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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Baltimore Orioles

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Baltimore in 2016

67 – Cody Sedlock
68 – Keegan Akin
145 – Preston Palmeiro
153 – Alexis Torres
209 – Matthias Dietz
242 – Tobias Myers
300 – Austin Hays

Complete List of 2016 Baltimore Orioles Draftees

And now a few words on some Orioles draft picks…

1.27 – RHP Cody Sedlock

It’s very easy to like Cody Sedlock (67). Getting to the love stage is a little more challenging, but isn’t that how it goes? Or at least that’s what I’ve heard: everybody loves me from the very first moment they meet me, so I can’t really relate. It’s easy to like him because he’s a rock solid bet to be a long-term rotation fixture. It’s hard to love him because the ceiling feels more mid-rotation than upper-echelon MLB starting pitcher. There’s nothing wrong with that when you’re picking at the back of the first round, by the way. Sedlock’s sinker/slider stuff is complemented very nicely by a curve and a circle-change, both of which that flash enough to be called potential weapons on any given day. Writing this felt familiar, so I decided to look back at what I’ve written about Sedlock in the past…

Properly rated by many of the experts yet likely underrated by the more casual amateur draft fans, Sedlock is a four-pitch guy – there is a weirdly awesome high number of these pitchers in the Big 10 this year — with the ability to command three intriguing offspeed pitches (SL, CB, CU) well enough for mid-rotation big league potential. I try not to throw mid-rotation starter upside around lightly; Sedlock is really good.

Oh, yeah. That would have sufficed. In addition to maybe not loving Sedlock’s ceiling — again, I really really like it and I don’t mean to downplay it — it’s also a little bit hard to love him because of the red flag that has been repeated over and over again since mid-May: the big righty’s workload at Illinois. It’s hard to say much positive about how he was used as a junior, at least in terms of his long-term prospects. What I find more interesting is Sedlock’s previous two seasons coming out of the Fighting Illini bullpen. His college innings by year: 31.2 in 2014, 31.1 in 2015, and 101.1 in 2016. Depending on your personal baseball innings worldview, you can look at his two years in relief as a good thing (keeps his overall innings down!) or a worrisome thing (big innings jump…). Any opinion I have on the matter is purely anecdotal — I haven’t done the necessary empirical research to blow my lid about his usage and Baltimore’s subsequent gamble that he’ll hold up physically in the coming years — so I’ll put that issue on the back burner for now. It’s obviously something to consider when evaluating the selection, but, again, you’re not going to get a perfect player with the twenty-seventh pick in the first round. A high-floor potential mid-rotation arm coming off some questionable late-season pitch totals is about what you should expect.

In a really thoughtful interview with Chris Cotillo before the draft, Sedlock compared his game with former Oriole prospect Jake Arrieta. Baseball has a great sense of humor sometimes.

2.54 – LHP Keegan Akin

When I saw Keegan Akin (68) pitch as a sophomore, I’m pretty sure he threw 85% fastballs. I’d give the exact number, but the finer details of that game and many others were lost in the Great Washing Machine Incident that I don’t like to talk about. I do remember that watching Akin was like watching a younger, lefthanded Bart Colon in terms of pitch usage. He’s come a long way since then — and he was really good then! — thanks to an above-average to plus 78-82 change and an average or better low-80s cut-slider. That’s some serious progress in fourteen months! Either that or I’m not nearly as good a “scout” as I’d like to think I am. I did (and still do) like his fastball a lot; it checks every box you need (velocity, movement, command) to be a really successful pitch and it plays up a half-grade higher thanks to the natural deception in his delivery. I had him pegged as a potential reliever back then — he could still be a serious late-inning weapon if it comes to it — but now I see no reason why he can’t be a successful mid-rotation arm. Baltimore may have nabbed two-fifths of their next playoff team’s rotation with their first two picks.

2.69 – RHP Matthias Dietz

Illinois for Sedlock, Western Michigan for Akin, and now John A. Logan JC (Illinois again!) for Matthias Dietz (209). If three picks is enough to make a trend, then we’ve got ourselves an official run linking Midwestern arms to Baltimore to track going forward. Dietz’s stuff has by all accounts looked much better in shorter bursts than it has as a starter (94-98 FB as a reliever, 90-95 as a starter; slider much sharper in relief), but his eye-popping junior college numbers (10.22 K/9 and 0.96 BB/9 in 103. IP with a 1.22 ERA), frame (6-5, 230), and lofty draft standing should get him a chance to keep starting in the pros. A much improved changeup — still a raw pitch, but improving at a rapid enough rate to intrigue — and outstanding control help bolster his case as a future starter. The fact that he has realistic late-inning reliever potential as a backup plan makes him a nice gamble here if you believe in him as a starter. It’s not a direct skill set comparison, but his situation reminds me some of Zack Burdi’s with Chicago.

