Should the Orioles look to draft more college players this year?

The Orioles have a lot of pending free agents. They could be a very different looking team next year. They also have four picks in the top 102 selections of the First-Year Player Draft that begins tomorrow.

Does that mean the club should look to draft more college players this year? Players that are closer to reaching the big leagues and that can help the big league team sooner?

Jim Callis of MLBPipeline.com, one of the top draft experts in the industry for many years, said that would not necessarily be the best strategy based on his many years of covering Major League Baseball’s amateur drafts.

steve-callis-sidebar.jpg“The college players are always in a little more demand than high school players,” Callis said. “But from doing research, I know that college players are not better than high school players. But they do get to the majors quicker and that can be a tiebreaker between two players.

“I think the most important thing in the first round is to line up your board and you have to take the best player. If you look for a certain position or demographic, sometimes you can make a mistake and pass up a better player.

“I think the average fan would be surprised that in a typical draft, to get a true star, you might have a half-dozen of those guys. And then maybe 12-15 others that have lengthy big league careers, where they are solid regulars for a decade. And that’s it.

“So if you start eliminating high school guys or want to zero in on a college arm and there are only 20-30 really good players in the draft to begin with, you can’t afford to eliminate any of those in looking at a certain demographic.”

I asked Callis about the success rate of taking high school versus college players. One key point he makes is that many players that go into the college category for these draft studies were selected out of high school, too, but they just did not sign then. They could have easily been grouped in a different category.

“If you look at just getting to the big leagues, there is a higher percentage of college guys from the same rounds. But the difference is solely cup-of-coffee guys and not difference-makers,” Callis said. “If you are judging only on the players that get there, yes, there are more from college.

“But if you’re judging for their productivity - which players will have significant careers or be All-Stars - there are a higher percentage of high school guys, but it is not a markedly different percentage.

“But also keep in mind, many college drafted players that become stars, people knew about them in high school but they were just not signable.

“Barry Bonds? College guy. But he was a second-round pick out of high school and he didn’t take the offer. The Giants (in 1982) offered Bonds $60,000 and he wanted $66,000. They said no. So now, in a draft study, he is a college guy. Players like Bonds were going to college.

“Two of the best drafts of all time, 1985-86, were littered with college guys that were high picks out of high school that didn’t sign. There are so many fallacious draft studies where someone will say college players are so much better. You have a lot of people that do draft studies that don’t necessarily understand what they are looking (at).”

Earlier this past week, I took a look at the Orioles draft pool for this year. Tomorrow on this blog, I’ll provide Callis’ take on some players that the Orioles may draft and have more throughout the day leading up to the first round.

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