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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.

Big South 2015 MLB Draft All-Prospect Team

High Point SR C Spencer Angelis
Charleston Southern SR 1B Chase Shelton
Radford SR 2B Josh Gardiner
Coastal Carolina JR 3B Zach Remillard
Liberty JR SS Dalton Britt
Campbell JR OF Cedric Mullins
Longwood JR OF Kyri Washington
Liberty rSR OF Nick Paxton

Liberty SR RHP Ashton Perritt
Longwood SR RHP Aaron Myers
Radford JR LHP Michael Boyle
High Point SR RHP Conor Lourey
Coastal Carolina JR LHP Andrew Schorr

Going with a relative unknown like JR C Casey Schroeder (Coastal Carolina) over a proven bat like SR C Spencer Angelis (High Point) feels like a bit of a boom/bust prognostication at this point, but faith in the Kentucky transfers hit tool, athleticism, and slow yet steady defensive progression wins the day. The overall group of senior catchers in the conference – Angelis, Josh Spano (High Point), Josh Reavis (Radford), Andrew Widell (Charleston Southern) – present a unique and talented collection of potential money-saving signings for teams looking to cut costs while adding a potentially useful minor league contributor (everybody needs catching) with big league backup catching upside.

SR 1B/LHP Chase Shelton (Charleston Southern) might be a better fit in the outfield – he certainly has the arm for it – but that might be asking a bit too much out of a 6-5, 230 pound man. His bat looks pretty good either way. SR 1B Alex Close (Liberty) has been a favorite for some time – not a FAVORITE, but a favorite – because of his playable present power. If an area guy can sell his bosses on Close as a potential 1B/3B/C hybrid, then he could go higher than even I think. The breakout season for JR 3B Zach Remillard (Coastal Carolina) is coming. It has to be since it hasn’t happened yet. That’s infallible logic if I’ve ever heard it. Remillard is a really well-rounded talent who sometimes gets himself in trouble by expanding the zone and trying to do too much at the plate. If he can just ease up just a touch with his overly aggressive approach, then he could begin to produce enough overall offensive value to project as a potential regular at the hot corner. The more realistic forecast is as an offense-first utility player capable of playing 1B, 2B, 3B, and maybe the outfield corners. His teammate at Coastal Carolina, JR 3B/C Tyler Chadwick could eventually play a similar role but with even more positions (like, all of them) added to the mix. He might work better as a 2016 senior sign since many big league teams will ding him because of his lack of size (5-9, 180), but he’s handled the bat well when given a shot and the defensive versatility makes him an intriguing “hole-plugger” for an organization with a lot of minor league moving parts.

I’m not particularly enamored by any of the Big South 2015 shortstops at this point. Enough good things have been said about JR SS Dalton Britt (Liberty) that he takes the top spot over SR SS Ryan Hodge (Gardner-Webb), though I think both profile best as utility infielders/minor league depth in the long run. Britt has the better shot to change that perception if he can find a way to start doing some of the necessary secondary things offensively (pop, patience, speed) beyond hitting for average. The best middle infield prospect in the conference is SR 2B/OF Josh Gardiner (Radford), a strong athlete who does those secondary offensive things just well enough to profile as a sleeper big league talent. JR 2B Connor Owings (Coastal Carolina) could pass him by with a big junior year on the strength of his above-average hit tool.

JR OF Kyri Washington has as much a claim to the top position player spot in his conference as just about any prospect in the country. Evaluating amateur talent is sometimes only as hard as we make it. Your eyes eventually settle into seeing predictable patterns in the players you see and you find yourself getting unusually adept at recognizing the kind of ability that will become universally lauded as pro-caliber. “Always bet on ______” is more than just a snappy one-off line, but a mantra that serves those who watch a disproportionate amount of baseball well as they assess a prospect’s future. In Washington’s case, his athleticism and raw power qualify as abilities that stack up against almost any current big league player. If those are the traits that you value highly – and, really, who doesn’t? – then Washington is just about as good as it gets in college ball this year.

Conversely, anybody who watches a ton of amateur ball can quickly realize the holes in a mega-talented player’s game. If you’re an “always bet on the hit tool, including the consistent ability to make contact, the capacity to make adjustments within an at bat (or at least a game), and a seemingly innate overall feel for the strike zone and resourcefulness to spit on sometimes-strikes that he can’t do anything with,” well, then you might have some trepidation in championing a player who otherwise has first round tools. I’m on the fence as to whether or not how much of what we consider to fall under the plate discipline/approach to hitting umbrella can be taught, but I do believe that Washington is at the age in his baseball development when figuring it out – maybe not completely, but certainly to a degree – is well within the realm of possibility. That possibility on top of the prodigious raw power and plus athleticism is what makes the prospect of gambling on Washington so appealing. I get it. A comparison that I’ve heard and liked – though it admittedly stretches the limits of my personal firsthand baseball watching days – has stacked up Washington favorably to a young Richard Hidalgo.

With all that written on Washington, it seems only fair to spend at least a few words on the man ranked ahead of him. 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.