3.91 – OF Austin Hays

The pre-season take on Austin Hays (300) is quite interesting, in part due to my wrongness, when viewed through the magic of hindsight…

Thankfully, Austin Hays, a pre-season FAVORITE due to his patient approach (easiest way to become a FAVORITE as a hitter), plus arm, strong glove, and above-average speed, has done his part in the early going. Hays may get stuck with the tweener label for some – not quite enough pop for a corner, not quite enough glove for center – but a more open-minded team might view perceived negative as a strength: Hays isn’t a tweener, he’s versatile! I’m not sure I’d go quite that far, but I still like Hays a whole lot.

I don’t think he’s a tweener any longer; he’s good enough to play center if they let him and his power breakthrough in 2016 solidifies his offensive potential in a way that should please traditionalists if he’s moved to a corner. That should mean I like a guy I had tabbed as a pre-season FAVORITE even more, right? Yes and no. I still like Hays a whole lot; really, what’s not to like? But his approach, a big part of the appeal coming into the year, took a minor step back as he sold out for a little more pop. If this is who he is now, he’s still a really fun prospect with above-average regular upside. If he can find a way to bridge the new with the old, however, he could be a star.

4.121 – RHP Brenan Hanifee

An athletic prep arm from your own backyard who has already been up to 93 with minimum wear and tear on his arm? I’m buying what Brenan Hanifee is selling. This was a pre-draft miss on my end that shows the limits of what a staff of one can’t do. The O’s had a few more resources at their disposal and appeared to use them to their full advantage here. I like this pick a lot.

5.151 – SS Alexis Torres

A friend of mine who saw Alexis Torres (153) in his pro debut down in Florida told me that he he felt the shortstop from Puerto Rico was more advanced with the bat than he had been led to believe. That’s obviously good to hear, especially in light of Torres’s relative struggles in the GCL. He also said that he felt that Torres’s glove was oversold some by some of the “draft people.” Not sure if he was talking about me, actual draft “experts,” or some of his pro ball colleagues, but thought it was interesting all the same. My pre-draft notes on him were all about his glove, speed, arm, raw power, and athleticism rating comfortably average or better with his bat being the one true question mark. Funny how that works out. I don’t normally bother to cross-reference my rankings with where guys are actually picked, but the O’s and I were on the same page with Torres. Or, pretty dang close at least.

6.181 – RHP Tobias Myers

There are a lot of similarities between fourth round pick Brenan Hanifee and Tobias Myers. The two share similar present fastballs (88-92, 93 peak), similar athleticism, and similar two-way multi-sport backgrounds. Hanifee has the edge in physical projection, but Myers has the more advanced offspeed stuff, especially his good upper-70s changeup. Information for the “do with it what you may” department: I’ve seen and heard his height listed at 5-11, 6-0 (the “official” measurement for now), and 6-2 depending on the source. Anyway, I ranked Myers ahead of Hanifee before the draft, but, knowing what I do now, I’d definitely flip the two without much second thought.

7.211 – 1B Preston Palmeiro

On Preston Palmeiro (145) from way back in December 2015…

I’m still on the fence some about JR 1B Preston Palmeiro, but he has some very vocal fans out there who love his swing and think he has a chance to be an average or better hitter with above-average power production. Being a primary first base prospect at the amateur level is a tricky thing with a bit more to it than many — myself included — think about. On the one hand, it’s obvious that being limited defensively to first base drastically increases the threshold of entry to professional baseball as a hitter. You need to hit and hit and hit to make it. On the other hand, there simply isn’t the same competition at first base at the amateur level as there is at other spots. I know that many a big league first baseman played elsewhere along the way, but if we’re just talking about getting drafted in the first place then the competitive field begins to look a lot thinner. In other words, if Palmeiro goes out and hits the shit out of the ball all spring, then what’s to stop a team from valuing that bat higher than we’re conditioned to think because of the relative lack of options to be found later in the draft? Up the middle players are wonderful and we know they dominate these drafts for a reason, but with offensive production (power, especially) growing increasingly scarce at the highest level perhaps the place for a big bat a team believes in will come sooner on draft day.

The Orioles got good value nabbing Palmeiro when they did. That makes it a good pick in my eyes. Now whether or not it’ll actually work out remains very much up in the air. I realize we can say that about literally every single pick, but I think saying so actually serves a greater purpose beyond debating the merits of Palmeiro’s future. As we covered back in December, up-the-middle athletes are coveted for a reason during the draft. This is irrefutable. But I think teams (and well-meaning fans) sometimes get too comfortable with the belief that the rest of the diamond — namely first base and the outfield corners — will work itself out with minimal resources invested. I don’t think that’s the case. There’s nothing wrong with taking top ten round first basemen and corner outfielders. Is Palmeiro good enough to be a big league contributor as a first baseman? Beats me. But good for Baltimore for taking a shot.

8.241 – RHP Ryan Moseley

On Ryan Moseley from March 2015…

I’ve long been a fan of the sinker/slider archetype and Moseley does it about as well as any pitcher in this class. When I start digging into batted ball data to find GB% in the coming weeks, he’ll be the first name I look up. On physical ability, a case could be made that Moseley deserves this first round spot. If we’re talking early season production…not so much. As we mentioned before, some young pitchers throw with so much natural movement that they are unable to effectively harness the raw stuff with which they’ve been blessed. Moseley’s track record suggests just that.

