One hitter that has shot up the projected first round is Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa, who draws comparisons to Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki. Correa will likely become the highest drafted player in his country's history — and now looks like he may crash the first five picks.

If Buxton is gone and Correa is available, the shortstop may land with the Mariners at No. 3. Seattle has been linked to University of Florida catcher Mike Zunino, who is considered the best of a weak collegiate position player pool.

When it's time for the Orioles to pick, at least one of the top collegiate hurlers should be available as well as one among Buxton, Correa and Zunino. The Orioles seem set for now and in the near future at center field, shortstop and catcher, but Rajsich said his philosophy is to target the best player regardless of position or organizational need.

In the unlikely event Buxton is available at No. 4, it's hard to imagine the Orioles passing up a dynamic athlete with gap power, excellent speed and an arm so strong that his fastball has been clocked at 98 mph. Correa also may give the Orioles pause, especially considering he could eventually end up at third base.

Otherwise, bank on the Orioles taking a pitcher in the first round for the fourth time in five years. Zimmer and Gausman — both 6-feet-4 and hard-throwing — have been connected to the Orioles in recent weeks. Gausman is more established and has faced better competition, but Zimmer's intense mound presence and advanced command may put him a tick ahead.

One other option, albeit a slight long shot at No. 4, is California high school left-hander Max Fried, who is considered the best southpaw in the draft.

Rajsich said he and the organization will weigh all factors, and they hope to walk away with the highest-rated player available — whether it is a hitter or pitcher out of college or high school.

"I'm just looking at the best player, wherever he may be. I believe in balance," said Rajsich, who was hired in November after two-plus decades as a scout. "I have a short and long term goal for the organization. I believe in that mixture of older veteran players and younger players. I think it's very healthy to have both throughout development."

dan.connolly@baltsun.com



Orioles' potential draft targets



Mark Appel

Position: Right-handed pitcher

School/Class: Stanford University/junior

Height/Weight: 6-feet-5, 215 pounds

Bats/Throws: R/R

Skinny: Considered most polished pitcher in the draft. Has a mid-90s fastball that can run up to high-90s, a hard slider and improving changeup.

Byron Buxton

Position: Outfielder