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And With The Third Pick.... An Interview With Andy Seiler of MLB Bonus Baby

With the draft now only days away, Andy Seiler of SB Nation's draft blog MLB Bonus Baby was gracious enough to answer some questions for me about the Orioles and the draft.

Recently, you ranked Joe Jordan as the second best scouting director in baseball.  With the Orioles struggling so badly right now at the major league level, can you explain to O's fans why what they have with Jordan is so special?

Building a farm system and Major League team through the draft is a long-term proposition that requires patience and usually multiple scouting directors over a number of years. By the time the Orioles truly committed to rebuilding from within, it was too late to try and make themselves a winning ballclub in a short period of time. As such, the draft has played a critical role for them, and Jordan has been in the driver's seat. He's also more influential than most scouting directors on the inner workings of the front office, and things are going in the right direction. It's hard to be optimistic during a long-term down period, but the volume of talent acquired under Jordan speaks for itself, even if you think it's only due to picking at the top part of the draft.

Right now, most evaluators, including yourself, have the O's projected to select prep righthander Jameson Taillon, who many think will set a record for a bonus demand for a prep pitcher.  Why should Orioles fans be excited if the team selects Taillon?

He's simply the best prep pitcher to come along in some time according to most scouts that have evaluated him. I'd preach caution on the expectations of him moving so quickly, but the actual talent level is true number one starter worthy. He has the best chance of any pitching prospect at the high school or college level right now of becoming an impact starting pitcher, and his risk level is lower than usual with a prep arm, as he's not just a fastball pitcher.

Forget bonus demands and team tendencies for a moment - assuming that Bryce Harper won't be available, who do you think the Orioles should take?

I think Taillon will be on the board when they pick, and if that's the case, they need to grab him. That's a no-brainer to me. If the Pirates do buck their traditional draft trends of the past two years and pick Taillon, then Florida prep shortstop Manny Machado needs to be the pick. Both players offer significant upside and are the clear top two players behind Harper.

The Orioles have been active overslot spenders in later rounds in recent drafts.  It seems that this season, there are a lot of marginal first round talents like Garin Cecchini, Zach Lee, and Austin Wilson who are going to fall due to signability concerns and demand multi-million dollar bonuses in order to sign.  Do you see any of those players lasting until the Orioles pick in the third round?  If the team has to commit many millions above slot to Taillon or Machado do you think they will still spend millions on signability picks?

Each of those three could easily last into the third round in the right scenario, and Cecchini could be there due as much to injury as his bonus demands. If Taillon is indeed the pick, I think the team will use most of the rest of its picks on players that will be at or near slot money, but as last year proved, the early rounds are good to the Orioles, too, as they had a run of players that I really thought were quality for at or near slot money.

Recently on your blog, you indicated that there would not be any Maryland-based players in your draft guide this year.  Why is Maryland producing so little premium baseball talent?  What can be done to strengthen amateur programs such as Ripken Baseball so that more players like Gavin Floyd emerge from Maryland?

Maryland hasn't been a hotbed for baseball talent in a really long time, and that's for good reason. States that have the ability to play year-round have made huge strides in developing amateur programs, and my current home state of Georgia is a perfect example of that. However, in places like Maryland, the ability the play that often is greatly hampered by the weather, and the more athletic players tend to play a sport that they can play inside during the winter. That means more basketball and other such sports. Developing amateur talent is a long-term process, and without buy-in from the community and a winning pro team in the area, it's almost never successful. Baseball talent in Georgia popped up in connection with the Braves' run, and until the Orioles or Nationals become perennial contenders, kids won't have a great desire to play.

Many Orioles fans are concerned about the dearth of quality position prospects in the Orioles system.  Yet for the third year in a row, it seems like the team may make pitching its focus in the first round.  Who are some position players that the O's could target in the later rounds, and is this really something that the fans should worry about?

I don't think it's necessarily something fans should worry about. Teams generally are on the lookout for pitching prospects in major trades, so unless there is a fit in the first round, a lot of impact bats are found on the trade market with the big pitching names the Orioles are accumulating. Good teams with a track record of winning also usually do so on the back of a consistent pitching program in the minors, and developing for trades or Major League production is as big as developing hitters. In general, you can find quality hitters on the open market that are safer bets to produce than pitchers, so that's just one more bullet in the gun for picking arms. Things generally balance out in the long run anyway. One good argument is that we're going to come into a new dead ball era as it is, so now is the time to stock up.

I've bored the heck out of everyone here talking about how I think Christian Colon is a better prospect than most evaluators give him credit for.  I'll bet they would enjoy hearing why I'm a crazy person whose opinion shouldn't be trusted.  Why am I wrong?

I don't think I'm the one to tell you you're wrong, because I'm generally on the Colon train. However, this spring has shown that he's human, and he's prone to slump like anyone else. His hit tool, which was considered close to plus entering the spring, has seen a bit of a hit, as his approach is more conducive for doubles and homers than batting average and getting on base. That, along with his lack of defensive range, is his big drawback, but I think he's going to be a solid shortstop or all-star second baseman given the right amount of time in the minors. He's a high makeup player that I see succeeding.

I'd like to thank Andy for taking the time to answer my questions so close to the draft, and to remind everyone that you can buy his draft prospect guide for only $9.99 and get profiles of the top 750 draft prospects as well as previews for all 30 teams.