Find a way to get Moseley’s power sinker working for good instead of evil and you’ve got yourself a keeper. Until then, he goes into the maybe starter/maybe reliever pile as we wait and see how he takes to pro coaching. On talent, this is worth a shot. On production, it’s questionable. So long as you diversify your draft portfolio to have a nice blend of each side, you’re fine with taking shots like this.

9.271 – RHP Lucas Humpal

Already 23-years-old, Lucas Humpal will have to move quick early on to keep his prospect status alive in the eyes of the fan base. The senior righthander from Texas State has a good enough fastball (88-92) and an outstanding changeup. There’s middle relief upside here.

10.301 – RHP Cody Dube

Baltimore lands another potential middle reliever in $5,000 man Cody Dube. The Keene State righthander with impressive college numbers (11.18 K/9 and 1.73 BB/9) and fairly generic middle relief stuff (low-90s FB, solid SL) could get enough ground balls and whiffs to keep getting work. Or not. I’ll be real here, I don’t have all that strong an opinion on this one.

11.331 – LHP Zach Muckenhirn

One of the recurring comments I got on Zach Muckenhirn all spring long was that he’s got a long future in the game after his playing days are through if he wants to coach. There’s a lot of respect out there for his approach to his craft and high baseball IQ. There should be plenty of time before he worries about his post-playing career, though. Muckenhirn throws an upper-80s fastball (up to 92-93) with above-average command of a trio of respectable offspeed pitches. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but he’s right on the edge of back-end starting pitcher and middle reliever as of now.

12.361 – LHP Max Knutson

Max Knutson is a hard-throwing (87-93, 94-96 peak) athletic lefthander who has struggled with both bouts of inconsistent command and below-average control throughout his college career. He’s not entirely dissimilar stuff-wise to the player drafted just one round later…

13.391 – LHP Brandon Bonilla

Baltimore finally gets their man. After being rebuffed by Brandon Bonilla in the twenty-fifth round back in 2014, the Orioles convinced the big lefty to sign on the dotted line here in the thirteenth round in 2016. Better late than never. Of course, as it turned out they’ll have to wait until 2017 to see him pitch in a competitive game as a bad back kept him off the mound after signing. Like many of the lefties drafted by Baltimore in 2016, Bonilla has power stuff and questionable control. Makes sense to bet on these guys while the cost is still just mid-round draft picks and a couple hundred thousand bucks total as it sure beats trying to buy them down the line on the free agent market. Draft five of these guys, hit on one (or more!), and profit.

As it turns out, despite writing about Bonilla for the site plenty over the years I didn’t feature him this year. HOWEVER, we did talk about him in the comments section…

It appears that Bonilla has resurfaced at Hawai’i Pacific. Pitching really well for them so far: 8.1 IP 4 H 0 ER 4 BB 14 K. I appreciate you bringing him up because now I can re-add him to my database, assuming the rumored reports on a 97 MPH peak FB (he lost the FB for a while, but allegedly has it back) and SL that flashes plus are true.

How about that?

14.421 – RHP Ruben Garcia

I’ve mentioned before that I write these reviews in a completely scattershot order. More often than not I start with round forty and work my way up; writing up mid- to late-round picks is a lot more fun for me, and I suppose I’m not one for delayed gratification. Anyway, I’ve already written the Matt De La Rosa pick up below, so feel free to skip down there to get my thoughts on Ruben Garcia. Different players, obviously, but the two picks are very much connected contextually.

If you came here just for Garcia, I’ll give you the quick version: I know little to nothing about Garcia as a player, but as a pick I think he’s awesome. Garcia was a marginal 3B/OF for Eastern Florida State, but the O’s saw something special enough in him to give him a shot as a pitcher in pro ball. He did pitch three clean innings for the Titans in the spring: 3 IP 0 H 0 ER 2 BB 5 K. I’d bet a pretty penny that Baltimore’s scouting relationship began before that, but it’s still fun to pretend that it was those two random games that caused them to fall in love with his arm. This all makes Garcia’s start in pro ball that much more remarkable. It’s only 15.1 innings, but a 12.33 K/9, 2.35 BB/9, and 1.76 ERA is a heck of a way to justify your place in the game. Garcia belongs.

15.451 – RHP Nick Jobst

Nick Jobst’s name never made it on the site, but seeing it pop up during the draft reminded me of a text I got about him way back in February. The message came after Jobst tossed his fifth scoreless inning to start the year. His line at that point: 5 IP 2 H 0 ER 1 BB 10 K. As a big man (6-3, 260) capable of throwing hard (mid- to upper-90s) who was doing what he was doing in the middle of the slow start to the season, it made perfect sense I’d be getting a text about such a cool guy, especially when you consider my life goal of finding the next Todd Coffey (minus the casual racism!) being well-known in certain social circles. Turned out to be a good call by the texter as the big righthander finished the year blowing away 15.09 batters per nine with a 5.03 BB/9 to go with it. That was good enough to get him drafted in the fifteenth round and good enough to make him a fun off-the-radar prospect to root for.

