Orioles’ preparations heat up on the No. 1 draft pick

SARASOTA, Fla. - For just the second time in their history, the Orioles will pick first overall in the First-Year Player Draft in June. In 1989, the Orioles selected LSU right-hander and current O’s broadcaster Ben McDonald with the No. 1 pick.

The process to decide who they’ll take 1/1 on June 3 is well underway, said executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias when he was a recent guest with me on an Orioles.com broadcast. Elias will pull the trigger on the pick and he’s already met in person with some of the top players.

It could come down to a choice between switch-hitting Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman and Texas high school shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. They rank 1-2 on the latest draft board published in January by Baseball America. But Elias is open to others playing their way into consideration. No reason not to keep all options open right now on a pick that will be critical for the Orioles future.

With all he has to do in his new job as Orioles GM, Elias still has taken considerable time with draft work and he’s been scouting players in Florida some nights after watching his O’s play during the day.

“That is one of the best things about training in Florida,” Elias said. “You have this amateur action going on around you. Not just high schools - and Florida is one of the top high school hotbeds - but you see so many college teams come down here for the warm weather. So it’s a pretty cool advantage for us training in Florida and if I want to get eyes on an amateur prospect.”

So where are the Orioles right now in the process with the No. 1 pick?

Hyde-and-Elias-Spring-sidebar.jpg“Well, there is a lot that goes into in,” said Elias. “The important thing is identifying a pool of candidates and gathering as much information as possible leading into the draft. That is obviously scouting information.

“But there are also meetings going on and I’ve already met with several of the candidates individually over the winter. We follow them. We’ll obtain their medical information, their signability information. Anything you could name. And really the thing for us right now is we need to keep eyes on the radar screen but also be alert to anyone who might be hard-charging into the top five picks of the draft.”

No matter which player the Orioles select, Elias feels it will be a player worthy of going 1/1.

“I feel very good about the choices available to us this year. I think there are several really good options, which is nice, because that is not always the case,” he said.

And the process of meeting with and getting to know the top players in one-on-one meetings is ongoing.

“Yes, I have and we’ll continue to hold those meetings leading into the draft. I imagine we’ll probably meet with at least five players - or I will - before the draft,” he said.

Based on the current rankings it seems unlikely the Orioles would select another pitcher with that top pick. In the Baseball America ratings, the first eight players are position players. In the MLBPipeline.com top 50 ratings, the first six are position players.

The Orioles have four of the first 80 picks and six of the top 150 in June. They select No. 1, No. 42, No. 71 (in competitive balance round B), No. 79, No. 109 and No. 139. The slot amount for that No. 1 pick should be in the $8.4 million range. The Orioles will have 11 picks in the top 10 rounds. In recent years, clubs have signed the No. 1 overall pick for under slot and used the savings to sign others to overslot deals.

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