We are now less than two weeks away from the First-Year Player Draft, where for the third time in draft history the Orioles will have the No. 1 overall pick. They selected pitcher Ben McDonald out of LSU No. 1 in 1989 and catcher Adley Rutschman No. 1 out of Oregon State in 2019.
Now for the second time in four drafts, they again pick 1/1.
Here are the latest top five player draft rankings, which includes four high school players at the top, by MLBPipeline.com:
* 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 – Oklahoma high school shortstop Jackson Holliday. Yes, another son of a famous father, his dad is a seven-time All-Star outfielder. The younger Holliday has an impressive advanced hitting approach, and added size and strength this year.
* No. 3 – 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. 4 – Atlanta high school shortstop Termarr Johnson. Considered the best pure hitter in this draft, some scouts have even put an 80 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. In college this year, he batted .357/.462/.664 with 15 homers, 46 walks and just 28 strikeouts.
This will be the fourth draft for the Orioles under executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias. His top pick each previous year was a college hitter, as he took Rutschman with his top pick in 2019, University of Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad as his top selection in 2020 and Sam Houston outfielder Colton Cowser in 2021.
There is more certainty in selecting a college hitter in terms of teams having more data and track records on the older players versus a high school draft pick. But that all means little to nothing in terms of this year’s No. 1 pick, said Jim Callis of MLBPipeline.com in our recent interview to size up this draft. He doesn’t think you can, in a sense, scout Elias’ previous picks with the Orioles to give any insight into what could happen this year.
“I say no because thus far the best No. 1 overall pick they took in Houston, Carlos Correa, was a high school kid," said Callis. "Mark Appel didn’t work out too well or Brady Aiken. When you are picking No. 1, you don’t paint yourself into a demographic corner. I don’t think Mike and his staff would do that type of thing. No, I wouldn’t read anything into that or give (collegian) Brooks Lee any edge because of that history.
“I think Mike said this to reporters and he said it to me at the (draft) combine. They have five guys (on a final list) and they’re going to stay on five guys up until the pick and they’re not going to tell anybody. He told me from a leverage standpoint, it does him no good to say we are taking player X in advance of the draft. The longer you wait you might get the guy’s price to come down a little bit. He didn’t say this, but they could know now who they will pick and they just keep it quiet and see how low they can get the guy’s number. I think they knew they were taking Adley in 2019 well before it became official. But they were not going to tell anyone that.
“I even tried to get Mike to tell me how many high school guys he had among his top five players. He started to say something and then said, ‘No, I’m not going to tell you that.’ He is just not going to tip his hand. Like he said, there is some gamesmanship with this and he’s right.
“I don’t think anyone is going to know, and even if they decide, they’re just not going to tell many people. This is what they did in Houston and I don’t think they will tell anyone.”
So no surprise here as the Orioles often keep such information very close to the vest and there are no pre-draft leaks expected.
The No. 1 pick has a slot amount of $8,842,200 and whoever gets picked at the top is not expected to get that full slot amount, so any player could provide at least some savings. Each dollar not spent on the top pick provides more dollars for later picks and there are always strategies around the dollars when it comes to the draft.
As Callis said, the Orioles pretty much know all they are going to about these players at this point. But what they may not know is their asking price if they are selected No. 1. Some of that information can go down to the wire.
“Most of these guys have been done playing for several weeks, so it’s not like you are going to watch and see something to change your mind," said Callis. "I’m sure Elias right now could give a ranking of the players, but I do think it’s a pretty close race. And if you think let’s say one guy is slightly better but he wants $8 million and the other guy may have a $6 or 7 million price tag, that could be a factor. I don’t think they are indecisive. They have all the (scouting) information they are going to get on these guys."
The Orioles have a chance to do some big-time damage in this draft with five of the first 81 picks and six among the first 107. After they pick No. 1, they also will select No. 33, No. 42, No. 67, No. 81 and No. 107 through the fourth round. They have 12 picks in the first 10 rounds and 22 selections over 20 rounds of the three-day draft.
Four is a winning streak: The Orioles keep playing and winning close games. Four in a row now to tie for their longest win streak of the 2022 season after beating Texas 2-1 last night. That gives the Orioles (39-44) their first three-game series sweep of the season.
Of the Orioles' last six games, they have been decided by seven total runs.
O's starting pitchers have an ERA of 2.52 over the last 19 games after right-hander Spenser Watkins' strong outing last night. He gave up one run over a career-best 6 2/3 innings, and it was the 15th time in the last 19 games the O's starter allowed one earned run or less.
The Orioles have won nine of 14 and 15 of their past 24 games. They are 18-14 since June 1 and 32-30 since May 1. Tonight they host the Angels to begin a four-game series at Oriole Park, where they are 21-17 this season.