16.481 – LHP Willie Rios

Maybe the Orioles got a number of good long looks at Willie Rios in his one season playing in their backyard at Maryland. His sophomore season at Florida Southwestern State had a little good (88-93 FB, 95 peak; low-80s SL with promise; athleticism; 10.96 K/9) and a little not so good (underdeveloped slower stuff including a low-80s CU and a mid-70s CB; 7.79 BB/9), but there’s clearly enough here to work with as a potential effectively wild matchup lefty.

18.541 – LHP Layne Bruner

The last take I had on Layne Bruner on the site came after his senior year of high school…

LHP Layne Bruner (Aberdeen HS, Washington): 84-87 FB, 89 peak; interesting 74 CB; good athlete; 6-2, 170 pounds

He only pitched 46.2 total innings at Washington State, but that didn’t stop Baltimore from drafting him a second time after first making a run at him back in 2013. They clearly see something in him they like. His fastball velocity has ticked up a bit since then — more upper-80s, occasional low-90s — and his curve has become an even more consistent go-to offspeed pitch, so maybe they are on to something here. Maybe he’s another effectively wild (11.85 BB/9 in 2014, 10.96 BB/9 in 2015, 15.30 BB/9 in 2016…but only 3.77 BB/9 in his pro debut!) matchup lefty down the line.

19.571 – OF Cole Billingsley

Nice to see Cole Billingsley get his shot in the pros here in the nineteenth round. Here are a few words on him from early in the college season that still apply today…

The top two names on the hitting list are scuffling so far in the early going. Cole Billingsley, a favorite of mine thanks to outstanding athleticism, easy CF range, and above-average to plus speed, has had a slow start, but figures to get things rolling before too long. He’s a high-contact hitter who doubles as one of college ball’s best bunters. The entire package adds up to standout fourth outfielder if it all works in pro ball.

I think that holds up pretty well. Twenty-nine other teams in baseball would be cool with landing a potential backup outfielder in the nineteenth round, so Baltimore definitely did well here.

20.601 – LHP Yelin Rodriguez

I don’t have much on Yelin Rodriguez, but the fact that the prep lefty doesn’t turn 18-years-old until November 3 is a good thing. The fact that he held his own as a 17-year-old in pro ball this summer is an even better thing. He’s on my list as a pro guy that I’d like to know more about in the coming years. Very deep sleeper.

21.631 – SS Chris Clare

Chris Clare got a mention in my notes for having a steady glove at both second base and shortstop. That alone should keep him cashing minor league checks for the foreseeable future. If he hits more than I think, then maybe he’s a utility guy.

22.661 – RHP Nick Gruener

Little bit surprising to see Nick Gruener sign with the Orioles after only his junior season at Harvard. Most of the non-premium Ivy League prospects that I can remember through the years tend to stay until their eligibility is exhausted. Good for him for betting on himself, I suppose. On a somewhat related but not super related note, the head coach for Harvard isn’t called the head coach. He’s the Joseph J. O’Donnell ’67 Head Coach for Harvard Baseball. That’s something.

I’m terrible with name pronunciations, but it just occurred to me that the Orioles selected a Bruner and a Gruener within four rounds of each other. Maybe that’s funny, maybe it isn’t.

23.691 – LHP Tyler Erwin

Tyler Erwin is the great-great-great nephew of former United States President James K. Polk. He also struck out 10.69 batters per nine in his junior year at New Mexico State. It’s likely only of those two things will help him advance up the professional ladder. Which one is it? Time will tell.

24.721 – LHP Zach Matson

Roughriders is one of the best sports team names out there. I’m writing that in for any and all future expansion teams if the team name voting goes public. Zach Matson was a Crowder Roughrider. He struck out 12.41 batters per nine over 48.2 innings pitched. Only thing I’ve heard on him was that he was effective when he was doing it with more offspeed than gas, but as his fastball grew and grew — mid-80s to upper-80s to low-90s over the last few seasons — his overall game flourished.

26.781 – 1B Jaime Estrada

Though called out as a third baseman during the draft, Jaime Estrada split time in his pro debut fairly evenly between both third AND second. That makes an intriguing prospect all the more…intriguing. It’s past time for me to invest in a thesaurus. Anyway, all Estrada did in his two years at Central Arizona was hit .373/.515/.536 with 83 BB/41 K and 18/20 SB in 338 AB. Numbers are a little inflated there, sure, but that kind of approach plays in any environment. I’m firmly on his bandwagon. I also really just like that Central Arizona team. In this past draft, Brent Gibbs, Dakody Clemmer, and Estrada all signed with pro teams. Caleb Henderson was drafted, but instead opted to enroll at New Mexico State. George Castillo is going to Long Beach. Mitchell Robinson is off to Portland. Ernie De La Trinidad is now at UNLV. That was one loaded roster. And they reloaded again for what looks like another very intriguing (there’s that word again) 2017 squad with all kinds of draft implications. Reviewing the 2016 draft is fun and all, but I’m so ready to start talking 2017…

