As anyone who watched the Orioles over the last couple of years knows, the team needs a lot of help in a lot of places. There are some interesting players across the farm system, but it’s probably not the case that the best players from the farm will be enough to make the O’s a good team again on their own. Nailing the draft year in and year out is going to be a big part of a revival, if there’s going to be one.
If you spent the pre-draft weeks and months reading the musings and rumors from the mainstream draft/prospect writers, you had probably been looking forward to the Orioles drafting Vanderbilt’s Austin Martin. The swerve on Wednesday night to draft Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad instead. We’ll know in a few years if that was the right decision.
The pick of Kjerstad set up an expectation that the Orioles had probably saved some slot money and would later use that money on overslot players later in the draft. Again, if you read the pre-draft scouting reports from the usual suspects, you probably had a high school player or two you were hoping the O’s would use that money on.
The O’s didn’t draft any of those big names, although it does seem like they’ll use nearly or all of the slot money to get their six picks in the fold.
The Orioles 2020 draft class
- Round 1 - Heston Kjerstad - OF - Arkansas
- Comp. Balance Round A - Jordan Westburg - SS - Mississippi State
- Round 2 - Hudson Haskin - OF - Tulane
- Round 3 - Anthony Servideo - SS - Ole Miss
- Round 4 - Coby Mayo - 3B - Marjory Stoneman Douglas (FL) HS
- Round 5 - Carter Baumler - RHP - Dowling Catholic (IA) HS
So who are these guys?
Obviously, the most important thing to consider about these guys is how good they’re going to be at playing baseball, but let’s not overlook what a great draft this is for names that can be pronounced in the biggest stereotypical Bawlmer accent. Coby Mayo is a possible all-timer. Anthony Servideo is another good one, especially if he goes by Tony or would accept going by Tony. Even Hudson Haskin is a stealthily good Bawlmerese name. And Carter Baumler’s name is almost Bawlmer!
It’s clear after two drafts that Mike Elias likes getting position players into the Orioles system. He didn’t draft a pitcher until the eighth round last year and in this draft, limited to only five rounds, he didn’t take a pitcher until his last pick.
It also seems that performance in the Southeastern Conference is of interest to the current O’s brain trust. Kjerstad, Westburg, and Servideo all came out of the SEC, and even the high school pick, Mayo, is committed to attend the University of Florida if he doesn’t end up signing with the Orioles.
The 21-year-old Haskin is a draft-eligible sophomore. Picking a sophomore after this truncated spring season means the O’s must have really liked what they saw because Haskin only had a full year and a handful of games of track record.
This wasn’t a complete out of nowhere pick, as Haskin was in the top 75(ish) range of prospect lists - #58 at ESPN, #74 on MLB’s list, #76 on Fangraphs - but that’s something of a consensus late second/early third round pick taken at the top of the second round. On MLB, his scouting report notes he came from the same Connecticut high school as George Springer, so there could be some stealth upside for a cold weather high school player who’s only had two years of college. There’s good stuff in here:
Though Haskin’s right-handed swing can get long at times, he still manages to barrel the ball consistently. His stroke is quick and has nice loft, and once he fills out his lean 6-foot-2 frame he could produce 20 or more homers annually. He manages the strike zone well, though his ability to make contact with ease does cut into his walks. ... He tracks balls well in center field, showing good instincts and an average arm.
One common trend among all of these picks this year seems to be dudes where there’s some hope that they’ll grow into power. There are a lot of ifs involved, but a 20+ home run center fielder is good. Even with all the COVID-related disruption, I would guess the O’s had this guy and their other picks hooked up to the vests and bat sensors and other modern tools that would tell them, “This guy hits baseballs hard.”
Our friends at SB Nation’s Ole Miss blog, Red Cup Rebellion, were excited to see one of their players picked. He comes ready-made with a nickname, the Blonde Bomber. The picture on this article does not lie: He was recently very, very blonde. It’s apparently (I learned from this article) tradition for the Ole Miss shortstop to sport bleached locks. Sure, why not?
