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As Meetings end, Machado remains with O's

Duquette: Club involved in 'active discussions' regarding number of players
MLB.com @Britt_Ghiroli

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- There was a lot of talk regarding the Orioles' potential to trade superstar Manny Machado, but no deal went down over the course of four days at the 2017 Winter Meetings.

The O's instead will continue to search for two starting pitchers, a left-handed bat and a lefty relief option, while weighing that against the risk of trading pieces like Machado and relievers Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Mychal Givens.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- There was a lot of talk regarding the Orioles' potential to trade superstar Manny Machado, but no deal went down over the course of four days at the 2017 Winter Meetings.

The O's instead will continue to search for two starting pitchers, a left-handed bat and a lefty relief option, while weighing that against the risk of trading pieces like Machado and relievers Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Mychal Givens.

"We're going to do what we can to put together the best club we can," said executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette. "And obviously there's a lot of interest in our players on our roster who are going to be free agents [after the 2018 season], so we need to sort through the extent of that interest and see if a trade makes sense."

Duquette said there are "active discussions" with numerous teams, with the White Sox and Cardinals thought to be two of them. The Orioles are looking to obtain young, controllable pitching. Baltimore made a splash in the Rule 5 Draft, but otherwise its lone Major League signing was six-year free-agent pitcher Michael Kelly, who will report to Triple-A Norfolk.

Video: Duquette on the players selected in the Rule 5 Draft

"Kelly won 10 games in Double-A with the Padres, and we see him as a good prospect to come up and support our Major League staff," Duquette said. "He has a good curve and good breaking stuff. He's another South Florida kid. And [he's been] very durable over the course of his career, and [he] should be ready to do well at Triple-A and support the Major League team."

What's next
The O's added some pitching depth, but they didn't check off any items from their shopping list in at the Meetings. They still need two starting pitchers, a left-handed bat and catching depth. Those needs could change drastically if they were to trade any of their key players.

Rule 5 Draft
With just 34 players on their 40-man heading into the Rule 5 Draft, the Orioles were active, taking three of the 18 Major League picks on Thursday morning.

The O's picks included left-hander Nestor Cortes from the Yankees' Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre affiliate, righty Pedro Araujo from the Cubs' Triple-A Iowa roster and righty Jose Mesa Jr., who was on the Yankees' Double-A Trenton roster.

GM's bottom line
Even if the Orioles do swing a deal for Machado -- which will not come with a 72-hour negotiating window -- they will still try to win next season.

"We're still going to try to have the most competitive team that we can have," Duquette said. "We just felt it was prudent to see the extent of the interest in some of our players."

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Baltimore Orioles, Manny Machado

Mesa's son among O's 3 Rule 5 Draft picks

Baltimore also selects lefty Cortes, righty Araujo
MLB.com @Britt_Ghiroli

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Orioles were active in the 2017 Rule 5 Draft, taking three of the 18 Major League picks on Thursday morning.

The O's picks included left-hander Nestor Cortes from the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate, righty Pedro Araujo from the Cubs' Triple-A roster and righty Jose Mesa Jr., who was on the Yankees' Double-A roster. Baltimore, the last team to continue picking, passed in the fourth round to end the Major League phase.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Orioles were active in the 2017 Rule 5 Draft, taking three of the 18 Major League picks on Thursday morning.

The O's picks included left-hander Nestor Cortes from the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate, righty Pedro Araujo from the Cubs' Triple-A roster and righty Jose Mesa Jr., who was on the Yankees' Double-A roster. Baltimore, the last team to continue picking, passed in the fourth round to end the Major League phase.

:: Rule 5 Draft coverage ::

The Orioles picked ninth in the Draft, which goes in order of worst-to-best 2017 record. With just 34 players on their 40-man roster heading into the Rule 5 Draft -- the lowest total among the 30 Major League clubs -- the O's had targeted pitching. Given that they still have Rule 5 Draft pick Anthony Santander, who was their selection last year but spent most of the season on the disabled list, it would have been tough to carry another Rule 5 Draft position player. Baltimore will head to Spring Training -- barring any trades -- with four Rule 5 Draft players, trying to see if one can stick.

Cortes, who just turned 23, spent most of the 2017 season in Double-A and Triple-A, and he had an impressive end to the season. The lefty posted a 1.25 ERA in his final 10 outings and had a 1.49 overall ERA in 48 1/3 innings at Scranton. In '17, he went 7-4 with a 2.06 ERA, striking out 105 with 32 walks over 104 2/3 innings. Cortes was selected by the Yankees in the 36th round of the 2013 Draft out of Hialeah (Fla.) High School.

"He's advanced, and he pitched well at Double-A and he pitched well at Triple-A," executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. "And we think he may be able to compete for a spot as a starter with the big league club. He has good pitches and experience, and he has had success at every level.

"I think he can compete to be a starting pitcher. This is a guy that has very good pitching instincts. He knows how to locate his pitches. He knows how to field his position and combat the running game. He has a lot of skills, some very unique skills. Look at his record of success at every step of the way. The critics will say he doesn't throw hard, and that's true. He is not a hard thrower. But he can do a lot of other things that count in getting a hitter out."

Araujo, 24, is 26-9 with 2.63 ERA in 145 games (22 starts), with 394 strikeouts in 341 2/3 innings.

"We saw him [pitch] very good in the Arizona Fall League. [Scout] Dave Engle recommended him," Duquette said of Araujo. "He shows three good pitches with good control. He has also gotten very good results over his pro career and [he] is a bullpen option."

Mesa, 24, the son of former Orioles pitcher Jose Mesa, ended the season with the Yankees' Double-A Trenton affiliate. Mesa went 4-0 with an 0.79 ERA in eight games for Trenton. He was drafted in the 24th round of the 2012 Draft.

"He looks just like his daddy and has the same kind of build," Duquette said. "Very similar delivery. It looks like a flashback to when his dad was a closer with the Indians. He's got a good curve with good control, nice composure and a nice assortment of pitches. We like all three pitchers we took, and we feel like they have a legitimate shot to compete in the spring."

The Orioles did not lose any prospects in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft, but they did lose Yermin Mercedes to the White Sox in the Minor League portion. They also lost Brian Perez, a shortstop from their Double-A roster, to the A's, along with lefty Mitch Horacek (Rockies), and outfielders Jay Gonzalez (D-backs) and Angelo Mora (Dodgers).

In the Rule 5 Draft, players who first signed at age 18 must be added to 40-man rosters within five seasons or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations. Players signed at 19 years or older have to be protected within four seasons. Clubs pay $100,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, and they're only allowed to do so if they have room on their 40-man roster. If that player doesn't stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $50,000.