28.841 – RHP Matt De La Rosa

I absolutely LOVE this pick. Not because I knew anything about Matt De La Rosa before the draft. Heck, I had never even heard of Lenoir-Rhyne College. I’m still not convinced it’s a real place. But I love when a team takes an accomplished amateur hitter — De La Rosa hit .357/.459/.605 with 31 BB/36 K and 4/5 SB in 185 senior AB — and decides he’s better off as a pitcher instead. I love the idea that an area guy saw enough in De La Rosa’s rocky 5.1 innings this year (6 H 5 ER 6 BB 5 K) to give him a shot at doing his thing on the mound professionally. Sometimes I can be a little hard on the baseball writers of the world who speak of scouting in hushed reverential tones, so forgive me for the exact corniness I’d normally mock them for…but this is scouting at it was meant to be.

30.901 – 2B Garrett Copeland

Once upon a time this was written here about Baltimore’s eventual thirtieth round pick…

Garrett Copeland is one of the best second base prospects in the country that nobody talks about. He’s got nice speed, pop, and a sound approach at the plate.

Good for Baltimore for paying attention to one of college ball’s better kept secrets. Copeland faces an uphill battle to make it as a primary second baseman, so it was nice to see him get some time at the hot corner in his debut to help make him that much more versatile. I believe in the stick.

31.931 – OF Jake Ring

It’s pretty shocking that a sure-fire center fielder who has produced the way Jake Ring has in the SEC fell all the way to the thirty-first round. I’m sure the Orioles don’t mind it one bit. Ring has above-average to plus speed, a strong arm, that aforementioned easy center field range, and an approach at the plate that could make him a future leadoff hitter. Expecting a player nabbed this late in the game to make it as a regular is a bit optimistic even for me, but Ring could be that kind of outlier. More realistically, a long career as a backup outfielder could await. If he hits that ceiling from all the way down in the thirty-first round basement then everybody will come out a winner here.

33.991 – OF Markel Jones

I won’t pretend to know a lot about Markel Jones, but he’s another one of those guys that I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback about since draft day. I’ve noticed that happens more often than not with junior college prospects. It’s one of the best parts of still having this site. He’s a great athlete who can run and defend, so at least there’s that. He also hit a whopping .406/.494/.699 with 37 BB/39 K and 23/26 SB in his final year at Brunswick CC.

34.1021 – RHP Lucas Brown

Undersized college righthander with average stuff across the board (86-90 FB, average SL and CU) with an effective (2.86 ERA in 2015, 3.10 ERA in 2016) yet underwhelming (6.14 K/9 in 2015, 6.29 K/9 in 2016) track record. That’s Lucas Brown.

35.1051 – 2B Tanner Kirk

Baltimore had Tanner Kirk do a little bit of everything in his pro debut. The former Wichita State shortstop played second, third, left, and right for the GCL Orioles. He even pitched two scoreless innings for good measure. That kind of versatility is likely his only shot at the big leagues as his bat is a little light cross the board. I was honestly a little surprised to see him drafted, but defensive do-everything types tend to be more valued by organizations who know the grind of minor league ball requires plug-and-play guys like Kirk than the outside work might think.

37.1111 – RHP James Teague

No problem taking a chance on a reliever out of the SEC in the thirty-seventh round. James Teague has a decent fastball (88-92) and an average or better slider. If he throws strikes, he’s got a chance.

38.1141 – 3B Collin Woody

As a first baseman/third baseman, Collin Woody’s got some power and a strong arm going for him. That’s where the O’s want him for the time being. I actually like him on the mound, a spot where his upper-80s sinker and solid change could look decent as a reliever. Long shot prospect either way.

40.1201 – RHP Joe Johnson

I really do love the MLB Draft. Joe Johnson, pick 1201, is an actual prospect of note. To be this far down the line and find a real prospect is so cool. Johnson saw his ups and downs over the years at Erskine College, but the submariner with a college career 9.83 K/9 and 2.47 BB/9 is just funky enough to make a little noise in pro ball.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Seth Shuman (Georgia Southern), Ben Brecht (UC Santa Barbara), Ryan Mauch (Long Beach State), Wil Dalton (San Jacinto JC), Daniel Bakst (Stanford), Will Toffey (Vanderbilt), Tyler Blohm (Maryland)

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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.

