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How will the Orioles choose which player is the right pick at No. 2 in the 2020 MLB draft?

Only one of the top players available in Wednesday’s MLB draft will be off the board when the Orioles make their first pick at No. 2, leaving a pool of talent whose profiles are as disparate as can be.

In college stars Spencer Torkelson of Arizona State, Austin Martin of Vanderbilt and Nick Gonzales of New Mexico State, there are well-developed position players who could be fixtures in the middle of the Orioles lineup for a decade. Outfielder Zac Veen, a Florida high school standout, brings the possibility of an elite power bat and plenty of upside. And pitchers Asa Lacy of Texas A&M and Emerson Hancock of Georgia represent the kind of surefire college arms that often become centerpieces of major league rotations.

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All those players, plus a handful more, have been pared down to five names that executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said Monday will ultimately make for the Orioles’ top two from which their first pick will come.

The challenge, he said, is evaluating such different players against one another.

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“We face that decision all across the draft, so it’s just an enhanced, magnified microcosm of scouting in general,” Elias said. “Scouting is, how do you compare a college junior that has four average pitches and can start versus a high school player with no defensive value but tremendous power and a great bat? It’s about as apples to oranges as you can get, but we have to do that in the draft.

“We have developed and continue to develop ways of doing that as scientifically as possible in a combined art of the subjective evaluation with whatever objective information is available to us about the player’s skills, and also the history of the draft and what the draft tells you about players. Call that what you will, a draft model or whatever. But we try to be as scientific as possible when we make those comparisons, but it’s tough. It’s not easy to do, to weigh how players are going to arrive at values so differently and which one is a better investment.”

When the draft presents such a surefire No. 1 player the way it did last year for the Orioles with Adley Rutschman, and which many believe has happened with the Detroit Tigers at No. 1 overall and Torkelson, there’s little debate involved in arriving at that.

In situations like the Orioles are in, it’s about parsing out the risk involved in each player against what’s a considerable upside.

“We want to do well with the pick,” Elias said. “The baseball draft, even when you’re picking high, there are no guarantees and the odds of your pick returning almost no value are enough that you need to consider that possibility. … There are really good players and really good talents this year, and we’re going to make a good pick, but we’re treating these guys as individuals and comparing them one against the other.”

Especially high in the draft, college bats are viewed as a safe bet because of a long track record against high-level competition and all the data that provides teams. With more scouting looks and more information available, the variance in their projection is lower. But that creates a high standard for those players to be held to.

“You want the impact bat, you want a guy that could basically be a part of your major league lineup for years to come and be a consistent performer,” domestic scouting operations supervisor Brad Ciolek said. “We weigh all that and we take all that into account, obviously. Makeup is another big part of that, getting our scouts feedback on how hard of a worker the kid is, if he’s going to be a good fit as far as the organization. But we’re basically looking for guys that can be the significant difference-makers and impact players once they do get up to Baltimore.”

That possibility certainly exists with Veen as well. Elias drove north from Sarasota, Florida, to see him play in February before the coronavirus pandemic shut down scouting, and Elias said Monday that there’s less unknown about first-round high school players thanks to the exposure they get.

Lacy and Hancock both also have significant data available on them due to their presence as rotation pitchers for major schools over the past two years. Hancock entered the spring as the top college pitcher, but Lacy took that title in the month of college baseball before things shut down. Each has the ability to be a longtime rotation member, no matter where they end up.

Whichever player the Orioles choose will be part of a draft class that, even with only six picks, they believe can have a significant impact on the team’s rebuild.

“Obviously, a lot of our attention has been directed toward debating the candidates for the No. 2 pick, but we also have a tremendous opportunity given that we have pick No. 30 and pick No. 39 to really impact our organization and our farm system,” Elias said. “We think this is a good draft class.”

2020 draft

  • Wednesday, 7 p.m.: Round 1, Competitive Balance Round A; TV: ESPN, MLB Network; Orioles picks: Nos. 2, 30
  • Thursday, 5 p.m.: Rounds 2-5; TV: ESPN2, MLB Network; Orioles picks: Nos. 39, 74, 103, 133

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