For this year, that means an international or high school Draft pick signed in 2013 -- assuming he was 18 or younger as of June 5 of that year -- has to be protected. A college player taken in the 2014 Draft is in the same position.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Baltimore Orioles

Report: White Sox interested in getting Machado

Trading third baseman would be a franchise-altering deal for O's
MLB.com @Britt_Ghiroli

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When it comes to the potential of trading Orioles star Manny Machado, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said the O's are making "good progress" in meetings with interested teams and gauging what an organization-changing trade would look like.

The White Sox have emerged as a serious suitor for Machado, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported early on Thursday. Rosenthal said Chicago wants to acquire Machado and sign him to a long-term contract before he can become a free agent at the end of the 2018 season. However, Rosenthal noted the Sox could then trade Machado to the Yankees in exchange for even more prospects.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When it comes to the potential of trading Orioles star Manny Machado, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said the O's are making "good progress" in meetings with interested teams and gauging what an organization-changing trade would look like.

The White Sox have emerged as a serious suitor for Machado, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported early on Thursday. Rosenthal said Chicago wants to acquire Machado and sign him to a long-term contract before he can become a free agent at the end of the 2018 season. However, Rosenthal noted the Sox could then trade Machado to the Yankees in exchange for even more prospects.

Several teams have made offers for Machado, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman. The Giants and Phillies are among those teams, USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported.

Video: Manny Machado may be on the move this offseason

"We met with a couple teams today, got an interest of what their interest is, see if we match up," Duquette said of the market for Machado. "We are making good progress on that. Did some of that last night also. That's moving along."

Duquette didn't rule out rival American League East teams, though it still seems highly unlikely ownership would approve trading a player of Machado's magnitude to the Yankees or Red Sox.

Hot Stove Tracker

"We've made trades with the Yankees," Duquette said. "We've made trades with the Red Sox. It's in the club's interest to see what the market is and canvas the entire market. See what the opportunities are and the options are."

Even if that option required the Orioles to see Machado in an opposing uniform 19 times next season?

"Right now, we control that," Duquette said. "A year from now, we're not going to be controlling that."

Winter Meetings interview with Buck Showalter

The O's arrived at the Winter Meetings trying to fill their pitching holes. They've canvased the market, made a few offers to free agents and discussed potential trades. So far, they've come up empty-handed. But that could change at any moment with the Cardinals, White Sox and Phillies among the teams linked to Machado.

While interesting, the Orioles can't listen to offers on Machado forever. They've got a long list of needs and will have to be more aggressive than past offseasons in filling them.

Video: Duquette on Britton's future with the Orioles

"Clubs are putting their teams together now," Duquette said. "That window, when clubs are adding key pieces to their ballclub that usually goes on now till the first of the year.

"There's a lot more work to be done in the offseason. At some point you have to decide, are you going to fish or cut bait, right? That's a little ways down the track. ….We are making good progress on that."

Video: Showalter on Machado's desire to play shortstop

Should the O's swing a deal for Machado -- or one of their relievers -- they'd ideally like to get back Major League-ready starting pitching. But that's a tall order around the Majors.

"We'd like to try to staff our club to be as strong as it can be this year," Duquette said of netting starting pitching in a trade. "That would be our first choice. Whether we can do that or not, that's another story."

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Baltimore Orioles, Manny Machado

O's spread holiday cheer to elementary kids

MLB.com @basebollie

ARUNDEL MILLS, Md. -- As the group of 80 third- through fifth-grade students from John Ruhrah Elementary/Middle School spilled into the Skyline Showroom at Dave & Buster's in the Arundel Mills Mall, the children's eyes widened. Some of their favorite Orioles were waiting for them.

Tim Beckham, Trey Mancini and Mike Wright joined former players Larry Bigbie, Al Bumbry and Scott McGregor and MASN broadcaster Jim Hunter to welcome the students to the 39th annual OriolesREACH holiday party. The Baltimore sports icons served lunch, played games, signed autographed baseball cards and took photos with the kids, who attend one of the city's largest English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) sites located in the area's southeast region.

ARUNDEL MILLS, Md. -- As the group of 80 third- through fifth-grade students from John Ruhrah Elementary/Middle School spilled into the Skyline Showroom at Dave & Buster's in the Arundel Mills Mall, the children's eyes widened. Some of their favorite Orioles were waiting for them.

Tim Beckham, Trey Mancini and Mike Wright joined former players Larry Bigbie, Al Bumbry and Scott McGregor and MASN broadcaster Jim Hunter to welcome the students to the 39th annual OriolesREACH holiday party. The Baltimore sports icons served lunch, played games, signed autographed baseball cards and took photos with the kids, who attend one of the city's largest English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) sites located in the area's southeast region.

"This is a fantastic event," John Ruhrah assistant principal Pamela Zavala said. "I'm so happy for our kids. One of them ran off the bus this morning and said, 'This is the best day of my life,' and they hadn't even made it inside the building yet."

Hunter welcomed the students while they strolled past the Christmas tree and filed into the open space decorated with holiday charm. Orioles backpacks, bat and ball sets, games, books and knit hats lined the table at the front of the room. Each kid got to take home one of each before retuning to school, and for many of them, they were the only gifts they will receive this holiday season.

"I'm getting a present?" one of the girls asked Zavala. "I've never gotten a present before."

Tweet from @Orioles: 39th Annual #OriolesREACH Holiday Party for Kids at Dave & Busters with children from John Ruhrah Elementary/Middle School! pic.twitter.com/j4R5JiIoZC

It was a pleasant escape from the daily grind of school at John Ruhrah, which enrolls more than 800 students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade and is made up of more than 75 percent Hispanic and Latino students.

"Who wants to do more homework or who wants to play some games?" Hunter asked the children.

"Games!" they shouted, before embarking on a playful journey through the wonderland that is the arcade at Dave & Buster's.

Two kids challenged Beckham and the Orioles' Santa Bird to a game of air hockey. Mancini helped children drop the claw directly upon a prized stuffed animal. Wright partook in a virtual automobile race. It was a day filled with fun and joy.

"It feels great, really happy to be here and have a fun day with the kids here," Mancini said. "That's what [the holiday] season is all about is doing things like this and having a good time with the community."

Added Beckham: "Just to get up here and be able to be a part of this and being able to give back is huge."

Each year, the Orioles select a different group of children in need in the Baltimore area. This year the club left the students from John Ruhrah with smiles on their faces and lasting memory as the holiday season approaches.