Baltimore Orioles 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Baltimore Orioles 2011 Draft Selections

Owasso HS (OK) RHP Dylan Bundy (3rd ranked draft prospect) is an elite prospect who, along with last year’s top pick shortstop Manny Machado, gives Baltimore one of baseball’s top pitcher/position player combinations. Bundy has long shown a devastating plus fastball/plus curveball pairing and outstanding top to bottom command, but the progress made with his above-average (at times) changeup (usable as a show-me pitch at the start of the season) and plus cutter (formerly an average slider) is what really stands out for me. The biggest (only?) questions with the former Oklahoma prep star stem from his lack of size, but, as I’ve mentioned here more times than I can count, I don’t give a hoot about size. This is especially true when a “short” (hey, I’m 5’8”…size is relative, you know?) righthander has none of the issues short righthanders supposedly suffer from: his mechanics are consistent, he throws strikes like a pitching machine, he holds his velocity deep into starts, he has plenty of arm strength, and his injury history is clean. So, basically, he’s not 6’5”. Everything else about him indicates greatness ahead. Unfortunately for Baltimore, there isn’t much in the way of potential greatness to be found after their first pick. That’s not to say there are some solid prospects sprinkled throughout, but rather an admission that Baltimore went for high floors over high ceilings this year.

RHP Dylan Bundy (Owasso HS, Oklahoma): 94-95 sitting velocity, 96-97 peak; good to plus 77-82 CB; CU with average upside at start of spring, may have surpassed that already; 85-87 SL that might have been the cutter; really like the FB/CB combo; smooth mechanics; plus 86-89 cutter; Dylan Covey comp?; extreme strike thrower, great control; now sitting 92-96, 97 peak; holds velocity late; 6-1, 205

Sometimes I like high floor picks. Vanderbilt 3B Jason Esposito (55th ranked draft prospect) and his potential plus defense is a nice example of a high floor selection working for me. A floor of a defense-first utility player – he’s already shown he can hold his own up the middle in a pinch – isn’t a terrible investment for a team with so many young arms, some who could use the confidence boost a strong infield defense would provide, in the pipeline.

Esposito’s defense is big league ready, and his hit tool, raw power, and speed all grade out as average future tools at the next level. I swear I was ready to mention Matt Dominguez as a potential comp before reading Baseball America beat me to the punch, but it is a good enough comp that I don’t mind repeating it. If my instincts count for anything, allow me to go on record as a believer in Esposito. As impressive a college career as he has had so far, I think he goes on to show more at the next level with the bat. Additionally, while his glove at third may not be Adrian Beltre good, he has the chance to be a top five defensive third baseman in the big leagues in very short order. That glove alone will give him very good value for a Baltimore team stocked with a bunch of interesting young arms.

Sometimes I don’t like high floor picks. East Carolina RHP Mike Wright and Arizona RHP Kyle Simon are both considered relatively safe bets to pitch in the big leagues someday, but I’m not so sure on either. I didn’t profile either before the draft because neither cracked my list of top 125 college pitching prospects. Then, lo and behold, Baltimore takes them both within the first 125 picks of the entire draft. I don’t think that makes my pre-draft ranking wrong, nor do I think it makes Baltimore stupid for taking their guys where they did; just differing opinions, that’s all. I do give credit to Baltimore for identifying the type of pitcher they wanted: Simon and Wright are two very, very similar pitching prospects, as you can see from my previously unpublished pre-draft notes on each below.

There isn’t a plus pitch between the two strapping young righties, but both young men have a lot of guts and are unafraid to pitch inside or challenge hitters when necessary. I prefer Wright’s four-seamer, slider and changeup. Simon gets the edge on his sinker, control, and delivery. Neither guy looks like much more than a potential middle reliever to me. Both Wright and Simon have made good use of their time in pro ball by already advancing to Baltimore’s Low A affiliate.

East Carolina JR RHP Mike Wright (2011): 90-92 FB, touching 93 with lots of sink; good but inconsistent SL; average at best CU; shows CB; delivery a concern; 6-5, 195 pounds; (6.93 K/9 – 2.61 BB/9 – 3.73 FIP – 100 IP)

Arizona JR RHP Kyle Simon (2011): 89-91 FB with plus sink, 92-93 peak; good splitter that works well off fastball; inconsistent SL with some promise; very good control; 6-5, 220 pounds; (6.28 K/9 – 0.77 BB/9 – 3.91 FIP – 129 IP)

Baltimore rounded out their top ten with six prospects I like. Middle Georgia JC LHP Matt Taylor brings good velocity from the left side and enough in the way of secondary offerings to profile as a potential back of the rotation arm. Ahead of him for me is Central Michigan LHP Trent Howard, a prospect who had only the following blurb in my notes: “plus-plus command of four otherwise unremarkable pitches.” Considering my love of lefties with the ability to put the ball wherever they want, I think I may have shortchanged him in my pre-draft rankings.

The two college righties selected in back-to-back rounds that have received the most ink are the 3rd/4th round duo of Wright and Simon, but I prefer the 9th/10th round coupling of Mississippi State RHP Devin Jones and Virginia RHP Tyler Wilson (219th ranked draft prospect). I’ve written a good bit about both guys over the past two seasons, so I’ll let past me take it away for a bit:

He [Jones] strikes me as a borderline starting candidate in pro ball at this point. Like many young pitchers, it’ll be the development of an effective changeup that makes or breaks him as a high round prospect or not. I really like his present mix (low-90s four-seam, upper-80s two-seam with great sink, and a mid- to upper-80s slider with plus upside) and he has the frame pro teams like to see in a starter (6’3″, 180). I’m a bit biased in my appreciation for Jones, as I’ve always liked the classically built sinker/slider specialists. I like it even more when these classic sinker/slider guys go all out and embrace who they are, so, if I may, a quick suggestion for Jones: ditch whatever version of the change you are currently working on and go with a splitter instead. 

