There is a lot of speculation about what Orioles will do with the first choice of amateur draft next month, with various taunts linking them to as many as five potential players. But it is almost certain that whoever they take will not be a pitcher.
In their first three drafts under Executive Vice President and CEO Mike Elias, the Orioles didn’t play pitcher before the fifth round, grabbing Iowa high school student Carter Baumler 2020 and Texas-Arlington right-hander Carlos Taver a year later. The club has dedicated every selection in the first round to players in college positions – for which there is more data available and generally less associated risk – although the four players considered top five in this draft class are high school players.
Most public rankings do not have pitchers in the top 10, while many of the best ranked hands are high school right-handers, a category of players who have never been first in the overall standings. Elias admitted on Saturday that this will probably not be a changing year.
“There are no pitchers you’d take with this year’s first pick,” Elias said, “so I feel pretty safe if I turn it off.”
But, he noted, the Orioles ’next row comes in 33rd place overall, the second of five spades they have in the top 81 draft selections, and they could go with the pitcher then and“ maybe ”during the early rounds of the draft.
Each of the past three years, Baltimore’s second pick has been a field player, with Gunnar Henderson, Jordan Westburg and Conor Norby ranking among the top three players in the field, according to Baseball America. Adding that area to the farm system was the focus of his initial drafts, Elias said. The group of potential clients that he inherited generally lacked top infielders, which, he said, is partly a by-product of the organization’s lack of investment in the international market, an area for talent acquisition often populated by young infielders.
In contrast, adding pitching to the system was not so much a priority, he said, because his predecessor, Dan Duquette, and that front office used early pitcher selections that the regime sees as parts of its future. Four of Baltimore’s top five potential players have been assembled in the first four rounds of 2017 and 2018, including Premier League side Grayson Rodriguez, who has developed into the best lower league in the game, and DL Hall, an electric building for leftists since his major league debut.
The exception among that quintet is Kyle Bradish, one of the four right-handers that Elias acquired in December 2019, when he changed Dylan Bundi to Los Angeles. This is an example of how Elias also supplemented the systemic promotion through trades, allowing the Orioles to target certain pitchers they want to add without necessarily spending start-up capital.
This does not mean that there is no interest in using arms for weapons. However, when it comes time to choose, the Orioles usually have a stopper at the top of their draft table.
“We’ve taken a lot of players in position and I know there’s obviously a lot of talk about throwing choices, and rightly so,” Orioles Draft Operations Director Brad Cholek told The Baltimore Sun earlier this year. “I understand that control. But I can say with certainty that we are thoroughly considering, extensively, exhausting all our resources in representation that are available to us. “
Ciolek said the organization has several analysts focused on blueprints for which “most of its time is devoted to reviewing delivery analysis, looking at mechanics, looking at guys who have made some changes, whether it’s their moves or their delivery, such as and more or less to see what we could improve if we take some of these weapons in certain places in the draft. “
Part of that effort is an analysis of the potential risks associated with these pitchers, which Elias is certainly familiar with from the time he helped and supervised the Houston Astros drafts. Of the first six club peaks in the first round during Elias’ tenure, three were position players and pitchers. While three players – Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker – grew into stars, no pitchers reached the matches.
With Baltimore, Elias has tended to use middle and late rounds on pitchers, and the results with that strategy are promising, even if he has yet to enroll in the major players. High-A’s Aberdeen throwing staff, packed with recent recruits, leads the league in throwing, VHIP and average hitting opponents.
Unlike drafts in other professional leagues, baseball is less about meeting needs and more about taking the best player available. However, since the Orioles have seemingly solved most of the shortcomings of their farm system, this may be the year when they are looking for a pitcher who could soon replace Rodriguez and Hall at the top of the list of organizational potential clients.
“Pitching carries a higher risk with injury rates and variability, and we want to be as good as possible with this draft pick because they are very important to the Orioles, so we’ll see,” Elias said. “We will not reach for the pitchers, but we will not run away from them if there are those who suit us with that high choice.”
After a day off on Monday, renewed Washington citizens are visiting the Camden Yards for the first time since the Orioles actually pushed them into the state. Last season’s change in July in Baltimore led the Nationals to sell within the trade deadline, and the regional rival Orioles began the breakup by replacing Max Schecerer, Kyle Schwarber and others.
The Orioles then face the Chicago White Sox team on the other side of the reconstruction, but they are around .500. The four-game series opens with a 10-game journey and three cities leading them through Seattle and Minnesota.
What was good?
In four outings this week, the closer Jorge Lopez recorded three saves in several shifts, scoring seven in 5 1/3 innings, while allowing two goals and no moves. His six defenses of at least four cars are the most in the majors and have equaled the most of all the Orioles in the last 15 years.
Both Lopez and manager Brandon Hyde are credited with the history of the right-hander as a starter for his ability to deal with these situations, requiring him to finish the inning, sit like an Orioles stick, and then try to finish the game. In his first season as Orioles manager, Hyde often borrowed closer to Michal Givens with these types of trips, and although he finished six of them, he saw that more eluded them after he returned to the round for his second inning.
Lopez recorded at least four cars at least 11 times, which corresponds to his number of defenses. It has a 0.79 ERA, the second best among relievers with at least 30 innings.
“He likes to play more innings,” Hyde said. “He wants the ball in that place, and he did an amazing thing with it.”
It was a pretty tough week for Treia Mancini. A blow to the right hand at the opening of the series on Monday in Toronto cost him the rest of the series. He doubled up on his return to the line-up on Friday against Tampa Bay, but also hit three times, then scored 0-for-5 on Sunday, with one of those crossing to the left field marking his fifth time against the wall Camden Yards that would remove the previous dimensions of the place. Mancini’s hand bothered him enough to stop him in Sunday’s lineup.
He entered the day with 13 expected home runs, a Statcast metric based on the percentage of the ball on which a given flash ball would be a home run; a ball that would be a homer in 15 of the 30 first-league stadiums is worth 0.5 of the expected homer, for example. In fact, Mancini has six home runs, and his deficit of seven ranks as the biggest in major tournaments with only one other player lagging at least four. Every other player who came in on Sunday with at least 13 expected home wounds had at least 12 real ones. Mancini has at least 10 expected home runs in 26 parks, with Camden Yards among the four exceptions.
After Saturday’s deep flight, Mancini managed to prevent himself from hitting his helmet as he reached first base, refraining from publicly showing the frustration he was working to reduce. Hyde said that he feels that Mancini managed to cope with his accident throughout the year. Despite that, Mancini hits .283 with .780 OPS.
“It’s not something I really want to say because I think he’s so strict with himself, and I’m just trying to stay positive with him,” Hyde said on Sunday. “Yesterday he hit the ball well again without luck, but I am really satisfied with the year he had.
On the farm
Three Aberdeen pitchers played a game against Jersey Shore BlueCrabs, a branch of the Philadelphia Phillies, without a hit on Saturday. Peter Van Lun, Orioles ’pick in the 16th round of last year’s draft, worked in the first five innings, improving to 7-0 and lowering his ERA to 2.66 as he made two moves and hit a shot. Daniel Lloyd, taken two rounds earlier, covered the next three innings before Xavier Moore concluded with a shot in the ninth. In the 16th round of 2017, Moore has a 2.16 ERA and five saves in 15 trips for the Iron Birds. Outfielder Colton Kauser, the Orioles’ first-round pick in 2021 and potential number 5, won 6-0.
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