Servideo is another guy where if you go off what the draft writers rankings said, he looks like maybe a one round overdraft. The O’s took him at #74 overall and he was rated #110 on MLB and #131 on ESPN. They liked him at Fangraphs, though, rating him #55, so hopefully they’re right. Getting the #55 player at #74 is good value. FG’s TL;DR on Servideo:
Moved back to shortstop ... and added a leg kick that unlocked new power. Twichty, athletic, cocky. Stock has a chance to keep rising as his defensive abilities at SS become more clear.
The folks at Baseball America pegged Servideo as a guy who was trending in the right direction through early college baseball action back in March. He did poorly in the Cape Cod League last summer. This spring, Servideo had already walked 24 times in 17 games. It could be if Servideo had a full junior season, he’d have rated higher than this and the O’s made a good pick. Being an Orioles fan, I am rooting for a successful outcome.
If Stoneman Douglas High School sounds familiar to you and you’re not sure why, that’s because it’s located in Parkland, Florida. This was the school with the deadly shooting two years ago. Mayo was a sophomore at the time. If Mayo is a good prospect and eventually a good player on the Orioles, this is probably not the last time you’ll hear about this part of his high school experience.
Current MLBers Anthony Rizzo and Jesus Luzardo also went to Stoneman Douglas. Mayo won’t be the first, if he makes it to the show.
One of the first things that was said on the MLB Network after Mayo was announced to the Orioles was: “He can really pound the baseball.” This is, of course, not the only way for a baseball player to be successful but it’s certainly a fun one, and it’s more important than ever lately.
The Fangraphs list liked Mayo the best, rating him at #67 in the draft class. At ESPN, he is #84, while on MLB’s list, he rated #134. Again, if the Fangraphs list is right, that’s good value here in the fourth round, and there’s a good bet that Mayo will be getting some of the money that the O’s saved for the pool with the Kjerstad pick. The Fangraphs TL;DR on Mayo:
Might outgrow the infield but has big frame and surprising bat control for size. Can catch velo up in zone.
Mayo is listed at 6’5”, which is two inches taller than another recent Orioles draft pick from a Florida high school who bounced out into the outfield, Ryan Mountcastle. Mountcastle was not rated nearly so highly on draft rankings at the time he was picked by the O’s.
On the MLB Network draft broadcast, analyst Jim Callis was surprised by this pick because he didn’t know if Baumler, a TCU commit, was signable. So that looks like another place for the money saved against the #2 slot value by picking Kjerstad.
If you hoped that the Kjerstad likely underslot signing would give the O’s a chance to get a second talent in the teens of this draft pool, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Baumler is ranked on the lists, if not high-ranked: #100 at ESPN, #102 on MLB, #127 on Fangraphs. Elias and company probably think their pitching development program can do something to improve on this MLB scouting capsule:
Baumler has a strong, athletic frame that currently produces 90-94 mph fastballs with riding life and he projects to add more velocity in the future. His curveball lacked consistency early in the summer but improved afterward, showing good depth and leading some evaluators to grade his bender as a future plus offering. He hasn’t used his changeup much but demonstrates some feel for the pitch. ... Scouts love Baumler’s clean delivery and arm action, which should allow him to throw strikes and stay healthy. He’s a quality athlete who has flashed some power and speed while playing a variety of positions, including catcher.
Fangraphs calls him a “legit two-way prospect,” so who knows, the only pitcher the O’s drafted might not even be a pitcher. I’d be surprised if the O’s try some kind of two-way experiment, but Elias has already proven plenty of times he’s capable of surprising me.
Baumler does not lack for confidence in himself:
#Orioles fans! Carter Baumler is a legit two-sport athlete with Division One football offers but was verbally committed to TCU for baseball only. He told me he used to catch which helped him become a better pitcher. Called himself a "more athletic Zack Greinke"— Dani Wexelman (@DaniWex) June 12, 2020
“A more athletic Zack Greinke” - well, let’s hope so!
If a few of these guys are hitting loads of dingers in Camden Yards four or five years from now, especially if Kjerstad’s cranking out Eutaw Street plaques, this will turn out to be a fun draft class even if fans might have had their hearts set on some other guys.
Elias hasn’t given us any reason to doubt him yet, so although this is certainly an unexpected group of guys compared to what the consensus wisdom might have been, you don’t have to squint to see the strategy either.