As MLB's shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic stretches into its second month, the Orioles are shifting their focus toward one of the baseball calendar’s traditional landmarks: the MLB Draft. They’ve begun gathering their scouts for digital meetings and conference calls, preparing in case the event is potentially shortened. That
As MLB's shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic stretches into its second month, the Orioles are shifting their focus toward one of the baseball calendar’s traditional landmarks: the MLB Draft. They’ve begun gathering their scouts for digital meetings and conference calls, preparing in case the event is potentially shortened. That remains vital for a club entering the second year of its rebuilding process.
“Our staff is and has prepared as if we are going to draft 40 rounds,” vice president and general manager Mike Elias said Monday afternoon. “If some of that information doesn’t help us in 2020, it’ll help us in 2021.”
Speaking on a wide-ranging video conference with reporters from his home, Elias provided a thorough overview of how the organization is responding to the shutdown on the coaching, player-development, scouting and other fronts. Here is what Elias had to say about the Draft and several other topics:
On how to prepare for the Draft:
“The NFL is preparing for its draft right now, and I’ve talked to some front offices in the NFL. They are having to do it over Zoom and conference calls on a much tighter time frame. … It's something we can pull off nowadays. We can share screens. We can look at video together. We can talk. It hasn’t been too bad. I think we’re as well set up for this as any scouting department because we have a staff that prioritizes putting work in over the summer showcase circuit, the Cape Cod League and getting our ducks in a row in the fall and winter time. And we have a team of analysts who focus on video and data. … We have the infrastructure in place to evaluate players that way, and now we’re having to rely on that a little more than we’d like to, not having live games. We think we’re going to be able to pull it off. It’s not like we’re in foreign waters in terms of evaluating players this way.”
On whether certain types of players would be targeted over others in a Draft with fewer rounds:
“On paper, you’d think so. It’s going to be tough for colder-weather players to get noticed this spring if they didn’t get noticed last summer or fall. With a shorter Draft, there may be fewer high school players who sign. But when you look at the statistics of the Draft, it's 90 percent of the high school players who sign end up going in the top five rounds anyway. It’s hard to think that this will be exactly the same as other Draft patterns."
On what a shortened Draft could mean for the rebuild:
“With everything that’s going on, personally I’m happy and relieved we’re going to retain our high picks. If you look at it, we have four picks in the top 75, which is a lot, and three in the top 40, and the second overall pick. That’s a huge Draft. If that would be taken away from us, that would’ve been quite a blow. Even a shortened Draft is going to be a tall order, so we’re going to focus on doing a great job with those high picks."
On remote coaching during shutdown:
“At the Major League level, it's more on the individual basis. … At the Minor League level, we’re having more structure, opportunities for players to jump on group calls or watch presentations. Our [player development] staff has really taken that opportunity and ran with it. But we’re also mindful of the fact these guys are home, in strange situations where they might not have the time or the resources. So these things are optional.“
On the financial impact the pandemic has had on the team:
“We’re taking it as it comes. Obviously this is going to have a major impact on the business of MLB on a number of levels. We understand that and recognize it’s already had an effect. … Until we know when we’re going to play and how much and what that’s going to look like, it’s hard to map out the totality of that impact. But this is touching almost every person in almost every business across the world, and baseball is not going to be exempt from that.”
Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.