The MLB Draft is now less than a month away, which means that it’s time for the prospect-industrial complex to fire up its machines for one of its favorite endeavors: Mock drafts. Who will teams like the Orioles take? At this point, no one knows, least of all the teams themselves, but that doesn’t stop people from taking a crack at the June 12 first round.
Owing to their 89-win season and playoff berth last year, the Orioles won’t be picking until 21st in this year’s draft. That’s good because it means that the team was good at the big league level last year - which, as Dan Duquette often remarks, is what you want from your organization - and also because they didn’t sign away their first round pick by getting a bum free agent like Yovani Gallardo this time around.
Big league success does make the draft less exciting for O’s fans, though. After a number of years of picking in the top ten and even top five, in which they could get hyped players like Matt Wieters, Brian Matusz, and Manny Machado, the late first round pick, where you can find the D.J. Stewarts and the Cody Sedlocks, just isn’t the same.
Below are three players the Orioles might take with their top pick in next month’s draft, according to the current guesses of the prognosticators. They may not take any one of these players and it’s highly unlikely they would be able to take more than one, so don’t get attached to any of them. If any idiot can see they’re future All-Stars, they’ll be gone before the Orioles pick at #21.
Mock drafts do at least give an idea of the kind of player you might expect the Orioles to take, though - probably one with some flaws, because even though it’s a first-round pick, the late first round is different than the top.
Logan Warmoth - SS - University of North Carolina
Warmoth is the pick according to the most recent Baseball America mock draft. That publication considers him to be the 25th-best draft prospect - a fine player to take at #21, in other words - and calls him “a high-floor player who may have a chance to stick at shortstop.”
When the phrase high-floor gets thrown around about a player, what they mean, if they turn out to be correct, is that his potential to bust is lower. He is not expected to be a perennial All-Star but should be a useful big leaguer.
ESPN’s Keith Law, who has the Mets snatching Warmoth out from under the O’s noses at #20, notes that Warmoth is “showing more power and patience this season,” and while there are scouts who think Warmoth will move to either second or third base, Law thinks Warmoth will hit well enough for either position.
Tanner Houck - RHP - University of Missouri
Houck is the current guess at an Orioles pick by MLB.com’s Jim Callis, who notes that Houck had been expected by some to be a top-10 pick before this spring. You may be wondering why Houck is no longer seen as a top-10 pick, which is a good thing to wonder. The Baseball America mock draft, which has Houck going at #27 to the Cubs, says this:
...his stock has fallen with his fastball velocity, which now sits 90-92 mph. According to scouts, his arm action and delivery have changed for the worse since his freshman year, when he projected as the top pitcher in this draft class with a lightning-quick arm and 97 mph heater.
Scouts might say nicer things about Houck by draft day if he has a good finish to his season, but for now, that’s not a very exciting description. Still, they all seem to think he’s a guy to be picked in the 20s. Although Law dismisses Houck as “a two-pitch guy with a reliever’s delivery,” he’s mocked at #25 to the Nationals in Law’s draft.
Jeren Kendall - OF - Vanderbilt
Kendall is the O’s mock pick by Law, who is the only one of the three to have Kendall falling as far as the O’s pick at #21. Baseball America’s mock has Kendall going as high as #9 to the Brewers, while MLB.com’s Callis puts him at #14 to the Royals.
Law’s explanation for why Kendall tumbles to the Orioles at this point in time:
Kendall could easily slip into the back of the first round after a spring in which he has had trouble making contact, but the athleticism here is hard to pass up. He is may be an 80 runner, with bat speed and good range in center.
When Law says “trouble making contact,” he’s referring to the fact that Kendall has struck out in about 25% of his plate appearances this season. A guy who’s striking out a quarter of the time in even a solid baseball conference like the SEC is going to have some adjusting to do when he gets to the professional ranks. The Orioles may soon be in need of a player with good range in center.
It might mean something or it might not that all of these players are from four-year colleges. A lot can change in the month between now and the draft. We’ll look back in on these mock drafts in a couple of weeks and see if anything is different.
Last year’s O’s pick of Sedlock was a surprise in that he never showed up in one of these mock drafts that I saw. Two years ago, when the O’s picked Stewart, Law’s mock draft successfully zeroed in on him about a week before the draft.