With a new collective bargaining agreement, a new GM, and a new Scouting Director, there were a lot of questions about how the Orioles would approach this year's draft. Those of us wondering might well not have bothered; the first draft under Duquette and Rasjich was as Oriole-y as can be. For the eighth time since the year 2000 and the fourth time in the last five drafts, the Orioles used their first pick to select a pitcher, Kevin Gausman of LSU. Also fitting with the trend of Baltimore drafts, the majority of their picks in the top 10 rounds were used on pitchers and collegiate players.
There wasn't much surprising about the selection of Gausman either - the Orioles selected the player to which they had been attached in nearly every mock draft by every publication. The most surprising element of the pick was that the Orioles chose Gausman while Stanford's Mark Appel, widely expected to go in the first two picks, remained on the board, in part due to rumors of a high price tag. However, many evaluators preferred Gausman to Appel, and the decision of the Orioles to select him, as I've written before, is quite reasonable, particularly since the top position players were off the board.
The following is a list of the top pitchers who were selected in the second round from a four year college from 1998 until 2007:
1998 - 7 collegiate pitchers selected:
No significant college pitchers.
1999 - 8 collegiate pitchers selected:
Brian Sanches, Lamar University: 192 Games, 2.2 career bWAR
2000 - 7 collegiate pitchers selecte:
Brian Tallet, LSU: 242 Games, -0.4 career bWAR
Chad Qualls, University of Nevada, Reno: 565 Games, 3.8 career bWAR
2001 - 8 collegiate pitchers selected:
Dan Haren, Pepperdine: 280 Games, 31.8 career bWAR
Neal Cotts, Illinois State: 284 Games, 1.4 career bWAR
2002 - 4 collegiate pitchers selected:
Jesse Crain, University of Houston: 463 Games, 7.6 career bWAR
Dave Bush, Wake Forest: 210 Games, 2.5 career bWAR
2003 - 10 collegiate pitchers selected:
Scott Baker, Oklahoma State: 163 Games, 14.6 career bWAR
Tom Gorzelanny, Kansas: 167 Games, 4.6 career bWAR
2004 - 9 collegiate pitchers selected:
Jason Vargas, California - Long Beach: 132 Games, 4.0 career bWAR
2005 - 5 collegiate pitchers selected:
Kevin Slowey, Winthrop: 100 Games, 3.8 career bWAR
2006 - 12 collegiate pitchers selected:
Justin Masterson, San Diego State: 160 Games, 6.5 bWAR
2007 - 8 collegiate pitchers selected:
Jordan Zimmerman, Wisconsin - Stevens Point: 61 Games, 5.9 career bWAR
After 2007, the jury is still out on pitchers like Tyson Ross, Andrew Oliver, Drew Smyly and Anthony Meo. But looking at the last ten years where we can safely evaluate the outcomes, this is not an exemplary track record. College pitchers taken in the second round make a positive contribution less often than either collegiate hitters or prep players of any kind. Nor does the supposedly higher floor of college arms make an impact, as their washout rate is very high. And of the 78 college pitchers selected over ten years, only one star has emerged, a significantly lower rate than all other categories selected in the second round. In comparison, during the ten years of the survey, Chase Utley, Aaron Cook, Adam Dunn, Carl Crawford, Brandon Philips, John Lackey, JJ Hardy, Jon Lester, Joey Votto, Yovani Gallardo, Trevor Cahill and Giancarlo Stanton are second round picks with over 8.0 career bWAR.
Lots of people who's opinions I hold in high regard like Branden Kline. Heck, I like Branden Kline, and if we had chosen him in a later round, I'd be talking about what a great pick it was. But he simply isn't likely to ever crack a top 100 prospect list, much less accumulate five wins above replacement in the majors, and there are a lot of players who were on the board at that part of the draft whose chances of doing those things was a lot higher. That said, if the Orioles can sign Kline to a below-slot bonus and use those savings to sign 15th round pick Derick Velazquez, my opinion of it will improve.
While the Orioles didn't impress me in the second round, they did quite well in the middle of their top 10 picks. Christian Walker is an interesting player as a right handed first baseman who has strong on-base skills and some power, and the trend of the Orioles taking a first baseman in the middle of the top 10 (Joe Mahoney, Tyler Townsend) is one that I think should pay off over time with at least one average regular. Colin Poche is a classic projectible prep lefty. Lex Rutledge and Matt Price have strong potential out of the bullpen, although how they could get those results couldn't be more different and represent excellent value for their draft positions. Torsten Boss has a lot of quality tools and could be a steal in the 8th round. Selecting junior college players is an excellent way to get talent, and Baltimore selected two interesting JuCo players in pitcher William Waltrip and the aforementioned Velazquez in the early teens. The Orioles have not, however, seemed to have negotiated bonus amounts to date in a manner that provides them with significant resources to sign Velazquez, whose bonus slot is merely $100,000.
The key to this draft class is of course Gausman; any class that features an instant top 50 pitching prospect is by definition a good one. But while the O's added valuable prospect depth, this draft is, in the pattern of O's drafts in the last decade, short of upside further down in the class, and a top heavy system lacking high quality depth seems to me what the Orioles will have for another season.