Elias: O's eyeing 5-6 names for No. 1 pick

GM also discusses timetable for top prospects, veteran pitcher Harvey

June 18th, 2022

BALTIMORE -- After returning in the middle of the night from the second annual MLB Draft Combine in San Diego, Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said that the organization has narrowed its focus to “five, maybe six” names for the first overall pick in the MLB Draft on July 17.

Elias offered a laugh in elaborating that he will not publicly show his hand. But he and the Orioles’ brain trust will “carry that group all the way into the Draft meetings,” fully absorbing all information from the Combine and “a lot of information that comes in late.”

“I'm very excited about the candidate pool for the Draft this year, but that does not make the decision any easier. In fact, it makes it harder,” Elias said. “It's always a high-stakes decision. A lot of unknowns and luck involved. And it's a tough thing, but it's a huge opportunity for us, and I think we're going to do well.”

Elias did offer explicit insight into one aspect: The club does not expect to take a pitcher, with the top talent on the board exclusively coming from the position-player side -- and primarily the high school ranks at that. This year’s Draft is the fourth in a row in which the Orioles have a top-five selection -- all under Elias -- and their second picking first overall, after taking Adley Rutschman in 2019.

In total, the Orioles hold five selections within the first 81 picks of the Draft, four of which will be taken on the first day.

Likely atop the Orioles’ big board is a smattering of the following: outfielders Druw Jones (the No. 1 Draft prospect per MLB Pipeline) and Elijah Green (No. 2) and infielders Jackson Holliday (No. 3), Termarr Johnson (No. 4) and Brooks Lee (No. 5). All save for Lee -- who attends Cal Poly -- are from the high school ranks.

It remains to be seen if the Orioles dip their toes into similar waters as they did for Heston Kjerstad (No. 2 overall in 2020) and Colton Cowser (No. 5 overall in ’21) and take a player they can sign for underslot value, saving some of their purse for higher-ceiling talent in the later rounds. This year, though, Baltimore owns the second-highest slot value for the top pick in Draft history as well as the second-highest bonus pool, behind just the 2015 Astros, where Elias was director of amateur scouting.

The club did host Johnson for batting practice and fielding drills at Camden Yards on June 4, the only publicly known interaction between the Orioles and a Draft prospect to date.

“I would equate it to probably what we faced in 2019, when there were three players that I think in any given year, you would have taken No. 1 and been very happy they were there,” Elias said. “We kind of had to choose amongst those guys. It feels similar to that.”

Elias did have other insights to share in addressing the media prior to Saturday’s tilt with the Rays at Camden Yards:

On DL Hall, and
With each outing, Hall is showing the Orioles the steps forward he’s taking. Baltimore’s No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline owns a 3.82 ERA in seven starts, striking out 54 batters across 30 2/3 innings, but he has yet to pitch efficiently enough to get past five innings. Thursday’s demotion of Bruce Zimmermann doesn’t impact Hall’s timeline, Elias said. And while Hall is “really on a good path,” patience remains the central tenet in his path to a promotion -- by both success and health metrics.

Still, it’s getting closer.

“It's at the point where obviously we're watching these outings very carefully, but doing so not just from a player development standpoint, but from a Major League relevancy standpoint,” Elias said. “We're going to be looking for the right time to possibly see what we got there.”

As for No. 3 prospect Henderson and No. 6 Westburg, who each owns an OPS north of 1.100 through his early trials at Triple-A Norfolk, Elias was notably ebullient on their outlooks.

"Never like to get out ahead of myself with guys that are still in the Minors, but those two have a very good chance of locking down our infield, I think, for a while,” Elias said.

On Matt Harvey
Harvey, suspended through early July for what came to light in the Eric Kay trial in the wake of the death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, threw a simulated game Saturday in Sarasota, Fla. Elias said that Harvey is eligible to pitch for lower levels of the organization before his suspension ends, likely in the near future, before the team evaluates his outlook for Baltimore.

“Ultimately, I think the goal is … that he's like a normal member of the Norfolk rotation,” Elias said.