlins.
“I mean, it’s okay,” Callis said of the draft depth for those first 81 picks. “Technically I look at as there is talent in every draft. Projecting what the third or fourth round could be, saying a third round looks deeper than ever is tough. It’s kind of an average draft depth-wise but when we look back there will be a guy in the fifth or sixth round that is an All-Star. Or someone in round eight that is an All-Star.
"Cedric Mullins was a 13th rounder and an All-Star last year. It is always good to have a bunch of early picks and they have the second-highest bonus pool a team has ever had at $16.9 million. The Astros, when Mike Elias was there, had $17.3 million in 2015 when they had the No. 2 and No. 5 picks. The Orioles, they could even go five percent over and spend over $17.5 million on their bonus pool.”
A look at the O’s top 10 round picks and slot amount for each selection:
Round 1 (No. 1 overall) – Slot is $8,842,200
Competitive Balance Round A (No. 33) – Slot is $2,313,900
Round 2 (No. 42) – Slot is $1,861,000
Competitive Balance Round B (No. 67) – Slot is $1,026,300
Round 3 (No. 81) – Slot is $793,600
Round 4 (No. 107) – Slot is $571,100
Round 5 (No. 137) – Slot is $426,600
Round 6 (No. 167) – Slot is $319,600
Round 7 (No. 197) – Slot is $249,000
Round 8 (No. 227) – Slot is $197,200
Round 9 (No. 257) – Slot is $167,800
Round 10 (No. 287) – Slot is $155,700