The Orioles finished day 1 of the MLB draft by staying in the Southeastern Conference, picking Mississippi State shortstop Jordan Westburg with the #30 overall pick in the draft. This pick was part of Competitive Balance Round A.
Westburg is about the sort of player you might have expected a team to take with the #30 pick. He was the #32 prospect in the class on the Fangraphs ranking, #37 from MLB Pipeline, and #25 at ESPN.
Orioles fans can now hope that Mike Elias and company are better judges of what college shortstops are good to draft in the 30s than Dan Duquette was a couple of years ago when his O’s selected Cadyn Grenier from Oregon State, who hasn’t been great as a pro.
ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel, who rated Westburg the highest of the rest of these prospect writers:
A big shortstop who has plus power and speed and is growing into more contact as he catches up to his peers in terms of on-field reps.
Westburg’s teammate from the Mississippi State infield, second baseman Justin Foscue, was picked at #14 overall by the Rangers. This duo has impressed college baseball watchers defensively, prompting at least one analyst on the MLB Network broadcast to mention “part of the best double play duo in NCAA.”
That sounds good... if he hits. If it was a certainty that he would hit, he would probably not have been available still at the #30 pick. MLB Pipeline on some of Westburg’s strengths and downsides:
Westburg has a compact right-handed swing and possesses the bat speed and strength to provide 20 or more homers on an annual basis. He lacks consistency at the plate because he has a very aggressive, pull-happy approach and sometimes struggles with pitch recognition and managing the strike zone ... Westburg has solid speed and arm strength to match, giving him a chance to stick at shortstop at the next level. He’s big for the position at 6-foot-3 and if he adds more strength to his frame, he could slow down and necessitate a move to third base. With his power potential, he still could profile offensively at the hot corner.
In his sophomore season at Mississippi State, the most recent full season, Westburg batted .294/.402/.457 in 66 games. That included 69 strikeouts in 265 at-bats. That’s probably where the scouting capsule gets “very aggressive” and “lacks consistency.”
When the Orioles selected Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad with the #2 pick, this was a surprise of a move. One thought when that pick was made is that it was made with an eye on going overslot on a player later on in the draft.
That could still end up being the case, but it must be said that when the O’s had their next shot to take a player, they went with a guy at #30 who, based on his prospect ranking, seems like he is worth about #30 slot money. A number of the draft prospects who looked like possible overslot guys for #30 had already been picked by the time the O’s came around again, including Pennsylvania high schooler Nick Bitsko.
The Orioles still have a pick very soon on day 2 of the draft at #39 overall. The draft went through #37 on day 1. So, maybe they will go for one of the remaining overslot guys right away on day 2. Pipeline’s #12 prospect in the draft class, Texas high school righty Jared Kelley, went undrafted on day 1. Until that happens, though, there’s no evidence of some grand underslot/overslot strategy in play.