...just not the one I wanted.
The Orioles made a pick that is impossible to argue with in the first round, selecting prep shortstop Manny Machado. While I have my reservations about Machado, he was the consensus best available talent in that spot, offering the possibility of plus defense and offense from a premium defensive position.
However, Machado is years away. A Boras client, it is doubtful that he will sign before the mid-August deadline, making it unlikely that he will face any real competition this year. Only three months older than Bryce Harper, the seventeen year old Machado will be too young for the Orioles to send him to the Arizona Fall League, meaning we won't even get to see him play in a competitive minor league environment until 2011.
As all of us are aware by now, the Orioles lacked a second round pick due to the signing of Mike Gonzalez, a Type A free agent. To put that loss into perspective, here are some of the top prospects drafted in between the third pick of the second round and our third round pick: Brett Eibner, Brandon Workman, Jedd Gyorko, Yordy Cabrera, Reggie Golden, Jarrett Parker, and Mel Rojas Jr. Several of these names were widely considered to be first round talents.
The Orioles made an interesting pick in round three, selecting UCLA closer Dan Klein. Klein has an advanced four pitch repertoire and the Orioles have announced that they plan on using him as a starter. Klein has the stuff to be a Jake Arrieta type - a big fastball and quality secondary offerings. His history of shoulder trouble, however, leads to concerns about his durability.
In the fourth round, the Orioles selected Auburn center fielder Trent Mummey, who is reportedly close to signing. Mummey is a classic Jordan pick - a somewhat undersized speedy center fielder with strong defense. Two years ago, Jordan drafted a similar player in Kyle Hudson, also in the fourth round, now with Frederick. The year before that, Jordan drafted another similar player, Matt Angle, in the seventh round, who is now with Norfolk. Jordan hasn't had tremendous success, however, drafting this type of player. Hudson has a career minor league OPS of .651, which Angle tops by an even .100 at .751, and neither makes especially solid contact.
The selection in the fifth round was prep shortstop Connor Narron, son of Jerry Narron, and represented the Orioles first tough sign after the first round. Narron is probably a third baseman going forward, with a plus arm that plays at the position and a promising bat with both contact and power potential. This pick was also very typical of Jordan, reminiscent of Michael Ohlman last season and LJ Hoes in 2008 - a prep bat with good all around offensive potential but lacking any single standout offensive tool and a lack of a certain defensive home.
In the sixth and seventh round, Jordan went for arms, selecting college righty Dixon Anderson and college lefty Matt Bywater. Bywater ought to remind Orioles fans of Richard Zagone, taken in the sixth round two years ago out of Mizzou. Zagone, like Bywater, lacks premium stuff but has adequate velocity from the left side with a plus offspeed pitch. Anderson, a draft-eligible sophomore with a good body and velocity but command problems, has some breakout potential.
The eighth round selection, prep backstop Wynston Sawyer, is very reminiscent of last year's selection Ohlman - another catcher with strong offense for the position and questionable defensive tools whose stock rose close to the draft but whose defensive questions led to his not going until midway through day two. Like Ohlman, Sawyer has the potential to be a fast riser through the prospect ranks with his bat, but will quickly lose value if he cannot prove himself behind the plate. Sawyer, like Narron and Anderson, will require an overslot bonus, although probably less than Ohlman demanded last season.
In the tenth round, the Orioles nabbed Clay Schrader, a strong bullpen arm reminiscent of last year's selections of James Brandhorst and Kevin Landry. Schrader has more velocity and upside than either Branhorst or Landry, but still profiles as a bullpen arm, as he lacks a changeup.
Deeper in the draft class, Jordan grabbed several arms with upside who are major signability questions at their draft position, with preps Austin Urban and Jaime Esquivel and JuCo Joe Robinson. Like with years past, expect Jordan to sign at least one of the three to an overslot deal. All represent very good value for their draft position, although none are the equivalent of Cameron Coffey last season.
