Orioles making moves for present, but 2019 draft clearly already in focus for new GM Mike Elias

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

With Tuesday's revelation that Orioles scouting director Gary Rajsich won't return next season, the club appeared to solidify its offseason focus since naming Mike Elias its new general manager earlier this month: there's plenty of work to be done for next season, but a large portion of what's going on seems to be directed toward the ever-important 2019 draft.

Elias, the Astros’ former scouting director, said he wants to build an "elite talent pipeline" in Baltimore, the same as Houston had. No doubt the first step in that was bringing along assistant general manager Sig Mejdal, who built the forecasting model that informed many of the Astros’ acclaimed drafts and later shifted his attention toward helping build those prospects up through any means necessary.

But having been a part of Houston's first draft under Jeff Luhnow as a special assistant with previous scouting director Bobby Heck still in place, Elias likely wanted to avoid a situation like that and simply have a fresh start.

It became clear last week what the Orioles might have to work with in that draft, too. The team's first selection, earned by their 115-loss season, will be first overall. They'll pick first in every ensuing round, too. But the Orioles were unfortunate to not be drawn into the Competitive Balance A round this year, according to MLB.com.

Each year, the teams in the bottom 10 in revenue and bottom 10 in market size—14 in all—are assigned extra draft picks, some after the first round and some after the second round. In 2019, there will be seven picks after the first round and eight after the second round.

A change in the last CBA means the two sets of teams alternate between Round A and Round B each year, and since the Orioles were in Round A last year, they fall in Round B this year at a pick that projects now as No. 72 overall.

The 2018 bonus pool allotment for that pick ($837,700) is about half the amount of the smallest bonus from the A round.

As it stands, factoring in the current place of their competitive balance pick and where the first pick in the second round falls before any of the qualifying-offer free agents sign (No. 41), the Orioles project to have a bonus pool of $13,371,800 based on 2018 figures. That's more money than any team had last year, though of the top 10 selecting teams in 2019, the fact that the Miami Marlins and Cincinnati Reds landed in the A round could see them creep above the Orioles' in terms of total bonus size.

Even with the minor disappointment of the B round set in, it's clear that as they work toward building their major league roster and coaching staff, the Orioles know that what they want to create begins with the draft. As all the more pressing needs come into focus, it's hard not to remember the importance of the early-June draft in the distance.

This story has been updated to reflect a 2017 change in the CBA that alternates years of the competitive balance round picks, instead of a lottery as was first instituted in 2012.

jmeoli@baltsun.com

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