The 2013 MLB Draft represents only the second time since 2001 that the Orioles have selected later than the 10th pick in the draft. As fans, we have gotten used to playing the game of, which high-profile prospect do you hope will drop to the Orioles' pick, and which one of those guys do you want them to take? With picks in the top five every year since 2007, that was the normal thing.
Thursday night, with the Orioles picking 22nd overall, there was none of that. It turns out that a side effect of having a good team is that the next year, there's no real way to familiarize yourself with the player that will be available then. There are so many possible permutations, all you can do is wait and see who the scouting director sends your way.
The O's picked 22nd, 37th, and 61st overall. The 37th selection represented a pick in the first competitive balance round, sandwiched in between the first round and the second round. The Orioles were awarded that pick due to a combination of recent on-field futility and relative small market size. The others represented the usual first- and second-round picks. The Orioles ended up with these young men:
22: Hunter Harvey, RHP, Bandys HS, Catawba, NC
37: Josh Hart, OF, Parkview HS, Lilburn, GA
61: Chance Sisco, C, Santiago HS, Corona, CA
These selections represent the first time since 1998 that the franchise used its first three selections on high school players. That was many GM-analogues, scouting directors, and player development departments ago. Just in case you were wondering, though, those three high schoolers from 1998 never played above high-A for the franchise, and only one made it to AA for any franchise. Drafting anyone is a bit of a dodgy proposition, but especially drafting 17- and 18-year olds.
"It wasn't mapped out that way," admitted Orioles scouting director Gary Rajsich when asked about the three high school selections. "We feel like we got three young players we really like that we can trust to our player development people." Thirty scouting directors probably told thirty sets of beat reporters that they liked the players they got Thursday night, and they'll go on to say they like the entirety of their draft class as well.
Harvey, listed at 6'3", 175 lbs., represents the third consecutive first-round pick that the Orioles have used on a right-handed pitcher. He is the son of former MLB reliever Brian Harvey, who played in MLB over nine seasons before elbow injuries shelved him for good in 1995. Harvey has an older brother who played in the minor leagues as well. He has been surrounded by baseball his entire life, and one gets the impression that it is his sole goal to play in MLB.
Whereas most prospects at least go through the motions of a college commitment in order to increase their leverage, Harvey did no such thing. Interviewed by phone on the MLB Network's draft telecast not long after his selection was announced, Harvey was asked about college. "I've never really been a fan of college," he said, "or school in general." The moment of candor was refreshing and funny.
Later, on a call with Orioles reporters, he was asked about negotiations. "I think it'll be a very quick process," he said. "I've been waiting for this moment my whole life. Now that it's finally here, I don't want to mess around." Rajsich was optimistic about getting Harvey signed quickly, where he will start out in the Gulf Coast League.
While Harvey may not have much interest in college or school in general, in the few minutes he answered questions, he struck me as someone who is laser-focused on baseball and always looking to increase his understanding of the game. He broke down his own senior year as follows: "Sat 91-95, got up a little higher (velocity) than that, didn't get to use my change-up much, mostly used fastball and curveball at my high school."
Harvey was also well aware that talent would be better at the next level. He said that he would need to mix up his pitches more, and work particularly on his change-up. He is fully aware that he will need to "work his butt off" to make it through the minor leagues, something he saw through his older brother. Rajsich predicted he will move quickly - don't they all - in perhaps three years.
The selection of Hart with the competitive balance pick brings to mind Xavier Avery, who was the last athletic outfielder the Orioles took from a Georgia high school. Rajsich said that Hart was on the list of players they considered for their first round pick as well. He described Hart as "a dynamic player in the middle of the field" who just needs to get bigger and stronger and otherwise you don't have to project, though those two things are important elements of projecting players.
Hart, like Avery, is on the short side, with Hart being an inch shorter at 5'11", currently listed at 172lbs. Rajsich believes he will stick in center field due to his speed and instincts. The MLB.com capsule on Hart gives this take:
Hart profiles as a top-of-the-order type, a guy who will use his speed on both sides of the ball to be a basestealing threat and an excellent defender in the outfield.
His optimistic outlook is described by this capsule as a Denard Span- or Ben Revere-type player. If the Orioles turn a draft pick into a Span-type player, that is a victory any time.
Sisco, the second round pick, is 6'2" and listed at 193 lbs. He is a lefty-batting catcher, described by Rajsich as "a hitter who catches." Sisco only started catching this past year, with Rajsich calling him "a natural, with a chance to learn and be a real good catcher." The Orioles also believe that Sisco will develop some power. Rajsich said he likes the upside of all three of the picks, which, again, every scouting director will say.
His MLB.com profile, which is not team-affiliated but probably also optimistic, says:
Sisco recently transitioned from shortstop to catcher, but has quickly shown the skills necessary to remain behind the plate long term. He has an average arm and has good hands.
It is similarly optimistic about his potential on offense, not filling our heads with notions that the next Buster Posey fell to the Orioles in the second round, but maybe, just maybe, they found a solid high school catcher they can bring along and develop. Have you looked at who's catching in the minors now? Yikes.
Most players are not destined to be stars, especially not most players after the first few picks. People like Keith Law all think this is a weak draft to begin with. But you never really know what might happen once you throw guys into the minor leagues and see what happens. Harvey is unlikely to turn into another North Carolina sensation, Matt Harvey (no relation). Hart will probably not turn into Span. Sisco will probably not turn into Jorge Posada.
Now they are in the hands of the player development staff, Lady Luck, and also themselves. If the scouting department is correct in assessing that the talent and drive are there, then the latest Orioles prospects might some day find themselves being cheered on in a sold-out Camden Yards. Right now, anything is possible. It's time to toss the dice.