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2015 MLB Draft Reviews – Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles 2015 MLB Draft Picks

(Quick scheduling note: due to the fact I’d really like to get going with some 2016 MLB Draft content while also wanting to finish draft recaps for all teams for the first time in site history, I’m attempting to scale back the draft reviews just enough to get everything done without going insane. Thanks to the many team sites and message boards that have linked to these over the summer…and apologies to fans of the teams that are getting the condensed versions now.)

26 – DJ Stewart
78 – Gray Fenter
105 – Ryan Mountcastle
130 – Garrett Cleavinger
150 – Ryan McKenna
263 – Jason Heinrich
267 – Seamus Curran
376 – Cedric Mullins

Seven of Baltimore’s top eight picks (25, 36, 68, 102, 133, 163, 193, 223) fell in my top 267 (26, 78, 105, 130, 150, 263, 267) with many of them lining up really well. The one pick not in my top 500 was RHP Jonathan Hughes, who couldn’t agree to terms with the O’s and will give pro ball another shot in a few years after playing at Georgia Tech. Let’s tackle the early round players first for a change…

Despite a disappointing pro debut, OF DJ Stewart (26) still looks like a solid pick at that point in the draft with big league regular upside. I stand by my February report on him…

Stewart’s build evokes the same kind of bowling ball vibe that has garnered comparisons to a pair of intriguing hitters: Matt Stairs and Jeremy Giambi. Physically those both make a lot of sense to me, but the comps go even deeper than body type. I could very easily see Stewart having the kind of career of either player. If we split the difference with their 162 game averages, then we get a player who puts up a .260/.360/.450 yearly line with 20 HR, 25 2B, 70 BB, and 100 K. A career that mirrors that of Billy Butler feels like a reasonable ceiling projection, though I could see that bumping up to something closer to Carlos Santana territory with a big final college season. Those are all really good hitters, so take the “reasonable ceiling projection” phrasing to heart.

RHP Gray Fenter (78) has some clear strikes against him — he’s an older, slighter high school righthander than you typically see go so high — but he can really pitch. With a fast arm (90-94 FB, 97 peak) and feel for multiple promising secondaries, he looks like a future mid-rotation or better arm with continued improvement. That kind of improvement shouldn’t be taken for granted, especially for a 6’0″ guy who enjoyed the perks of pitching against younger competition throughout his amateur career, but Fenter is so new to pitching that it stands to reason there’s unseen upside left once he figures out some of the heretofore hidden nuances of the craft.

Like Stewart, SS Ryan Mountcastle (105) had a rough pro debut; also like Stewart, I still believe in his bat and the value of the pick. If it works, it’s an average or better big league regular profile. Quite honestly, sorting out this year’s group of high school third basemen was as big a chore as ranking any one singular position player group this. After Ke’Bryan Hayes and Tyler Nevin, you could rank the likes of Austin Riley, Travis Blankenhorn, Trey Cabbage, Mountcastle, Bryce Denton, and Ryan Karstetter in almost any conceivable way and not come up with an indefensible order. Those six players ranked between 88th and 114th on my overall pre-draft board. With a grouping that bunched up, it comes down to personal preference in player archetype as much as anything. In Mountcastle’s case, the fact he was announced as a shortstop and has played the vast majority of pro innings a the six-spot should indicate what the O’s think of his glove; even if he doesn’t stick at short, that’s a vote of confidence for his defense at the hot corner or perhaps second base. I liked Mountcastle less for his glove than his bat, so we’ll see.

LHP Garrett Cleavinger (130) going in the third round blew up my market correction on college reliever theory that I touted at various points in the spring, but I still think the pick is fair value for a potential quick-moving late-inning reliever with closer stuff. His control will have to be watched closely as he progresses, but there’s no need to worry about his ability to miss bats. At Oregon he went 12.16 K/9, 13.78 K/9 and 14.85 K/9 in three seasons. There’s velocity (up to mid-90s), a breaking ball (above-average 78-84 MPH), and deception, so add all that up with his track record and handedness and you’ve got a keeper.

OF Ryan McKenna (150) is a really well-rounded athlete that does everything well (for lack of a better word) but nothing exceptional. I’m not cool with hanging a fourth outfielder ceiling on a high school prospect from a cold weather state (seems needlessly limiting), but the profile kind of fits. I feel as though we’ve seen an uptick in supposed “fourth outfielder types” who grind their way into everyday duty, so maybe that’s where McKenna’s career path takes him. Either way, quality pick at this point. The long-term outlook on OF Jason Heinrich (263) looks a lot better as an outfielder than as a first baseman (the position I thought he’d be limited to), so maybe he has more of a chance than I think. 1B Seamus Curran (267), the rare Baltimore prospect who could be considered young for his HS class, young, held his own as a 17-year old in the GCL. I think the comparisons to Boston College star and San Francisco pick Chris Shaw are apt. It’s a much higher risk profile grabbing a player like this out of high school rather than college, but it could pay off big time down the line.