Mississippi State JR RHP Devin Jones: low-90s FB, peaking at 93; 87-88 two-seamer with great sink; 82-84 SL could be plus pitch; CU is work in progress; breaking stuff hasn’t quite developed as hoped, but still peaks 94-95 with FB; 6-4, 180 pounds

Virginia SR RHP Tyler Wilson: Wilson’s solid three-pitch mix (88-90 fastball, good sinking 80-82 change, average low-80s slider) gives credence to the idea he has value either in the bullpen or as a starter. Fastball plays up in short bursts (94 peak). 6-2, 190

Not much has changed since the time of those pieces: Jones is a better version of the sinker/slider arms taken a few rounds ahead of him, and Wilson’s versatility (stuff is good enough to start, but plays up nicely in relief) continues to make him a favorite.

Farragut HS (TN) 3B Nicky Delmonico (94th ranked draft prospect) was considered a difficult sign heading into the draft and questions about his signability pushed him down the board. I like his bat a lot more as a catcher than as a third baseman, and something about him rubs me the wrong way (though no real fault of his own…it’s just an instinctual thing, I guess), but there’s some power there.

Delmonico is another player who could realistically sneak into the first round who I’m not quite as high on as others. He’ll get the last laugh on draft day, so I don’t feel too bad breaking him down now. In Delmonico, I don’t see a standout tool. His arm works alright and there is some power upside, but there is no one part of his game that makes you stand up and take notice. In his defense, well, I like his defense. So many had written him off as a catcher, but in my brief looks and the scouting reports I’ve read, I don’t see anything that makes me think he’ll have to move to first anytime soon.

It was pretty considerate for Baltimore to draft both Arizona State OF John Ruettiger (169th ranked draft prospect) and TCU OF Jason Coats (Round 12 and my 114th ranked draft prospect) considering the two college outfielders were featured in a “Mystery Player” piece I did in early March. Not much has changed on either guy since then. The signed Ruettiger is a contact oriented leadoff type with a chance to stick in center professionally. The unsigned Coats has more thump and a quicker bat, but limited athleticism will keep him in a corner at the next level. I wrote a good bit on both players, so bear with me here. First, on Ruettiger:

[plus athlete; big hit tool; line drive machine; gap power at best; leadoff man profile; good patience; average to plus speed; good defender; iffy arm, more accurate than powerful; strong experience with wood; love the way he plays within himself; great athlete, great body; 6-2, 175 pounds]

Half Glass Full: Capable center fielder and irritating (to the opposition, naturally) leadoff man with double digit home run pop

Half Glass Empty: Modest power upside fails to manifest professionally; as a result, overall hit tool and plate discipline suffer against professional pitching

And now on Coats:

[plus athlete; very strong; special bat speed; decent to average speed; average arm; plus raw power; corner outfielder with good range; pitch recognition could make or break him; 6-2, 195 pounds]

Half Glass Full: Pitch recognition and overall approach at plate improves to the point his plus power allows him blossom as an above-average everyday corner outfielder

Half Glass Empty: Awesome power goes to waste as 4A slugger due to Jeff Francoeur-level plate discipline

Washington State OF Derek Jones (Round 13) is a similar, if slightly watered down, prospect to Coats. He’s strong (like Coats), a probable left fielder in the pros (like Coats), and has power to spare (like Coats. He also didn’t sign (like Coats!).

Washington State JR OF Derek Jones (2011): very strong, good speed, strong arm, best future tool is power; great athlete; holes in swing; stuck in LF; 6-1, 205 pounds

Illinois C Adam Davis (Round 11) can really catch. He won’t hit enough to warrant consideration for an everyday job, but catchers who can catch quickly become favorites within minor league coaching circles. South Carolina OF Adam Matthews (Round 23) will return to South Carolina next year with the inside track on the starting job in center field left vacant by Jackie Bradley Jr. TCU 2B Jerome Pena (Round 38) has decent pop for a middle infielder, but a lack of contact will be a problem.

Illinois JR C Adam Davis (2011): plus arm; very quick release; above-average defender; line-drive swing; 6-0, 205 pounds

South Carolina JR OF Adam Matthews (2011): plus speed; great athlete; good defender

As a speed guy first and foremost, Matthews’s battles with hamstring injuries all season long were a shame to see. 

