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MLB Draft Day 1: Orioles preview and open thread

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It’s finally time to find out if the Orioles are going to take Austin Martin or somebody else.

2020 Major League Baseball Draft Previews Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

When a big league team is hopeless and doesn’t even have many good, young players to watch every night, the first day of the draft is one of the most exciting days of the year for fans of that team. In the strange world we’re living in this year where there’s been no baseball at all, the draft is all that any fan of any team has to look forward to.

For the rebuilding Orioles, this is a particularly big deal. They need to hit on the #2 overall pick that they have received thanks to being very, very bad - but still not the worst - last season with their 54-108 record. It’s so bad that it’s almost unbelievable another team had seven fewer wins than the Orioles.

Since the Tigers were worse, this draft isn’t like last year, when the Orioles can just take the guy who everyone thinks is the best guy. The good news is that there’s still a solid consensus on who is the second-best guy, and the Orioles can just go ahead and take him, if they want: Vanderbilt’s Austin Martin. We’ll find out soon if they do so.

How to watch the draft

The draft will start at 7pm Eastern and air on both MLB Network and ESPN. Tonight, they will go through 37 picks, with five minutes between first round picks.

Rounds 2-5 are tomorrow, starting at 5pm Eastern, which will be on MLB Network and ESPN2. This will go a lot faster because there’s only a minute or so between picks.

Orioles picks tonight

In addition to the #2 pick, the Orioles will pick a second time tonight at #30 overall. This is the pick they have received in Competitive Balance Round A, right after the end of the first round. The first round has fewer than 30 picks because the Astros lost a first rounder due to the whole trash can banging business.

Possibilities for the #2 pick

Each of these has a link to our preview post about that prospect.

There’s also North Carolina State catcher Patrick Bailey, whose name popped up on Wednesday morning as a longshot option if the Orioles decide to do an underslot choice at #2 that will allow them to swing for high-upside high school talent with later picks.

One reason that the underslot option keeps being brought up is that when Elias was running the Astros draft in 2012, they did this by choosing Carlos Correa with the #1 pick, saving money to go overslot later. It helped that Correa turned out to be the best player in the class (so far) regardless.

Different prospect writers mock drafts have played out in ways that could leave the Orioles with the opportunity to pick one of the top 15-20 prospects in the draft with their #30 pick. That would be interesting. I don’t know if it’s likely.

Total bonus pool and pick slot values

The Orioles’ total pool is $13,894,300. They have more money available than any other team. A team can exceed their bonus pool by up to 5% with only a financial penalty, so the Orioles could go up to nearly $14.6 million. There are stricter penalties for going beyond that which no team has ever incurred since 2012 when this system was implemented.

  • #2 overall - $7,789,900
  • #30 - $2,365,500
  • #39 - $1,906,800
  • #74 - $844,200
  • #103 - $565,600
  • #133 - $422,300

In a typical draft year, teams tend to use some/all of their picks in rounds 6-10 on low-cost “senior signs” - college seniors who accept a low bonus because they have less leverage - to scrape together extra slot money to go above slot on some of their earlier picks. That option is not available to teams this year. It’ll be interesting to see on day 2 if the Orioles or anyone else goes for some of these low-bonus players with their fourth or fifth round picks.

Having the #30 pick gives the Orioles the opportunity, if they want, to go overslot there. Even if they draft a player and give him full slot with their other picks, they can take the roughly $750,000 in the 0-5% penalty range and sign a $3 million player - roughly #22 slot value. If they do “senior signs” for $25,000 or so with their fourth and fifth round picks, they could possibly add another million to that and draft a $4 million player at #30 - roughly #14 pick money.

Who they use the #2 pick on will tell us a lot on just how much of a “go overslot later” strategy the Orioles might intend to employ. If it’s Martin, they probably won’t be going too crazy later. But there will still be some opportunity to get slot money to throw at a player to entice him to join the Orioles organization rather than go to college, if they want to go that route.

More prospect info and rankings

The Orioles’ overslot possibility would be if one of the high school players in the 15-25 range isn’t drafted in the first round. Depending on which prospect list or mock draft you look at, that could be Pennsylvania’s Nick Bitsko, Texas’s Jared Kelley, Oklahoma’s Dax Fulton, or someone else entirely.