3 takeaways from the Orioles’ 2022 MLB draft

After the Orioles chosen Oklahoma highschool shortstop Jackson Holliday with the Major League Baseball draft’s first general choose Sunday evening, space scout Ken Guthrie donned a better-kept model of the workforce’s dwelling run chain, acknowledging his involvement in a choice the group felt it hit out of the park.

As Baltimore made every of its subsequent 21 picks in the course of the three-day draft, the chain made its method from scout to scout, a lot because the one that spends games in the Orioles’ dugout — with hyperlinks held collectively by duct tape and zip ties — goes from participant to participant after dwelling runs. As a lot as the key league workforce loved its shocking first half of the season, the Orioles’ beginner scouting division savored the chance to restock the expertise within the group’s decrease rungs.

“We’re a very laid back, relaxed group,” Orioles director of draft operations Brad Ciolek mentioned. “We love working collectively, whether or not it’s our analysts or our scouts, and it’s been an incredible trip, the final 4 drafts with [executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias and assistant general manager of analytics Sig Mejdal] on board. We’re a fairly relaxed informal group.

“We have a lot of fun. We enjoy it.”

Those good occasions got here as Baltimore made a set of picks which are in some methods totally different than earlier years however nonetheless function the identical varieties of gamers they’ve focused since Elias took over the baseball operations division in November 2018.

Here are three takeaways from the Orioles’ 2022 draft:

Possibly the final time for some time

Holliday marked the fourth straight top-five pick Elias has made in Baltimore, and there’s hope there received’t be one other anytime quickly.

The Orioles ended the primary half 46-46, leaving them with the Thirteenth-worst file in baseball. In earlier years, being in that spot on the finish of the season would imply they might obtain the Thirteenth general choose within the 2023 draft, however with MLB instituting a draft lottery for the primary six picks, it’s doable they nonetheless discover their method close to the highest of the board with no dramatic drop-off. All 18 groups who miss the playoffs shall be a part of the lottery, although these within the higher half have lower than a 2% probability of getting the highest choose.

With the Orioles seemingly turning a nook and the products of these recent drafts pushing for major league opportunities, the one motive Baltimore ought to choose close to the highest of the draft in upcoming years is luck fairly than poor on-field play.

That mentioned, a later choose received’t change how the membership operates. The Orioles will nonetheless goal place gamers who profile up the center, hit the ball exhausting and don’t swing-and-miss a lot. They’ll search pitchers who generate these whiffs and have a pitch or two the Orioles consider can play towards main league hitters, not less than with some refinement. They will merely have to focus on them later within the first spherical and have a smaller bonus pool to work with all through the draft.

“For me, it’s always kind of been similar year in, year out, regardless of how the major league club is doing,” Ciolek mentioned.

Draft board eventually aligns for pitching

There’s a notion the Orioles have prevented drafting pitchers beneath Elias, however that’s not true. While they picked 12 pitchers with this week’s 22 choices, the very best quantity via 20 rounds on this entrance workplace’s 4 drafts, it’s not a runaway complete. They took 9 pitchers final yr and 10 within the first half of the 2019 draft, which was the final to function 40 rounds.

What was notable this yr is how early they took them, with Baltimore’s 5 Day 2 pitchers surpassing the quantity they chose within the first 10 rounds of the earlier three drafts mixed. (It’s value noting the 2020 draft was solely 5 rounds amid the coronavirus pandemic.)

This Orioles regime has lengthy been clear that, of their estimation, pitchers carry extra danger than place gamers. Elias mentioned not too long ago “there are myriad avenues for bringing [major league] pitchers in.” If you’re as anxious about an overabundance of place gamers as an absence of pitching, there are doubtless trades to return that may stability the scales.

The group targets pitchers with sure traits, significantly one or two weapons inside their arsenal the Orioles consider they will maximize via participant growth. For instance, Ciolek factors to “hop on the fastball, sweep on the slider or depth on the curveball.” Strikeouts, and thus the flexibility to generate swings-and-misses, have at all times been essentially the most front-facing stat to concentrate to.

In current drafts, the Orioles haven’t taken many pitchers both as a result of there’s a hitter they like or as a result of an arm they have been probably concentrating on was chosen solely picks earlier. There wasn’t a change of their strategy to pitching this yr, Ciolek mentioned. It’s merely how the board panned out.

“It’s always kind of been the luck of the draw here,” Ciolek mentioned.

Late-round dangers

The phrase “signability” hasn’t been thrown round usually with reference to Elias’ Orioles. The solely picks they didn’t signal within the first three drafts have been excessive schoolers taken in 2019′s thirty fourth via fortieth rounds.

They’ve been exact of their efforts to “maximize the draft,” as Elias has regularly put it, and that requires signing each participant taken via the tenth spherical, as they might in any other case lose that choose’s slot worth from their bonus pool. The most notable instance got here in 2014 when Elias was the Houston Astros’ beginner scouting director. The membership was unable to signal first general choose Brady Aiken, and that led to Houston not having sufficient pool area to finalize an agreed-upon overslot take care of fifth-rounder Jacob Nix.

With the second-largest pool in trendy draft historical past following the 2015 Astros — who had two top-five picks because of not signing Aiken — the Orioles will need to capitalize on this yr’s crop, and there’s little about their dozen picks via 10 rounds that implies their pool is in danger.

But in an effort to completely benefit from the chance, the Orioles are taking an opportunity in the case of signing three of their Day 3 picks. Right-hander Zack Showalter, their Eleventh-rounder, was the one highschool participant they chose apart from Holliday; the Florida native is dedicated to the University of South Florida. Shortstop Carter Young was seen as a possible first-rounder popping out of a formidable first full season for Vanderbilt, and regardless of struggles in 2022, Baseball America had him among the many prime 200 gamers obtainable. The future LSU switch lasted till Baltimore took him within the seventeenth spherical. One choose later, the Orioles took Miami (Fla.) nearer Andrew Walters, who Baseball America and MLB Pipeline ranked as worthy of the primary 4 rounds.

It’s not clear how a lot flexibility the Orioles must signal these gamers, who together with all different Tuesday draftees can signal for as much as $125,000 with out counting towards the bonus pool. Holliday isn’t anticipated to obtain the total $8.85 million or so slot however may nonetheless exceed $8 million. Preston Johnson, a senior right-hander out of Mississippi State not ranked in Baseball America’s prime 500 draft prospects, went 197th general within the seventh spherical, and it’s uncertain his bonus approaches his $249,200 slot worth.

Ciolek acknowledged that it could possibly be troublesome for the Orioles to go 22-for-22 after signing all of their picks previously two drafts. Teams have till Aug. 1 to signal draftees.

“Obviously, the intent is a sign all these guys,” he mentioned. “That’s what we’re hoping to do. … If you were asking me if I’m optimistic we’re gonna sign all of them, I’m probably not as optimistic as I would have been in years past, but obviously the intent is to sign each and every one of these guys because we do want them in the system. That’s why we took them.”

Not getting offers completed wouldn’t be inherently damning, as Showalter heading to USF or Young or Walters heading again to high school wouldn’t have an effect on the Orioles’ pool. But signing them provides potential influence expertise to a system consistently on the lookout for it. In that sense, these choices include comparatively low danger and probably excessive reward, one thing groups are at all times in search of within the draft.


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