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MLB Draft 2017: Orioles focus on college starters with two weeks left

The first round of the MLB draft won’t take place until June 12, but at least for now, the industry seems to believe the O’s are eyeing college starting pitchers.

MLB First Year Player Draft Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The MLB Draft is now just shy of two weeks away. With the NCAA baseball playoffs yet to begin, there’s still time for draft stocks to be improved or harmed depending on performance against tougher college competition. An unfortunate injury to a well-regarded player could still shake up the whole draft board.

Picking at #21 in the first round, a team like the Orioles probably doesn’t know for 100% certainty who they’re going to take yet, but it’s likely they’ve narrowed down to a short list of players they believe will slide as far down as their pick and from there will decide who they would prefer if they get their choice of any of those players.

It’s now been five years since the Orioles had their first draft pick earlier than 20th overall. That’s because they were in the playoffs in three recent seasons, and in the two drafts that didn’t follow playoff berths, they sacrificed their top pick to sign Ubaldo Jimenez and Yovani Gallardo. That was a painful sentence to write.

You’re seldom going to have any sure things going from the amateur ranks to the professional ones, and even less so when 20 other teams get a crack at drafting a sure thing before you do.

Based on recent drafts, though, chances are there will be a future great pro prospect waiting for the Orioles to draft him at #21, if they only pick the right guy. Recent draft and development tracks may mean you’re not all that confident the Orioles will find that guy. We’ll find out starting on June 12.

For now, there are the mock drafts, which, with two weeks to go until the draft, are starting to settle on the idea that the Orioles are going to take a college starting pitcher. Two of the three of, Baseball America, and ESPN’s Keith Law even have the same name for the Orioles, which is interesting with this far to go.

Griffin Canning - RHP - UCLA

Knowing literally nothing about Griffin Canning except for his name, I’m excited for the possibility of the Orioles picking him, as Baseball America’s Mock Draft 3.5 suggests, because I would then call him “Gryffindor” as in the Harry Potter house forever. Every strikeout: “Ten points to Gryffindor!” Glorious.

The publication pegs Canning to the Orioles because, “In need of a fast-moving college performer, the Orioles would get exactly that in the UCLA ace.” Indeed, the Orioles pitching staff could use the help, but picking such a fast-moving college performer at #21 would be quite the trick.

Canning may not even make it to the Orioles pick. The other mock drafts have him gone before then.’s Jim Callis has the Mets snipe him right before the Orioles at #20, while Law has Canning staying close to his college home with the Angels picking him all the way up at #10 overall.

Sounds like an exciting guy to get with this pick based on his MLB draft scouting capsule, but don’t get your hopes up that he falls this far:

Canning’s fastball will sit in the low 90s and can touch as high as 95 mph on occasion. His changeup is a plus pitch, one he sells well by maintaining his arm speed and slot, giving it a "pull the string" kind of feel. He throws both a curve and a slider, both potential Major League average pitches, thrown from a simple, athletic and repeatable delivery. He has a strong track record of throwing strikes with all four pitches.

The less actual developing that the Orioles have to do with a starting pitcher, the better, really.

Previously: Logan Warmoth - SS - UNC, now mocked to Giants at #19

Tanner Houck - RHP - Missouri

Both Callis and Law have the Orioles settled in on Houck for now, which is interesting but may not necessarily mean anything for what will happen in two weeks. There is a lot that can change.

In the case of the O’s possibly drafting Houck, I have to hope that it does change. This sentence by Callis is not the sentence you want to read about your favorite baseball team’s potential first round pick:

Houck's place is tough to peg because he entered the year as a top-10 prospect, didn't have his fastball early on, regained his fastball later in the spring and then got knocked around this week at the Southeastern Conference tournament in front of a bevy of scouts.

Baseball America, which has Houck coming off the board at #22 to the Blue Jays this time around, wrote in a previous mock draft two weeks ago that there are scouts who believe that Houck’s “arm action and delivery have changed for the worse since his freshman year” - which is why he’s no longer a top-10 prospect.

Last time around, Law briefly summarized Houck as “a two-pitch guy with a reliever’s delivery,” which is also not the sentence you want to read about a potential first round pick.

Sometimes, the guy whose draft stock dips in the spring turns out to be a bargain because the talent is still there through a rough spring. Sometimes it’s just a guy who’s heading towards bust territory as a pro. With the Orioles track record of developing pitchers and players in general, I would not be very confident in their pulling off the turnaround with Houck.

Missouri’s season is over. Houck will not get any more chances to improve his stock in competitive games as an amateur.

Previously: Callis had the O’s on Houck last time also; Law mocked Vanderbilt outfielder Jeren Kendall, now going at #11 to the White Sox

Other possibilities

Callis suggests that the Orioles could also think about any of the following college hitters, if they fall to the O’s:

  • Evan White - 1B - Kentucky
  • Logan Warmoth - SS - UNC
  • Keston Hiura - OF/2B - UC Irvine
  • Brent Rooker - OF - Mississippi State

Buck Showalter would surely love if the Orioles drafted a player from Mississippi State. Callis says Rooker is “having the best offensive season in college baseball.” None of these mock drafts actually tab Rooker as a first round pick at this time. Hiura has a UCL tear and may need Tommy John surgery. There is general agreement at the moment that Hiura will get picked in the 20s.

Callis also adds that one player the O’s like is North Carolina high school shortstop Greg Jones, who could be a reach at #21 but would possibly be gone by the time the O’s pick again at #60 in the second round. Law describes a California high school righty, Matt Sauer, an arm “with good stuff and a violent delivery” - in similar terms.

So that’s where things stand for now. The landscape could be different by the time Draft Day 1 rolls around.