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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 Catcher Rankings

1. C Blake Swihart (Cleveland HS, New Mexico)

The hardest prospects to write about are the ones at the top of lists like this. What more can be said about Swihart that hasn’t already been said? The Texas commit has shown all five tools (hit, power, defense, arm, and speed) this spring, an extreme rarity for a catcher at any level. I realize speed is easily the least important tool you’d need to see in a catching prospect, but Swihart’s average running ability works as a proxy for his outstanding athleticism. In that way, Swihart is the prototype for the next generation of catchers. After an almost decade long flirtation with jumbo-sized backstops (e.g. Joe Mauer and Matt Wieters), baseball is going back towards an emphasis on athleticism and defense behind the dish.

A no-brainer to stick behind the plate (the aforementioned athleticism and reported 95 MPH-caliber arm from the mound will help), Swihart’s biggest tool is his bat. Plus opposite field power and consistent line drives are not the norm for a typical prep prospect, but Swihart’s hit and power tools both project as plus in the future.  I stand by my belief that Swihart will catch for a long time as a professional, but his great athleticism and plus bat might convince a team to fast track Swihart’s development by switching him to third base or right field. It should also be noted that Swihart has a little extra leverage because he’ll be draft-eligible again in 2013 after his sophomore season.

2. C Eric Haase (Divine Child HS, Michigan)

The biggest question mark on Haase is how the Westland, Michigan native wound up committing to Ohio State in the first place. Lack of allegiance to his home state university aside (I kid!), Haase profiles similarly to Blake Swihart, except without Swihart’s switch-hitting ability. Despite the typical risk involved that comes from selecting a cold weather prospect early, he’ll still find his way ranked near the top of some clubs’ draft boards. Strong defensive chops, plus athleticism, a strong pro-ready build, and a balanced swing will do that for a guy.

3. C Riley Moore (San Marcos HS, California)

One of the draft’s fastest risers, Riley Moore does two things really, really well. Moore can throw with the best of them and Moore can hit the ball a long way. Plus arm strength and plus raw power will get a young catcher very far on draft day. Throw in an above-average hit tool and really nifty footwork behind the plate and you’ve got yourself a young player with the potential to be a first division starter.

4. C Elvin Soto (Xaverian HS, New York)

Of my many odd player evaluation biases, one of the weirdest is my affinity for players from non-traditional locales. Something about the possibility of untapped ability just gets me all worked up, I suppose. Like Eric Haase before him, in Soto we have another cold weather prospect with a well-rounded skill set. I see big promise with the bat, a pro-caliber arm, and the potential for plus defense in the very near future.

5. C Garrett Boulware (TL Hanna HS, South Carolina)

Without the benefit of meaningful statistics, two of the most difficult things to assess at the high school level are plate discipline and pitch recognition. Boulware’s patient approach to hitting has gotten raves from everybody I’ve heard from, so, with the absence of BB/K data, I’m ready to take those positive reports and run with them. There is a chance Boulware gets moved off the position, but I think his above-average arm and good but not great hands should keep him a catcher for at least a few years.

6. C Cameron Gallagher (Manheim Township HS, Pennsylvania)

The “local” guy that I’ve seen this year a few times – 90 minutes away is local, right? – has had himself an oddly inconsistent year for a potential top five round draft prospect. He reminds me a good bit of Tyler Marlette, except with a tiny bit (we’re talking teeny tiny) less arm strength and a good bit more raw power and physical strength. So, basically, he reminds me of Marlette except for three pretty big differences – maybe that’s not the best comp after all. Gallagher is still a very raw defender, but steady improvement throughout the spring has led me to believe he can remain a catcher, assuming he doesn’t experience another growth spurt. The raw power is undeniably his biggest strength and there are some who think he’s got enough bat to handle first base if the whole catching thing doesn’t pan out. Not sure I’m buying into the bat that hard, but also not sure he’ll be moving to first any time soon.

7. C Austin Hedges (JSerra HS, California)

I don’t feel too bad about ranking Austin Hedges lower than most because, when it comes down to it, what do these rankings really mean anyway? I hope they are a good resource for fans checking in on their team’s newest draft pick, but they won’t influence what happens on draft day one iota. Despite my lack of love, Hedges is a potential first rounder. Words don’t really do his defense justice, but I’ll give it my best shot all the same. Austin Hedges is already one of the 30 best defensive catchers in the country. I’m talking pro, college, and anything in between. Young catchers who can pull off a plus-plus arm, fantastic hands, and all-around plus receiving ability are few and far between. The bat is the problem. He has a long way to go before being labeled a finished product, but, as of now, I’d have to really squint hard to see a future where Hedges ever hits more than one of the league’s lesser 8-hole hitters. Selfishly, I’d love to see him go to UCLA on the off-chance that he’d get some time on the mound and really put that cannon of a right arm to work.

8. C Nicky Delmonico (Farragut HS, Tennessee)

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.

