What do you do to get the most out of a draft where you aren't picking in the top five or even the top fifteen? In the 2013 MLB draft, the Orioles had the occasion to come up with an answer to this question for the first time in this century.
That's not a bad thing since it is a result of the team being in the playoffs the year previously. But it does make for a different approach, especially for fans following the draft at the time.
It's a lot easier to guess at who will fall to #4 and form opinions about the best player to pick out of the remaining names at #4 than it is to game out the same stuff for pick #22, where the O's had their first pick in this draft.
With only three years gone since this draft, it's too early to write the final words about most of the significant players taken. This is especially true for the Orioles, who used six of their first seven picks on players from the high school ranks.
Keeping in mind that things can still change, here's where things stand for the O's picks from this draft as of now.
First round, 22nd overall: Hunter Harvey - RHP - Catawba HS (NC)
There was never any drama about whether or not the Orioles would sign Harvey or whether he'd go to college. The night he was drafted, he told MLB Network in a phone interview, "I've never really been a fan of college, or school in general." Here was a guy who was laser-focused on a professional baseball career.
Within months of being drafted, Harvey looked like a steal at the 22nd pick. A strong 2014 campaign with Low-A Delmarva only increased Harvey's stock. Before the 2015 season, more than one top prospect list had him in the top 20 in all of MLB. That included Baseball Prospectus (#20) and ESPN's Keith Law (#17).
Some praise from Law before last season:
It's a special arm, with the potential for two 6s or 7s in his fastball and curve, and the body and athleticism to pitch near the top of a rotation.
Then the injuries hit.
A variety of ailments have made it so Harvey has not thrown a competitive pitch in nearly two years. Most recently, he had to get surgery for a sports hernia. Last year, he suffered a broken bone in his leg when he was hit by a comebacker.
The good news is that, unlike Dylan Bundy, Harvey's injury problems have not involved needing Tommy John surgery, nor have they affected his shoulder at all. He also won't have the "out of options, must be on the MLB roster" problem any time soon. He has time left, but not forever.
Other late first rounders from Harvey's class have some prospect heat. Billy McKinney (#24 overall), Christian Arroyo (#25), Aaron Judge (#32), and Sean Manaea (#34) are all on top 100 prospect lists as well. Hopefully Harvey gets healthy and the O's don't end up wishing they'd picked one of these other guys instead.
CBA round, 37th overall: Josh Hart - OF - Parkview HS (GA)
In retrospect, the most noteworthy thing about this pick is that it's still the only time the Orioles have actually made a selection when they were awarded a tradeable competitive balance pick. They traded the 2014 pick in the Bud Norris deal and have traded the next two after that in dumping the Ryan Webb and Brian Matusz salaries.
Hart fit in the "raw, toolsy outfielder" mold that is so popular because scouting directors dream about these athletes developing baseball skills. Xavier Avery was another Orioles draft pick in this mold - he's even from Georgia too. And in the latest round of mock drafts, the O's may be looking at this type of player again.
Things have never really come together for Hart. Though the O's have advanced him to Frederick, it was never due to smashing success. After posting a .593 OPS with the Keys last year, he's repeating the level and thus far has a .457 OPS. I have little hope he will be anything.
A couple of early/mid second rounders the O's might have taken instead: Ryan McMahon (#42 overall) and Cody Reed (#46). These guys are on MLB.com's top 100 prospects list.
Second round, 61st overall: Chance Sisco - C - Santiago HS (CA)
On the night the Orioles drafted Sisco, scouting director Gary Rajsich acknowledged that Sisco had switched to catcher only recently, calling him "a hitter who catches" - though Rajsich also called Sisco "a natural with a chance to learn and be a real good catcher."
The scouting-industrial complex has not always agreed with that assessment, wondering whether Sisco will have the defensive ability to stick behind the dish. Since Sisco is now in Bowie and still catching, it seems the O's have their answer, though of course that doesn't mean they're right.
One thing that's never been in doubt is Sisco's ability to hit. From Baseball Prospectus prior to this season:
Sisco features a no-doubt plus hit tool thanks to sneaky bat speed and a fluid, effortless launch of the barrel to the point of contact. He's impressively balanced at the plate ... The power is fringy, but the raw hitting and on-base abilities are good enough to project plus overall offensive output with plenty of doubles.
This is on display somewhat in his Bowie batting line so far this season: .309/.405/.374. That's a sub-Markakian isolated slugging number, but if he can really bat around .300 and walk 14% of the time, who cares about power? Of course, it remains a question how a limited power bat will translate to MLB when he makes the jump.
I wouldn't be surprised to see him on the team next year, maybe even from Opening Day, if Matt Wieters heads elsewhere. But it may be the O's want to give him some more chances to work on his defense in the high minors before he gets the call.
There is good news and there is bad news. The good news is that the Orioles currently have a couple of players from this draft who were not top picks who are making names for themselves - not necessarily as future big league stars but as players who should (or at least could) help out the big league team in some way.
Those are Trey Mancini (eighth round) and Mike Yastrzemski (fourteenth round). These guys are a little on the old side for prospects - Mancini's 24, Yastrzemski will be 26 in August - but players can be late bloomers and and if you wring some value out of their late bloom, well, that's good for the team.
Mancini has combined for 11 home runs between Bowie and Norfolk this year, with a respectable .441 slugging percentage in 31 games since being promoted to Norfolk. Being a first baseman, he'd probably have to hit his way into the DH spot. Maybe he can. You might rather watch him than Pedro Alvarez.
In ten games since Yastrzemski made it to Norfolk, he's batting .405, has already homered twice and stolen four bases. If he keeps up that kind of performance - a big if - he could find himself passing Joey Rickard on the outfield depth chart for next season.
Both Mancini and Yastrzemski will be Rule 5 eligible this winter. As things stand now, I would guess the Orioles will add both to the 40-man roster to protect them from that draft.
The bad news is that another couple of potentially useful players in the 2013 draft - third rounder Stephen Tarpley and eleventh rounder Steven Brault - were traded for the thoroughly useless Travis Snider before last season. Brault in particular was pitching very well for the Pirates Triple-A team before suffering a hamstring injury.
Yet even that is a victory in a way for the Orioles amateur scouting and draft team. If you can take a third round pick and a double digit round pick and trade them for two cheap years of a player who fills a need for the big league club, you've drafted well. The problem was the professional scouting that deemed Snider to be a player worth acquiring.
Still in the system are two more players drafted as catchers: Jonah Heim (fourth round), a strong defensive catcher currently with Frederick, has thrown out 39% of runners this year, and if you squint, Baltimore's own Alex Murphy (sixth round) is OPSing around .800 down in Delmarva.
If Harvey gets back to the kind of pitching he was doing before all of these injuries, this draft will look like a success. But it's a good thing that the Orioles don't have all of their eggs in the Harvey basket.
There could be at least three big leaguers out of this draft even without hitting on the top two picks. You can find useful players who are never top 100 prospect-caliber types but are nonetheless worth something to the team.
The 2013 draft has a few guys who may be this kind of player. With luck and skill, the Orioles will find a player with their top pick (#27) this year who has as much potential as Harvey, only without all the injuries.
If they're even luckier maybe they can find some late-round guys who have some intriguing potential a couple years down the road. When all is said and done, the '13 draft might be the one the O's can hopefully emulate as they continue to churn out good seasons at the big league level.