It took over two weeks following the World Series for the Orioles to find the right person to head their organization moving forward, but the patience may have paid off. Mike Elias, age 35, is a young, analytically driven executive with playing and scouting experience.
Elias was in part responsible for drafting the likes of Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman. He has quite the job ahead of him taking over for an Orioles team that won only 47 games this past season, with no international player pipeline, and an understaffed analytics department who just lost the department head in Sarah Gelles.
But is he the right man to do it? His history suggests so.
The Houston Astros were coming off a 56-106 season in 2011 when they hired a 28-year old Elias as a scout and within eight months, named him director of scouting. Elias then had a hand in drafting first-round picks Carlos Correa (18.3 Career WAR), Lance McCullers, Alex Bregman (12.7 Career WAR), Kyle Tucker, and Forrest Whitley. Elias wasn’t without his draft blemishes though, drafting Brady Aiken and Mark Appel 1st overall, neither of whom ever saw Major League action.
Maybe having the 1st overall pick in the 2019 Draft attracted Elias to the job. More likely though was the presumed promise ownership has made to him to be hands off in the decision making. Ownership meddling has perhaps been the biggest turnoff to potential Orioles job candidates in the past. It has hindered this club’s ability to stay with the pack, make necessary trades, or even develop young talent.
I suspect another reason for the move now is that Astros GM Jeff Luhnow was just granted an extension to remain GM for the next five years and Elias knew he would not be promoted anytime soon.
Elias may just be the perfect candidate for the job, but it does seem odd to see the Orioles making such an intuitive decision. I kid I kid, because it is refreshing to see the Angelos sons recognizing the organization’s most glaring pain point.
Without a formidable analytics staff in this day and age, coupled with the 5th smallest market in the bigs, the Orioles need to have the cream of the crop leading their organization. Now that they hopefully have that in place, they can focus on the future and pave a clear path, tailor the organization to be analytically-focused, draft well, and put more of an emphasis on OPS and wRC+ as opposed to home runs, and be less centered on the desire of ownership and more centered on data-driven decision making.
As Orioles fans we should be cautiously optimistic, but the Angelos sons so far – from the July trade deadline on – have done what they said they were going to do.
Another layer to this are the reports that Sig Mejdal will be joining the Orioles from the Astros. If true, this means an immediate boost to the analytics department. As mentioned earlier, the Orioles’ analytical department is drastically understaffed and Mejdal was basically the sabermetric wizard for the ‘Stros. As a former NASA Engineer, we know he probably has an IQ rivaling Jeopardy’s Ken Jennings.
If ex-Astros analytics guru Sig Mejdal is willing to join Mike Elias with Os, as @Feinsand suggested, that alleviates a major hurdle for the Orioles. There simply aren’t many people experienced in building baseball analytic departments — and it’s getting late to raid other orgs
— Dan Connolly (@danconnolly2016) November 14, 2018
The Orioles will slowly start to staff their analytics office, the coaching staff, and their minor league staffs, but this is a hell of a good start to a rebuild in which Orioles fans had little to no faith a month ago.