"I just want to thank the Orioles for selecting us," Zavala said. "We do our best as a school to help the families that we can, but having an organization step into help and make their holiday extra special is really great."

Oliver Macklin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at @basebollie.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Baltimore Orioles

Winter Meetings interview with Buck Showalter

MLB.com

Q. Do you see Austin Hays in your Opening Day outfield next year?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Not necessarily. He's got a chance to contribute in the future when it is. We think it's kind of when, not if. Good kid. Presented himself well. Obviously had one of the best years of anybody in the Minor Leagues in baseball. He's a strong contender for Minor League Player of the Year throughout baseball. He didn't win that, did he?

Q. Do you see Austin Hays in your Opening Day outfield next year?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Not necessarily. He's got a chance to contribute in the future when it is. We think it's kind of when, not if. Good kid. Presented himself well. Obviously had one of the best years of anybody in the Minor Leagues in baseball. He's a strong contender for Minor League Player of the Year throughout baseball. He didn't win that, did he?

Q. He was runner-up to Conejo.

BUCK SHOWALTER: He played better than he did. No, he's a good kid. We were excited about him and the progress he made, like a lot of the kids down below. We had a lot of really good offensive years out of the minor league people. About four or five of them really jumped forward.

A real tribute to Jeff Manto and Brian Graham and the job those guys did all over the system last year. We had a lot of guys really jump forward, especially offensively.

Q. What do you think the chances are this club could make a significant trade or two?

BUCK SHOWALTER: That's a question for Dan. Is he here behind me? No, we're just -- right now we're spending a lot of time getting the mini camp together because we have to have those invitations issued by Friday, I think it is. So as far as -- depends on what you define as "significant." A lot of things happen here that don't look significant, and then you look back on them in September, and they're very significant. We'll see where that takes us. There's a lot of stuff. People kind of feeling their way around.

This moves so fast now with the texting and the email. You don't see near the people in the hall you used to. But there's a lot of things going on because perception -- you try to figure out the difference between perceptions and reality.

Q. Buck, is the organization's mindset, as far as you know, changed at all when it comes to Manny Machado or for that matter Zach Britton or any --

BUCK SHOWALTER: I honestly -- as opposed to lying to you. When someone says honestly speaking, does that mean you lied to me last week? Frankly, I should say I'm not -- we're not talking about that all the time. I'm not involved in a lot of that, what's really going on. That's Dan's situation and Dan's prerogative and his communication with people.

When it gets to the end, I'm kind of like what if something happens? What are you going to do? I'm grinding the six-year free agents that we signed, pitchers, and some of the utility infielders, and I'm looking from within at what we have and what we're going to do with it.

But if there's something that's going to change drastically the construction of our roster, then I'm sure I'll be brought into it.

Q. Did Manny express a desire to play shortstop to you?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Always has, since the day he signed. I think out of his respect for J.J. Hardy -- and one of the reasons why we brought Jonathan and him up early is because the chance to play alongside J.J. and really jump start their development in a lot of areas.

Manny has not only respect for J.J. but also for Tim Beckham and other people.

To say that Manny and I haven't had conversations about it over the years, I wouldn't be truthful. I think you guys know that I try to have guys hear from me about things, whether it be Tim or whether it be Manny or whether it be a Ryan Flaherty or Chris Davis about something, anybody.

Obviously, we're not there yet, but it's something that Manny -- I found that players need to know about that, not February 15th or March 15th. They need to know about it back then -- Manny's capable of playing both real well. And I think so is Tim.

Q. So what will determine where Manny plays then? Depends on another move you guys make?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Next 48 hours. No. Listen, you know, I've got a real gut feeling about how it's going to work out, but I want to make sure we cover all the bases before whatever direction we go in. It's good to have the strength there for those two guys, guys that are going to play shortstop, and it's a good problem to have.

Manny and I have certainly talked privately about it. I know him having the experience he's had there in the big leagues, I think he's got a real respect for the -- of what it takes to play there at the major leagues. I think he played it for almost a month, as you well know, and it was a different challenge for him, but he's capable.

Q. You had the opportunity to do that with him for a while last year as well when J.J. was hurt, and you chose not to. You went with Jonathan or whatever. What would be different this year than last year?

BUCK SHOWALTER: J.J.'s not here if we did it. That was it. J.J. was coming back at some point. I just thought Manny was, and is, so good at third base and will be again, that the timing wasn't right.

Q. So if he at this point, obviously, there's speculation where he would be, but if he is with you guys --

BUCK SHOWALTER: He'll be at third or short. Not there yet.

Q. Yeah.

BUCK SHOWALTER: Not there yet, publicly anyway. You know I've had some pretty good conversations about it even recently.

Q. But short is at least in the possibility phase?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Oh, sure. So it is with Tim. I'm hoping that some of our other kids, the Sardinas kid, I'm really hoping to get a look at in the spring. He was real young and kind of got back on the map with us.

I know he signed very quickly with us.

Q. Buck, you've talked about wanting to upgrade the defense. How else do you do that? Other than if you -- if you move Manny to short, do you worry about defense slipping at third? Then you guys go out and get more defensive-minded players?

BUCK SHOWALTER: I'm not committed to Manny going there, but there's some other things we're pursuing, especially in the outfield. I thought we -- I thought Trey came leaps and bounds. He was so -- he's actually turned into a pretty good outfielder. I know what we're going to do in right field is a question, for instance, where mark would fit into the equation.

The problem is, if you look at our schedule and the way the game's going, most people are going with 12 pitchers. So now you're talking about a catcher and you're talking about Santander. So you're talking about one spot left. The premium on that guy being very versatile, and I think the value of that player in the game today is becoming real, real valuable to teams.

Most teams are able to develop somebody like that from within. We're not quite there yet.

Q. How necessary is it to have a left-handed hitter in the lineup?

BUCK SHOWALTER: I think one of the challenges we had the last couple months, how much right-handed pitching we saw. Right now we're running seven, eight right-handed hitters out there. I'd rather run a good right-handed hitter out there than a bad left-hander. But it is something we'd like to balance our lineup out there more. Dan and I have talked about it.

Q. Would you look into maybe rest Adam a little bit more if you're able to?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Yeah, if that person -- we're talking about this one person. Santander can't play centerfield. That's the point I'm trying to make to you. Where does that come from? Trey or Brugman? No. That's why this other piece is very important if you have a decision about how it's going to play out, especially if you look at our schedule.

