It was all but assumed by everyone paying attention that the Orioles were going to use their first pick in this shortened MLB Draft to take Vanderbilt’s Austin Martin, the great athlete without a set position. That was about as etched in stone as any pre-draft cement pouring I have witnessed.

Then about a week before the draft, a rumor surfaced that the Orioles might shock the world and go under slot to take Florida high school outfielder Zac Veen, one of the best left-handed hitters in the draft. Veen ended up going No. 9 to the Colorado Rockies.

During a pre-draft media session June 8, O’s general manager Mike Elias was asked by The Athletic’s Dan Connolly about whether or not the Orioles could use their top pick on a player who could be signed more cheaply than the slot value. Going into this draft, the Orioles had $13,894,300 in pool money, the most of any team in the draft.

The No. 2 pick of the draft had a slot value of $7,789,900. If Austin Martin had been the pick, he would have expected to be paid at least that slot value. But it doesn’t mean that someone else – say, Heston Kjerstad — couldn’t be signed for less than that slot price if he and his adviser agreed to the parameters of a deal before the pick was made.

The purpose of going under slot is that now instead of having just $6 million left for the remaining five picks the Orioles can add $2-3 million to that figure and then go over slot later in the draft on seemingly hard-to-sign high school players.

Let’s get to Elias’ entrance into The Liars’ Club. While Elias admitted before the draft that the Orioles had five players they were seriously considering using their first selection on, Elias soft-peddled that under-slot strategy by pointing out that while that might work well in a longer draft, the fact that this was only going to be a five-round draft mitigated that strategy. He never even cracked a smile or gave Connolly a wink.

So, when the Orioles selected Kjerstad at the No. 2 spot, the game was afoot and the exact strategy Elias had poo-pooed was in fact unfolding.

With their fourth-round pick, the Orioles selected 6-foot-5 third baseman Coby Mayo, who played his high school ball at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Mayo was a sophomore when a gunman killed 17 people at the school in February 2018.

Mayo probably lasted until the fourth round only because he had a commitment to attend the University of Florida and was thought to be demanding too much money to sign. Mayo reportedly agreed to a $1.75 million signing bonus with the Orioles, well more than the $565,600 slot value at No. 103.

Then in the last round of the draft, with the second pick of that fifth round, the Orioles selected right-handed pitcher Carter Baumler, a 6-foot-2 athlete who also kicked and punted for his Dowling Catholic High School football team in Iowa. Baumler was thought to be totally committed to attending Texas Christian University.

Well, that would be news to Scott Reister of in Des Moines Iowa. Baumler told Reister he expects to sign with the Orioles. Baumler will presumably sign an over-slot deal. The slot value for the No. 133 pick is $422,300.

Could something still go wrong that would allow one of Mike Elias’ great catches wriggle free of his rod? Sure, but don’t bet on it. Elias won his spot in The Liars’ Club, and chances are he’ll be smiling with all his teeth showing at the signings of Kjerstad, Mayo and Baumler.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Stan Charles

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