A draft Q&A with Gary Rajsich, plus O’s notes on pitching and more

The Orioles have the No. 27 overall pick tonight as Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft begins at 7. It will be televised live on MLB Network. The 40-round draft will continue tomorrow and Saturday. Tonight the clubs select players through Round 2 and the Competitive Balance Lottery Round B, so the Orioles will make three picks tonight. On Friday players will be selected in Rounds 3-10 and the draft concludes Saturday with picks in Rounds 11-40.

The Orioles have four picks in the top 100 at Nos. 27, 54, 69 and 91. They will have 11 picks over the first 10 rounds.

In a recent mock draft Baseball America projected the Orioles would take switch-hitting University of Florida outfielder Buddy Reed with their top pick. The publication also noted the Orioles have been linked to high school position players with that selection. You could probably find them linked to 10 or more different names in various mock drafts. Trying to predict which player they will take so low in the draft is almost impossible. They don’t even know which players will be gone when it will be their turn to select.

The Orioles will certainly be expected to take a lot of pitchers again this year with probably a near 50-50 split of pitchers and position players taken by the draft’s end on Saturday. Last year they made 41 selections - 21 position players and 20 pitchers. Last June, 29 of those players came from the college or junior college ranks.

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Click here and here to read previous preview stories published with O’s scouting director Gary Rajsich.

Here are a few more questions I recently asked Rajsich:

Are there vast differences between the MLB and NFL drafts?: “I think the MLB draft is a little more unique just because we have a minor league system. It takes a lot of development in our young players to produce big leaguers. I think that is one of the main differences. We are looking for talent, just like they are. But it takes our talent longer to get to the highest level.”

Do you look to fill any immediate major league needs in the draft?: “No, we don’t ever do that. Because things can change with one deal. A need could be not a need next week, where if you are looking to draft a high school kid, there is four or five years of development before they are ready. That might not be a need four or five years from now. So we are just after the best talent we can get when it’s our turn to pick.”

Do you prefer to take or high school or college players?: “I like both. I don’t think you can eliminate one part of the draft. You can’t. You have to take the next best player, whether that is a college or high school player. We are open to both. Pitcher, position player, same way. We just want the best guy we can get.”

Do you make some selections during the draft to fill needs on the minor league level?: “Every team has organizational needs. But we won’t do that until maybe starting in the 18th or 20th round, maybe there. And even then we really stress to our people, we want prospects there. Not just guys to fill a roster in Aberdeen, Delmarva or Frederick. We want guys with a legitimate chance to develop into a major league player.”

Has the large amount of Tommy John surgeries for pitchers changed how you scout?: “It has to be a risk-reward type situation. There are some injuries that are more risky than others. So we evaluate that with our doctors before we make that investment in the players. It’s very important. Use, abuse, all these different things. The way pitchers are used when they are young. When they start pitching. All those things come into the equation.”

Orioles complete a sweep and 7-3 homestand: What started out with the Orioles losing the first two games of a long homestand, ended with them winning seven of their last eight and going 7-3 on the homestand. They will begin an important road trip tonight that starts in Toronto and moves on to Boston.

The Orioles began the homestand allowing 29 runs in four games to Boston. But over the homestand’s final four games, they gave up just three runs, just two earned runs, over 36 innings. In that span, O’s starting pitchers allowed two earned runs over 25 1/3 innings for an 0.71 ERA. The O’s bullpen pitched 10 2/3 scoreless innings in that stretch. And the team ERA was reduced from 4.16 to 3.91 the past four games.

Chris Tillman and Brad Brach combined on the 4-0 shutout of Kansas City last night. Tillman went 7 1/3 and is now 8-1 with a 3.01 ERA.The Orioles are 11-2 in his starts this year.

I will be heading to Toronto this morning to cover the weekend series at Rogers Centre. My colleague Roch Kubatko will provide draft coverage later tonight. Should be an interesting few days from the Warehouse in Baltimore with the draft to the ballpark in Toronto.

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