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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

Final 2011 MLB Draft High School Shortstop Rankings

1. SS Francisco Lindor (Montverde Academy, Florida)

So much has already been written about Lindor that I think I’ll cut right to the chase and explain what excites me about him and what worries me about him. First, and most obvious, is the glove. There are many factors that lead to attrition when it comes to amateur shortstops hoping to stick at the position professionally, but Lindor is as safe a bet as any prep player to stay at short that I can remember. He has the range, the hands, the instincts, the athleticism, and the arm to not only stick up to middle, but to excel there. With that out of the way, we can focus on his bat. At the plate, Lindor has one big thing going for him: his age. At only 17 years of age, Lindor is one of the 2011 draft’s youngest prospects. For a guy with as many questions with the bat as Lindor has, it is a very good thing that he has time on his side. His swing really works from the right side, generating surprisingly easy pull power. From the left side, there is much work to be done. There is something about his lefty stroke that seems to limit his power (can’t put my finger on what exactly), but you have to imagine good coaching and hard work give that a solid chance to improve. The iffy swing is mitigated some by his impressive bat speed, but it is still a worry. On balance, however, I have to say I do like his raw power upside as much as any of his offensive tools (hit tool is average for me and I don’t think he’ll be a big basestealing threat as a pro) and can envision a future where he hits upwards of fifteen homers annually. This may be an example of me forcing a comp when there really isn’t one there, but I’ve come around to the idea that Lindor shares many similarities to current Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus (Lindor’s power advantage and Andrus’ plus speed make this one a stretch, but I could see vaguely similar batting lines despite the differences). Rather than a ceiling comp, however, I’d say that Andrus qualifies as Lindor’s big league floor. If we’re talking upside, Lindor compares favorably with Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

2. SS Trevor Story (Irving HS, Texas)

Trevor Story is about 90% of Francisco Lindor with only about 10% of the hype. His biggest tool is the draft’s best infield arm, a literal rocket launcher (note: arm may not be literally a rocket launcher) affixed to his upper body capable of producing consistent mid-90s heat. His range at short is more good than great, but his crazy arm strength actually helps in this regard as it enables him to play back far enough in the hole. Unlike Lindor, I think more of his hit tool than his raw power – his swing is at its best when geared towards making solid contact, and he actually hurts himself when he overswings to create more power.

3. SS Tyler Greene (West Boca Raton HS, Florida)

Greene has two clear plus tools — raw power and speed — and the defensive tools to stay up the middle. His unusually quick hands at the plate allow him to hit to all fields, but it is a bit of a double-edged sword – those same quick hands seem to have given him the belief that he can hit anything throw within six inches of the plate, a good plan if you are Vlad Guerrero but maybe not the best plan of attack for a young hitter. A little more plate discipline and some polish in the field would go a long way in making the elite shortstop prospect his other tools dictate.

4. SS Brandon Martin (Santiago HS, California)

What stands out to me about Martin’s game is his approach to hitting. His speed is good, his arm is good, and the likelihood he sticks at shortstop is, well, good, but it is his potential plus hit tool and professional approach at the plate that separates him from the pack. Regular readers of the site probably realize that certain hitting-related buzzwords — approach, patience, maturity — get my attention more than others — aggressive being the first that comes to mind — and many of my favorites just so happen to be words that scouts often use to describe Martin.

5. SS Julius Gaines (Luella HS, Georgia):

There are about a dozen prep shortstops who can realistically lay claim to “potential big league shortstop,” a statement that is more about their defensive futures than any kind of upside at the plate. When projecting shortstops long-term, defense is king. If there is one thing we are sure Gaines can do, it’s defense. How the bat develops is a whole other story, but his range and hands at short are so good that his hit tool is almost an afterthought. Almost.

6. SS Connor Barron (Sumrall HS, Mississippi)

It is easy to see why Barron has been on of the draft’s fastest risers this spring. He has great speed, a strong arm, and a big league frame that makes projecting his bat a easy relative to many of his draft class peers. The Reid Brignac comps are popular, and with good reason.

