Baltimore Orioles

‘It’s not a 100% shot’: Orioles and GM Mike Elias enter MLB draft aware of pressures of picking first

There are few, if any, executives in Major League Baseball as familiar with the Orioles’ role atop next week’s MLB draft, as well as the boom-or-bust potential that comes with that first selection, as Mike Elias.

So, when the Orioles’ first-year executive vice president and general manager speaks of the importance of the organization’s No. 1 overall selection Monday, he does so with plenty of background into how valuable that top pick can be — and how it can go south.


“It’s hard to understate it,” Elias said. “It’s a huge opportunity. Anytime you’re picking high in the draft — not just the No. 1 pick but high in the draft, top-10 pick — you’ve got a pretty good shot of really getting a franchise cornerstone, but it’s not a 100% shot by any stretch of the imagination. It’s probably more like 50-50 if you look at the historical record of it, so you feel a lot of pressure.”

In each of his first three years as the Houston Astros’ director of amateur scouting, Elias oversaw the team’s consecutive No. 1 overall draft picks. In 2012, the Astros took Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa, who developed into a Rookie of the Year, All-Star and World Series champion. The 2013 top pick was Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, who was traded and later retired without playing in the majors. The Astros took California high school left-hander Brady Aiken with the top pick in 2014, but a medical problem caused him to go unsigned.


Only one of the three has played for the Astros, but it’s a player in Correa, who despite being in only his fifth major league season ranks behind only Alex Rodriguez in Baseball Reference’s measure for career wins above replacement among first overall picks who were primarily shortstops. Appel, though, is out of baseball, while Aiken, who the Cleveland Indians took with the 17th pick in 2015, has yet to pitch above Single-A.

Nobody has a crystal ball, and it’s just not easy to nail.

—  Orioles GM Mike Elias

In that way, there’s an extreme amount of pressure to avoid the bust and capture the boom with the first overall pick, and it’s not something Elias seems to be shying away from.

“There’s big upside to the opportunity, but it’s not easy,” Elias said. “Nobody has a crystal ball, and it’s just not easy to nail, so we just do as much work as we can going into it and do what we think is right.”

It’s yet to be seen whether that’s selecting Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman, California first baseman Andrew Vaughn, Texas high school shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. or someone else entirely. Whomever the Orioles take with Monday’s first pick will go in a spot that has a history of success, but that makes the failures stand out even more. Here’s a by-the-numbers look at the historical successes and failures of the MLB draft’s first overall picks.


When Appel retired last year, he became only the third player taken atop the draft to end his career before reaching the majors, joining catcher Steven Chilcott (New York Mets, 1966) and left-hander Brien Taylor (New York Yankees, 1991). Aiken and the top picks from 2016 to 2018 also have yet to play in the majors.

The other 47 all made it to the big leagues, and three first overall selections have become Hall of Famers, with Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones and Harold Baines getting elected in the past four years.


Entering this week, the 47 first-overall picks who have been major leaguers have an average career WAR, per Baseball Reference, of 22.4. That’s the highest among any pick, with second (15.2), sixth (14.7), and third and fourth (13.6) trailing by wide margins.

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Even if you remove the top pick’s top-three WAR earners in Rodriguez (117.8), Jones (85.2) and Griffey (83.8), the remaining No. 1 picks have an average WAR of 17.4, still highest of any draft position.



In 22 of the 51 drafts from 1965 to 2015, the No. 2 pick amassed a greater career WAR than the first pick or made the majors when the first pick didn’t. That’s 43.1%. Interestingly, one of those pairings was 2008’s Tim Beckham and Pedro Álvarez, teammates on the 2017-18 Orioles.

To take it further, in 10 of those 22 drafts, the third-overall pick also had a more productive career than the top selection. Only eight times has the No. 1 pick had the most career WAR of players taken in the first round of his respective draft.

2019 MLB draft

Rounds 1-2: Monday, 7 p.m.

Rounds 3-10: Tuesday, 1 p.m.

Rounds 11-40: Next Wednesday, noon

TV/streaming: MLB Network/