Inbox: Who should Orioles draft at No. 2?

Beat reporter Joe Trezza answers questions from fans

April 22nd, 2020

Good day, Orioles fans. Let me begin this Inbox, our first in some time, by saying I hope everyone is staying safe and sane during these uncertain times.

The Orioles were supposed to be wrapping up a six-game road trip through Kansas City and Anaheim on Wednesday, returning to Camden Yards on Friday to face the Blue Jays and begin a six-game homestand. You were supposed to be somewhere else, too. I know. It’s hard. We’re all adjusting, and hopefully, we can help one another out until things return to normal.

Until then, let’s tackle some of your Orioles questions. Thank you, as always, for submitting. It is appreciated now more than ever.

Thanks for your question, James. Let’s use it to talk about the Draft as a whole, the event for which the Orioles are pouring their focus into preparing.

First, the basics, for those wondering: There will be a Draft, though it's likely to be truncated. We don’t know when it will take place or how long it’ll be yet. MLB can cut it from 40 rounds to as few as five, but the working theory is it’ll be closer to 10. MLB can hold it as early as June 10 or push it back as late as July 20. Bonus-pool figures will remain the same as 2019, as the MLB Players Association agreed to allow MLB to freeze those values at last year's numbers for both the '20 and '21 Drafts."

Now, what does that all mean? There is going to be even more pressure on teams with top picks like the Orioles to get them right, given how much less opportunity there will be to draft sleepers and depth in the later rounds. The lack of a spring season is going to mean the Draft board is less dynamic than during a normal year, and it will probably result in teams looking to mitigate risk even more than usual.

What are typically the safest bets atop the Draft, especially in the age of analytics? College bats. And there just so happens to be two -- Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson and Vanderbilt third baseman/outfielder Austin Martin -- atop MLB Pipeline’s new Draft prospect rankings. There is no slam dunk No. 1 at this point, but four of the top six prospects per Pipeline are college position players (the exceptions, Texas A&M lefty Asa Lacy and Georgia righty Emerson Hancock, have each spent time flirting with the top spot over the past year).

Also worth noting: Outside the top of the Draft, the main strength of this class is its college pitching, with 18 of MLB Pipeline’s Top 50 Draft prospects fitting that mold. The Orioles own four of the top 74 picks, so I’d guess they will go with a less risky commodity at No. 2 with the hope of snagging an high-upside arm or two later on.

Good question, Doug. Technically, any undrafted player could become a free agent and sign with any team. But as per the league’s revised Draft rules for this year, teams are not allowed to grant signing bonuses to undrafted free agents in excess of $20,000. Previously, those players could receive $125,000 bonuses before counting against the team’s bonus pool.

In theory, this would seem to discourage undrafted high school seniors and college juniors from going pro instead of playing collegiately or returning to school. It should limit the undrafted free-agent pool mostly to college seniors without much leverage. Teams are still going to scout this group heavily, though, looking for diamonds in the rough. The difference this year is whom they choose to target won’t be influenced by a Draft board.

Yes. reported to camp fully healed from the right hip issue he underwent surgery for in July, and he was in line to assume the No. 2 spot in the Orioles' rotation when camp was halted. Cobb was nagged briefly by some blister issues in camp, but nothing related to the hip and back problems that plagued him in 2019. When baseball returns, he’s expected to play a key role in the O's rotation.