Q. Is moving Adam to right field a possibility?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Not at this stage. He's not -- you know, I think he's a very capable and solid centerfielder for us.

Q. Buck, with a guy like Manny being out there, is it as simple as an organization coming to a decision and saying we're going to go in a different direction? You know what I'm saying?

BUCK SHOWALTER: First of all, I'm not going to assume that what you said, that it's out there. Just because somebody talks about it doesn't mean -- I think a lot of that gets way overblown. I also know the reality. I've got a feel for what's actually going on. I'm not in on every conversation, thank goodness.

No, I think you -- when I first came here, you want to be consistent with the message your fans and to the people that live and die with everything the Orioles do. I'm hoping we can continue to do that because it's something that we've been proud of here for the last five, six, seven years. So we'll see where this all leads. But you do want to have a definitive plan.

Good fans like we have, if they kind of know what the end game is with things, whether it's us last year, the year before, the year before, they just -- they want to sell themselves emotionally to you, you've got to be honest and frank with them. Because economically, our ownership has been great. They've been as supportive as any time in Oriole history, if you really want to look at it, financially and everything.

So that's an excuse if you want to -- somebody brings up something the Yankees do or the Red Sox do. Last time I looked, the Red Sox won the division the last two years. I mean, I don't get jealous or whatever. That's the nature of the game. It's economically. I'd do the same thing if I was them, but we can't let them creep in here if it was an excuse.

Q. How about Stanton and the Yankees, similar to what you're saying right now?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Yeah, it's not the first time that teams with that kind of economic power have done that. Chris Sale and Price and Yankees have done it and probably going to do it again. God bless them. They should. I know their fans.

But we can do it, we've just got to stay on task and on message and know who we are and who we're not.

Q. Buck's, Manny has been around since 2012, and I think we sometimes forget he's 25 years old at times. For a 25-year-old kid, to hear his name and things like that. Have you had a chance to reach out to him? Are you going to?

BUCK SHOWALTER: We have those conversations all year long, some casual, some not. They sit down to them while they're having a meal or playing chess. You always keep that dialogue open. You want to know what they're thinking, what they're feeling. You don't assume they're handling something well or not well. So I'll continue to try to communicate.

I try to put myself in players' shoes. What would I want to know? It's the unknown that drives people crazy and things that are out of their control. Manny has earned the right to be in control of a lot of things in his life and career. And he's got a good feel for it. But I still would not assume things like that. So there's that possibility.

If I knew how -- what are you going to say to him other than just be a sounding board? I don't know how things are going to work out for any of our guys. He's not the only one in the last year of a contract (laughter).

Someone asked me about it, and I said, how are we different than players? I know coaches who didn't know what they were doing when the season ended.

Q. You were bringing it up kind of, but as far as --

BUCK SHOWALTER: What was I bringing up?

Q. People without contracts next year.

BUCK SHOWALTER: Why should coaches -- coaches and managers to some extent, trainers, players. There's a lot more people on our club, every club, that don't know what's going to -- that life and the season and the game has in store for them each year. It's an honor every day I get a chance to do this.

As I get older, I realize how lucky I am, even more so. Where life and baseball takes me, I'll deal with another time. Right now my focus is on the 2018 season and see if we can get back to competing.

Q. Would you like to manage the team in 2019 and beyond?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Sure, sure.

Q. Buck, the Yankees had good offensive numbers against you guys. How do you think about --

BUCK SHOWALTER: You reckon? I was there for every one of them. Thank you for reminding me.

Q. How do you combat Stanton and Judge and those guys?

BUCK SHOWALTER: We pitch better. Pitcher is on top of their game, the pitcher wins. You don't believe me, watch the playoffs. The teams that were playing in October had the best pitching staffs. It's nearly as complicated as everybody makes it. We pitched well until the middle of May. When we had our depth tested and some other things, it got away from us. If you make real good pitches to those guys, you get them out. If you make bad pitches, they go a little further than everybody else is hitting them.

I'm glad they haven't changed the rule where the further you hit it, you get a run and a half, a run and a quarter. Can you imagine? If they had one of those skeet ball things where the further you hit it, the more points you get. Don't give them any ideas in the competition committee. Could you imagine a stadium like -- of course, the Yankee stadium, as little as that ballpark is, they don't need any help.

Q. Buck, you mentioned people being on the last year of their contract. Do you think that for players in the free agent market, that it is an added obstacle for you guys that maybe there is that uncertainty beyond this year, whether it's the teammates they would play around or whether it's you or Dan?

BUCK SHOWALTER: That would be a good question for them. It may not be a positive, but at the end of the day, I think, in our situation, I think we can out opportunity a lot of people, especially in the pitching department. And that's what people want. They want an opportunity. So those are the people that we have to kind of focus on that means something to them regardless of the division or necessarily what the roster may look like.

I think they're more -- I don't think players look at it that way. Agents might and give some advice. I don't know. I haven't been in there. I don't think it's a detriment. I don't. I hope it's not.

Q. You talk about being fortunate that you get to do this every day during the season. You've actually been a manager for the Orioles longer than all but, I think, three managers in baseball with their teams. When you think about that and think about that longevity, what it might mean the next few years, what are your overall considerations as far as the future?

BUCK SHOWALTER: I haven't thought about it other than knowing how fortunate and lucky I am to be in Baltimore. I think everybody knows what I think of the city and the organization and the people that I've come to know. But as every day passes, it's another great honor. So I don't -- what goes down the line -- stay focused on the day-to-day operations of what my job is and try to stay focused on what we have and making it the best we can be. If we can out-relationship people or out-prepare, out-organize, out-taught -- you know, whatever. We need to do the things that we can make a difference in. What we have to do to make up the difference with some challenges that we have because of the division we play in.

Q. What's Sisco got to do in Spring Training to show you that he can take over the mantel there behind the plate?

BUCK SHOWALTER: I really very quietly think, because of the way J.R. is, John Russell, I think we have one of the best catching instructors in all of baseball, and I really lean on him. John has shown a real propensity for taking whatever weaknesses may be perceived or reality in a catcher and really -- so when he tells me that he thinks he and Austin wins -- of course, we all know what we have in Caleb -- he thinks a lot of them. Unfortunately, you need four or five in today's game, really four. And I know Dan and our front office is really trying to -- Francisco left us, Pena. We were hoping to get him back.

I think that the continued growth as a thrower. I think he's going to be fine receiving. I think he's going to be fine with his fingers as he grows. But it's a tough place to cut your teeth in the American League East and have that confidence with pitchers that really don't know you and you don't know them in some cases.

