For the sixth consecutive year, the Orioles will select in the top five of baseball's amateur draft, this time making the fourth overall pick on Monday night.
Then they will wait. And wait. Until Tuesday, when they make their second selection, the fifth pick in the second round, 65th overall.
"It's going to be painful," said Orioles' first-year scouting director Gary Rajsich. "There's a lot of good players we are going to have to sit and watch fly off the board."
Because there are 29 additional supplemental first-round picks this year for free-agent losses last winter that don't involve Baltimore — and an additional regular first-round pick since once club, the Toronto Blue Jays, failed to sign their 2011 first-rounder — the Orioles are basically getting their second-round pick in what once was a third-round slot.
With drastic changes to the new collective bargaining agreement in regard to the draft, there likely won't be so many supplemental picks in the future. That's just one of myriad differences scouting directors will be dealing with in 2012 and beyond.
"I think everybody is in same boat here. It's been food for thought as far as how you handle the draft, who you are taking and what we can do in certain situations," Rajsich said. "But in the end we are still committed to getting the best players where we can get them."
This year, the number of rounds has been scaled down from 50 to 40 and the draft will play out for three days — with the first and supplemental rounds on Monday night; rounds two through 15 on Tuesday and the remaining selections Wednesday.
Under the new CBA, major-league deals for amateurs are not permitted, and the deadline for signing draftees has been pushed up from mid-August to mid-July (July 13 at 5 p.m.).
Also, teams will be assigned a total amount that can be spent on the first 10 rounds, and if clubs exceed that sum, they will be taxed and could lose future draft picks, depending on how much they overspend. The Orioles allotted expenditure this year for those 10 rounds is $6,826,900 according to Baseball America. That includes a slotted $4.2 million for their first-rounder.
Rajsich can exceed $4.2 million for his top pick, but then somewhere in the next nine rounds he'll have to go under the suggested slots to stay at budget. All picks after the 10th round to do not count against the $6.83 million, as long as those individual signings do not exceed $100,000. That will be a big change for the Orioles, who in the last few years have paid well above slot for players that slipped deeper into the draft due to signability issues.
"I think the days of overpaying a kid that wants to go to school, paying him [high bonuses] in the 16th, 17th and 18th rounds may be over," Rajsich said. "[Signability] is more important than ever before, no question about it. … We have to be sure we know what the signability is. It is more critical than ever."
In 2011, with former amateur scouting director Joe Jordan leading the charge, the Orioles also had the fourth overall pick, signing Oklahoma prep phenom Dylan Bundy to a $6.255 million big-league deal that included a $4 million signing bonus.
That kind of expenditure won't happen at No. 4 this year for several reasons, including the reality that none of the potential top picks are as highly regarded as Bundy or several of the other 2011 draftees were.
"There doesn't seem to be as much depth to this draft as there were with others," Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said. "Hopefully, we'll get a few good players."
Without revealing specifics, Rajsich said he believes there's a significant drop off in talent beyond the draft's top tier. Whether the Orioles get one of those elite players may depend on what the teams ahead of them — the Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins and Seattle Mariners — do.
"Right away, it gets very shallow as far as talent and upside," Rajsich said. "Without giving you a specific number, there are very few [exceptional players available]."
That seems to be the consensus throughout the industry. No player has emerged as the clear-cut favorite to go to the Astros with the first pick. High school center fielder Byron Buxton may have the most upside, but he is considered years away from contributing.
The Astros have been linked to Buxton and Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, who has Houston roots and is arguably the most polished pitcher in the draft. Considered the best collegiate player heading into this season, Appel didn't really separate himself from the other top pitchers, fellow right-handers Kyle Zimmer of the University of San Francisco and LSU's Kevin Gausman.