Major League Baseball's draft gets under way tonight. The next good or great Oriole might find himself getting drafted. We won't know it for a while if it's going to work out that well, but you never know, it might. The draft starts at 7pm. You can watch on MLB Network if you want to see baseball's imitation of the spectacle into which other sports have turned their respective drafts.
With the baseball draft, you don't get the instant gratification of other sports. Even if there's a sure-fire superstar at the top of the draft, they're probably going to spend at least the rest of this year and next year in the minors. There are sporadic exceptions to this. The Orioles, who will pick at #25, #36, and #68 tonight, aren't likely to be drafting one of those exceptions with any of their picks.
The Orioles will have a pool of $6,850,400 to allocate to their draft picks. Each pick has its own assigned slot value; for instance, the #1 pick held by the Arizona Diamondbacks gives them about $8.6 million in their pool, more than the Orioles' entire pool. The O's first pick at #25 has a slot value of about $2 million.
You aren't limited to spend that much on each pick. It's just that the total amount can't exceed what's in their pool or there are penalties. A team can exceed its pool by up to 5% and they only pay a tax of 75% on the overage. If they exceed it by more than 5%, which no team has yet done, they start forfeiting future draft picks.
It'll also be worth keeping track of what happens with pick #74, which used to belong to the Orioles until they effectively sold it to the Dodgers in exchange for the Dodgers paying Ryan Webb's $2.75 million salary. The value of that pick is about $800,000.
If the mock draft complex is to be believed, the Orioles are focusing on college hitters to get into their system in this draft. The logic behind that kind of strategy makes sense when considering that the Orioles had a high school-heavy draft in 2013 and they didn't get much of a draft at all in 2014. There aren't many real position player prospects anywhere in the system and especially not in the high minors.
Should that trump any kind of pure "best player available" drafting strategy? After all, you can never have too many pitching prospects, what with the last three Orioles first-round picks all being pitchers who are presently on the disabled list. The only way you keep the cupboard from getting bare is if you are constantly re-stocking it. The major league rotation looks pretty full right now, but that won't be the case in another 3+ years when a high school arm from this draft might make it into the big league picture.
Of course, the position player cupboard can become bare too. If the Orioles had managed to draft even one decent outfield prospect between 4-6 years ago, that player would probably be on the roster right now, and the Orioles would not have needed to acquire Alejandro De Aza or Travis Snider. If they had a useful utility infielder prospect, they wouldn't have needed to flush away money on the likes of Everth Cabrera. Maybe then they could have had the money to just eat Webb's salary themselves and kept the #74 pick.
Don't go getting attached to any of these names until you hear the Orioles draft them. After all, unless the Orioles draft them, someone else is going to draft them. Here are some names who've been linked to the Orioles in the mock draft season:
Richie Martin - SS - University of Florida - Everyone loves a shortstop who can field really well, but nobody seems quite sure he'll be able to hit. Which is how you could still be on the board at #25.
D.J. Stewart - OF - Florida State University - That Florida scout was busy, I guess. ESPN's evaluators were fans of his hit tool but think "lack of arm strength and below-average athleticism" limit him to LF/1B.
Scott Kingery - 2B - University of Arizona - Began his college career as a walk-on, could end up as a first round pick. Multiple articles give him a comparison to Ian Kinsler.
Nate Kirby - LHP - University of Virginia - Started spring as a possible top-10 pick. Suffered a lat strain and hasn't pitched in two months, which is why he's fallen.
Ke'Bryan Hayes - 3B - Concordia Lutheran HS (TX) - Son of former big leaguer Charlie Hayes "still has work to do" defensively (ESPN's scouting report) but has "an advanced hitting approach."
Josh Naylor - 1B - St. Joan of Arc Catholic SS (Ontario) - I have never seen this guy's name before today. MLB.com's Jim Callis says he's a "helium" guy (meaning late riser) who has "some of the best power in a draft short on that commodity."
It's an outside chance the Orioles could get as many as two of these players, since their first two picks are only 11 apart from one another. Of course, it's even more likely that the O's will get just one of them, or none of them at all. Any or all of them could be drafted before the Orioles even get to pick, or it could turn out the Orioles have other players rated higher and that's who they take.
If we and they are lucky, they might some day end up on the list of best Orioles draft picks of all time. Stay tuned to Camden Chat tonight for all of the draft coverage you need.