The second day of the MLB draft is the time to grab minor league filler that you hope can turn into something. It might happen. Mostly, though, teams are taking players because somebody has to play for Aberdeen this year and Delmarva next year and maybe Frederick the year after that to play with and against the real prospects.
The Orioles have had some picks in the round 3-10 range that have at least led to big leaguers. Their roster right now has a number of them: 2013 eighth round pick Trey Mancini, 2014 fifth rounder David Hess, 2014 sixth rounder Tanner Scott. These are not stars, but they are players where the franchise is better if they can succeed. Hopefully there are more to come from drafts since then, including this draft.
With ten rounds in the books, the O’s have made ten picks. They had a competitive balance round A pick that they made on Monday night and did not have a second round pick. Seven of the ten players they selected came out of the four-year college ranks, while three were high schoolers. Eight of the ten are pitchers: Two lefties and six righties.
Only two of the early O’s draftees are college “senior signs” whose potential is lower and whose purpose is more to create room to sign other players using their bonus pool money. That stands out compared to last season, where they made senior sign picks in every round from 6-10.
The Orioles picks so far
- 1st round - Grayson Rodriguez - RHP - Central Heights (TX) HS
- CBA round - Cadyn Grenier - SS - Oregon State
- 3rd round - Blaine Knight - RHP - Arkansas
- 4th round - Drew Rom - LHP - Highlands (KY) HS
- 5th round - Robert Neustrom - OF - Iowa
- 6th round - Yeankarlos Lleras - RHP - Leadership Christian Academy (PR)
- 7th round - J.J. Montgomery - RHP - Central Florida
- 8th round - Ryan Conroy - RHP - Elon
- 9th round - Kevin Magee - LHP - St. John’s
- 10th round - Dallas Litscher - RHP - St. Katherine College
We can assume that all players in the top ten rounds will sign, because teams lose the pick money from their bonus pool if they don’t. However, this is not universal for the O’s. They have had three unsigned top 10 picks since this system started in 2012, including last year, when their fourth round pick, Jack Conlon, failed a physical and was declared a free agent. As it happened, Conlon then reached an agreement with the Giants which also resulted in a failed physical.
The ninth and tenth round picks, Magee and Litscher, are the senior signs.
So who are these guys?
You can read a bit more on Camden Chat of the day 1 picks. Joe Wedra wrote about Grayson Rodriguez this morning and I have a bit more about Cadyn Grenier.
In case you’re one of the people who’s been looking at the Rodriguez pick and thinking about 2009 Orioles draft bust Matt Hobgood, here’s some reassurance from a Keith Law chat today:
Don’t understand fans’ abject hate of this pick. Rodriguez may not have been the best guy available but he’s up to 97-98 with a hammer.
Law preferred Matthew Liberatore, taken by the Rays. He specifically said there’s no comparison between Hobgood and Rodriguez.
Knight, the third round pick, was the best-regarded player that the O’s took on day 2 of the draft. He rated in the 48-58 range according to pre-draft prospect rankings from evaluators like Law, Fangraphs, and MLB Pipeline. That’s about second round pick range and the O’s got him in the third round, so that’s some good value there.
The 6’3” Knight drew comments on the draft stream about how skinny he is, raising the possibility of improved durability and velocity if he’s able to add any strength. He has the chance for a four pitch mix. In his junior year, Knight struck out 88 batters with just 22 walks across 95.1 innings for the Razorbacks.
In the fourth round, the O’s went back into the high school ranks to grab Rom. I like Rom right away because if he makes it to the show, I will make Star Trek: Deep Space Nine jokes about the Ferengi Rom and his brother Quark. On the draft stream, MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis summed up the 6’2” lefty as having “a chance for three interesting pitches.”
With their fifth round pick, the O’s dove into Big Ten competition to pluck Neustrom from Iowa. The 6’3” lefty batter is thought to have a future in left field only in pro ball, with some power and the ability to draw walks. He posted a .311/.386/.538 batting line with 11 home runs in 53 games this season. That’s not exactly against MLB competition, but hey, it’s something. He rated 147th on MLB Pipeline’s top 200 prospects.
Lleras, the sixth round pick, is just 17 years old. The Orioles have drafted a player who was born in the 2000s! No, that’s not a joke. Yes, we are all old and marching towards obsolescence and death. His name has an odd spelling but sounds just like “John Carlos.” As for his pitching, the draft broadcast noted that at 6’0” he’s “a little undersized and needs to add some strength,” but they also praised his “loose arm action,” noting that there are some building blocks.
Pitching again in the seventh round as they drafted Montgomery, who’d been deployed as a swingman at Central Florida. Callis and Jonathan Mayo saw his future in the bullpen, with a mid-90s fastball. For UCF this season, he struck out 74 batters with 21 walks in 63.2 innings.
Conroy, the eighth round pick, drew some praise for being a ground ball specialist with Elon, though his fastball isn’t impressive at 89-92. That’s a tough range for a right-handed pitcher. He improved his stock this year by improving his slider - according to Callis, he had a connection with Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard and got some tips.
The strikeout-to-walk ratio for Conroy is less than for some of these others, with 67 strikeouts and 32 walks in 79.1 innings. That’s why he was picked in the eighth round and they were picked higher.
The college players will probably be heading to short-season Aberdeen once they sign, with the high schoolers ticketed to begin their professional careers with the Gulf Coast League Orioles affiliate. With some combination of hard work, good instruction, and good luck, hopefully a number of them have some prospect heat and eventually the big leagues in their future.
The draft will conclude on Wednesday afternoon as the teams blow through rounds 11-40 in one day. The chances of finding a player of future big league consequence in those rounds are lower still, but you never know.
How are you feeling about this draft so far? Let us know in the comments below.