The Orioles farm system is not very good, most people who are not paid by the Orioles agree. Between trades, injuries, failures to take the next step, and in some cases, successful promotions to the big leagues, the farm has become barren in recent years.
One draft can’t fix that, and whatever help this year’s draft may provide won’t be overnight in any case. We’ve all been watching the big league team over the last month. We know what the Orioles need, and with free agent clocks counting down, we know that the Orioles need that help soon.
Don’t expect this draft class to be providing any answers before that exodus. Four of the Orioles top six picks are out of the high school ranks. Although there was some pre-draft chatter that they might want to target fast-moving college players, that’s clearly not how they chose to focus in the early rounds of the draft.
Will this draft end up looking like the 2013 draft, with multiple late-round players making the big leagues, or will it be more of a 2012-level bust where nobody outside of the first-round pick has much impact?
It’ll be years before we know for sure. Don’t believe anyone who claims to have an answer right now. Nobody knows! It’s in the players hands now to work hard, and the Orioles development staff’s hands to give them the right instruction at the right times. Take both of those and then hope for a healthy dose of luck.
For now, here are the top ten rounds worth of picks, who, assuming they all sign, will be getting their professional careers underway in the Orioles organization soon.
The Orioles picks so far
- 1st round - D.L. Hall - LHP - Valdosta (GA) HS
- 2nd round - Alex Hall - SS - A.B. Lucas (ON) SS
- CBB round - Zac Lowther - LHP - Xavier
- 3rd round - Mike Baumann - RHP - Jacksonville
- 4th round - Jack Conlon - RHP - Clements (TX) HS
- 5th round - Lamar Sparks - OF - Seven Lakes (TX) HS
- 6th round - Mason McCoy - SS - Iowa
- 7th round - Ben Breazeale - C - Wake Forest
- 8th round - Jimmy Murphy - RHP - Fordham
- 9th round - T.J. Nichting - OF - UNC-Charlotte
- 10th round - Josh Keaton - RHP - Adams State (CO)
That adds up to four right-handed pitchers, two left-handed pitchers, two infielders, two outfielders, and one catcher. The Orioles have selected seven college players in these first ten rounds.
All of the picks in rounds 6-10 appear to be “senior signs” - that is, players who will sign for a few thousand dollars and the chance to try out professional baseball for a while. The players who are seen as having more certain talent get drafted and sign before they become college seniors - either as juniors or even out of high school.
Having a number of these senior signs is not uncommon for teams to do in the current draft system. Somebody needs to fill out the rosters in the low minors, competing and keeping a good attitude.
I’ll be rooting for all of them to show up and start surprising people. As MASN’s Jim Palmer said when talking about the picks during Tuesday’s Orioles game, “They all have the same opportunity now.”
So who are these guys?
It won’t be confusing at all that the Orioles second round pick is also named Hall - at least they’re not both pitchers. You can read some more about Adam Hall and Lowther from last night.
Baumann, the third round pick, is interesting before even getting into his qualities as a baseball player. Last year’s Orioles third round pick, Austin Hays, was also from Jacksonville University. Hays has seemed like quite a successful pick so far. He’s already with High-A Frederick. Hopefully Baumann can work out so well.
The Orioles picked Baumann with the #98 overall pick. The folks at MLB Pipeline rated Baumann as the #108 prospect in the draft. So that’s just about right on. Here’s what they have to say about him:
Baumann's 6-foot-4 frame and plus fastball have gotten plenty of attention this spring. He's been touching 95 mph consistently throughout his starts. He throws two breaking balls, a fringy curveball and a slider that flashes above-average. He mixes in a viable changeup as well. Baumann's arm action can get a bit long, making it tougher for him to repeat his delivery. That, in turn, leads to command issues. Baumann's arm strength, durable frame and potential four-pitch mix could give him the chance to at least get sent out as a starter.
The next Orioles starting pitcher to work up through the minor leagues better than people thought when he was drafted will be the first (this is an exaggeration), so whether the Orioles are able to bring out the best of Baumann is an open question.
Conlon, the fourth round pick, is also listed at 6’4”. As he’s a high school player taken in the fourth round, it’s going to be curious to see whether the Orioles need more than the slot value of about $400,000 to sign him. Taken at #128, he’s rated as the #175 draft prospect by MLB Pipeline. That’s a bit of a gap, but nothing to worry about too much.
The report on Conlon:
Conlon can pitch at 92-95 mph with life on his fastball and back it up with an 81-84 mph slider on days when his mechanics are in sync. His changeup lags behind his other two pitches, though it has some fade and he shows some feel for it. He has a classic pitcher's build that bodes well for his durability. Conlon lacks consistency, however, because he has a rough delivery with effort and a head whack.
As we all know, if there’s one thing the Orioles specialize in, it’s cleaning up the delivery of a guy who has a hard time with his mechanics. That was sarcasm just there. There’s some thought that Conlon, too, could be destined for the bullpen if his arsenal stays at a fastball-slider mix rather than developing a changeup.
Saying that a third or fourth round pick may have a ceiling as a reliever is not an insult to them or a knock against the Orioles for drafting them there. If you can find a bullpen piece with one of those rounds of the draft, you have still drafted and developed that player well.
Sparks, the fifth round pick, is a bit of a surprise in the sense that you don’t see many high school players drafted this high who don’t appear to be on any top prospect lists. He is neither on the MLB Pipeline Top 200 nor the Baseball America 500.
That doesn’t mean he is a complete nobody. On the draft broadcast that MLB streamed online, draft analyst Jim Callis had information about Sparks ready to go, noting that he is “a guy with some building blocks” who is a player development project. Callis said Sparks’s swing will need some work and he might even spend two years in rookie-level competition.
You can’t expect somebody who’s still on the board in the fifth round to be a guaranteed big leaguer with a speedy path up the ladder. If any idiot could look at a prospect and know he was that, he would be long gone by the fifth round. So that’s probably just about the place to take a player like Sparks.
College players drafted by the Orioles this year will probably be headed for short-season Aberdeen, while we can likely expect the high school talent to be ticketed for Sarasota to compete in the Gulf Coast League.
Best of luck to each and every one - and the players to be drafted by the Orioles in rounds 11-40 on Wednesday - in achieving their big league dreams.