Well, this year I missed watching essentially the entire draft, and considering how it played out, I'm not entirely displeased. Had I been watching, I would have been very excited right up until the Orioles' picks started, and then initially sad, then confused, then somewhat excited.
I'll preface this by saying that I'm not even an amateur scout, but I am a passionate draft watcher, and I've done this here for years, so despite being rather humbled by the outcome of several of the drafts I've followed closely whose results can now be evaluated, here I go for this year.
1-22: Hunter Harvey, RHP, High School
Well, that Harvey didn't even appear on my board for the 22nd overall pick is a decent indicator of how I feel about this pick. Harvey is a prep righthander with a low 90s fastballl now, a quality breaking ball, strong bloodlines and decent projection. But he has an unorthodox arm action and hasn't shown much feel for a changeup, and his projection is good but not great. Because he isn't in the high 90s and doesn't have elite projection, as a starter in pro ball he should be expected to remain in the low 90s in my opinion, unlikely to end up with a fastball that tops out much above 94.
Which isn't to say that he doesn't have significant upside as a starter. Should his changeup develop well in pro ball, Harvey could well emerge as a #2 starter. But the arm action leads many evaluators to think that his eventual home will be in the bullpen, where he could excel even if the change doesn't turn out to be a quality pitch. Several of the names the Orioles were linked to with this pick have significantly lower upsides, so from that standpoint, it could have been a lot worse. Harvey is possibly the most signable prep in the draft class, which could theoretically help the O's with the rest of their class, and should at least get him into pro ball sooner than later. But none of the Orioles' selections on days one and two of the draft indicate that they expect to get major savings from Harvey that they will reinvest in overslot signings in later rounds.
1A-37: Josh Hart, OF, High School
Hart is a pretty strong pick for the competitive balance round selection, combining good upside with present skills. A speedy left handed center fielder with strong on base skills and a line drive swing, Hart gets lots of Denard Span comps. He doesn't project for much power and doesn't have much of a throwing arm, so he'll be limited to center or left in the pros, and while he has good range in the outfield due to his speed, he hasn't shown great instincts and will need a lot of work on his routes to be above average at the position.
The Orioles have drafted a lot of players with similar profiles (Avery, Mummey, Ruettiger) over the past several seasons. Hart has the best combination of skills and tools on draft day of the lot, lacking the upside of only Avery and having a lot of present skills for a prep selection. There were players higher on my board at this pick, but Hart fits the slot very well.
2-61: Chance Sisco, C, High School
Sisco was the first of several catchers taken in the top ten rounds by the O's. A word on this: in high school, lots of times the best players on the team will be shortstops or catchers, regardless of their projected future position. This is because these positions are where teams need the players with the highest baseball IQ and all around athleticism. Indeed, Sisco had been his school's shortstop until his senior year.
Sisco is a left handed hitter without an elite tool, but has a good lefthanded swing and plus bat speed. He has a shot at being an average defender behind the plate, but if the bat steps forward could also play at third or at an outfield corner. However, he is the start of a trend for the Orioles that seems to happen in every draft, where they select middle round picks about a round early, and select players who are not at the top of the board for what remains at their position. My theory is that the Orioles decide who they like, and focus on getting those players in the middle rounds, rather than having a more comprehensive feeling for the class and going Best Player Available throughout the higher rounds. Jon Denney would have looked good here, as would Alex Balog, both players who were expected to be selected before this pick and who were gone before the O's picked again. Still, one has to appreciate the Orioles continuing to draft for upside here, something that recent O's second rounders have sorely lacked.
3-98: Stephen Tarpley, LHP, Community College
Well, this one is where the Orioles go a bit unorthodox. Tarpley is a nice lefthanded arm who reportedly has some significant makeup issues and was asked to leave USC after his freshman year. He has good velocity, in the low to mid 90s, which is plus for a lefty, as well as a couple solid breaking pitches. He has a change, but it doesn't rate especially well with public evaluators.
Your mileage may vary; the talent is there for this to be a strong selection, but there isn't much in the way of results against quality competition. In the views of many, this is something of an overdraft, since the makeup issues pushed him down on a lot of rankings lists. If you figure that the scout for the Orioles spent some time with Tarpley and got a good feel for the kid, you can see this selection as the Orioles recognizing a talent that belonged higher on draft boards on merit who might be gone by the next round who should sign at slot or below in this draft position. If the scouting of Tarpley isn't strong, this could be the worst pick the Orioles made in the early part of the draft.
4-129: Jonah Heim, C, High School
Another example of what I consider the Orioles' deciding on a draft prospect as "Their Guy". A big bodied switch hitter, Heim should remind O's fans of their current catcher. Heim has a strong arm and good defensive skills for a larger backstop, with good raw power but contact issues. Heim, like most cold weather prep players, is something of a question mark - hasn't seen a lot of top competition or been scouted as heavily as the players from more traditional baseball hotbeds.
I like this pick. Cold weather prep players have a good amount of unrealized upside, since scouts have fewer opportunities to watch them. Most teams also don't put their best scouts and crosscheckers in areas like upstate New York, so this is a strong vote of confidence by the O's.
I have mixed feelings about the group of prospects the Orioles selected with their first five picks, but I love the philosophy behind them. The Orioles went heavily for upside, didn't get blinded by organizational needs or select low ceiling guys they thought could help at the major league level quickly. Most interestingly, all the picks but Hart are examples of strong confidence by the front office in their scouts, and they picked players as they saw them rather than the industry consensus, without doing anything too nuts like selecting Christian Arroyo in the first round.
The Orioles could have done better; I think there were better picks than Harvey available (but that's me, others including Keith Law loved the pick) and they took a group of very signable players without getting any significant overslot picks in later rounds. This class has the highest risk and the highest potential reward of any O's draft class since 2009. Of course, the 2009 draft class has been pretty much a disaster. We'll have to hope that this time it works out better for the Warehouse.