In each of the past four amateur drafts, the Orioles have selected in the top five of the first round, meaning they are exceptionally familiar with their current position.
Don't look to that recent history, however, as a clue as to what the Orioles might do Monday night, shortly after 7 p.m., when they pick fourth overall.
There are no discernible trends. The Orioles have been all over the draft board with their first pick since 2007.
In the past four years, they have selected a high school hitter (Manny Machado, third overall, 2010), high school pitcher (Matt Hobgood, fifth, 2009), collegiate pitcher (Brian Matusz, fourth, 2008) and collegiate hitter (Matt Wieters, fifth, 2007).
Truthfully, they'd probably prefer another ready-to-go collegiate hurler to mix into the young, big-league rotation within the next year or two. Fortunately for the Orioles, this draft class boasts some upper-echelon college pitching — at least half of the Top 10 picks is expected to come from the college pitching ranks.
Although it's a relatively deep draft, the O's best shot at a difference maker is with the fourth pick. Because of a bloated supplemental round, they don't draft again until the fourth selection in the second round, which is 64th overall. Their third-rounder is 94th overall.
"I am always looking for a good college option, and picking number four has the top-end potential you are looking for there," said Orioles amateur scouting director Joe Jordan. "I'd like to get a 21-year-old that's been proven out there and can be as good as any option we have. That makes sense."
Yet if the draft goes as expected, the Orioles' top pick may be a high school arm — hard-throwing Oklahoma prep right-hander Dylan Bundy, who is the younger brother of Orioles' minor-league pitcher Bobby Bundy, a starter at High-A Frederick.
As is his policy, Jordan won't talk about specific players, but several national experts believe the club will tab the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Bundy, who had a senior season in Oklahoma that is the stuff of legend. Jordan, also an Oklahoman, has been aware of Dylan Bundy for years.
Using an advanced arsenal that includes a mid-to-high 90s fastball, a hard cutter, a sharp curveball and a developing changeup, the 18-year-old Bundy allowed just 20 hits and two earned runs in 71 innings pitched, walking five and striking out 158. He threw one no-hitter and six one-hitters.
"The biggest thing is his command. He can locate four pitches where he wants to and put them down in the zone," said his brother Bobby, whom the Orioles drafted in the eighth round in 2008. "He can throw 96, 97, 98 mph down in the zone. It's not like a high school kid that just rears back and lets it go. He has a real smooth delivery."
ESPN.com baseball analyst Keith Law thinks Bundy may be the safest bet among the top players available, even as a high schooler, because his ceiling is unlimited and there are questions surrounding most every elite college player.
Risk and reward
Heading into this season, Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon, the reigning player of the year, and UCLA power right-hander Gerrit Cole were expected to duke it out for the No. 1 pick. But Rendon suffered a shoulder injury that has limited him to six games in the field, raising questions as to whether he is a health risk going forward.
Cole (6-7, 3.28 ERA in 15 games) has had an unspectacular campaign, given his impressive four-pitch repertoire that includes a fastball that tops out at 100 mph. Those two are still the leading candidates to be taken at No. 1 by the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, University of Virginia left-hander Danny Hultzen, a Bethesda resident, has rocketed up the draft list with an outstanding season (10-3, 1.59 ERA in 15 games) for the talent-rich Cavaliers.
Despite not throwing as hard as Cole, Hultzen, whose fastball sits in the low 90s and has an excellent changeup and sinker, may be the most polished of the amateurs. He has a shot at being the top pick, but if he slips to No. 4 the Orioles almost certainly would grab the local product.
They also likely would take Cole if he were available. Rendon, despite his reputation as a disciplined power hitter and defensive whiz, might be a different story.
The Orioles' organization needs corner infield power and Rendon has prodigious pop. He hit 20 homers in 2009, 26 in 2010 and just six this year, though he been pitched around much of the season (and the NCAA switched to less lively bats in 2011). The only way Rendon drops to fourth is if the three higher teams are not satisfied with — or aren't allowed to inspect — Rendon's medical reports. If those three pass because of health, it's unlikely the Orioles would take the risk, given their cautious history with pre-existing conditions.