Baseball’s amateur draft - or first-year-player draft, as MLB likes to call it with no regard to headline writers -- starts at 7 p.m.
And the Orioles' pick will be ...
LSU’s Kevin Gausman ...
Or maybe San Francisco’s Kyle Zimmer.
Or, and I know I am getting crazy but indulge me here, high school lefty Max Fried.
Of course, they could always take Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa.
So, yeah, things have really cleared up.
Here’s what we know: The Orioles are selecting their highest-rated player on the board when they pick fourth overall. They’re not going to worry about the position of said draftee, but there is no secret they’d love to get another top arm.
Here’s what I believe: The Orioles would love, and I stress, loooove, to get Byron Buxton, the Georgia high school center fielder at No. 4. And it is not going to happen.
The word is that the Houston Astros are taking Stanford right-hander Mark Appel with the first pick – though I still think they could throw a curve and take Buxton. But the safe money is on Appel, who has Houston roots.
The Minnesota Twins select next and are in rebuilding mode. So Buxton seems to be a natural, but the Twins feel like they are OK in the outfield and desperately need pitching. I think there is a slight chance the Twins take a pitcher, like Gausman.
That would drop Buxton to third. And he’ll be headed to Seattle quicker than you can say espresso. More likely, though, Buxton will be off the board at third and the Mariners will choose between Correa, whom the Orioles like, and Florida catcher Mike Zunino, who doesn’t seem to be on the Orioles’ first-pick radar.
If the conventional sticks, the Orioles would be able to get their choice of collegiate pitcher, Zimmer or Gausman. I have been on the Zimmer bandwagon because of his exceptional fastball command. But the more I talk to people, the more I’m thinking the Orioles may be leaning toward Gausman, though it is close.
They aren’t scared off by Correa’s position – shortstop, which is currently held byJ.J. Hardy, and eventually by Manny Machado -- so that could be a possibility if the Mariners don’t grab him.
But here is my limb of the day: Fried, the high school lefty that has darted up draft boards. Lefties that hit 90-plus with upside are always intriguing.
I could see a scenario where Buxton and Gausman are both off the board, and instead of taking Zimmer or Correa, the Orioles roll the dice and snag Fried. Dan Duquette doesn’t mind taking risks. Gary Rajsich has been adamant that he’ll take the player they like the best no matter how unconventional it is.
So don’t rule out Fried, even though no draft expert is predicting him to the Orioles. If it happens, you can say you saw it here first. If it doesn’t, well, I was just tossing it out there.
OK, so here are my two predictions. The safe one and the wacky (but not impossible) one:
The safe one: Astros: Appel; Twins: Buxton; Mariners: Zunino; Orioles: Gausman.
The wacky one: Astros, Buxton; Twins: Gausman; Mariners: Correa; Orioles: Fried.
Note: Orioles outfielder Bill Hall cleared waivers. He'll report to Triple-A Norfolk and be with the team tomorrow in Rochester.
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