Orioles Draft Primer
So with the on-field MLB product disappointing in 2018, it makes sense to look forward to the 2018 MLB draft as a chance for the Orioles to add some talent to the minor league system. Today we are just going to talk about the first round pick, 11th overall.
Round(Overall) – Slot Value
1(11) – 4.375M
When considering who to take at #11, let’s discuss strategy. There are a couple of strategies that could come into play here.
First is need vs best player available. I’m a best player available guy, because these players will need time to develop and organizational needs change over time. Now that said, there aren’t many 2B/SS/3B prospects in the system. The three top guys at those positions are Ryan Mountcastle (who probably won’t stick at 3B), Jomar Reyes (who also probably won’t stick at 3B), and Adam Hall (SS or 2B, who is still in extended spring training). So, no infield cavalry there. Since the need is pressing and up the middle players are good draft targets anyway, I’m ok with using position as a tie-breaker of sorts, but I don’t want to reach for a positional need.
Second is going with an overslot or underslot type. At 11 there are only a couple guys that may require significant overslot money (Kumar Rocker and Jordyn Adams), but the Orioles usually don’t play aggressive slot games and with the loss of the second round pick due to the signing of Alex Cobb, it limits their bonus pool and therefore their flexibility. I could see them taking a mild underslot college player at 11 and then getting a high ceiling HS prospect with their supplemental first round pick (37th overall). The draft is deep in interesting HS players and the Orioles have been connected to college players at 11 in various mock drafts.
Following is my list of preferred options for #11, many of these players will be off the board by the time the Orioles pick, but we’ll pick back up and get into that after the list.
Luke’s MLB Draft 2018 Preference List
Note: Write-ups based on my personal video scouting of the players, reading of scouting reports, statistical analysis of the college players, etc. Sources of info/video include Fangraphs, 2080baseball, Baseball America, The Baseball Cube, and Perfect Game. These rankings probably will differ considerably from most rankings you see, I tried my best to not get influenced by group-think and instead give a true idea of how I see these players (For better or for worse). I just went to 11 but I’ll expand to 37 in the next installment (37 being the Orioles second pick). To view the statistics for college players, just click their name, I’ve linked their “The Baseball Cube” page.
- Nick Madrigal -2B/College Jr/Oregon State
You’ll see Mize at the top of most of these lists. I’m going to buck the trend and go with the diminutive Oregon State Beaver. Madrigal has the best present hit tool in the draft. In his 3-year college career, he’s struck out just 5.5% of the time. For comparison, Joe Panik had the lowest rate in the majors last year with 9.4%. This year despite missing time with a fractured hand, he hasn’t missed a beat. His strikeout rate is down to 3.7% and has more than twice as many extra base hits as Ks. He doesn’t have the power potential of the typical 1-1, he stands just 5’7” or 5’8” and the raw power is below average to fringe. He’s not a slap hitter though, he’s a line drive hitter who’ll rack up doubles and triples. The floor is so high here. He’s going to hit a ton and he’s got plus speed that plays up through hustle and skill. At second base, he’s as smooth of an operator as you’ll find in the amateur ranks, with great footwork, hands, and transfers. He could handle SS, but doesn’t have the arm strength you’d like for that position so it’s likely he stays at 2B where he has gold glove potential. All in all, he looks like a high probability above average regular and if the power ticks up any, there is upside to that.
- Casey Mize – RHP/College Jr/Auburn
No disrespect to Mize here, he’s a great prospect and I agree with those who have him and Madrigal in a tier to themselves at the top of the draft. He is a pitcher though and one with a recent history of forearm discomfort, that’s enough risk for me to bump him out of the top spot. Mize doesn’t have the typical arsenal of a top pick or the typical delivery. His best pitches are a Cutter (89-91mph) and a Splitter (86-88 mph) that could be plus pitches. He also throws a fastball t95-96mph and a curveball around 80mph. So, four average or better pitches, two plus, and potential plus command. No wonder he’s near the top of the draft.
- Alec Bohm – 3B/College Jr/Wichita State
Bohm is an interesting prospect who combines great contact skills with huge raw power. His raw power has been given double plus grades and he has the <10% strikeout rate that’s more common with slap hitters. He’s not getting to as much of that potential power in game as Kris Bryant (a guy with similar hit/raw power grades) did in college and scouts say that he’ll likely have to make a couple mechanical changes to the swing. He’s the draft’s safest bet to hit and hit for power though, and although he’s a big guy (6’ 5”, 225), he carries it well and looks like he should stick at 3B at least for the first part of his career.
- Jarred Kelenic – CF/Wisconsin HS
Although opinions vary about grades on Kelenic’s various tools, most seem to agree that he’s the HS bat with the best chance to hit at the pro level. I agree, he has a loose, athletic swing, but shows strength that many HS prospects don’t have. He has produced some of the best HS exit velocities and has an advanced feel for a player his age. This is someone you can dream on having grade 60 (plus) tools across the board. His outfield arm and speed are already plus. If he was a Florida or Texas prospect rather than a cold weather guy, he’d likely be a top 2-3 pick.