I went out on a bit of a limb on junior college transfer OF Cedric Mullins (376) back in February…

JR OF Cedric Mullins (Campbell) is a highly speculative pick on my end. I’ve never seen him, though, as I’ve said many times before, I’m not sure how much utility such a viewing would even bring. What I’ve heard about him, however, has been thrilling. Mullins has the chance to show premium tools as a defender in center (both range and arm) and on the base paths (plus speed and a great feel for the art of base stealing led to him going 55/59 on his career junior college attempts) this spring. He also brings a patient approach to hitting, both in how he happily accepts free passes (a walk doesn’t feel like such a passive thing when you know you’re taking second and maybe third once you are there) and works pitchers until he’s in counts favorable for fastball hunting. The only tool he ranks below Washington in is raw power, but, as covered above, the emphasis on the raw cannot be taken lightly. In terms of current functional power, the battle tightens quite a bit. It’s an imperfect comp for an imperfect world, but I can see Mullins approximating the value of another former junior college guy like Mallex Smith, though with a bit more pop and a fraction less speed.

Even though he didn’t quite hit like I expected this past spring — only in the warped world of scouting would a .340/.386/.549 college season be viewed as unfulfilling — the scouting reports remained top notch all spring and summer long. I finally got a chance to see him up close after his pro debut and the experience was as magical as I imagined. I like that switch-hitting Mallex Smith comp and think Mullins has a long, productive big league career ahead of him.

RHP Jay Flaa and LHP Reid Love are both on the older side, but deserve attention as top-ten round picks (money-savers or not) who put up impressive numbers in their pro debuts. Flaa has middle relief upside while Love has a chance to keep starting thanks to a solid heater (86-91), above-average changeup, excellent control, and heaps of athleticism.

I think RHP Ryan Meisinger needs to be taken seriously as a potential future contributor in a big league bullpen. He followed up his huge draft season with a huge pro debut. Don’t believe me? Not cool…when I have ever lied to you before? You’ve got trust issues, man. Here’s the proof if you really aren’t convinced…

College: 15.6 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 37 IP with a 1.70 ERA
Pro: 13.7 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 23.2 IP with a 1.90 ERA

He’s not a junk-baller getting by without stuff, either. It’s not knockout closer stuff, but it’s solid (88-92 FB, above-average SL). If non-closing relief prospects are your thing, then Meisinger should quickly become a favorite.

RHP Rocky McCord has long been a favorite despite less than stellar collegiate results. The pre-draft report…

Despite coming to the close of what surely has not been the kind of college career he once dreamed of, I’m still all-in on SR RHP Rocky McCord. McCord, who has only thrown 45.1 innings in three years at Auburn, seems destined to be a quality big league reliever thanks to impressive now-stuff (mid-90s FB peak, excellent CU, rapidly improving SL) and a cool name.

He had a solid yet wild debut. I still think he has what it takes to pitch out of big league bullpen, though I admit the lack of a college breakout season (not even in his senior year!) tempers my enthusiasm some.

LHP Robert Strader gave up his final two seasons of eligibility at Louisville to give pro ball a shot. He’s debut went well, though he kept up his wild ways (8.1 BB/9 in college, 5.1 BB/9 as a pro). I’ve got little to nothing on junior college LHP Nick Vespi, but he’s a lefty with size and youth on his side coming off an intriguing debut run. LHP Will Dennis may not miss enough bats to keep advancing, but as a lefthander with some funk to his delivery (“submariner” in my notes) who piles up ground ball outs (67.8%) he’s worth keeping a distant eye on.

Baltimore took my advice (just kidding!) and spent a thirtieth round pick on RHP Andrew Elliott. Here was the pre-season take on him…

We really need to talk more about rSR RHP Andrew Elliott (Wright State). His is a name that you’ll never hear mentioned when talk of the best relief prospects in college baseball comes up. All the man does is get outs. I’ll admit that Elliott’s first season as a pitcher at Wright State (2012) didn’t go quite as well as you’d like to see. He kept guys off the board (3.17 ERA), but didn’t show the kind of bat-missing stuff to sustain it. By 2014, however, he transformed himself into a strikeout machine. If you can put down 13+ batters via strikes per nine while spotting four pitches (FB, SL, CB, CU) whenever and wherever you want them, then you’re a prospect. He’s undersized (6-1, 200), overaged (23), lacks a true plus heater (upper-80s mostly, can hit some 92s, 93s, and 94s), and can be viewed as a one-year wonder as of today, but I’d still happily snap an arm like this up in the mid-rounds and watch as he continues to mow down batters in the minors.

