After losing the No. 76 overall selection when they traded pitcher Brian Matusz to Atlanta, the Orioles now have four of the first 91 picks in the First-Year Player Draft, which begins one week from tonight.
The Orioles’ first four picks will be selections Nos. 27, 54, 69 and 91. Orioles scouting director Gary Rajsich was at Camden Yards yesterday in advance of final draft prep meetings that begin at the Warehouse tomorrow.
What is the O’s strategy for those top four picks?
“We are going to target the best players we can get,” Rajsich said. “And picking 27th, down in the draft, there is really no way to know what is going to be there. But we have kind of whittled it down to maybe a half a dozen players so that we can have an idea what we might be looking at when it is our turn to pick. But there is still no guarantee. Players slide down the list for various reasons all the time. We just want to be prepared for those guys if they do fall in our lap.”
Rajsich said the Orioles’ final draft meetings will begin with a review of medical information.
“The first thing we do is meet with our doctors and go over the health questionnaires of all the players,” he said. “So that we know exactly what we are working with and the risks that are involved with some of those players. Because obviously, we do like a lot of them. So we start with that.
“We feel good about our draft preparations. I think this is going to be a deep draft, the deepest draft that I’ve been through in my five years here.”
Rajsich’s top Orioles’ selections:
* RHP Kevin Gausman (4th overall pick in 2012).
* RHP Hunter Harvey (22nd overall pick in 2013).
* LHP Brian Gonzalez (90th overall pick in round three, 2014)
* OF D.J. Stewart (25th overall pick in 2015)
Relating to the review of medical records of players, Rajsich said the proliferation of Tommy John surgeries in the sport and all the injuries to young pitchers has created some changes with how he and his scouts look at pitchers.
“It has to be a risk-reward type situation,” he said. “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.”
Rajsich explained that the Orioles do not attempt to use the draft to fill immediate needs of the major league club. That is because it takes drafted players longer to get to the majors in baseball than it does in the other major sports. And the needs of the big league club can be filled with trades and other moves beyond the draft. They simply look to take the best player available each time they pick.
When it comes to drafting either more high school or college players, Rajsich does not have a preference.
“I like both,” he said. “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.”
The Orioles have 41 picks over 40 rounds of the draft that starts next Thursday night at 7 p.m. and will run through Saturday. Rajsich took 21 position players and 20 pitchers in the draft last year and he said to expect a similar breakdown this year.
Some of his previous drafts have produced some players picked both high up in the draft and down lower that are doing well like Chance Sisco, Trey Mancini, Mike Yastrzemski, Ryan Mountcastle, David Hess, Christian Walker, Alex Murphy, Donnie Hart, John Means and Matthew Grimes to name just a few players.
You have to see this: What a great story that aired on O’s Xtra on MASN last night on Hall of Famer Jim Palmer and his special relationship with his stepson Spencer. It was a look at a Palmer we rarely get to see. Click here to see that story from our media lounge. It was beautifully told by one-time Oriole batboy and former ESPN host Roy Firestone. By the way, Palmer’s new book “Nine Innings to Success” is fantastic. I’ve read most of it and it is a must-read for any long-time O’s fan.