With the 2019 season wrapping up, the Orioles are in a battle for the #1 overall pick, something I wrote about (along with many other O’s fans) this past week. At this point, it’s really a matter of Baltimore and Detroit being in a two-horse race.
However, unlike last season, I don’t think it’s all that important for Mike Elias to snag the top selection. Adley Rutschman was one of the best prospects in recent memory; this year’s class doesn’t seem to have the same disparity in talent at the top.
Of course, having a top-3 selection will be huge because those players are significantly better than the rest, but the others behind the current top-name (Spencer Torkelson) aren’t much far behind him.
In fact, I’ll go as far – Hot Take – to say that Torkelson should not be Elias’ target guy next year.
While Torkelson is absolutely primed to be a unit in any team’s lineup in the big leagues, I’m not certain he’d be the right choice for Baltimore if they were able to get the #1 pick. He’s a major league-caliber hitter, no doubt, but at first base, I’m not sure he’s at an important enough position to justify the top pick. I would have felt the same way had the O’s taken Andrew Vaughn this year.
I completely understand that you don’t draft by position over talent because you can’t guarantee how well those in your system will pan out, but I do think that can slightly change when you have a guy like Ryan Mountcastle. Mountcastle should be one of the best hitters on the Orioles over the next few years, but unfortunately his glove will likely limit him to 1B/DH. Knowing that, I’m not sure it makes sense to take a college-level first baseman with the top pick, especially when other options are available who could be just as good, if not better.
So, who are those options right now?
First, the Orioles could add another top-of-the-rotation arm to their stable by selecting Georgia righty Emerson Hancock. This guy has electric stuff, only allowing eight runs in his first 10 starts last season. If he has another strong season this year, he could challenge Torkelson for that top selection.
Next, Elias could look to shore up the infield, which lacks talented prospects, by drafting Vanderbilt third baseman Austin Martin. Martin led the SEC with a .392 batting average and has good power and a clean glove. Personally, I think he might be the way to go.
Finally, even though the Orioles didn’t execute this option this year, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Elias drafted under slot to go grab an elite high school prospect later on. If he were to do this, which could be especially valuable if the O’s get the #2 pick, I’d take either UCLA outfielder Garrett Mitchell or Texas A&M LHP Asa Lacy.
Regardless of which option the Orioles were to go with, I don’t think they’ll be “Tanking for Torkelson” this year. That might make the race for the top pick less important to them, though I wouldn’t go that far. Still, Elias should have a harder choice to make if the O’s get that top pick, because Torkelson probably shouldn’t be the guy.