The first pick a team makes in a given draft is the one who gets the most attention. This is especially true when you are picking at #1, like the Orioles did this year. A good #1 pick is a nice start to having a good draft. The thing that separates the good drafts from the great ones is being able to find other future MLB players with subsequent picks.
The Orioles had two more chances in the draft’s first two rounds to add talent on Monday night. With their second round pick at #42 overall, they selected shortstop Gunnar Henderson from Morgan Academy in Alabama. To close out their night at #71 overall, they selected Stanford outfielder Kyle Stowers.
Henderson was ranked as the #27 prospect on MLB Pipeline’s rank of the top 200 draft prospects of this class. That’s good to get at #42. Fangraphs had Henderson more in line with where the Orioles picked him, rating him #40, while Keith Law ranked him 41st in the class. He is committed to attend Auburn, though the Orioles are surely confident he will sign with them if they are using a pick on him this high in the draft.
The draft analysts all note that Henderson is still just 17 years old on draft day. The Orioles may be a team who places value on younger high school seniors rather than older ones, believing that their ceilings are higher due to their being able to compete with less experience. The optimistic scouting report from Pipeline, who ranked him the highest:
One of the better hitters in this year’s high school class, Henderson produces a lot of hard contact from gap to gap. He has shown more bat speed from the left side of the plate this spring and his power is catching up to his hitting ability as he continues to add muscle to his 6-foot-3 frame. He has been a little faster this year as well, more consistently recording above-average run times.
There seems to be an expectation that Henderson will be the kind of prospect who slides from shortstop to third base as he gains weight and power. He also played basketball in high school.
Stowers, the Stanford outfielder, was something of a polarizing player among the draft prognostication community. The optimists on his potential were at Fangraphs, where he was rated the #32 prospect in the class - just phenomenal value at #71. More middle of the road is MLB Pipeline, where he is the #78 prospect. Law did not include Stowers in his top 100 at all.
Let’s hear from those Fangraphs optimists:
Stowers had a middling year due to issues with swing and miss, partially because he takes such a big, aggressive hack. That style of swinging is appealing to many teams, though, as it makes it likely that he’ll hit for power in games. A sneaky good defender in center field, Stowers has some margin for error on the swing and miss if he can stay there.
Those evaluators who believe that Stowers will not be able to stick in center field are probably the ones who rated him lower. The same is true for those who don’t think that Stowers will be able to overcome the swing and miss issues in the professional ranks. He batted .306/.370/.519 with eight homers in 52 games for the Cardinal this season.
The slot value for the #42 pick is $1,771,100. For pick #71, it is $884,400. While the Orioles might get a chance to do an overslot signing either with these picks or later ones, their choice of the draft’s premier talent at #1 in Adley Rutschman means they didn’t really have the money available to try to take a “tough sign” who might want $3.5 million or $4 million to pass on his college commitment.
These are not places in the draft where teams have historically found future star talent. Since the draft began in 1965, there have been just three players taken who exceeded 10 career Wins Above Replacement, with the most recent of these being 2005 #42 pick Clay Buchholz. Of those drafted and signed from #71, four have reached double digit WAR in their careers, most recently Justin Masterson, the 2006 #71 selection.
A draft pick can still be a success even if the team manages to find a player who is more of a useful regular than a star. Even a guy who’s only capable of 1.5-2 WAR per season for a few years is valuable because that’s one spot where a team does not have to spend money on a free agent. The likelihood is that there was at least one such player who has that kind of future in MLB available at #42 and at #71, so hopefully the Orioles found the right guys.
The draft will roll on through rounds 3-10 on Tuesday afternoon beginning at 1pm. The Orioles select next at #79, then again at #108 and every 30 picks thereafter. Picks through round 10 have assigned slot values that decrease as the draft moves along, down to the Orioles 10th round pick having a slot value of $147,900. Teams generally take college seniors who will sign for $10,000 or less in rounds 7-10 and gain back some slot money that way.
Any player drafted in rounds 11-40 can be signed for up to $125,000 without counting against the team’s bonus pool, with any amount over $125,000 being applied to the pool. Those rounds will take place on Wednesday, also beginning at 1pm.