The annual baseball amateur draft is finally upon us tonight. It's a much less exciting time for Orioles fans than it was back in the bad old days, when the Orioles had picks in the top five or ten every year, but it remains an important day because the draft will always be the best way to add cost-effective talent into the O's farm system.
Where teams who have been bad and probably will remain bad for the near future are going to be getting their pick of names like Mickey Moniak, Jason Groome, A.J. Puk, and Nick Senzel, the Orioles, in all likelihood, don't even know for sure who will be available at their top pick at 27th overall.
A team that drafts and develops well can still get value out of later picks. Two-fifths of the current Orioles rotation came from outside of the first round in 2011, with Mike Wright getting drafted in the third round and Tyler Wilson being picked in the tenth round. That's what the O's can hopefully pull off this year.
Where, when, and how to watch
Thanks to the magic of television and the Internet, you can have MLB Network's coverage of the draft beamed towards your eyeballs rather than you having to go to Secaucus, NJ in order to find it.
Their coverage will begin at 6pm Eastern tonight, with the draft itself beginning at 7pm. You can also follow on MLB.com, where there will be a live-updating draft tracker.
The Orioles picks tonight
The day 1 coverage will go through the first 77 picks. That means that the Orioles will get to pick three times tonight.
Pick #27 comes as compensation for losing Wei-Yin Chen in free agency. Pick #54 is the Orioles' regular second round pick. The 69th overall selection is compensation for not signing last year's second round pick, Jonathan Hughes.
The Orioles will NOT be picking at #14 or at #76, the former due to signing Yovani Gallardo, the latter due to dumping the pick in order to get the Braves to eat Brian Matusz's salary.
History of the 27th overall pick
If you go back from now to 1965, when the first draft was held, there are a whopping total of five players who ever got more than 10 WAR at the big league level. The most recent of these was Rick Porcello, drafted at this spot in 2007.
Another was the O's pick in 1987: Pete Harnisch, whose 18.2 career WAR the O's didn't get to enjoy because of the Glenn Davis trade. So while the O's could find a good player, and should try their best to do so, keep your expectations tempered, no matter what the prospect-industrial complex says about whoever the O's take.
The Orioles bonus pool
The O's will be able to spend just about $6.7 million on signing their picks in the top ten rounds without incurring any penalties. A team can exceed that amount by up to 5% and just pay a tax on the overage. More than 5% and there are steeper penalties, but as of yet no team has incurred any lost pick penalties.
That sounds like a lot of money, but it's actually only the 21st-largest draft bonus pool. Not to beat a dead horse, but if it weren't for the Gallardo signing and the Matusz trade, the O's would have a top ten bonus pool.
What this means is that the O's likely won't be able to get creative and draft any talented high school players who are falling due to bonus demands.
The last wave of Orioles mock drafts
Nobody knows who the Orioles will have left to choose from, so nobody, even the Orioles, knows exactly who they will take with their top pick. The various publications that cover the draft have taken their best guesses on the morning of round 1, so you can at least get an idea of who the O's maybe are thinking about.
T.J. Zeuch - RHP - Pittsburgh - ESPN'S Keith Law has the O's picking this 6'7" righty with their top pick. Other publications rate Zeuch in the 20s though Law has him at #38. Has hit up to 97. Throws four pitches but the offspeed offerings need some work.
Buddy Reed - OF - Florida - Baseball America puts the O's on Reed, whom they rate as the 33rd best prospect. Another publication calls him "one of the best athletes" in the class but thinks the switch-hitter's swing needs some work. Should stick in center field. Reed grew up in Finksburg although he went to high school in Rhode Island before heading to Florida for college.
Kyle Muller - LHP - Jesuit College Prep (TX) - MLB.com's Jim Callis has the O's taking Muller, who rates 24th on their draft board. The 6'5" lefty hit up to 95 this spring and one crosschecker said of him, "If there's a better body in the draft, I'd like to see it."
Josh Lowe - 3B/OF - Pope HS (GA) - MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo brings up Lowe's name with the O's. In most other mocks I have seen over the last month, this two-way player is long gone by #27. They rate him as the 17th best prospect: "quick, controlled left-handed swing ... plus speed and arm strength" and could work at 3B or even CF.
Maybe the Orioles will end up drafting one of these guys. They probably won't get a chance to draft more than one, as it's all but certain that all four will be gone by the time the O's second choice rolls around.
The Big Boards
The Baseball America 500 (list/videos free, sub. for reports)
Keith Law's Top 100 (Insider req.)
Baseball Prospectus Top 125 (Sub. req.)
MLB.com's Top 100 (it's all free)
Local(ish) players who may be drafted
Maryland is not much of a hotbed for MLB talent, alas. Terps pitcher Mike Shawaryn is rated 77th on BA's 500. Farther down as potential day two or three picks are UMBC shortstop Kevin LaChance (#216) and Harford CC first baseman Joseph Burton (#370).
The Virginian loyalists of Birdland may be a bit more excited for some players from their home state. Two University of Virginia players, pitcher Connor Jones (#24 on BA 500) and catcher Matt Thaiss (#28) may end up being first round picks.
The Orioles are rumored to be interested in a high school third baseman from Northern Virginia, Joe Rizzo (#40), with their second round pick.
Let's talk about it
The comments section below is going to be the draft day open thread. If you have strong opinions, no opinions, or any reactions at all to what happens tonight, drop in and tell us about it.