This is a very solid draft class. Throughout the later rounds, Jordan found players who were solid value for their draft position. It is also not a cheap class; in addition to the high-priced Machado, Narron, Anderson, Sawyer, and the late round prep arms will all require overslot deals, and Jordan has already clearly stated that he expects the club to sign Narron, who projects as the most expensive of the lot.
So why I am I not thrilled with this draft?
Partially, because of what I said at the top - it is a good draft, but not the one that I wanted. That's probably a good thing - Jordan and his team are much, much better at this than I am. Throughout the first fifteen rounds, however, we left higher ceiling talent on the table. In round four, we took Mummey while players like Kyle Blair went to the Indians and Garin Cecchini went to the Red Sox. In round six, we took Anderson while Jesse Hahn went to the Rays and Kevin Gausmann went to the Dodgers. In the 18th round, we selected the excellently named Sebastian Vader, while the Blue Jays selected Kris Bryant and the Braves took Zach Alvord.
The players who I named will all cost a great deal more to sign than our draftees, and several may not sign at all. And there is no guarantee that they will be successful prospects, much less successful big leaguers. But in the 2009 season, 80% of the Wins Above Replacement were generated by only 15% of the players. And by and large, those wins came from a consistent group of the most talented players in the game. Baseball is a game decided largely by the stars, not by the role players who contribute around the edges. And while we got one of the highest ceiling prospects in the draft in Machado, outside of him we added few names who seem likely to become premium talents.
Something that concerns me less than I suspect will others is the excellent draft classes by several of our AL East rivals, particularly the Red Sox, Jays, and Rays. Toronto and Tampa Bay had excellent drafts, to be sure. But both teams had among the most disastrous drafts in baseball in 2009, failing to sign several top picks, which is a part of why they had so many early picks in 2010. Both classes also look better now than I expect them to at the signing deadline; I expect both teams to sign their top picks, but both teams will have to change their spending radically to sign many of their picks from the middle rounds. Given the depth of our 2009 class and the weakness of theirs, I feel like we still come out even or ahead of both clubs, although they closed the gap much closer than I would like. Meanwhile, although the Red Sox didn't have the problems in 2009 that the Rays and Jays experienced, this is more of a typical draft for them, and while it is quite good this is what we have to expect. Further, the Boston system has been riddled with injuries and the stock of many of their healthy prospects, such as Michael Bowden, has fallen this year.
What I am concerned by is the extent to which Jordan appears to be falling into a specific draft pattern. Trent Mummey is a fine fourth round pick, but is extremely similar to players recently drafted and who have not worked out for us. In a system devoid of power hitters, this was the one element that our draft lacked. Recent Jordan draftees selected for their power bats have not succeeded to date, from Bill Rowell to Tyler Townsend, last year's third round pick. The only power bats successfully developed under Jordan have been Matt Wieters and Nolan Reimold; our best power bats currently in our system are Josh Bell and Brandon Waring, both acquired via trade.
That said, it is striking how thoroughly Jordan has addressed our prior weakness up the middle. With the additions of Machado and Narron to Mychal Givens and Garabez Rosa, we should have strong depth in middle infield prospects in our low minors. Behind Caleb Joseph, we now have excellent prospect catching depth with Ohlman, Justin Dalles and Sawyer. These aspects, deep weaknesses of our system over the last decade which led in part to debacles like Paul Bako and Luis Hernandez should, over time, become strengths. Jordan continues to provide us with a strong and broad base of pitching, which should continue to provide the Orioles with a deep pool of pitching prospects throughout the minors. And everything about our draft class shows that Peter Angelos continues to be willing for the Orioles to be among the top half of the league in draft spending.
Another year, another good draft by Jordan and company. But yet again, another draft that does not appear to be all that it could have been. And for a team that is both as bad as the Orioles and in such a competitive division, the question has to be whether good is enough to succeed.