In this space in the last week we took a look at what the winter might look like for an Orioles area scout. There are few, if any, games to scout this time of year and individual players are mostly focusing on their individual workouts.
So this is a time of year, Orioles director of draft operations Brad Ciolek told me, that his scouts do a lot of work on player makeup. That is, learning about the guy inside the uniform. How is his work ethic and attitude toward the game? Is he considered coachable? Will he be a good teammate?
The Orioles try to leave few stones unturned here in scouting. And while they have become an organization heavily reliant on data and analytics and one the produces its own draft models, the human element is still vital.
“We do a lot of Zoom calls,” Ciolek told me. “If there is one silver lining from the pandemic, it is the ability to connect with anyone across the country, or the globe, for that matter. So, we do take full advantage of the opportunity to get on Zoom calls with these guys. Talk to them and see how things are going before we talk to them next spring.”
I asked Ciolek if most of those Zoom calls take place between players and area scouts. Or do members higher up in the O’s front office take part?
“It happens with both,” he said. “In terms of our area guys, if they don’t get all their guys on via Zoom, they’ll pick up the phone or meet with them face-to-face at their school. In terms of myself, I think thus far I’ve probably sat in on around 65 to 70 Zoom calls already this winter. And that will continue through January."
Draft and bullpen talk: In this blog, I noted the Orioles left the draft lottery with the No. 17 overall pick in round one of the 2023 MLB Draft. The Orioles had a very slight chance at not only getting the No. 1 pick, which went to Pittsburgh, but also at a top six pick. But the odds were very, very low.
So Baltimore will select No. 17, its lowest pick since the Orioles took high school lefty DL Hall No. 21 overall in 2017.
I also wondered that day if right-hander Tyler Wells could get squeezed out of a rotation spot next year, yet wind up in a valuable middle-relief role. A reliever who bridges the gap between the starter and late innings. It is a very important role in the sport now, and it's where many games are won and lost.
And while Wells certainly could continue in the rotation, and might thrive there as he did for much of last year, O's executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias noted at the Winter Meetings that the 2023 Baltimore 'pen could get a lift from someone that does not make the rotation.
“We’ve got some young pitchers that could possibly, if they don’t make the Opening Day rotation, could slide into the bullpen,” Elias said Monday at the meetings. “So, definitely would not rule out a bullpen acquisition, particularly of the veteran variety with our young group, but fair to say as I sit here today, we’re probably having more conversations about position players and starting pitchers.”
Now, about adding that pitcher: Yes, some quality pitchers are now off the board, to include Taijuan Walker and Jameson Taillon from the so-called second-tier group.
But free agents remain, including top lefty Carlos Rodón. The team that signs Rodón will lose a draft pick, as he rejected a qualifying offer. Same applies to Chris Bassitt and Nathan Eovaldi. Lefty Sean Manaea and righty Noah Syndergaard are also still out there.
Which direction do the O's go now? Has a trade now become more likely?