Success forces O's to plan for Draft day uncertainty
Club evaluating multiple options for No. 22, No. 37 picks
BALTIMORE -- Orioles scouting director Gary Rajsich didn't have to wait long to see how last year's first-round selection would move through the ranks. Right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman, who was drafted fourth overall, was promoted last month after just eight starts at Double-A Bowie.
Rajsich, who kept tabs on Gausman, 22, cited his maturity and talent while executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette mentioned at the time of his promotion that this had been the organization's intent all along. The most advanced pitcher in the crop of amateurs, Gausman -- out of Louisiana State University -- was considered an arm that could help Baltimore, and soon.
Rajsich is in an entirely different situation in his second year as scouting director, with Baltimore's playoff run in 2012 cementing the organization's first winning season since 1997 and placing Baltimore outside the top five selections for the first time since 2006. An Orioles club that has had its last three first-rounders -- Gausman, Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado -- already make their Major League debuts, will pick first at No. 22. The O's will also get a pick at No. 37 because of the new Competitive Balance Lottery.
"I'd rather pick at the end of the first round every year because it means the big league club is doing well, " said Rajsich, who began nine days of Draft meetings in Baltimore last week. "We feel confident we are going to get a good player."
Rajsich said the organization made an effort to stay eligible for the Competitive Balance Lottery, which allocates additional picks to small-market and low-revenue teams, and Baltimore is optimistic it will land two frontline talents. Still, the task of picking after so many clubs have gone means the Orioles will have to cast a wider net, with Rajsich estimating a list of 15-20 names on the organization's list as it plans for every possible scenario on Draft day.
"The last couple of Drafts, we've gone after pitching high in the Draft," said Duquette, who is in his second season with the organization as well. "I'm not so sure that's what we will focus on. The two picks [close together] gives us a little more flexibility."
"Pitching is a priority and it always will be a priority, especially, I'm sure, for some teams in the Draft. The depth of the talent is not as strong this year as some other years that we've seen. But there's always [Major League-bound] players that will be available and it's up to us to find a few."
The 2013 First-Year Player Draft will take place Thursday through Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Thursday at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 73 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. Rounds 3-10 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Friday, beginning with a preview show at 12:30 p.m., and Rounds 11-40 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Here's a glance at what the Orioles have in store as the Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
The Orioles are in an unfamiliar position, picking out of the top five for the first time since 2006. Rajsich has the benefit of two selections in the top 40 and will try to restock a Minor League system considerably lacking depth.
The Orioles, who struggled to draft and develop players, have gotten better recently and will try to restock a system nearly barren with the graduation of Gausman and Machado. Bundy, who is currently on the disabled list, was the organization's top pick in 2011 and reached the Majors last year. While this year's Draft isn't as deep, Rajsich will try to find advanced talent to help the big league club sooner rather than later.
There's a lot of names being tossed around and that will continue to be the case as the picks above them shift. Some names that have been tossed around include San Francisco right-hander Alex Balog and high-school catcher Nick Ciuffo, although the Orioles have been linked to prep pitchers and a few college bats. Obviously, it will depend on what happens in front of them. .
The Orioles have roughly $6.4 million to spend on this year's Draft with their first two picks allotted more than half that figure. They rank 18th in baseball with those 11 picks, with an average of $580,718 per selection.
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.
Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.
The Orioles need pitching at all levels and Duquette said they plan on using "at least half" of their picks on pitchers, maybe more. Beyond that, look for positional depth, particularly at catcher and middle infield. The organization will also continue to try to select local kids, but only when that fits into the plan, according to Rajsich. Think of it as a potential tiebreaker in the later rounds. .
The Orioles have selected a pitcher in the first round in four of the past five Drafts, with Machado the only exception. They could go against that trend this year, as Duquette noted above, and given that Rajsich doesn't have a long track record with the organization, figuring out any kind of pattern at this point is impossible.
• Recent Draft History •
2012: Kevin Gausman, P, Baltimore Orioles
2011: Dylan Bundy, P, Double-A Bowie (disabled list)
2010: Manny Machado, 3B, Baltimore Orioles
2009: Matt Hobgood, P, Class A Delmarva
2008: Brian Matusz, P, Baltimore Orioles
First baseman Christian Walker was promoted from Class A Delmarva to High A Frederick and hit .324 with two homers and 12 RBIs in his first 18 games for the Keys. Walker, ranked as the club's 17th-best prospect entering the season, was selected in the fourth round of last year's Draft. Last year's third-round pick, Adrian Marin, is coming off a solid May and Double-A Bowie's Mike Wright started the season 6-0 with a 3.61 ERA in his first 10 starts.
The Orioles don't have a late-round success story on their current roster, although right-handed pitcher Miguel Gonzalez's success has been used as a model for hard work and opportunity throughout the organization. Gonzalez, who was signed late last spring as a Minor League free agent, became a 28-year-old rookie and has become a mainstay in the rotation.
In The Show
The Orioles have a good nucleus of recent draftees in Gausman and Machado, and Bundy also made his anticipated debut last September. Brian Matusz and catcher Matt Wieters are young, homegrown players and closer Jim Johnson and right fielder Nick Markakis were also drafted by Baltimore and have evolved into leaders in the clubhouse.