Losing streak puts Orioles in position for first pick in 2022 draft

Moving below the Diamondbacks for the worst record in the majors has put the Orioles in front of everyone else for the No. 1 pick in the 2022 amateur draft.

There must be a reward for enduring such agony.

Baseball America’s early mock draft, published last month, has IMG Academy outfielder Elijah Green as the top choice. It noted his “special combination of elite physicality, electric tools and an impressive underclass track record of hitting.”

Former Orioles bench coach John Russell, a Bradenton resident, has served as IMG Academy’s technical director since 2019. If you want an Orioles connection beyond draft placement.

Need another? Green would be the first right-handed hitting high school outfielder chosen first overall since Delmon Young in 2003.

Young began as a Devil Ray. He finished as an Oriole, with a big playoff double in his history.

Green has a commitment to the University of Miami. I bet he’d skip it as the No. 1 pick.

A scout said the following about Green, as it appears in Baseball America: “I think Elijah Green would go in the first 10 picks (in 2021). I have lived here a long time and he is up there on the list of guys I have scouted at this time in his junior year... It’s a polished game too, not just electric tools. He uses the field, his tools are outstanding. He is very big and very strong, he has all five tools but it is a polished game.”

Green is listed at 6-foot-3, 225 lbs. and projects more as a corner outfielder based on his size. His throws reportedly have registered at 95-plus mph and his 60-yard dash time has been clocked as low as 6.2 seconds. Scouts grade his raw power at 70 on the 20-80 scale and label his arm strength and speed as “elite.”

His father is former Steelers Pro Bowl tight end Eric Green, which I only learned yesterday. And which gives me another reason to feel old.

Baseball America at the time had the Diamondbacks selecting Green and the Orioles at No. 2 taking Texas Tech second baseman/third baseman Jace Jung - stressing that it’s super early and more of a fun exercise.

And too early for fans to scream that it isn’t a pitcher.

Camden-Yards-View-from-Behind-Plate-Sidebar.jpgThe Orioles have lost 15 games in a row, all by multiple runs, the longest streak in the modern era, according to ESPN Stats and Info. They’ve been swept in a series of three or more games 14 times, most in the majors.

The best distractions from the losing are the farm system rankings. Baseball America raised the Orioles to No. 2 behind the Mariners. MLBPipeline.com’s latest top 100 prospects list included catcher Adley Rutschman at No. 1, pitcher Grayson Rodriguez at No. 8, pitcher DL Hall at No. 78, shortstop Gunnar Henderson at No. 80 and outfielder Colton Cowser at No. 83.

Rodriguez is the highest-ranked pitcher, but he’s in Double-A Bowie and unable to offer immediate assistance.

“We’re definitely going to try to improve our organization as a whole,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “Mike (Elias) and his group have invested a lot of time and money into our player development system and improving that, as well as Latin America and getting more involved there. We’re putting a lot of resources into that and building this from the ground up.

“Right now, we’re taking a hit at the big league level because we haven’t gotten players here yet really. So you definitely want to see your prospects do well, you want to see our organization grow, you want to see our players move up levels, which you’re seeing, especially the last week, a lot of guys got moved up and that’s fantastic. So as your organization gets healthier and you have more prospects and they’re performing, everybody around the league recognizes that.

“We just need to get more talented, bottom line, in this whole organization, and we’ve done that the last couple years, so that is exciting.”

The Orioles also need to get healthy and more thoroughly enjoy their farm system’s resurgence.

Among the players in MLBPipeline.com’s top 30 in the organization, Hall, Heston Kjerstad (seventh), Terrin Vavra (13th), Adam Hall (15th), Joey Ortiz (20th), Zac Lowther (22nd), Anthony Servideo (27th) and Carter Baumler (28th) are shut down or on injury rehab assignments.

Pitcher Mike Baumann, who’s 10th, is coming back from a sore elbow and had to be removed from Wednesday night’s start because he threw 39 pitches in one inning. Outfielder Yusniel Diaz (12th) just rejoined Triple-A Norfolk after completing his rehab assignment. Left-hander Bruce Zimmermann recovered from biceps tendinitis, was supposed to be reinstated and start in Boston and sprained his ankle in the weight room as he was set to leave the Tides.

This isn’t a minor sprain, by the way.

As Hyde said yesterday, “Nobody’s really knocking the door down to come back. We’ve really taken a look at everybody, so I’m going with the group that I’ve got right now and we’ll see what happens.”

Not the ideal method for snapping a 15-game losing streak, but what else can he do?

The bullpen had its positive moments yesterday, with Konner Wade retiring all six batters and striking out four. Marcos Diplán let all three inherited runners score after replacing Fernando Abad, who can’t catch a break, but he hasn’t been charged with an earned run of his own in six major league appearances over nine innings.

Paul Fry has lost the strike zone and, apparently, some confidence. Some fans on Twitter want Hyde to stop using him. Dillon Tate keeps inheriting bases-loaded jams. Some fans on Twitter want Hyde to stop doing that to Tate.

Listen, Hyde has tried everything imaginable with this bullpen. He’s using guys in high-leverage situations who most qualify for the job. He’s using others because he has no choice. He’s putting some of his better relievers who are struggling, like Fry, in lower-leverage spots. Nothing is working and more games are lost.

He can’t use the same one or two guys every single game. And again, he isn’t slapping away hot hands reaching for the ball. This unit as a whole is a mess and a rotation that keeps offering short starts just compounds the problem.

Using Abad in the third inning isn’t how you draw it up, but somebody had to do it. And you know it’s a tough time when two of the more trustworthy relievers right now are Diplán and Rule 5 pick Tyler Wells, who didn’t pitch above Double-A before this season and needs to be handled with some care after coming off the injured list. Plus, you know, he didn’t pitch in 2019 and 2020.

The rotation remains in order for the weekend Braves series, but the Orioles need to figure out what’s best for Jorge López, who, if physically fine, appears to need a mental break. Whether that means going back home to be with his family or maybe a bullpen assignment.

López made it clear yesterday that he wants to keep pitching, but he also showed how much his young son Mikael’s illness weighs on him, whether also on the mound or just on his Zoom call. And it’s on a daily basis. Hourly. By the second. As any parent can imagine.

Your child undergoes chemotherapy treatments and a bone marrow transplant, but here’s the ball. Go get Gleyber!

It’s a wonder that López can even get out of bed in the morning. If it were my daughter, I’d be curled up in a ball instead of reaching for one.

Meanwhile, Emmett Antonen and Boog Powell are throwing out the ceremonial first pitches tonight.

Antonen is the son of former MASN analyst and longtime baseball writer Mel Antonen, who passed away in January. Mel was a dear friend to many of us. This is going to be emotional.

Powell, an Orioles Hall of Famer and reminder of much better days, celebrated his 80th birthday this week.

The first 15,000 fans 15 and over attending Saturday night’s game will receive a John Means Business bobblehead.

The Norfolk Tides announced that former manager Ron Johnson will be inducted into the Tidewater Baseball Shrine at Harbor Park between games of a Sept. 1 doubleheader against the Charlotte Knights.

Johnson died on Jan. 21 in Tennessee of complications from COVID-19. He was 64.

Johnson led the Tides during the final seven seasons of his career from 2012-18 and amassed 491 victories, making him the winningest and longest-tenured manager in franchise history.

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