So Caleb's there and John's there, and I think he will be as good as he's capable of being, and he will come as quickly as his skills allow. He's a good one.

I don't even think about his bat. That's just -- it's catching it, throwing it, fingers, and having the confidence of the pitching staff. We lost a good one in Cassie, but through that comes a good opportunity for some guys. I wouldn't underplay Wentz. I wouldn't underestimate Austin. He's got our attention, especially the things he's been able to do recently.

Q. Are all your coaches under contract?

BUCK SHOWALTER: I think so. Some of them, their contract ran out in October, some of them in December. But I know I was talking to one of the coaches whose contract had run out in December who had gotten it the last week or two. I think they all have them. Whether they're -- I don't think any of us are in a position to be holding out right now.

Q. Buck, why has longevity become so rare for managers in a single spot?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Has it? How long was Joe there?

Q. I'm sorry?

BUCK SHOWALTER: How long was Girardi there?

Q. He was there ten. But it was rare when you look around the landscape.

BUCK SHOWALTER: How long was Terry with the Mets?

Q. Six years.

BUCK SHOWALTER: Is that all? It seemed like longer.

Q. He came the year after you.

BUCK SHOWALTER: I like to think the shelf life of managers, they're not sitting up there with owners every day, there's a different dynamic. I think it kind of runs in cycles. Some of these guys that have been hired this off-season, I expect them to be around for a long time. They're a really, really impressive group. It's good for the game and good for -- I thought Joe did a great job and John in Boston. They were tough. Part of me was kind of glad that you don't have that challenge next year, and then all of a sudden you see who they replaced them with, and you go, geez, nothing is going to change, two really sharp guys. Maybe you'll be asking them that question in ten years. I wouldn't be surprised at all.

Q. Japanese player Ohtani signed with --

BUCK SHOWALTER: How do you pronounce that correctly?

Q. Ohtani.

BUCK SHOWALTER: You all have been getting that wrong. She's got it right. Did you know that?

Q. Ohtani, yes. Now he's with the Angels. You guys will face Angels in May or June.

BUCK SHOWALTER: I'm glad he's on the west coast, not on the east coast.

Q. How do you make plans to prepare to face him? You guys possibly seeing him as a pitcher and a hitter both?

BUCK SHOWALTER: We've had -- I know Mike Snyder and some of our guys have been over in Japan off and on the last two years. We were already talking about it. There's still some unknown first time you face those guys and try to pitch to them too, see how that works out. There's some unknown there, but I think the good news is we're not playing him the first week in the spring. There will be some time to gather some information on him because people love sharing information if you ask the right people.

Q. Do you think it's possible for a player to keep as a two-way player in the major league level?

BUCK SHOWALTER: You know what, everybody wants to say no, but I've watched a lot of him the last couple years, as a matter of fact, and he has the ability to do it. I think, when it all went down, I thought for sure they'd be DH'ing him. But you wonder sometimes he becomes such a good pitcher they don't want to take the risk of losing him physically or something. It's not like in elementary school you had that ghost runner beside the plate, and you just hit and stood there. You ran too good. You didn't have to do that. He's a good one. He'll be fun to watch. Great for baseball.

You think about the things that came out when Ichiro came over and Matsui, those are the two guys -- when I went over to Japan, they stuck out like a sore thumb. They were, I thought, so much better than the rest of the league. And then everybody started getting third and fourth and fifth players from there, and there was a dropoff. The pitching has always been solid, and here's a guy that can do both.

Q. Buck, you were talking about the managers. How challenging will it be for Boone and Cora to have no experience and go into those two markets in your division?

BUCK SHOWALTER: Overrated. Aaron's got plenty of experience in New York. Think about his pedigree with his dad and brothers and playing in New York. He was a great hire for them. And Alex is always -- he's always -- he's been a great brain picker, so to speak. I didn't want to say nose. He and his brother both, I talked to them a lot over the years. I remember talking about running the Spring Training stuff. They have a thirst for knowledge and things to prepare. He'll be do well there because both of them will think about the weight of their words before they say things. They'll have great player relations.

They both have a really good background as a player and from some other phases of the game that come. They're going to be really good. Like I said, Joe and John were so good there for a long period of time, and they hire these two guys, and they're impressive. I was at a banquet last year that I survived the east coast purge. That's how I was introduced. I'm going, what are you talking about? Then Philly, both New Yorks, Boston, Washington. It's working its way down the coast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Baltimore Orioles

Showalter cracks joke about new-look Yankees

The talk of baseball this week has been the Yankees, who acquired human home run-machine Giancarlo Stanton and added him to an already-powerful lineup headlined by Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez (and, now, Jabari Blash). 

This presents a daunting task for pitching staffs around the entire league, but it's even more of a concern for the rest of the AL East. Orioles manager Buck Showalter, whose club will have to deal with that video game-like lineup a whole bunch of times next season, was asked about how his team will approach that stable of dangerous hitters. 

Minor Leaguer Wilkerson suspended 50 games

MLB.com @Britt_Ghiroli

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Orioles Minor Leaguer Steve Wilkerson has received a 50-game suspension without pay following a positive test for amphetamine, a stimulant in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, MLB announced on Tuesday evening.

The suspension will start at the beginning of Triple-A Norfolk's season and comes following a breakout year for Wilkerson, who was selected for the Arizona Fall League's Top Prospects Team.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Orioles Minor Leaguer Steve Wilkerson has received a 50-game suspension without pay following a positive test for amphetamine, a stimulant in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, MLB announced on Tuesday evening.

The suspension will start at the beginning of Triple-A Norfolk's season and comes following a breakout year for Wilkerson, who was selected for the Arizona Fall League's Top Prospects Team.

Wilkerson hit .317 with three doubles, one homer, 10 RBIs and two stolen bases in the AFL, and the O's decision to not protect him in advance of Thursday's Rule 5 Draft seemed puzzling. Currently on Norfolk's roster, Wilkerson hit a combined .305/.375/.423 with Class A Advanced Frederick and Double-A Bowie.

The suspension should deter interest in the infielder and also eliminates Wilkerson as a potential utility candidate for the Orioles this season. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said Tuesday that the team is still looking for a versatile utility guy for the bench.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Baltimore Orioles

Pitching market may force Orioles to act faster

Club confident in ability to move pieces for rotation help as Meetings reveal competitive offseason
MLB.com @Britt_Ghiroli

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As the American League East-rival New York Yankees officially unveiled slugger Giancarlo Stanton at the Winter Meetings on Monday afternoon, the Orioles remain focused on their own wish list -- one that includes, most importantly, a pair of starting pitchers who could prompt them to act quickly in a competitive market.

