The Orioles hit what they felt to be a home run with the first overall pick in the MLB draft Sunday, but executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias focused on the concept of adding another “wave” to the already highly-ranked farm system Baltimore possesses.
To do that, they followed the selection of high school shortstop Jackson Holliday first overall with Cal junior outfielder Dylan Beavers with the 33rd overall pick in the Competitive Balance A round. Beavers, who Baseball America considered the 26th-best prospect in the draft, is 6-foot-4 and figures to play a corner outfield position.
To open the second round at pick No. 42, Baltimore selected Clemson sophomore third baseman Max Wagner, opting to stick with high-upside batters.
In 56 games for the Golden Bears this past season, Beavers, who is from Paso Robles, California, hit .291 with a 1.060 OPS, clubbing 17 home runs and driving in 50 runs. He drew 51 walks to his 54 strikeouts, and like Holliday, Beavers is a left-handed hitter. He was a first team All-Pac-12 selection each of the past two seasons, and he displayed a propensity to reach base in 2022, doing so safely in 51 of Cal’s 56 games, including a streak of 23 consecutive.
Wagner, a 20-year-old from Green Bay, Wisconsin, had just 99 plate appearances as a freshman before breaking out this past spring and earning the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year award. He hit 27 homers for the Tigers, tied for the third most in college baseball, including 17 in his final 24 games.
The right-handed slugger held a strong walk-to-strikeout ratio (45 to 51) and posted a 1.348 OPS as a sophomore.
In the first round of the draft, 21 of the 30 players selected were position players, perhaps a side effect of a rash of injuries to many of the top college pitchers. In the buildup to the draft, Elias said “it’s kind of a blowout year [for pitchers], largely ‘cause of that.” But he didn’t rule out the possibility that Baltimore would select an injured pitcher, especially if it’s “kind of a garden-variety Tommy John rehab.”
But Elias has largely avoided drafting pitchers highly in the draft, and he went with one infielder and one outfielder with his first two picks for the third year in a row. In 2021, the Orioles selected outfielder Colton Cowser first with the fifth overall pick followed by infielder Connor Norby 41st overall. In 2020, it was outfielder Heston Kjerstad with the No. 2 overall selection followed by infielder Jordan Westburg 30th overall.
Holliday, the son of seven-time All-Star Matt Holliday, was chosen out of a group many narrowed to five options. There was more at play in the Competitive Balance A round, with nine of Baseball America’s top 25 prospects still available.
The Orioles opted to take Beavers and Wagner, the latter of whom Baseball America considered the 70th-best prospect entering the draft.