For much of the spring, the obvious answer about who the Orioles should take with the #2 pick has been Vanderbilt’s Austin Martin. On nearly every mainstream prospect writer’s list of draft prospects, he’s the #2 guy, behind the near-unanimous #1 guy, Spencer Torkelson. The day-of-draft mock drafts are here and they all still expect the Orioles to do the obvious thing and pick Martin.
He’s there at #2 from ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel. He’s the #2 pick in the mock from The Athletic’s Keith Law. Both Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis at MLB Pipeline have their morning mock with the Orioles taking Martin at #2. And MASN’s Roch Kubatko, who does not do a mock draft, believes that the Orioles will select Martin as well, saying, “They won’t overthink it.”
The fact that all of these people think the Orioles will choose Martin doesn’t mean that they’re going to do that, but it is a strong signal. ESPN’s McDaniel gives it a 75% chance. When it comes to gambling, you’d much rather be at 75% to win than 25%, though anyone who’s gambled enough knows sometimes the 25% hits.
There is still some hedging even as these mocks all put the O’s on Martin. Other names apparently remain in play for underslot deals at #2 to allow the O’s to take a swing on high-upside high school talent that might fall to the #30 pick.
If you’ve been following the draft chatter up to this point, these names will also be familiar: New Mexico State second baseman Nick Gonzales, Florida high school outfielder Zac Veen, Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad.
Callis even suggests the possibility of North Carolina State catcher Patrick Bailey, which would end up being quite an underslot deal indeed, considering that Bailey is being picked at #14 in Callis’s mock. Plus, you know, the Orioles just took Adley Rutschman last year. Though it’s worth noting that “We just took Matt Wieters last year” may have kept the Orioles from seriously considering drafting Buster Posey, who turned out to be a lot better than Wieters.
The scouting capsule from Pipeline does a good job of illustrating why Martin would be an exciting #2 pick and probably should just be the #2 pick:
The best pure hitter in the 2020 Draft, Martin has tremendous feel for the barrel and makes consistent hard contact with a short, quick right-handed stroke. He’s not overly physical and may not have more than average raw power, but his hitting ability allows him to tap into every bit of it. He controls the strike zone extremely well and uses the entire field, exhibiting no weaknesses at the plate.
“The best pure hitter in the draft” is a fun phrase to think about for a future Oriole, and so is “exhibiting no weaknesses at the plate” - assuming both prove to be correct. There aren’t sure things in any draft, even among the pool of high-end players who are able to convince most scouts, evaluators, and others that they are sure things. All a GM can do is take who he thinks is the best guy and hope for the best.
We’ll know in a few hours if “everyone” turns out to be right with their first guess or if Mike Elias wanders instead into the underslot scenario that’s been bandied about for weeks.