"The rich got richer, right?" executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said, likening the Yankees' move to the Red Sox acquiring Chris Sale at last year's Winter Meetings.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As the American League East-rival New York Yankees officially unveiled slugger Giancarlo Stanton at the Winter Meetings on Monday afternoon, the Orioles remain focused on their own wish list -- one that includes, most importantly, a pair of starting pitchers who could prompt them to act quickly in a competitive market.

"The rich got richer, right?" executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said, likening the Yankees' move to the Red Sox acquiring Chris Sale at last year's Winter Meetings.

"But we have our own challenges that we have to [meet to] staff our team. We try to be as competitive as we can be all the time. Fortunately we have been able to compete with the Yankees, we've been able to compete with the Red Sox."

Video: Orioles head into Winter Meetings in need of pitching

To have any chance at competing in 2018, the O's have to improve on one of the worst starting rotations in baseball. For now, they have Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy penciled in, with the hope that they are able to find two starters this winter and have one guy come forward from within the organization.

Regardless, it doesn't appear the Orioles would be interested in a long-term free-agent signing.

"Those [longer free-agent pitching deals] haven't worked out that well for the club, so I'm not sure I would recommend that," Duquette said. "I don't think you have to say you have to go four or five years in that market to be competitive."

The team would prefer to get one lefty starter, if possible, and Duquette acknowledged that the O's -- who typically like to make moves later in the winter -- will probably have to work quicker in such a dynamic starting pitching market.

"How many teams do you think are looking for pitching? Twenty-eight? I don't know," Duquette said. "We have to make a good deal."

Should the O's pursue the trade avenue, they feel good about their ability to move pieces in their bullpen as well as the improved depth in their Minor League system. Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Mychal Givens continue to draw interest, with Duquette adding that opposing clubs have inquired about pitching prospects Keegan Akin (ranked No. 8 in the O's organization by MLBPipeline.com) and Alex Wells (No. 16).

The Orioles were linked to Mets starter Matt Harvey on Monday night, with New York reportedly interested in a reliever in return. Chris Tillman, who is a free agent, is another name that Duquette said "seems to come up all the time" in the O's market.

"He was a good pitcher for us for a long time that certainly could be considered, among others," he said.

The rest of the Orioles' shopping list includes a power left-handed reliever, a left-handed hitter -- that Duquette reiterated he believes will come via trade -- and a veteran catcher to add depth. The Orioles wanted to retain catcher Francisco Pena, but he is planning to sign elsewhere.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Baltimore Orioles

Bid on behind-the-scenes Orioles experiences

MLB.com @Britt_Ghiroli

BALTIMORE -- Want to play chess against an Orioles player, perhaps Manny Machado? Paint with Caleb Joseph? What about watching Orioles batting practice, meeting manager Buck Showalter or a slew of other exclusive behind-the-scenes experiences at Oriole Park at Camden Yards? Now is your chance.

For the sixth consecutive year, MLB, MLB Advanced Media, MLB Network and all 30 Clubs have organized a charity auction that begins Monday at the Winter Meetings. This year, the auction will support the "Katharine Feeney Memorial Scholarship Fund," which is in memory of the late pioneering baseball executive whose career spanned 40 years.

BALTIMORE -- Want to play chess against an Orioles player, perhaps Manny Machado? Paint with Caleb Joseph? What about watching Orioles batting practice, meeting manager Buck Showalter or a slew of other exclusive behind-the-scenes experiences at Oriole Park at Camden Yards? Now is your chance.

For the sixth consecutive year, MLB, MLB Advanced Media, MLB Network and all 30 Clubs have organized a charity auction that begins Monday at the Winter Meetings. This year, the auction will support the "Katharine Feeney Memorial Scholarship Fund," which is in memory of the late pioneering baseball executive whose career spanned 40 years.

Winter Meetings charity auction details

This year's auction, which is now LIVE at MLB.com/wintermeetingsauction will run until Thursday at 10 p.m. ET with an exclusive All-Star Game package as one of the many once-in-a-lifetime-experiences involved. Below are the Orioles' offerings.

Chess with the Orioles: A fan and a guest will have the chance to play chess against Orioles players before a game. The winner will arrive to the ballpark a few hours before game time and could have the opportunity to play against such Orioles "grandmasters" as Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Dylan Bundy and/or Kevin Gausman. Also included in the package: a parking pass, two batting practice field passes and two tickets for that day's game.

Painting with Caleb: A fan and a guest will have the chance to paint with Orioles catcher Joseph before a home game. The winner will also receive a parking pass, two batting practice field passes and two tickets for that day's game. All supplies will be provided.

Tweet from @masnOrioles: .@EutawBackstop is a man of many talents. He painted these after just a year of practice! 🎨 #IBackTheBirds pic.twitter.com/mztY9FEqb9

Orioles behind-the-scenes experience: A group of four fans will get the opportunity to bid on an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at Camden Yards. Experiences may include: watching Showalter's pregame news conference, watching batting practice from the field and visiting the press box, the MASN television booth, the Orioles Radio Network booth, the MASN television production truck and/or the Orioles' scoreboard production room, as well as watching an inning with executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette in his suite. Also included in the package will be a parking pass and four tickets to that day's game.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Baltimore Orioles

O's Tejada deal made splash at '03 Meetings

Baltimore signed shortstop to 6-year, $72 million contract
MLB.com @Britt_Ghiroli

BALTIMORE -- On the heels of a 2003 season in which the O's 71 wins were 30 games behind the American League East-winning Yankees and 24 back of the Wild Card Red Sox, the Orioles were bold at the Winter Meetings, signing shortstop Miguel Tejada to a a six-year, $72 million contract.

"How many chances do you get to add an MVP-caliber player to your club who wants to be there for a long time?" new Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said at the time.

BALTIMORE -- On the heels of a 2003 season in which the O's 71 wins were 30 games behind the American League East-winning Yankees and 24 back of the Wild Card Red Sox, the Orioles were bold at the Winter Meetings, signing shortstop Miguel Tejada to a a six-year, $72 million contract.

"How many chances do you get to add an MVP-caliber player to your club who wants to be there for a long time?" new Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said at the time.

Hot Stove Tracker

Tejada was named the American League Most Valuable Player Award winner in 2002 with the Athletics, but Oakland did not re-sign him due to budget concerns and infield prospect Bobby Crosby's pending arrival. The move, made at the start of the Winter Meetings in New Orleans, was part of an effort to revamp the O's lineup that offseason.

