BALTIMORE -- Two years ago at the onset of the MLB Draft, it was a foregone conclusion that the Orioles would select consensus top pick Adley Rutschman first overall. Last year, they shocked the industry by swinging an undersold deal with college outfielder Heston Kjerstad at No. 2. This time around, the Orioles are picking fifth, and which direction they’ll go is still largely undecided.
“We’re having some exciting meetings and some good debates,” O’s general manager Mike Elias said. “The heartbeat is starting to go. We don’t know what’s going to happen ahead of us.”
The Orioles began their Draft prep with a list of 12 players in consideration for the No. 5 pick, which Elias said Friday they’ll whittle down to five by Draft night. The Orioles are considering multiple pitchers for the pick, after leaning extremely position-player heavy in their first two Drafts with Elias at the helm.
“We’ll see how it falls, but we’re definitely going to have some pitchers on the board for our picks,” Elias said. “I feel the talent is pretty good where we’re at. Some years you’re outside looking in on the talent. It feels like a good group at five.”
• The Draft begins at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday (ESPN/MLB.com)
• The Orioles have the fifth pick in Round 1
• The O’s bonus pool is $2,345,678
Day 1 of the 2021 Draft will take place live from Denver’s Bellco Theatre on Sunday. It will feature the first 36 picks and will air on MLB Network and ESPN at 7 p.m. ET. Day 2, which will span rounds 2-10, begins at 1 p.m. ET on Monday. The Draft will conclude with rounds 11-20 on Tuesday, starting at 12 p.m. ET. MLB.com will simulcast MLB Network’s broadcast and provide live coverage on all three days.
Adding to the Orioles’ intrigue at No. 5 is the fact that, as a whole, the top of the 2021 Draft class is considered more uncertain than most. The O’s have been linked to different players in various mocks, including North Carolina prep shortstop Kahlil Watson and Louisville catcher Henry Davis by MLB Pipeline. They’ve also been connected to Texas prep shortstop Jordan Lawlar, Sam Houston outfielder Colton Cowser and Vanderbilt righties Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker, widely viewed as the top two college arms available. Leiter and Rocker are ranked the class’ No. 2 and No. 6 prospects by MLB Pipeline, respectively, with California prep shortstop Marcelo Mayer ranked first.
But at this point, it’s all speculation. Ultimately, what the Orioles do will depend on how the Pirates, Rangers, Tigers and Red Sox draft in front of them. It’s the first time they’ve been in such a position during the Elias era.
“The first thing that we want to get right is to make sure we're going to [get an] impact player, especially [with a] top-five pick in the country,” Orioles supervisor of domestic scouting Brad Ciolek said. “Right now, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of consensus of the top. We’ve heard rumblings. But at this juncture, we're just kind of keeping an open mind, doing our best to rank them internally, ourselves. And ultimately, we'll see what happens once it's the night of the Draft and who goes before us.”
From the trainer’s room
Orioles No. 29 prospect, shortstop Joseph Ortiz, has a labrum tear in his left shoulder that will require surgery, Elias revealed Friday among other injury updates. The club’s fourth-round pick in 2019, Ortiz advanced to Double-A Bowie this season, where he was hitting .233 with four homers and .780 OPS in 16 games. He’s out for the remainder of the season.
Elias also said No. 4 prospect D.L. Hall (elbow inflammation) will resume throwing in two weeks, and that Richie Martin (broken wrist) began a hitting progression Friday. Martin could return to game action by late July, Elias said.
Feel-good first pitch
Trey Mancini’s remarkable comeback story came full circle in a sense on Friday night, when Mancini’s oncologist, Dr. Nilo Azad, threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the club’s series opener against the White Sox.
Under Azad’s care at John Hopkins Hospital, Mancini defeated Stage 3 colon cancer to return to the field in 2021. The Orioles first baseman’s story will hit the national stage next week when he participates in Monday’s Home Run Derby in Denver.
Hello, old friend
Draft night is about the future, but it’ll also inspire memories of the past for Orioles fans. Fan favorite and former shortstop J.J. Hardy will represent the Orioles on Draft night on Sunday at Bellco Theatre in Denver. An All-Star, Silver Slugger and three-time Gold Glove winner with the Orioles from 2011-17, Hardy was elected into the club’s Hall of Fame this year.