For months now, the Orioles have made no secret how much of their 2019 focus will be poured into three days next June. The O's own the No. 1 pick in the 2019 MLB Draft to be held June 3-5, and with it, they will make a selection that will
For months now, the Orioles have made no secret how much of their 2019 focus will be poured into three days next June. The O's own the No. 1 pick in the 2019 MLB Draft to be held June 3-5, and with it, they will make a selection that will determine the direction of the franchise for years to come.
What the Orioles do with it remains anyone's guess. That's because with less than six months until the Draft, they are still without a scouting director to run their operation. That doesn't mean, though, they're without intel on the top players available.
At this early juncture, an industry consensus more or less exists with regards to the three candidates to go No. 1 overall: Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman, Colleyville (Texas) Heritage High School shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. and California first baseman Andrew Vaughn. If the Orioles have questions about Rutschman, they have the luxury of asking his former teammate, Cadyn Grenier.
Grenier, who was the O's competitive balance pick (No. 37 overall) last June, stumped for Rutschman to join him in the organization while visiting the recent Winter Meetings.
"I'm no professional scout by any means, but I tell everybody I'd love to have Adley with the first pick," said Grenier, ranked as the O's No. 9 prospect by MLB Pipeline. "Rutch is a beast. I can't wait to see what he does this year. I hope to get to play with him again soon."
A defensive-minded shortstop, Grenier formed one of the best up-the-middle tandems in the country with Rutschman for two years at Oregon State, where Grenier hit .319./408/.462 in 68 games as a junior. This while Rutschman, a switch-hitting catcher, broke out with a .408/.505/.628 line last spring as a sophomore, setting school records for hits (102) and RBIs (83). Rutschman claimed Most Outstanding Players honors at the College World Series, after OSU topped Arkansas for the national title.
"He does things all the time where you're just like, 'Come on, dude.' His defense behind the plate is incredible. Then add on being a .400 hitter in the Pac-12, being a switch-hitter, the dude is really impressive," Grenier said. "If we had me and him back together, that's a really good middle infield just to start. Throw in the guys I've played with, some of the outfielders, we can create a real good middle of the field."
Whether the Orioles end up doing so will hinge on if they determine that Rutschman is the top talent available, which is possible. College hitters are typically considered safer bets than high school players like Witt, though the O's could end up finding Witt's upside too enticing (for what it's worth, Elias and assistant Sig Mejdal had success drafting both in Houston -- high schooler Carlos Correa from Puerto Rico and LSU star Alex Bregman from the collegiate ranks). That Rutschman plays a premium position probably gives him an advantage of Vaughn, though Vaughn is considered the best bat available.
A lot can change between now and June. What won't is the Orioles' commitment to giving whoever they choose ample time to develop. That includes holdovers from the old regime like Grenier, whose numbers plummeted during his first taste of pro ball. Given less than a week to switch from metal to wood bats after the College World Series, the 21-year-old hit .216 with one home run in 43 games at Class A Delmarva.
"It was an adjustment period. I hit a rough patch, but I was pretty happy how I played toward the back end," Grenier said. "This is a great opportunity for guys who come out of the Draft, and everybody else in the Minor League system. We know were going to get a shot pretty soon to rebuild the program."
Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.