Draft time rolling around was a nice diversion back in the bad Orioles years. Those teams were nearly always heading for the toilet even by early June, and so you could look at the draft and imagine the Orioles getting some top talent who proved to be great in the future. That’s how they got Matt Wieters, Brian Matusz, Manny Machado, and Dylan Bundy - all of whom were hyped as amateurs, whatever they did or didn’t do later.
The 2013 draft was the first one where the Orioles did not have this opportunity. Since they won the AL Wild Card in 2012, they didn’t pick in this draft until 22nd overall. Thanks to a competitive balance pick between the first and second rounds - the only time the Orioles haven’t traded one of these tradeable picks - they did have an opportunity to get a little depth, even if they couldn’t get a consensus top talent.
Like they will this year, in 2013, the Orioles just had to take a late-first round talent and hope for the best.
The Orioles seemed to make a concerted attempt to try to add some younger players to their system with this draft. They did not draft a four year college player until the seventh round. Six out of their first seven picks, including their first three, came from the high school ranks. Four years later, exactly one of these seven has reached Double-A. Reaching for the stars didn’t work out, on the whole.
Four years is a long time for a prospect. The final words haven’t been written about them yet, but for the most part, you can see who’s going to be a big leaguer or not by now, and who’s going to need some unexpected turnaround to make it.
1st round, 22nd overall - Hunter Harvey - RHP - Bandys HS (NC)
In this space last year, I wrote that at least Harvey’s various injuries hadn’t resulted in Tommy John surgery. He got that surgery two months later.
The many injuries Harvey has suffered are really a shame because he very quickly looked like a more exciting prospect than his draft status would suggest, ranking as high as the #20 prospect in baseball by Baseball Prospectus within a year and a half of being drafted. That is a scouting win.
Development has proven a tougher task. Are the Orioles colossal boneheads when it comes to developing starting pitchers in the minor leagues? Harvey’s stalling out is another one of those things that makes you wonder. Maybe it was just very bad luck.
Perhaps the path of Dylan Bundy, who was also sidelined by injuries for so long, is one that Harvey will be able to follow. He’ll have the advantage of not having to be on the 25-man roster any time soon - though the Orioles will have to think about whether to protect Harvey from the Rule 5 draft this upcoming winter even though he’s pitched in five games since 2014.
In the 14 picks between Harvey and the next Orioles pick, three players who seem to be successes were taken: current New York darling Aaron Judge (#32 overall), Sean Manaea, who was the Ben Zobrist trade bait for the Royals (#34 overall), and Giants infield prospect Christian Arroyo, taken 25th overall, currently the #80 prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com.
Competitive Balance Round A, 37th overall - Josh Hart - CF - Parkview HS (GA)
What may remain most noteworthy about this pick is that it’s the only time the Orioles didn’t trade it, as opposed to the past couple of years where they short-sightedly chose to use their balance picks to dump a few million dollars of Ryan Webb and Matusz salaries on teams who actually value those picks.
At the time he was drafted, Hart generated some praise, with a comment in his scouting profile that he “reminds some of a Ben Revere or Denard Span-type player” - which is surely what the Orioles were hoping they would get.
Hart didn’t really hit much his first two professional seasons, but the Orioles kept promoting him until he got to Frederick, where he has stalled. It’s now his third season there after he had a .593 and .602 OPS the past two seasons. Hart’s finally hitting there, a .300/.373/.483 line over 19 games, so perhaps a little hope for him remains, but don’t hold your breath.
Among the players taken in the early/mid-second round - that is, people the Orioles might have reasonably chosen to take instead of Hart - there aren’t very many success stories to date. At #53, the Phillies found their current backup catcher, Andrew Knapp. Cubs lefty Rob Zastryzny (#41 overall) also has a positive big league WAR to date.
2nd round, 61st overall - Chance Sisco - C - Santiago HS (CA)
If you were buying the hype on Sisco, who batted .320/.406/.422 for Bowie last season, you might have thought you’d rather the Orioles just make him the Opening Day catcher this season. Turns out that probably wasn’t a great idea, at least based on Sisco having thrown out just six of 38 baserunners for Triple-A Norfolk so far this year, while only hitting for a .677 OPS.
Still, Sisco is the only top-100 prospect in the Orioles organization. He’s currently #90 on MLB.com’s ranking, and also appeared on preseason top 100s from the other major publications.
The scouting-industrial complex generally thinks Sisco will do well enough defensively to stay as a catcher and they think that while he won’t hit for power, he’ll hit for average with good on-base skills, which he had done at Delmarva and Frederick before doing so at Bowie as well.
With Sisco’s early 2017 struggles and the Orioles seeming to be set at the big league level with Welington Castillo and Caleb Joseph, it seems like a fair guess that Sisco might not appear at the MLB level this season after all, but his future still looks bright. Hopefully it stays that way.
If you were reading about the 2012 draft yesterday, you know that one thing that marked that draft was a near-complete failure by the Orioles to get any useful talent beyond the first round. The 2013 draft does not have that problem, with the Orioles already having unearthed two late-round success stories with a couple of others remaining possibilities.
One of these ascended from the eight round to MLB: Trey Mancini, my girlfriend’s Orioles boyfriend. Who doesn’t like a guy who hits three dingers in his first five MLB games? Mancini, a nobody before the 2015 season, improved in a big way and raked his way up to the Orioles.
Whether Mancini will be a big leaguer in the long run is still not certain, but through 31 games this year, he’s batting .301/.339/.563 with seven more homers. Despite not being a full-time player, he’s two shy of the team lead in RBI.
Lefty reliever Donnie Hart also made it out of the depths of this draft: The 27th round pick was a key part of last year’s O’s bullpen, although this year he’s gotten himself banished to the minors, hopefully temporarily.
Even Norfolk-Baltimore shuttle rider Stefan Crichton came from the 23rd round of this draft. Current Tides reliever Jimmy Yacabonis may soon find himself on that shuttle - he has a 1.23 ERA through 16 games for Norfolk and was a 13th round pick in this 2013 draft. It’s a success for the team if they draft late-round pitchers who end up being good enough to get a shot in the big leagues - even if that shot doesn’t always go so well.
If you squint, you might even still see a big league future for 14th rounder Mike Yastrzemski, who is batting .283/.377/.434 through 19 games for Norfolk.
The Orioles used both third round pick Stephen Tarpley and 11th round pick Steven Brault - a pair of lefty starter prospects - to acquire outfielder Travis Snider from the Pirates before the 2015 season. Snider stunk here. Tarpley is 24 and has yet to pitch in Double-A. Brault may make the O’s regret that trade before all is said and done, but his eight game MLB stint last year saw him post a 4.86 ERA with a 1.860 WHIP.
Fourth rounder Jonah Heim was the price the Orioles paid to get an injured Steve Pearce from the Rays at last year’s trade deadline. Heim, a prospect with a solid defensive reputation, just hasn’t hit yet; he posted a .566 OPS for Tampa’s High-A team after the trade last year and they have him back down in Low-A this year, where he has only a .646 OPS.
Check back tomorrow for a review of the 2014 draft class, which, uh, does not have as many potential success stories.