When Mazzilli was asked that Sunday afternoon in New Orleans if the Orioles were going to start spending their surplus of money on free agents, he smiled and promised that they would act soon. And the Tejada deal wasn't just about the money, as it was one of the first times in recent history the O's had landed a major free agent.

Tejada reportedly had offers from the Mariners and the Tigers before selecting the Orioles, who were confident they'd make some big offseason moves.

''At this point, there's nothing that's out of mix,'' the late Mike Flanagan, former Orioles vice president of baseball operations, said to The New York Times. ''We're tickled pink [about Tejada]. It continues the tradition of great Orioles shortstops. That's always been a cornerstone of the great Oriole tradition.''

Following the lucrative contract for Tejada, Baltimore went on to sign catcher Javy Lopez, the only player who had a higher salary on the Orioles in 2004 than Tejada.

Over the course of his contract -- the first of two stops in Baltimore -- Tejada was durable and consistent. He played in 619 games from 2004-07 with the O's, ending his consecutive-game streak at 1,152 in '07. Tejada hit .311 with 102 homers and 429 RBIs in that span, but he was unhappy with the organization's ability to field a competitive team.

On Dec. 12, 2007, Tejada was dealt to the Astros for five players, including outfielder Luke Scott and pitchers Troy Patton, Dennis Sarfate and Matt Albers.

Tejada re-signed a one-year deal with the O's in January 2010. He was traded to the Padres that July. He signed another contract with the Orioles in May '12, but he never made it to the Majors and was later granted his outright release.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Baltimore Orioles

Gausman to wear No. 34 in honor of Halladay

MLB.com @Britt_Ghiroli

BALTIMORE -- The baseball world was forever changed when pitcher Roy Halladay passed away unexpectedly in November, and tributes came pouring in. Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman will pay homage for the entire 2018 season and beyond.

Gausman took to his Twitter account on Thursday afternoon to post a picture of his new uniform, Halladay's No. 34, as a tribute to the legendary pitcher. The Orioles righty did not know or play with Halladay, but he looked up to him, and they shared a common bond: being from Colorado.

BALTIMORE -- The baseball world was forever changed when pitcher Roy Halladay passed away unexpectedly in November, and tributes came pouring in. Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman will pay homage for the entire 2018 season and beyond.

Gausman took to his Twitter account on Thursday afternoon to post a picture of his new uniform, Halladay's No. 34, as a tribute to the legendary pitcher. The Orioles righty did not know or play with Halladay, but he looked up to him, and they shared a common bond: being from Colorado.

Tweet from @KevinGausman: In honor of Roy #34 pic.twitter.com/iuA28LNd1I

"I just want to honor him. Obviously, he was someone I really looked up to," Gausman, who attended high school in Aurora, Colo., said in a phone interview. "One of my biggest regrets looking back is I didn't reach out to him and get his number from someone who knows him and get to know him."

After Halladay died, Gausman got to thinking. He had no real connection with his current uniform, No. 39. (He wore No. 37 in his rookie year in 2013 before switching.) Fans would always ask the reason behind his Major League jersey, and he would shrug. So Gausman reached out to home equipment manager Chris Guth to see if No. 34 was available and if they could make it happen.

"I told them what I wanted to do and why. They were really cool about [the number change]," Gausman said. "I look at it as a way to honor him and hopefully help pass the torch from him. Guys from Colorado have to go through a lot just to get to professional baseball, let alone the Major Leagues. He grew up 30 minutes from where I grew up and [was] one of the best pitchers, not just from Colorado or his team, but in our generation.

:: Roy Halladay, 1977-2017 ::

"There's a flurry of young players from Colorado, and they're getting taken more seriously now. He really put us on the map, and we're going to do our best to keep us there."

Gausman tweeted the uniform picture along with a note explaining the reason for the move, citing Halladay -- a Denver native -- as his idol. Several minutes after his tweet, Gausman's phone lost power; when he was able to turn it back on, he was pleasantly surprised by the tweet's outpouring of support. Within the hour, it had more than 800 retweets and had been favorited more than 2,700 times.

"The older I got, the more I began to understand the challenges of being a baseball player in Colorado," Gausman wrote. "There have been less than 100 players that were born there. I'd like to think we have our own fraternity amongst ourselves."

Halladay died tragically on Nov. 7 when his ICON A5 plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida. He played 16 big league seasons, winning the Cy Young Award in each league, pitching a perfect game and a no-hitter in 2010 and reaching the All-Star Game eight times.

"The loss of Roy was tragic and is saddening," wrote Gausman, "but I feel honored to have watched everything he achieved."

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Baltimore Orioles, Kevin Gausman

Always aiming higher, Schoop key for O's in '18

All-Star 2nd baseman looks to build on breakout season
MLB.com @Britt_Ghiroli

BALTIMORE -- The thing about Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop -- amid a career year in 2017 -- is that he never was content.

"I improved a lot, but I think I have a lot more room to go," Schoop said after earning Most Valuable Oriole honors during the team's final homestand. "I think I'll be better next season."

BALTIMORE -- The thing about Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop -- amid a career year in 2017 -- is that he never was content.

"I improved a lot, but I think I have a lot more room to go," Schoop said after earning Most Valuable Oriole honors during the team's final homestand. "I think I'll be better next season."

Indeed, Schoop's progression is integral to the O's success in 2018.

While the pending free agency of players such as Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Zach Britton has given the Orioles a narrow window to win, Schoop is only under team control for one more season beyond that. The 26-year-old had a breakout campaign last season, and his consistency and durability make him an indispensable part of the lineup.

With most of the O's moves this offseason expected to be centered around pitching, the club still will need to improve its all-or-nothing offense that saw a great power output and low walk totals. Schoop is the poster child for that improvement, totaling 35 walks -- after just 21 in 2016 -- and a career high in hits, home runs, runs and RBIs to go along with it.

The All-Star second baseman, who has an impressive arm and the ability to turn tough balls into double plays, has played in all but just two of Baltimore's games over the past two seasons. And with no clear heir apparent at second in the Orioles' system, Schoop staying healthy will go a long way in the O's success this season.

"He's always had the durability, but the consistency took his game to another level," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Schoop, who is the O's all-time single-season RBI leader at second base. "He didn't get out of whack for very long. I think he's grown into a real consistent guy you can count on. When I see him 0-for-3 and walk in his last at-bat, I know it's a real sign of maturity … because you want to make up for it in one swing."