- Logan Gilbert – RHP/College Jr/Stetson
Gilbert jumped into top of the draft discussion with a dominant performance in the prestigious Cape Cod summer league last year. His fastball was t97mph with dynamic late life and he flashed a plus curveball. Combined with a clean, lower effort delivery and some projectablity, he was in the mix for 1-1. Fast forward to this spring, he’s been excellent, striking out 134 compared to just 20 walks in 93 innings. Nevertheless, his stock has dropped because he’s no longer sitting 94-95, it’s more like 91-92 and the curveball is more of a 55 (above average) than 60 (plus). The 6’ 6”, 210lb righty is still projectable though, still gets great extension, and has developed his changeup to the point of being a 55. He is the one of the safest arms in the draft IMO and will have significant upside if he gets his velocity back.
- Carter Stewart – RHP/Florida HS
Highest upside HS arm. Fastball to 98, projectable frame, huge spin rates on his fastball and curveball. You could dream on an arsenal anchored by two grade 70 (plus-plus) pitches. The delivery, although it features a quirky leg kick, is athletic and repeatable. The downside here is that he’s a HS RHP, the track record isn’t particularly good for HS RHers taken early in the draft. HS pitchers in general are typically the riskiest asset class. That said, he’s a prototypical top HS arm and he won’t fall far before some team is tempted by the potential.
- Matthew Liberatore – LHP/Arizona HS
A projectable lefty with a short arm action, excellent curveball, and a solid feel for a changeup. Liberatore has seen his stock fluctuate up and down this spring along with his velocity. Sometimes more low 90s into the high 80s, other times sitting mid-90s. He’ll be able to hold a more consistent fastball velocity when he grows into his frame and could offer three plus pitches at maturity if everything goes right.
- Cole Winn – RHP/California HS
Winn, besides having a grade 80 last name (just imagine Roch getting a hold of a pun goldmine like that) has the best combination of present stuff of any of the HS pitchers in this class IMO. He’s more filled out than Liberatore or Stewart, and has a deep repertoire of usable pitches. The best being his fastball and curveball, that like Stewart’s are both high spin offerings. His fastball t96 and his curveball is a tight late breaker. He has a good idea of how to move the ball around for a HS pitcher and once he cleans up his landing a bit, looks to be an above average command guy.
- Brady Singer – RHP/College Jr/Florida
Let’s start with this disclaimer, I’m not much of a Singer fan, the delivery is choppy, the arm angle is weird, and the offspeed pitches aren’t showstoppers. So why is he ranked this high? He just gets outs against top competition. He’s a performer who could move fast and offers a deceptive fastball/slider combo out of his unusual arm slot. The fastball touches 95-96 at times but is usually 92-93 with nasty late armside run and all of the weird stuff about the pace of his delivery and his release makes everything play up. Lastly, despite his herky-jerky motion, the guy can command a baseball.
- Brice Turang – SS/California HS
Turang has been on the draft radar for years now and has gotten a ton of exposure. Going into this season, he was also in the discussion for 1-1. Turang is a great bet to stick at SS and has plus speed. He has the one of the most advanced approaches in the HS class. He has performed time and again against the very best competition. Yet, his stock has fallen substantially. Scouts expected him to add strength and begin to hit the ball with more authority, more loud sounds off the bat. That hasn’t happened, but he’s still very thin and could safely add 20lbs without hurting his chances to stick at SS. So make of it what you will, but either concerns about power potential or just prospect fatigue have dropped him to the point he’ll probably be available when the O’s pick and could fall further.
- Jonathan India – 3B/College Jr/Florida
Another Florida Gator, another guy I don’t want to rank this high. Maybe I just don’t like the University of Florida, I don’t know. India was a prospect in HS and was a solid if unspectacular performer his Freshman and Sophomore seasons. So he hasn’t come out of nowhere, but no one expected him to put up an insane .376/.520/.759 batting line in the SEC. He’s been the top performing college hitter in the country and he’s pretty much a lock to stick at 3B (he may even be able to play SS passably). So that’s why he’s ranked this high. I do have a handful of concerns. He doesn’t have a carrying tool, the tools are average to above average across the board. He has never hit for any power with a wood bat. He swings hard and there are always going to be strikeouts in his game. None of those things are deal breakers, especially for a guy who is performing in the toughest conference and has shown an advanced feel for hitting, but I’m not ready to put him in the top 10.
To see the rest of my top 50 draft prospects, click here.
Alright, let’s be realistic about this, Madrigal, Mize, Bohm, and Singer are unlikely to make it to the Orioles. There are a number of other players being mocked by one publication or another into the top 10 that didn’t make my top 11 including Joey Bart (C – Georgia Tech), Travis Swaggerty (OF – South Alabama), Nolan Gorman (3B – HS), Kumar Rocker (RHP – HS), Ryan Weathers (LHP – HS), and Shane McClanahan (LHP – USF). I’ll cover these guys in my next installment.
Matthew Liberatore also has a good chance to go in the top 10 as does Jarred Kelenic and Carter Stewart. That leaves Logan Gilbert as the top guy on my board. I like this pick for the Orioles, college pitchers have a good track record and Gilbert may be the safest of the college pitchers. Stetson recently produced Jacob DeGrom so there is some track record for that program. He may even be a slight below slot guy at 11. The other option would be to go positional need and take Turang or India. Which one you take depends on if you want the potential plus defender with higher risk/reward (Turang) or the college performer who might not be as toolsy as you’d like at 11 (India). I think Gilbert is a tier above those two IMO, but that’s definitely not a consensus viewpoint and the argument could be made either way. The Orioles will surely have a couple good options when they take the podium.
Some changes after seeing additional looks at players since publication. Conine stock down, McClanahan down, Cate up.