As previously discussed, the Orioles did well at the top of the draft, particularly with their first round pick of Dylan Bundy. Now we look at their selections in the middle part of the draft.
Doing well in these rounds is, in my opinion, key to building a strong farm system. In the early rounds, nearly every player selected is a legitimate prospect with some shot at the majors. After the twelfth round, teams are mostly selecting organizational players and the occasional prospect who is thought to be all but unsignable. But in the middle rounds, teams are finding the players who have upside but are flawed or under the radar in some way. Bobby Bundy, Joe Mahoney, Jason Berken, and Matt Angle are among the players that Joe Jordan has found in this period in the draft.
6th Round (185th overall): 3b Nick Delmonico, Tennessee HS - After having made a series of safe picks of college players following their selection of Bundy fourth overall, the Orioles made a splash by selecting the highest ranked prep still available in Delmonico. Delmonico is considered to be advanced for a prep bat, and scouts rave about his intelligence and baseball acumen. He has a smooth left-handed swing and excellent command of the strike zone, and it is believed that he will develop plus power although it hasn't been seen much yet. His defense at catcher, his high school position, isn't considered good enough for the majors, but the Orioles hope to use his strong arm at the hot corner. Delmonico is a good enough athlete to play an outfield corner, where his arm would also be plus, but his below average running speed would make his defense marginal in right.
Delmonico is fairly easily the most talented prospect selected in this round, and taking him here is a coup for the Orioles. Of course, selecting him isn't the same as signing him, and Delmonico is going to be a very tough sign in this draft position. Delmonico fell in part because he has a strong college commitment to the University of Georgia, where he would be playing with one of his brothers and another former high school teammate. Delmonico will require first round money to sign, most likely something in the $1.5-$2 million range, which would be a huge outlay. Nonetheless, his selection in this spot makes me somewhat confident that the Orioles will sign him. The Orioles typically don't take fliers on unsignable preps until later in the draft; by selecting him here, the O's are showing that they are aware of his demands and intent on meeting them, and Delmonico has stated that the Orioles spoke to him on the day of the draft to talk about his demands. If he signs, Delmonico gives the Orioles a supplemental round talent who many evaluators believe could be a top 15 pick after refining his game in college. That foremost among Delmonico's tools is strong plate discipline is also a very encouraging sign, since this is a talent that Jordan has usually undervalued. After Bundy, this is the most significant pick in the O's draft.
7th Round (205th overall): LHP Trent Howard, Central Michigan - Having made an upside pick in the sixth round, Jordan would retreat to the safety of college players until the fourteenth round. He made a quintessential Jordan selection in Howard, a lefty who played his high school and college ball in cold weather states, shortening his season and keeping the mileage on his arm low. Howard was used as both a starter and a reliever in college, and his best pitch was a fastball that he throws from 90 to 92 mph. He compliments this with a curveball and a change, both of which are currently below average. Howard has some trouble repeating his delivery, however, and he may be able to improve his secondary offerings with some mechanical changes. Howard has shown good control, with only 19 walks in 76 innings this season.
Howard has good size for a lefty at 6'2" and is somewhat lanky at 195 pounds, leaving him with some projection as well. The Orioles should try to start Howard in the rotation, but if his secondary offerings don't show improvement, the bullpen is his likely home. But with decent velocity for a lefty and good control, Howard has a fair chance of being a good back end starter if either of his secondary pitches can be refined. Howard represents a quality addition to the Orioles system, and was very signable, joining the Orioles on June 14th. However, the Orioles did leave upside on the table in this round, when players such as Christian Lopes and Cody Kukuk were selected.
8th Round (235th overall) Johnny Ruettiger, CF, Arizona State - Every year, like clockwork, Joe Jordan will select a speedy center fielder with plus defense with one of the top ten picks in the draft. Ruettiger joins Matt Angle, Xavier Avery, Kyle Hudson, and Trent Mummey among the contenders to be the Orioles' fourth outfielder of the future. Like them, he has little power, and he is fast but not a burner, so he will have to hit and show improved plate discipline to make the majors, and even then his ceiling may be that of a fourth outfielder. That said, his makeup is widely praised and Baseball America ranked Ruettiger as the 179th prospect in the draft, and his hit tool may be good enough for him to profile as a marginal regular.
Plus, can you really bet against Rudy's nephew?
