With the baseball's first-year player draft starting tonight in Secaucus, N.J., The Baltimore Sun spoke with analyst Jonathan Mayo, who will be part of MLB Network's coverage. Mayo offers his take on the Orioles' strategy and some players to keep an eye on.
What is the Orioles’ No. 1 need in the draft?
I think the first thing I always say that’s universal, not just the Orioles, most teams aren’t known to draft for [need], especially early on. Later on, if you want to look at their system and they want to get certain areas, they might do that. I think they could probably could use some more bats. They could use some more everything. They don’t have the deepest system in the world … some extra catching or middle infielders or center fielders.
How does their strategy change picking this low?
It certainly is a different perspective for them. The strategy might just be the same. Let’s assume every year they’re picking fourth. I think they would have a handful of guys, maybe a half dozen, that they’d really be looking at and they would hope somebody would filter down to them. Most would probably go above them and then they’d take the one they felt was the best. They might have the same exact strategy. The pool just has to be a little bit larger. You have to be able to adjust because, invariably, somebody slides down that everyone thought would be long gone before pick No. 22. That’s something they need to do there. There is some talent for them to look at at 22, so I think this draft here, it’s an especially good year to be picking low. Not a lot of guys separated themselves. There’s a good amount of depth as you sort of move along. In the 20s and then at pick 37, there actually could be some good talent there. The player they get at that pick in the 30s could be every bit as good or not that much different than the guy they get at 22.
Does picking this low put any additional strain on a scouting department?
I don’t know if it puts that much more strain. You may have to rely on your lower-level scouts for higher picks. The scouting director and crosscheckers are going to make sure they’ve seen everyone they’re considering with their first couple of picks at least once or multiple times. But when you have several of them, it gets a little bit harder. There are only so many people and there are only so many days to scout them during the spring. In every draft, you start relying on your area scouts because you don’t crosscheck, the scouting director doesn’t see every single player. That might start a little bit sooner. You might have to rely on some summer evaluations. … I don’t know if it taxes you anymore. It does enable you to be a little more creative because of the extra money and the extra picks. They can sort of decide what direction they want to go and maybe they reach for a guy they like at 22 and save some money and then there’s a guy who slides to  they can spend some money on and it works out for their benefit.
Who are some of the players in the No. 22 to No. 37 range that stand out as players they might be targeting or players who could make a quicker impact?
Without having any certainty whatsoever because every year is difficult but the back end of the first round is extremely difficult, there’s a good amount of college pitching they could look at it if they wanted to. There’s a couple college bats. A guy like [right-hander] Alex Gonzalez from Oral Roberts made kind of a late charge and is being mentioned in that neck of the woods. [Right-hander] Chris Anderson from Jacksonville started the year pitching the year extremely year and then really kind of faded toward the end. [Right-hander] Jonathon Crawford from Florida, [left-hander] Marco Gonzales from Gonzaga, those are college pitchers they could look at it as guys that could bolster them a little more quickly. Position player-wise, there’s [third baseman] Eric Jagielo from Notre Dame; Austin Wilson, an outfielder from Stanford; Phillip Ervin, an outfielder from Samford University. [Outfielder] Michael Lorenzen is another guy from Cal State Fullerton. … They could look at any of those guys at 22 and they could still be around for . Even the next wave college pitching is not that different from the guys I mentioned.
Who are some of the top local prospects the Orioles could be looking at?
The best player from Maryland is Matthew McPhearson (Riverdale Baptist). He’s one of the smaller, compact, really athletic outfielders. He’ll be somewhat interesting. Errol Robinson (St. John’s College High School) is shortstop, a good athlete, might be able to stay at short. I saw him over the summer. He was fairly impressive. Those are the two guys that jump out to me. Nobody else really stands out. If I were going to pick two Maryland guys, those are the top two.
What is the end goal of the Orioles’ draft?
Baltimore, I’m sure, would like to find some players who can help them sooner rather than later, given how competitive the AL East always is. They’re not one to shy away from high school players, at least they haven’t in the past. … What happened with Kevin Gausman is probably the best case scenario. They drafted a guy and he made it to the big leagues in a real hurry. I think if they can find some guys like that, even some high school guys that might take a little longer. The ultimate goal is to find big league parts, impact players, part-time players, trade bait, whatever it is that can help them continue to compete in that division.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun