Wrapping up the draft, possibly eliminating shifts and more

Under former Orioles general manager Andy MacPhail, the motto "Grow the arms, buy the bats," was popular. Under current exec Mike Elias, the motto could be, "Take elite college bats with good contact skills and draft pitchers later on that you are confident you can develop."

OK, that might be way too many words for a T-shirt.

But in the 2021 First-Year Player Draft, the Orioles selected 21 players with just one from the high school ranks. They drafted nine pitchers, but just one in the first 10 rounds and none among their first five picks. They selected two catchers, four infielders and six outfielders.

The question I've been getting non-stop - to the point I expected to get calls on my cell overnight - is: What about the overslots? Some fans seem very, very concerned the Orioles won't spend all their allotted money. But spoiler alert: They almost certainly will. In fact, they have said as much.

Orioles bags.jpg"In terms of the underslot/overslot discussion, I'll do the best I can to stay mum as negotiations are still ongoing," said Brad Ciolek, the Orioles' supervisor of domestic scouting operations. "I will say, though, that we did take a lot of sophomore-eligibles (Monday), which obviously have that extra year of eligibility, and that also, in some cases, can add to increased leverage. We did take a junior college kid in the 20th round, Trendon Craig. So, obviously, there might be some things we need to iron out there as well.

"Without tipping my hand too much, we are looking to utilize a very large percentage of our pool, and don't be surprised if there are some guys that are overslot."

One overslot agreement may already be in place. That is for shortstop Collin Burns of Tulane, taken in round six by the Orioles. According to this report from a New Orleans TV station, Burns' advisor, Clarence Johns, told the outlet that Burns has agreed to a deal with the team that is "slightly above the slot."

The slot value for that pick, No. 167 overall, was listed as $304,200.

Burns was listed as a redshirt sophomore. In 55 games, he batted .353/.410/.571 with 55 runs, 20 doubles, four triples, eight homers, 20 steals in 25 tries and 50 RBIs. He was first-team all-American Athletic conference and a finalist for the Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year Award. His 29 multi-hit games led his Tulane club.

Another potential overslot could be the club's third-round pick, Kentucky outfielder John Rhodes, a draft-eligible sophomore. This season, he batted .251/.397/.508/.905 with 15 doubles, 11 homers, 47 runs and 36 RBIs. Rhodes, who turns 21 on Aug. 15, gets 50 tool grades from Baseball America across the board except for a 45 with power. It the scouting report on him, Baseball America noted that as a draft-eligible sophomore, he could be tough to sign.

The slot amount for his pick, at No. 76 overall, is $818,200.

The Orioles have a total pool amount of $11,829,300 to sign their picks. They can go over and/or under as they see fit, as long as the total dollars comes in that neighborhood in the end. They could go up to 4.9 percent above that without losing a draft pick.

Players drafted in rounds 11 through 20 can sign for up to $125,000 with no penalties and none of those dollars come out of the draft pool. But they would for any pick in rounds 11-20 signed for more than $125,000. Any overage must come out of the pool. You sign someone for $325,000 in those rounds and $200,000 must come from the pool amount.

The deadline to sign picks is 5 p.m. on Sunday Aug. 1. We should expect most teams to sign most players and many should get out and play for affiliated teams at least to some extent this year.

A tally of Elias and his staff's drafts from 2019 through 2021:

* College players - 57
* High school players - 11
* Pitchers - 29, with 26 right-handers
* Catchers - eight
* Infielders - 14
* Outfielders - 17

The club has not selected any pitcher under Elias before the fifth round. They selected their first pitcher in round eight in 2019 and in round five in the last two drafts. They signed 35 of 41 picks in 2019 and six of six last year.

Of the three lefties they have selected, all came in 2019, and the only one having any impact right now is Jake Prizina, who was taken in round 31 of 2019. This year he is 3-1 with a 2.82 ERA between low Single-A Delmarva and high Single-A Aberdeen.

The Los Angeles Angels selected all pitchers in this draft, taking 20 in 20 rounds with 19 from the college ranks. Cleveland took 19 pitchers out of its 21 selections, all of them college players. The Los Angeles Dodgers didn't draft a position player until the 16th round and selected 17 pitchers out of 19 picks.

"That is the beauty of the draft I guess," said Ciolek. "Everyone has their own unique way of doing it. There are multiple inputs that can be put into models and ultimately, even though we're kind of moving towards more analytics and data involved in terms of picking these guys and developing models, you will still see things like that and that is what makes it very interesting."

Of course, the Angels traded four pitchers, including Kyle Bradish and Kyle Brnovich, to the O's for Dylan Bundy in December 2019. They traded two more pitchers to Baltimore, including Garrett Stallings, last December for José Iglesias.

No shifts: Will Major League Baseball look to eliminate defensive shifts? It surely appears possible after comments by commissioner Rob Manfred at the All-Star Game.

"Let's just say you regulated the shift by requiring two infielders on each side of second base," Manfred said. "What does that do? It makes the game look like what it looked like when I was 12 years old.

"It's not change, it's kind of restoration. That's why people are in favor of it. Front offices, in general, believe it will have a positive effect on the play of the game. ... I'm hopeful that we will have productive conversations with the MLBPA about non-radical changes to the game that will restore it to being played in a way that is closer to what many of us enjoy historically."

Manfred also said the seven-inning games in doubleheaders and having a runner placed at second base in extra innings could both stop after this year. They were done due to the pandemic and now the game is getting back to pre-COVID days.

The All-Star Game: The Orioles' Cedric Mullins went 0-for-2, but scored a run as the American League won 5-2 over the National League at the All-Star Game in Denver. Click here for more on Mullins' night among the stars.

Mullins scores a run in All-Star Game
O's select righty Dylan Heid in Round 11 of draft ...

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