9th Round (265th overall) Devin Jones, RHP, Mississippi State - Jones throws bullets, with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and tops out at 95. His slider flashes plus as well. Arms with that kind of upside aren't supposed to be around at this point in the draft, but Jones lasted as long as he did by being extremely raw for a college product. Jones has problems holding his velocity deep into games and with his command, as his 3.92 BB/9 as a junior reflects. Still, a permanent move to the bullpen should help Jones, and if he responds well to pro coaching he has upside as a late inning reliever.
Jones has good upside for a ninth rounder, and is good value in this position. But his availability here serves as a reminder why I was lukewarm on the O's third and fourth round selections. Arms with bullpen upside still exist at this point in the draft, while the kind of offensive potential that was around in the early rounds is long gone. A note: two selections later, the Nationals chose Dixon Anderson of California, who didn't sign last season with the Orioles as their sixth round pick. Here is a case where a failure to reach an agreement helped neither party. Jones signed this past week, and while bonus figures haven't been released, he probably signed for about slot.
10th Round (295th overall) Tyler Wilson, RHP, Virginia - Wilson was a 35th round pick by the Reds in the 2010 draft, and it is clear that he benefited greatly from returning for his senior season to pitch for the top-ranked program in the nation, and from the attention of scouts who came to watch his more talented teammates. Wilson was primarily a reliever in his first three seasons with UVA, but was used primarily as a starter his senior year, and got excellent results, going 10-0 with an ERA of 2.24 and a 124/22 K/BB ratio in 104 1/3 innings.
Wilson's stuff is pretty unremarkable; he throws a fastball in the 90-91 range, along with an average slider and changeup. What he does have is exceptional command and control of his pitches, not merely throwing strikes but locating his pitches in the zone. Last night, in an elimination game start against Cal in the College World Series, Wilson's command was on full display and Wilson dominated Cal in front of a national audience on short rest.
I have deeply mixed feelings about this pick. On the one hand, I feel like his stuff is quite marginal for the majors; he lacks a single plus pitch as well as premium velocity, and his history in the bullpen doesn't indicate that he has much more velocity in shorter outings. As a senior, he also lacks projectibility. Yet his intelligence and command makes his stuff play better than it is, and he has been dominant against the best competition college baseball has to offer. As a senior, Wilson should be an easy sign as soon as the College World Series is completed.
11th Round (325th overall) Adam Davis, C, Illinois - Davis' calling card is his defense. He is a strong defender behind the plate, and his strong arm and quick release to all bases allow him to control the running game. But Davis is more than just a glove, and served as the three hole hitter for the Illini. Davis has an excellent swing and quick hands, and drives the ball to all fields. He also has pretty respectable pop in his bat for a college catcher in the 11th round.
What holds Davis back is his abysmal plate discipline. More than a mere free swinger, Davis' lack of selectivity at the plate allowed him to achieve the dubious distinction of reaching base more often via being hit by the pitch than by taking a walk. Davis, who has already signed, has the upside of a plus backup catcher in the majors, something that any O's fan watching this season can appreciate the value of. But he will have to make significant strides in his walk rate to reach it. Davis proved easily signable, and has been assigned to the GCL.
12th Round (355th overall) Jason Coates, LF, Texas Christian - Before the season began, Coates was ticketed for the top three rounds after a strong sophomore campaign. However, Coates was among many college players whose stock fell when the new bats introduced this year by the NCAA sapped him of much of his previous power. Coates still showed a very promising offensive skillset, batting over .300 for the third time in his college career and showing strong plate discipline with an OBP of ..403. An average runner, Coates also managed to swipe eight bases in ten attempts, matching his sophomore totals exactly.
Coates' calling card is his bat; he is below average defensively and limited to left field. But his bat is quite promising, and Coates will require significantly over slot to sign in this draft position. My expectation here is that Coates is a fallback plan if Delmonico will not sign. If the O's can land all three, Coates will be a very solid addition to the farm system and has similar upside to Nolan Reimold. But Coates cannot match Delmonico's upside.
Analysis: The upside in this part of the O's draft really belongs to Delmonico and Coates, and how this part of the draft should be graded depends entirely on whether either or both of them sign. Delmonico is a tough case; I'm not in love with him, and would have taken others over him at the point of the draft where he should have gone. He has yet to see significant game action at any position where he might end up playing in the majors, and his power is mostly projection at this point. But it is very tough to complain about his selection where we got him. The pitchers we selected in these rounds are all defensible picks individually, but I remain troubled by the lack of upside from the pitchers we took in this part of the draft as a group. This drawback, however, would be greatly mitigated if both Delmonico and Coates can be persuaded to sign.