Orioles set to pick 17th in tonight's draft

The first two rounds of the draft air tonight beginning at 7 p.m. on ESPN and MLB Network. Pick your prospect poison.

The Orioles have the 17th, 53rd and 63rd selections tonight, the latter in Competitive Balance Round B. This is the latest that they’ve gone since taking Georgia high school left-hander DL Hall 21st in 2017.

Hall remains in Sarasota on a program to build strength and velocity before reentering Triple-A Norfolk’s rotation. That’s the last we’ve heard about him.

I saw that the Tides placed outfielder Heston Kjerstad on the temporary inactive list yesterday, had a brief panic attack and remembered that he played in last night’s All-Star Futures Game in Seattle.

Kjerstad started in right field and went 1-for-2. Jackson Holliday came off the bench, because being the No. 1 prospect in baseball doesn't guarantee you a spot in the lineup, and struck out in his only at-bat.

The game aired on Peacock, because professional sports are trying to narrow their audiences.

ESPN broadcast the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on Tuesday, for people who only want to see soaked buns at Coney Island.

But back to tonight’s draft …

Texas prep pitcher Grayson Rodriguez went 11th overall to the Orioles in 2018, as the organization was coming to grips with the competitive window slamming shut and the teardown that needed to be done.

Next came the early selections – catcher Adley Rutchman first overall in 2019, Kjerstad second overall in 2020, outfielder Colton Cowser fifth in 2021, and Holliday first in 2022.

I’d say the Orioles nailed it.

South Carolina high school left-hander Don Hood was the 17th overall selection in 1969, the last time that the Orioles sat in that exact spot. I used to have his baseball card, after the Orioles traded him to Cleveland in February 1975.

Too bad I lost the card. I’m sure it’s worth millions now.

Hood joined first baseman Boog Powell in that trade, which brought catcher Dave Duncan to Baltimore. Minor league outfielder Alvin McGrew also was part of that deal, and if you claim to remember him, I’ll also believe that Hood’s card is worth millions.

(McGrew never played in the majors after Cleveland made him the 15th overall pick in 1969, two spots before Hood.)

Tonight’s first selection could be a position player or a pitcher. College or high school. Mock drafts are all over the place, as they should be at No. 17.

Bleacher Report’s final mock has the Orioles taking Florida Atlantic first baseman/outfielder Nolan Schanuel. Here’s what it wrote about him:

“The 6'4", 220-pound slugger hit .447/.615/.868 with 18 doubles, 19 home runs, 64 RBI and a comical number of walks (71) compared to strikeouts (14). He is athletic enough to potentially handle a corner outfield spot, and his bat is among the most polished in the class.”

The Orioles won’t draft for need, but they don’t have a first base prospect unless Coby Mayo moves across the infield, which isn’t out of the question. Kjerstad has been exposed to first but is a much better outfielder.

The Athletic’s Keith Law, posting another mock on Friday, has the Orioles selecting LSU pitcher Ty Floyd. That’s a new one.

Law does toss out the names of six hitters as possibilities, but here’s what he wrote about Floyd:

“If you’re asking me to bet on a category, I’d still bet they’re more likely to take a hitter than a pitcher, but Floyd has flown up everyone’s boards lately and he does have the fastball characteristics that the Orioles seem to value.”

MLB Pipeline’s penultimate mock, which thankfully allows me to use the word “penultimate,” has Stanford University shortstop Tommy Troy at No. 17. Here’s the excerpt from Jonathan Mayo:

“This has often been a landing spot for Florida right-hander Hurston Waldrep, the next best college arm on the board, and that could still happen. But the Orioles have a history of going college hitter in the first, albeit at the top of the round (Adley Rutschman, Heston Kjerstad, Colton Cowser).”

Mayo also mentions a couple of college and prep hitters, including University of Maryland shortstop Matt Shaw.

I’ve also seen the Orioles linked to Waldrep, Florida prep shortstop Arjun Nimmala, Virginia prep first baseman/pitcher Bryce Eldridge and Texas prep catcher Blake Mitchell, among others. FanGraphs and Sportsnaut predicted Georgia prep shortstop Colin Houck. The Sporting News said it’s Waldrep, who would be the first pitcher taken by the Orioles in the first round since Rodriguez.

Here’s what Sportsnaut published about Houck:

“The slide for one of the top high school talents in the 2023 MLB Draft ends here. Houck, who was also a three-star football recruit at quarterback, definitely has the arm strength to stick at shortstop, but he might be better suited to play third base in the majors. At the plate, the 18-year-old has average to above-average tools that could make him a tier below an All-Star hitter, but he’ll bring excellent defense if he transitions to third.”

Still not confused? Baseball America said the Orioles will select TCU third baseman Brayden Taylor and wrote:

“This feels like the lower end of outcomes for Taylor, who slumped in the middle parts of the season but has been on a tear lately. He has one of the better offensive approaches you’ll find in the class, with a solid ability to hit for power to the pull side. His biggest critique entering the season was that he didn’t have enough impact for a third baseman, but he’s quietly been an excellent home run producer throughout his career, with 48 career home runs, including 23 this season. I would not be surprised to see Taylor off the board inside the top 10 picks.”

BA also mentioned Eldridge.

I won’t play this game. Anything I wrote would be a shot in the dark. But if you insist, I don’t think they’ll select a pitcher.

I’m basing this strictly on how they never take a pitcher in the first or second round under executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias. Prove me wrong.

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