His 2015 didn’t quite match his 2014, but it was still damn good. Then he went out and tossed 26 very effective innings in his first pro season. I like Meisinger a hair better now — it was a coin-flip pre-draft, though I gave Elliott the edge then — but both are my kind of mid-round deep sleeper relief prospects worth loading up on. Even if these guys top out as up-and-down last man in the pen types, that’s money saved on going out and spending stupid money on volatile middle relief help.

LHP Will Shepley fits the mold as another late-round reliever with strong college peripherals and better than you’d think stuff. The game is in such good shape when lefties who can hit 93 with nice curves fall this late (reasonably so) in the draft. RHP Steven Klimek had a rough debut. He’s got an above-average breaking ball, so that’s cool. LHP Xavier Borde can get wild, but, not to sound like a broken record, he’s missed bats in the past and has solid stuff from the left side (88-92 FB, average or better CB). That’s good enough to place you as one of the most promising 1100 amateur players in the country these days.

There aren’t too many top ten round picks that I completely whiff on, but I published nothing about OF Jaylen Ferguson on my site this past year. Asked about him recently and got back the following: “young, raw, promising.” Not particularly helpful considering how generic that is, but it’s all I’ve got.

C Chris Shaw and C Jerry McClanahan and C Stuart Levy and C Tank McSturdy (guess which one I made up) all shared in their struggles this summer as they got their first taste of pro ball. Of the trio, I was easily the highest on Shaw this spring…

I’m still holding out hope that we see Oklahoma JR C Chris Shaw get going on the big stage, especially after the tremendous power displays he put on after relatively slow starts the past two seasons in junior college. Truthfully, the question as to whether or not he’ll hit for power isn’t a debate; Shaw’s success or failure going forward will be determined by the adjustments in approach he is able to make. He’s always been a touch too aggressive for his own good, but his power could mask some of the deficiencies he’s shown at lower-levels. More experienced arms will keep exploiting the holes in his approach unless he makes some changes. The power alone still makes him a high follow, but much of the optimism I felt in January has eroded under the rocky shores of reality.

I’ll be honest: I’m not really holding out much hope any longer. Stranger things have happened, but it doesn’t look great for him right now. His disappointing (to me) year at Oklahoma combined with early pro struggles (not that I’d ever overreact to those…) concern me. His power made him worth a shot in the fifteenth round, but the approach really holds him back as a hitter. McClanahan looks like the org guy that he’s always been…

On the other end of the spectrum is the reliable yet unexciting profile of UC Irvine rSR C Jerry McClanahan. The veteran Anteater’s patient approach at the plate is my kind of prospect, but his lack of power and advanced age make him more organizational depth than future big league backup. Of course, the former can become the latter in certain cases, and there are all kinds of unseen advantages in bringing in quality workers like McClanahan to work with your minor league pitchers.

1B Steve Laurino hit a bit at Marist and could do a little bit of hitting in the pros. 2B Drew Turbin had a big senior-sign type of season (.349/.490/.521), so I’m cool with taking a shot on him in the fourteenth even though he’s almost certainly locked in at second base. SS Branden Becker is intriguing as a surprise sign who flashes a little bit of pop and a whole lot of defensive versatility. 3B Kirvin Moesquit gives you that same kind of defensive flexibility with similar upside with the stick and a massively underrated name. As you can read right here —> UT Frank Crinella was announced as a utility guy on draft day, but played mostly third base with a little second mixed in during his solid debut as a pro.

I grouped this top-ten round prospects, then the rest of the pitchers, and then the rest of the hitters. That means I really shouldn’t close with a pitcher, but I’m a rebel bad boy who breaks all the rules. I mean, sometimes you just have to follow your heart, you know? The world really needs more exposure on this: Baltimore drafted a guy named Christian Turnipseed from Georgia Gwinnett College in the 28th round (pick 853) this year. Turnipseed didn’t allow a single run in 28.1 professional innings in his debut! Only 11 hits allowed with 30 strikeouts and 7 walks! That’s after a final college season where opponents hit just .100 off of him (12 hits in 36 innings!). He struck 15 batters per nine with an ERA of 1.50. And his name is Christian Turnipseed! I vow in writing here to buy myself a shirsey and then ten more for charity if/when such a glorious garment exists.

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