There are two ways to look at the probable Orioles' drafting strategy with their top pick. One is to look at the recent history, where in three of the last four years, they took the best player available - Wieters, Matusz, and Machado. In the other year, they fell in love with one probable first round pick who was a reach at fifth overall but would be affordable, allowing them to spend more in the rest of the draft - Hobgood.
Early buzz has the Orioles fixated on Jed Bradley, the lefty out of Georgia Tech. If true, this strikes me as a Hobgood situation all over again. Bradley isn't anyone's fourth best talent in the class (and I agree that he's not) but should be relatively affordable and is a certain first round pick, so while he's a reach talent-wise, he's not a spectacular reach. I don't think the Orioles end up taking Bradley though (and I hope they don't) - with a weak farm system, no supplemental picks, and the bad memory of the Hobgood pick (as well as the promising early returns from Manny Machado), I think they go all in for the best player available.
With the fourth overall pick, my first round board only needs to be four names long, but I'm considering five here: Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Dylan Bundy, Bubba Starling, and Trevor Bauer. Cole and Rendon I expect will be gone, but if either of them fall into the Orioles lap, I can't see passing. Bundy and Starling are the outstanding prep arm and bat of the class, and I think you could easily make an argument that they are the most talented pitcher and hitter of the class. Bauer is a wild card. I can't help but to think that passing on him might be passing on Lincecum all over again - another unorthodox pitcher with nearly major league stuff but durability concerns that are mitigated if you believe in his unusual workout methods.
I expect the top three picks to be (in some order) Cole, Rendon and Hultzen. So my tough decisions:
1) Who do I like better, Bundy or Starling? All things being equal, I prefer the bat and think that is what the O's need more, but Bundy is perhaps as or more advanced than Taillon was last year while Starling is quite raw, and the O's have ties to his family (Dylan's older brother Bobby is a pitcher in the O's system who was signed out of high school) which makes me feel like the O's have an inside track at signing him and a strong environment to help him thrive. On the other hand, if I really believe that this is the draft to spend big because some form of hard slotting will be implemented in the new CBA, the ability to spread out Starling's bonus is a big advantage.
2) How do I rank Bauer? Can I pass up on his upside and closeness to the majors in favor of a prep if I believe in him?
3) Am I underselling Bradley? Should I give more thought to taking the pitcher the O's have been most rumored to like?
The first round will shape my strategy for the second; Jordan habitually takes a hitter with his second pick if he goes for a pitcher with his first, and vice versa. Another reason I favor a bat in the first is that I like the pitching I expect to be available at 2:4 more than I like the bats.