7. SS Drake Roberts (Brenham HS, Texas)

My thought on Roberts at the onset of the season was that he was probably good enough to stick at shortstop as a professional, but not a candidate to ever win himself a Gold Glove along the way. Things have since changed. Now I’m not necessarily ready to predict that he’ll win any hardware down the line, but, man, has his defense progressed nicely since last summer. We’re talking excellent hands, smooth actions, good first step quickness, above-average range to his left, and an average arm that plays up because of its accuracy.

8. SS Mikal Hill (Mallard Creek HS, North Carolina)

Heard a Delino DeShields comp on Hill that I find pretty interesting, but I like to compare his upside to early career (i.e. pre-power spike) Chuck Knoblauch. His plus range and plus-plus speed ensure he’ll be able to contribute even if the bat doesn’t come around. That’s not to say that his tools at the plate are bad – he has a long history of hitting high velocity pitching and a hit tool that grades out as average down the line. I am less sure of his ultimate ceiling with the bat (mainly the power…again, I don’t expect him, or almost any amateur middle infielder, to ever be a power hitter, but showing even the threat of a little bit of pop as opposed to no pop goes a long way because of how professional pitchers attack certain types of hitters) when compared to fellow defense first prospects Julius Gaines and Drake Roberts, thus explaining his spot below each guy on this list.

9. SS Chris Mariscal (Clovis North HS, California)

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.

10. SS Nico Slater (Jupiter HS, Florida)

Slater is another quick rising prospect who showed a much improved bat in the latter half of the spring. If that progress is real, then his newfound combination of that average or better hit tool and his already good enough to stick up the middle defense (and plus arm strength) make him a viable option for a team looking for a long-term starting option once the elite talents are off the board.

11. SS Mitchell Walding (St. Mary’s HS, California)

Tools, tools, tools. Based solely on his intriguing blend of future power, arm strength, and defensive upside, Walding could be ranked just outside the top five on this list. As it stands, however, he falls a bit later because the gap between what he currently is and what he could be some day is substantial. The power upside is dependent on his pro frame (6-4, 185) filling out and his swing getting tweaked, the arm strength upside will rely on his weird arm action being adjusted, and the defensive upside will only be reached after thousands of groundballs off the fungo. If nothing else, I appreciate his high boom/high bust style of prospectdom, a fun departure from the series of “yes glove, maybe bat, no power” players that often make up the second wave of prep shortstop prospects. As an added bonus, if it all works out, he has the bat and power potential to start in the big leagues even if he has to move off short.

12. SS Brett Harrison (Green Valley HS, Nevada)

My first draft originally had Harrison with the second base prospects, but a quick word from a smart guy suggested I was underselling his defensive upside. I believe a sampling of that quick word included the phrase “unbelievably light on his feet, like he is fielding on a cloud” or something weirdly poetic like that. There isn’t a whole lot there with the bat just yet, but after being told he had a “criminally underrated pure hit tool” I reconsidered and relented. Still not sold on the power ever coming around, but if he can combine an above-average hit tool with solid defense and a good arm, then we’ve got ourselves a nice looking prospect. There is an outside shot Harrison could go undrafted if teams are as convinced as my smart guy seems to be about his commitment to Hawaii.

13. SS Tommy Williams (Palm Beach Gardens HS, Florida): quick bat; legit shortstop; strong arm

Williams has a quick bat, strong arm, and, most importantly, a very good chance to stay at shortstop now and forever. He gets a little lost in the shuffle in what is a very good year for Florida high school middle infielders, but he’s a good one.

14. SS Jack Lopez (Deltona HS, Florida)

Plus defensive tools will keep Lopez at short until the day he retires from the game to go sell life insurance (or whatever it is ex-ballplayers do these days).

15. SS Zac LaNeve (Pine Richland HS, Pennsylvania)

Pretty sure I have not correctly spelled the first name of a prospect who goes by Zack/Zach/Zac on my first try in the three years this site has been alive and breathing. I’m hoping I nailed it here with Zac, but my confidence level isn’t as high as it should be. My confidence in LaNeve as a solid mid-round sleeper option, however, is right on target. His tools won’t jump at you, but he can field the position and run a little bit. At this point on the list, those things are big.