9. C Tyler Marlette (Hagerty HS, Florida)

Marlette has as much upside at the plate as any high school catcher sans Swihart, but questions about his defense continue to suppress his stock. The shame of it is that he has above-average defensive tools – he’s surprisingly natural behind the plate – but lacks the polish that comes with years of practice at the position. The aforementioned upside as a hitter works in much the same way. In batting practice Marlette is a monster, but he’s more of a gap-to-gap hitter in game action thus far. A solid defensive catcher with plus power is a heck of a prospect, of course. An iffy defensive catcher who may or may not stick with gap power is less exciting. This is where teams who have seen Marlette multiple times over a couple of years have a huge leg up on what I do.

10. C Grayson Greiner (Blythewood HS, South Carolina)

Regular readers of the site knew I couldn’t get past the top ten without throwing a major upside play in there somewhere. Greiner is a little bit under the radar, partly because of a really strong commitment to South Carolina. I mentioned earlier that teams are moving away from bigger catchers, but Greiner’s picture perfect 6-5, 220 pound frame could have a few teams backpedaling on that strategy just a wee bit. With that pro-ready frame comes, you guessed it, plus raw power and really intriguing arm strength. With that pro-ready frame also come some mechanical issues that need to be ironed out, but that’s a problem for the minor league instructors, not the faceless baseball draft writer.

11. C Greg Bird (Grandview HS, Colorado)

Bird came into the year a big prospect, but much of the hype that came with catching Kevin Gausman last year seems to have disappeared after Gausman went off to LSU. The Colorado high school catcher has a little bit of Cameron Gallagher to his game. Both prospects are raw defensively with impressive raw power that has been seen firsthand by area scouts at the high school level. That’s an important thing to note, I think. We hear so much about raw power, so it is worth pointing out when a player has plus raw power and average present power. That’s where I think Bird is currently at. There might not be a ton of projection to him, for better or worse.

12. C Brandon Sedell (American Heritage HS, Florida)

Sedell is a pro-ready backstop from a high school program with a deserved reputation of being a pro ballplayer producing factory. His calling card is his tremendous raw power, though it is limited somewhat to the pull side. He won’t win any Gold Gloves for his work behind the plate and his throws down to second won’t evoke comparisons of the Molina brothers, but he sets up a nice target for his pitcher and moves around laterally better than you’d expect from a big guy. He gets bonus points for his extensive experience catching high velocity arms. This may be a little nuts, but I feel as though the recent pros that have come out of American Heritage in recent years (most notably Eric Hosmer, still the most advanced high school bat I’ve ever seen) have brainwashed some scouts into thinking the game comes easy to all prep players there. Sedell isn’t Hosmer, but he’s still a damn fine pro prospect with big league starter upside.

13. C BreShon Kimbell (Mesquite HS, Texas)

Kimbell is unusually strong, very athletic, and a gifted defender. He also has shown big raw power in the past, but inconsistencies with his swing mechanics make his trips to the plate hit or miss, no pun intended. Some good pro coaching could turn him into a high level pro prospect in short order. Also, BreShon – a fella with a name like that is obviously destined for greatness, even though I sometimes read it as Bre$hon.

14. C Brett Austin (Providence HS, North Carolina)

First Austin Hedges, then Nicky Delmonico, and now Brett Austin – my trio of lower than expected rankings is finally complete. It all comes down to what you want in a catcher, I guess. I’ll take defensive ability, raw power, mature hitting actions, and arm strength, in that order. If you don’t have a plus tool in any of those four areas, I’m a little nervous. Austin’s defensive work has been spotty this spring, and he’s not assured of starting his professional career as a catcher. I’d generously give him a 55 on raw power – damn good to be sure, but not on the level of a handful of players ranked above him – and his arm is average on his best day. He’s got impressive athleticism and arguably the best foot speed of any prep catching prospect, so a position switch – second base, maybe? – could actually help his pro standing in my eyes.

15. C AJ Murray (Westfield HS, New Jersey)

Fast-rising prospect poised to make me look stupid for having him this low. Area scouts rave about his athleticism and sheer physical strength.

And now for five more guys that I couldn’t bear to leave out, but knew that if I started to write a little something about them then I’d wind up writing about high school catchers forever. With two weeks until the draft, that’s a no-no. Five additional high school catchers that I’m high on with very brief thoughts on each:

16. C Daniel Mengden (Westside HS, Texas)

A good low-90s fastball has most preferring Mengden on the mound, but I’m going to stubbornly stick by him as the receiving end of a pitcher-catcher battery, thank you very much. Why do I like him as a catcher? Well, you already know he has a plus arm back there and his defensive actions are all very good. I also have liked what I’ve seen out of his swing so far; it is the kind of level, line drive producing swing that might not generate a ton of raw power, but will help him keep the ball off the ground and into the gaps.

17. C Taylor Nichols (Faith Academy, Alabama)

Quick draft day math problem for you: plus power plus plus arm strength minus strong college commitment (no offense South Alabama) equals potential top ten round catching prospect.

18. C Hunter Lockwood (LD Bell HS, Texas)

No weaknesses in Lockwood’s game, just a really solid, well-rounded skill set.

19. C Aramis Garcia (Pines Charter HS, Florida)

Similar to Nichols in that he’s best known for his power bat and power arm.

20. C Dylan Delso (Broken Arrow HS, Oklahoma)

Like Greg Bird and Brandon Sedell above, Delso has no problems catching high velocity heat. Archie Bradley’s prep catcher approves.