While the fact that the 2020 MLB Draft was a shortened version of normal certainly isn’t ideal for a rebuilding team such as the Orioles, it does afford them a unique opportunity in the undrafted free agent signing portion of the offseason. With a larger pool of players to snag, GM Mike Elias may be able to bring in prospects that might otherwise have been drafted by other clubs. Of course, these prospects will have to want to come to Baltimore and the Orioles will have to be able to afford them, but if ends meet, the Birds could have a nice crop of players in this area.
Last week, leading up to the draft, I wrote that the Orioles may want to draft under-slot in order to attract highly-touted high school prospects later. That proved to be the route Elias took, with the team selecting two prep prospects in the later rounds after passing on the likes of Austin Martin and Asa Lacy early. There’s certainly some risk involved in doing that, as high schoolers are harder to project, but I like the decision.
At the same time, I expect the risk-taking to continue with undrafted signees. When plucking players from the college ranks, however, the far greater gambles are made on pitchers; that reality is reflected in the Orioles’ clear preference of position players early in the most recent two drafts. With that being said, they should be willing to take risks on the best arms left after last week.
There always seems to be more success with late-round pitchers than one might expect, and the predictability based on each pitcher’s respective draft position is low. At the same time, the Orioles should feel good about the new regime’s ability to grow arms through analytics. For some – such as Michael Baumann and Cody Sedlock – in the minor league system, Baltimore’s revamped approach on the mound led to immediate improvement. Knowing that, they may have a decent shot at finding gems – or at least developing them – in the undrafted pool.
In fact, the Orioles have already shown confidence in their ability to do this, as two of their first three undrafted signees (as I’m writing this) are right-handed pitchers. That’s already more than the Birds drafted last week. Without a doubt, the number of players Baltimore brings in after this year’s draft will dwarf their selections, but the point remains: the Orioles opened the undrafted period by prioritizing pitching.
You know what’s even more exciting about this? Baltimore has agreed to pay stipends to their minor leaguers, which many other teams have not committed to. This, paired with the potential to quickly rise up the ranks of a rebuilding system, makes the organization an intriguing one for undrafted prospects.
If handled well, Elias and the Orioles will take advantage of that by nabbing the best remaining arms.