Schoop, who finished 12th in American League Most Valuable Player Award voting, lead the Orioles in RBIs (105), batting average (.293), doubles (35) and hits (182). While several big bats -- such as Machado, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo -- went through prolonged slumps, Schoop's bat came up big time and time again. That consistent approach -- and the maturity that goes with it, -- has helped Schoop evolve into an All-Star and more of a leader within the clubhouse.

Perhaps the mild-mannered Schoop doesn't get the spotlight he deserves. But there's no denying how important he is to the Orioles this upcoming season.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Baltimore Orioles

MLB Pipeline's Top 50 Draft prospects for 2018

MLB.com @JonathanMayo

For the first time in three years, the top spot on MLBPipeline.com's early Draft Top 50 list is not occupied by a high school pitcher. It should come as no surprise that the top guy is still a pitcher, and one from the 2017 College World Series champion Florida Gators. Right-hander Brady Singer, who helped pitch them to that title as a sophomore, is the clear choice as the best overall talent in the 2018 Draft class, which some think could be the best since 2011.

It's nothing new to see one of Florida's starting pitchers head into a new season as a potential No. 1 overall pick. Lefty A.J. Puk was No. 2 on the 2016 list behind high school left-hander Jay Groome. He ended up going No. 6 overall that June. A year ago, Gators right-hander Alex Faedo came in at No. 4 on the Top 50 led by prep phenom Hunter Greene. He ended up going No. 18 overall to the Tigers, who have the No. 1 pick in 2018. While Puk and Faedo were obviously highly regarded, scouts do feel Singer's all-around game on the mound gives him a better chance to stay in that 1-1 conversation.

For the first time in three years, the top spot on MLBPipeline.com's early Draft Top 50 list is not occupied by a high school pitcher. It should come as no surprise that the top guy is still a pitcher, and one from the 2017 College World Series champion Florida Gators. Right-hander Brady Singer, who helped pitch them to that title as a sophomore, is the clear choice as the best overall talent in the 2018 Draft class, which some think could be the best since 2011.

It's nothing new to see one of Florida's starting pitchers head into a new season as a potential No. 1 overall pick. Lefty A.J. Puk was No. 2 on the 2016 list behind high school left-hander Jay Groome. He ended up going No. 6 overall that June. A year ago, Gators right-hander Alex Faedo came in at No. 4 on the Top 50 led by prep phenom Hunter Greene. He ended up going No. 18 overall to the Tigers, who have the No. 1 pick in 2018. While Puk and Faedo were obviously highly regarded, scouts do feel Singer's all-around game on the mound gives him a better chance to stay in that 1-1 conversation.

Top Draft Prospects

"There's less things that can go wrong," one National League scouting director said. "I can't see him coming out and 'laying an egg,' so to speak. He's a little more of a pitcher, when they were more power guys."

While the list doesn't have a high schooler at No. 1, it does have a ton of high-end prep pitching on it, starting at No. 2 with Ethan Hankins. The Atlanta area standout had a very impressive summer and is armed with the best fastball in the Top 50. He might not be atop the list, but that doesn't mean he doesn't belong in the same class as Groome and Greene, who went No. 12 and No. 2 in their respective Drafts.

"He's right up there," the scouting director said. "He's very, very impressive. He has size, strength and stuff. What Hunter had over him, he could do it as a position player, so you knew that when he gives that up, there might be more to come. But he's right up there with the better high school kids I've seen in the last couple of years."

2018 Draft order | 2018 Draft: June 4-6 | All-time Draft picks

The top high school bat comes in at No. 4 on the list in the form of Phoenix-area infielder Nolan Gorman. His raw power was on display for much of the summer as he stood out in multiple elite-level home run derbies, with the ability to drive the ball also showing up in games. Nick Madrigal is the top college position player on the list, coming in at No. 11. He's undersized, but that doesn't seem to matter as much these days, and the Oregon State infielder has a strong track record and perhaps the best hit tool in the class.

Video: Draft Report: Nick Madrigal, College 2B/SS

College hitters are often hard to come by, especially this early, but scouts are encouraged that there seems to be more advanced bats to consider in the first round than usual. Given that college performers tend to float up as the Draft nears, seeing Madrigal or some of the others on this Top 50 land in the top 10 seems very feasible.

"I think I like the list this year more than last year," the scouting director said. "I like the depth. There's college pitching, if you're at the top. I think there are some college position players. Who were the college players last year at the top? There's very good high school pitching. I think it's deeper all the way around."

Class breakdown

It's a fairly even split in this year's Top 50, with 26 high schoolers and 24 from the college ranks. It's split right down the middle at the top, with the top 10 filled with five college players and five prepsters. While it is pitching heavy at the top, with seven of the top 10 on the mound, there are more bats to be found later on. That speaks to the aforementioned depth. There might not be a college bat in the top 10, but there are five in the 11-20 range -- led by Madrigal at No. 11 -- and no one would be surprised to see some of them end up in the top 10 once the Draft rolls around.

In total, there are a dozen college hitters in the Top 50, up from eight a year ago. The 12 college pitchers on the list, five in the top 10, is down a touch from 15 on our 2017 Top 50. Of the 26 high schoolers, half are pitchers. High school right-handers are a particular strength in this class, with 11 in this Top 50. The complete positional breakdown of this list is as a follows:

RHP: 18
OF: 11
LHP: 7
SS: 4
1B: 3
3B: 3
C: 3
2B: 1

Top tools

All players, as always, are given grades on the 20-to-80 scouting scale for all tools or pitches. These are future grades, a reflection of what the scouting industry thinks each of these amateur players can become in the future. Here are the top grades for each tool and pitch.

Position players
Hit: 60 - Nick Madrigal, 2B/SS, Oregon State, Jarred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha (Wis.) West HS
Power: 60 - Nolan Gorman, O'Connor HS (Phoenix)
Run: 70 - Xavier Edwards, SS, North Broward Prep (Coconut Creek, Fla.), Connor Scott, OF, Plant HS (Tampa, Fla.)
Arm: 70 - Joe Gray Jr., OF, Hatiesburg (Miss.) HS, Will Banfield, C, Brookwood HS (Snellville, Ga.)
Field: 60 - Mike Siani, OF, William Penn Charter (Philadelphia), Alek Thomas, OF, Mount Carmel HS (Chicago)

Pitchers
Fastball: 80 - Ethan Hankins, RHP, Forsyth Central HS (Cumming, Ga.)
Curveball: 65 - Tim Cate, LHP, Connecticut
Slider: 65 - Brady Singer, RHP, Florida
Changeup: 65 - Steven Gingery, LHP, Texas Tech
Control: 60 - Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.