Reviewing all of Mike Elias's Baltimore Orioles draft classes

How do all of Mike Elias's draft classes in Baltimore look now?
Mike Elias has a formula for drafting, and it works
Mike Elias has a formula for drafting, and it works / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages
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The MLB draft brings a lot of excitement and speculation, but through all the analytics and advanced statistics, it's still just people guessing. In 1987 the Seattle Mariners drafted a 17 year old kid named Ken Griffey Jr. out of high school. In just two years, Griffey was the starting opening day center fielder for the Mariners and was on his way to being one of the greatest center fielders to ever play the game. In 1999, a 19 year old Albert Pujols wasn't drafted until the 13th round (402 overall), and again, in two years he was in the major leagues and on his way to being one of the greatest first basemen of all time.

The point is that no matter how much data gets analyzed, baseball is unpredictable. The Mariners clearly hit their mark in '87 with Griffey, but to think that 401 players were selected over Pujols is baffling. Mike Elias and company have a great track record of taking the available data and making the best decisions. For example, many people believed that Druw Jones should have been drafted number one overall in 2022, but Elias took Jackson Holliday. Jones is still a highly touted prospect but is struggling this season in Single-A, whereas Holliday is having a breakout campaign. Holliday has become the number one overall prospect and was just promoted for the second time this season. Holliday will make his Double-A debut with the Bowie Baysox this week.

Elias is now responsible for five draft classes with the Baltimore Orioles. In that time he has already selected three players who have become the number one overall prospect, Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson and the aforementioned Holliday. The Birds have used these drafts to develop the top farm system in baseball for the last two years. Let's take a look back at each of these draft classes and see how they're doing.

How do Mike Elias's draft classes look now?

2019

Elias started off strong in 2019 with a draft class that could go down for the ages. For only the second time in Orioles history they entered the draft with the first overall pick and Elias selected Adley Rutschman. The O's second pick was Gunnar Henderson. There's no better way to start you career as a GM than your first two draft choices becoming number one overall prospects and cornerstones of the franchise. Rutschman finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 2022 and has been arguably the most valuable player on any team since his debut. Henderson entered 2023 as the favorite to win AL Rookie of the Year, and after getting off to a slow start, has returned to the race with a strong June that saw him win Rookie of the Month.

Kyle Stowers was the third pick and he debuted in the majors in 2022. Stowers broke camp with the major league club this season but he was sent back to Norfolk after a slow start and inconsistent playing time. Since then, injuries and the emergence of Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad have buried Stowers on the depth chart, but the talent that got him onto the opening day roster is still there. Joey Ortiz was taken in the fourth round and he made his major league debut this season. Ortiz has all the makings of a major leaguer and has displayed impressive ability on both offense and defense, but has been stuck in the log jam of infield talent the Orioles possess. With a handful of other picks still fighting their way through the farm system, I think it's fair to say this draft class has been a success.

2020

The 2020 draft was much different due to the Covid pandemic. For example in 2019, the Birds drafted 41 players in 40 rounds whereas in 2020, Elias and company drafted six players in five rounds. But boy did they make the most of those rounds. Heston Kjerstad was drafted second overall, and after missing a year with myocarditis, has returned in full force. He was recently promoted to triple-A Norfolk and is hitting even better than he hit in double-A. The O's have a crowded outfield but Kjerstad is forcing them to find a spot for him somewhere. He's in line to make his major league debut in 2024, even if it's at first base.

Speaking of debuts, Jordan Westburg, the O's second pick in 2020 made his debut just a few weeks ago. With the Orioles offense struggling, Westburg was called up to shoot some life into the lineup. Since then, all he's done is hit. Westburg has provided the spark that he was asked for and played multiple infield positions very well. Coby Mayo was the fourth round pick and is the third member of the Orioles top 10 prospects to be selected in 2020. Mayo is an imposing third baseman that was just promoted to Norfolk and could also make his way to Baltimore in 2024. The remaining picks were Hudson Haskin, Anthony Servideo and Carter Baumler, who all remain as valued members of the farm system. Haskin and Baumler are currently the teams number 13 and 21 prospects respectively.

2021

The O's have gotten production from top of their 2021 draft to the bottom. The O's took Colton Cowser fifth overall that year. Cowser flew through the minors and was called up to the show about a week ago. It has taken him some time to adjust to major league pitching, but the Orioles have gone 5-0 in that time. Coincidence? The Orioles probably won't go undefeated for the rest of the season but this streak that lead into the all-star break has been fun.

Connor Norby was the second round pick and he is just a call away from Camden Yards. Norby has been mashing the ball in Norfolk and should be with the Orioles for the September call ups at the latest. Other standouts from this draft include Donta' Williams, Creed Willems, Justin Armbruester and Alex Pham. Armbruester is also in Norfolk while Williams and Willems are a few years away from Baltimore, but this class has plenty of star power.

2022

The 2022 draft again saw the Orioles have the first overall pick, and again Elias struck gold. The Orioles, who normally look for collegiate players, broke script and took 18 year old Jackson Holliday. Holliday has rocketed through the prospect rankings all the way to number one after only one year of professional baseball. He won't make it to Baltimore this year, but has a good chance to break through in 2024, and when he does, the sky is the limit for this kid.

The second and fourth picks from this draft, Dylan Beavers and Jud Fabian, have both had success early in their minor league careers, while Jared Beck, the seven foot pitcher the Birds drafted in the 13th round was recently named Carolina League Pitcher of the Week. It still too early to judge this draft class as a whole, but there is a lot to be excited about.

Now that the 2023 draft is over, we can start to sit back and asses. Elias stayed true to form and 20 or the 22 players the Orioles drafted were college players. While this draft was pitcher heavy, the biggest splash was when the O's selected the speedster Enrique Bradfield Jr with the 17th pick. The Orioles got plenty of athletic players to replenish the ranks and only time will tell if this class can stand with the others.

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