Executive vice president Dan Duquette hasn’t made the usual appearances around the batting cage this week. The First-Year Player Draft begins Monday night and the Orioles are updating their board in preparation for one of the most important events of the year.
The significance grows for an organization that’s poised to lose a chunk of its roster to free agency or trades with the club now 22 games below .500. They need to get it right.
The Orioles hold the 11th, 37th and 87th picks in the early rounds. Manager Buck Showalter has recited the order. But he claims that his involvement is limited. He isn’t offering much input, his concentration focused more on the current roster.
“No. I shouldn’t and I don’t,” he said. “If they ask ... I’ve been involved in that, a lot in Arizona. I know how I feel. It’s about the best player, period.
“They’re all assets. You’re drafting assets for the club. If you draft four catchers in a row and they’re all big league players, you keep the one you like the most and get a lot of things in return in a trade. It’s about trying to get as many assets for the major league club.
“I don’t go into the cockpit and tell the pilot how to land a plane. I’m not going into a heart surgeon’s surgery and telling him how to stitch an aortic valve. We all think we can do a broadcaster’s job or a writer’s job and all of a sudden you get it thrown in your lap and you go, ‘Oh, I didn’t know about that challenge.’ We all are experts on something, right? With our friends over a couple of Natty Bohs. Then all of a sudden, ‘Wait a minute, I’m responsible for that? No, I’m not doing that. You mean, I’m responsible for landing that plane? I’m responsible for that draft? I’m responsible for that trade?’
“When you’re sitting there and you’ve got to make that final call ...”
I’ve read four mock drafts that have the Orioles taking three different players with the 11th pick.
I’ll stress again that this organization needs a top infield prospect. Not just a bat, but someone who can play shortstop or second base. Maybe he could transition to third if there’s a need.
Pitching always is a priority, but the Orioles have been scouting and receiving feedback on numerous infielders, including Oregon State’s Nick Madrigal, who’s projected by Baseball America to go to the White Sox with the fourth pick. The publication predicts that the Orioles will select Orange Lutheran (Calif.) High School right-hander Cole Winn.
MLB.com’s Jim Callis, formerly of Baseball America, also has Winn going to the Orioles.
The Athletic has Madrigal going to the Phillies with the third pick. The Orioles seem to have no shot at him. The Athletic says they’re taking University of Florida third baseman Jonathan India.
ESPN.com’s Keith Law has the Orioles taking Mountain Ridge (Az.) High School left-hander Matthew Liberatore.
Meanwhile, Shippensburg University senior outfielder Dalton Hoiles has gained the attention of multiple teams.
The last name isn’t a coincidence. Dalton is the oldest son of former Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles.
Dalton worked out for the Pirates on Monday. I’ve heard that the Rockies, Mariners and Dodgers also have shown interest.
The latest postseason honor for Hoiles was his selection to the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)/Rawlings NCAA Division II All-Atlantic Region first team. He led the Raiders with a .362 average, .452 on-base percentage, 22 doubles, 10 home runs, 41 RBIs and 41 runs scored. His 22 doubles led the Atlantic Region and tied the single-season school record.
Hoiles batted .337/.414/.519 during his four seasons with the Raiders. He totaled 55 doubles, five triples, 22 home runs and 152 RBIs in 207 games.
He also stole 23 bases, making him at least the third-fastest member of his family. I don’t know if anyone has timed brothers Derek and Drew.
Recruited to play third base at Shippensburg, Hoiles was moved to the outfield to take better advantage of his mobility.
* I wrote yesterday that outfielder Cedric Mullins will move up from Double-A Bowie to Triple-A Norfolk. It’s in the works. And I’m still expecting him at Camden Yards later this summer.
Mullins’ promotion to Norfolk should lead to a ripple effect that carries outfielder Ryan McKenna from Single-A Frederick to Bowie.
McKenna, a fourth-round pick in 2015, came within a double of the cycle last night in Wilmington and is batting .361/.439/.515 with 14 doubles, one triple, five home runs and 30 RBIs in 50 games.
The Orioles have discussed transferring him to Bowie, and he seems like the logical choice as the new center fielder and leadoff hitter.