One thing that stands out to me in my notes on SR RHP/OF Ashton Perritt (Liberty): “like him more than Aaron Brown.” Ignoring the fact that I don’t think Brown will ever hit enough to make his loud tools work – I much prefer him on the mound, but the Phillies never asked me – that’s still a nice little compliment. Whether I liked it or not (if it hasn’t come across yet, one last time: I really, really didn’t), the Pepperdine star showed enough to convince a team into selecting him with the 81st overall selection in last year’s draft. I suppose I’m not quite bold enough to predict the same draft outcome for the multi-talented Perritt, though I wouldn’t be surprised if a team fell in love with his talent as either a pitcher or hitter and took him earlier than the consensus industry opinion would have you think. I like him on the mound because he comes equipped with a relatively fresh arm capable of hitting the mid-90s,he throws two offspeed pitches with promise (82-84 split-CU and a separate quality low-80s breaking ball), and his athleticism is second to none in this year’s class of college pitching. That very same athleticism could convince a team to stick him in center, a position that would allow him to get the most out of his plus (some have it plus-plus) speed. Either way, he’s a good looking prospect and well worth seeing up close if you get the chance this spring.

The names that follow Perritt are a little less flashy, but no less promising. SR RHP Aaron Myers (Longwood) has gotten consistent results from day one thanks to an impressive blend of size (6-3, 225), pitchability, and stuff (88-92 sinking FB, average yet inconsistent CB, steadily improving CU that seems to get better every outing). JR LHP Michael Boyle (Radford) does man of the things successful young lefties do: spots an upper-80s FB (93 peak), leans on an impressive changeup, works from a deceptive delivery, and maintains good command of three pitches. SR RHP Conor Lourey might just qualify as flashy, but that assumes you’re into hard-throwing (94 peak) 6-7, 250 pound righthanders. JR LHP Andrew Schorr (Coastal Carolina) is a speculative addition, but what I’ve heard about his repertoire has me excited about his upcoming shot at D1 baseball.

Further down the line are names like SR RHP Heath Bowers (Campbell) and JR LHP Andrew Tomasovich (Charleston Southern). Bowers stands out to me for his fastball, a pitch that won’t wow you in terms of speed (mid- to upper-80s) but has enough sink to make good hitters make some really weak contact. I like Tomasovich for his funky lefthanded delivery that makes timing his stuff a task I’m glad I’ll never be asked to do. Mid-tier prospects like these guys need to find niches to survive in pro ball and both Bowers and Tomasovich seem up to the challenge.

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Hitting 

  1. Campbell JR OF Cedric Mullins
  2. Longwood JR OF Kyri Washington
  3. Radford SR 2B/OF Josh Gardiner
  4. Coastal Carolina JR 2B Connor Owings
  5. Coastal Carolina JR C Casey Schroeder
  6. High Point SR C/1B Spencer Angelis
  7. Coastal Carolina JR 3B Zach Remillard
  8. Liberty JR SS Dalton Britt
  9. Charleston Southern SR 1B/LHP Chase Shelton
  10. Liberty SR 1B Alex Close
  11. High Point SR C Josh Spano
  12. Coastal Carolina JR 3B/C Tyler Chadwick
  13. Radford SR 1B/3B Hunter Higgerson
  14. Liberty rSR OF Nick Paxton
  15. Radford SR OF Patrick Marshall
  16. UNC Asheville SR 3B/1B Hunter Bryant
  17. Gardner-Webb SR SS Ryan Hodge
  18. Radford rSR C Josh Reavis
  19. Charleston Southern SR C Andrew Widell
  20. Radford JR SS/OF Chris Coia
  21. Campbell rJR C Steven Leonard

2015 MLB Draft Talent – Pitching

  1. Liberty SR RHP/OF Ashton Perritt
  2. Longwood SR RHP Aaron Myers
  3. Radford JR LHP Michael Boyle
  4. High Point SR RHP Conor Lourey
  5. Coastal Carolina JR LHP Andrew Schorr
  6. Coastal Carolina JR RHP Mike Morrison
  7. Radford JR RHP Dylan Nelson
  8. Campbell SR RHP Heath Bowers
  9. Presbyterian SR LHP Beau Dees
  10. UNC Asheville JR RHP Corey Randall
  11. Charleston Southern JR LHP Andrew Tomasovich
  12. Coastal Carolina rJR RHP Tyler Poole
  13. Gardner-Webb SR RHP Matt Fraudin
  14. Coastal Carolina rJR RHP Patrick Corbett
  15. Liberty SR LHP Shawn Clowers
  16. Liberty SR RHP Carson Herndon
  17. Winthrop JR RHP Joey Strain
  18. Winthrop JR RHP Zach Sightler
  19. Liberty JR RHP Hayden White
  20. Longwood SR LHP Brandon Vick
  21. Coastal Carolina rSO RHP Alex Cunningham
  22. Gardner-Webb JR LHP Ryan Boelter
  23. High Point rJR RHP Scot Hoffman
  24. Presbyterian JR RHP David Sauer
  25. Coastal Carolina SR LHP Austin Kerr
  26. Gardner-Webb JR RHP Brad Haymes
  27. Radford JR RHP Ryan Meisinger
  28. Liberty SR LHP Jared Lyons
  29. Campbell SR RHP Bobby Thorson