Temple JC (TX) RHP Mark Blackmar (Round 16) has the chance for three average or better pitches, so there is some hope that he could make it as a starter in pro ball. I view him more as a fastball/slider relief option, but to each his own. Ten rounds later Baltimore took a chance on Mesquite HS (AZ) RHP Zach Davies (Round 26), much to my delight. Davies has that short righthander who can spot four pitches and knows when to use them thing going for him. The Orioles then went shopping right in their backyard as they nabbed Maryland RHP Sander Beck (Round 33). Beck was number one hundred on my list of 2011 college pitchers and will head back to College Park to improve that ranking in 2012. If he can find a way to make his fastball dance just a little bit more (cut it, sink it, float it, whatever) while also drastically improving his control, then he’s a legit prospect. It also wouldn’t hurt if he maintains the gains made improving his secondary offerings, a spike curve and straight change.

RHP Zach Davies (Mesquite HS, Arizona): 90 FB; CB; SL; CU; good athlete; 6-0, 170

Maryland JR RHP Sander Beck: straight 88-92 FB with good command; improving spike CB that I really like; solid straight CU; SL; control an issue; 6-3, 200 pounds

Wetumpka HS (AL) 3B Brad Roney (Round 18) has a scouting profile that reads a lot like 2011 third round pick BA Vollmuth. I’m not just saying that because he just so happens to be off to Southern Mississippi to replace Vollmuth on the left side of the infield either. Also unsigned is Clovis North HS (CA) SS Chris Mariscal (Round 41). Mariscal has gotten a lot of hype as a potential 2014 first rounder, but the concerns about his power upside are grounded in truth. I realize not every player has to be a power hitter, but the threat of an extra base hit goes a long way in how pitchers approach a given hitter. I’ll hedge my bets and say I think he’ll be a top five round prospect after three years at Fresno State.

Broken record alert: Mariscal has really good defensive tools at short, a plus arm, above-average speed, a solid hit tool, and not a whole lot of power. In other words, he is pretty much exactly what you’d expect out of a non-first round high school shortstop prospect. Sorting out these players is something I do for fun here in this low-stakes couple thousands hits a day website; I can’t imagine how difficult it is to do it with literally millions of dollars of future player value at stake.

Last but not least, Virginia Tech RHP Ronnie Shaban (Round 49) deserves a mention as a solid college infielder drafted with the intention of moving him to the mound. He’ll be back at Virginia Tech for his senior season.

Virginia Tech JR SS Ronnie Shaban: strong arm; good pop; good defensive tools; average runner; 6-1, 195 pounds

Orioles, Dalles, and Cowan

I normally try to avoid the two things I’m about to do. I don’t like linking to somebody’s work if I can’t provide my own interesting take and, seeing I rarely have any interesting to say myself, I shy away from this popular (and easy to produce!) blog tactic. I don’t know, it just feels cheap to me to just throw up a link without adding to the conversation. I also really don’t like quoting myself because it feels tacky to me. Of course, now that I’m stumped on any ideas for new content, I’m more than happy to go all cheap and tacky if it’ll make my life easier. There’s a lesson in all this somewhere, I bet.

Enough with the boring introduction, onto the main course. I love these insider-y takes on scouting, the draft, and player valuation. The more first hand accounts detailing young mostly unknown players’ skill sets, the better.  Check it out, I’ll wait.

I enjoyed reading this piece entirely on its own merit, but once I realized it mentioned a couple of my favorite somewhat below the radar prospects from 2009 I knew that I had to squeeze a post out of it. The first name that caught my eye was Justin Dalles, catcher from South Carolina. I wrote this about him back in the day:

Dalles is exactly the kind of sneaky high upside, low risk that warrants taking a chance on once the top prep players on your wishlist are all long gone.

I waffled on his draft position before settling on him being taken in the 7/8 round range. He eventually went to Baltimore in the sixth. Baltimore scouting director Joe Jordan claims Dalles is an average defender with a slightly above-average arm, good enough athleticism, and a chance to have a bat worthy of starting in the bigs. Interesting.

I also loved Jake Cowan, ranking him as high as 13th overall among college righthanders and 1st overall out of the entire junior college ranks. Here’s what I said about him almost a year ago:

1. Jake Cowan (RHP – San Jacinto CC – Texas): Cowan combines a plus 95 MPH fastball with two above-average secondary offerings. A fastball like that coupled with strong secondary stuff makes Cowan stand out above his junior college peers. There are players below that have great fastballs, there are players below that have decent secondary offerings, but no player below combines the two quite like Cowan. To use an all too often repeated scouting cliche, Cowan is as much a pitcher as he is a thrower and that’s a very good thing going forward.

According to Jordan, Cowan was sitting 92-93 with the fastball, showing good sink on the pitch, in addition to a good slider and a decent changeup. It’s funny how you can see the vague scouting report from last February was inflated a smidge or two, but Cowan is no less of a prospect just because he didn’t hit 95 this summer or show as impressive a changeup as expected. The Orioles claim he was a third round talent that fell to them in the tenth. Not a bad gamble that late in the draft.

Now if only they didn’t take Matt Hobgood, future bust, with their first rounder. Alright, maybe I don’t really believe he’ll be a bust, but I certainly wasn’t enamored with the pick at the time. Anyway, that’s my conclusion. Impressed how I tied everything together there at the end? No? Don’t care, time for the weekend!