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Orioles wrap up first day of MLB draft by collecting college hitters

After taking Jackson Holliday at #1 overall, the Orioles took California OF Dylan Beavers, Clemson 3B Max Wagner, and Florida OF Jud Fabian.

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Max Wagner, the Orioles second round pick, rounds the bases after hitting a three-run home run for Clemson.
Max Wagner, the Orioles second round pick, right after hitting a three-run home run for Clemson.
Ken Ruinard / staff / USA TODAY NETWORK

Heading into his fourth draft in charge of the Orioles, Mike Elias had not selected a high school player with the top pick for the O’s. That streak was broken in choosing Jackson Holliday with the #1 overall pick. Another streak is still ongoing: Elias just doesn’t seem to take pitchers high up in the draft. With their next three picks to close out the first day of the draft, the O’s took three college hitters: California outfielder Dylan Beavers, Clemson third baseman Max Wagner, and Florida outfielder Jud Fabian.

Beavers, who will turn 21 years old next month, is a lefty-batting outfielder who ranked as high as #22 on MLB Pipeline’s ranking of draft prospects. Other lists were a bit less excited about Beavers, as he checked in at #45 on FanGraphs and #51 on Keith Law’s draft big board. The Orioles took Beavers with their competitive balance round A pick, #33 overall. What’s good about Beavers? Here’s Pipeline, who liked him the best:

... using a bit of an unorthodox setup with lower hand positioning, he does have some timing issues and there are some holes in his swing. He was tied up inside at times over the summer. He was streaky in the fall, though he did show some flashes of brilliance, especially getting to his easily plus raw power, something that continued this spring. While he’s big at 6-foot-4, Beavers is an above-average runner who has the chance to stay in center field, though his near-plus arm would work just fine in right.

You know you’ve gotten farther down in the draft when there’s more on the scouting report that needs to improve for a player. Both Pipeline’s report and the FG capsule on Beavers mention a comparison to Christian Yelich in terms of his batting stance. A common thread across all of these evaluations is that Beavers has a bit of a weird swing. Law’s report on Beavers notes that if a team can improve his swing - if! - then Beavers has “above-average regular upside thanks to his speed and pitch recognition.

A left-handed hitter with a good power stroke is always going to have potential to wreak havoc at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. We’ll see if Beavers can get himself to where he can take advantage of the flag court being where it is.

The Orioles posted the video of the Beavers pick from the draft telecast last night, which included some highlights and some self-comparison by Beavers:

Beavers himself makes the comparison to Yelich there. Both Yelich and Kyle Tucker, another comparison, were picked from the high school ranks, while Beavers is coming out of college. The thing to remember about comparing prospects to existing MLBers is that it’s more about feeding a hype complex than connecting to reality. Well, now he’ll be in the Orioles organization once he signs, so hopefully he can live up to his self-comp to Yelich.

Wagner, the ACC Player of the Year for the 2022 season, is a right-handed hitting third baseman. Like Beavers, he’ll be turning 21 years old next month. Wagner is a draft-eligible sophomore. The Orioles chose him with their second round pick at #42 overall. That’s roughly the area of talent where Law evaluated Wagner, putting him at #48 in the draft class. The others had him lower - #66 for Pipeline, #72 for FanGraphs.

One note about Wagner is that he came somewhat out of nowhere this season. He was not drafted two years ago out of the Wisconsin high school ranks. That was the five-round truncated COVID draft. Maybe Wagner would have gotten more attention if he had a full season and a full draft. Or maybe he was just destined to break out more in college.

It was quite a breakout. All of the reports note that when this season began, Wagner wasn’t even one of the starting players for Clemson. Yet by season’s end, he’d hit 27 home runs. That’s good! Law describes both the potential and the flaws:

(Wagner) shortened up his path to the ball and stays inside it much better now, allowing the Green Bay native to make more contact and drive the ball consistently, with 60-70 power to his pull side and enough to hit a few out the other way. He doesn’t like the ball down, however, and the way his hands start makes him vulnerable to pretty much anything in the lower third of the zone and down. He’s rough defensively at third and probably ends up in an outfield corner, although he might be better at second base than he is at the hot corner. It’s big power with bat speed for someone looking for an upside play among the college hitters.

Regarding the upside, FG’s Eric Longenhagen says Wagner has some “tip of the iceberg” characteristics - that is, he might be on the verge of a breakout, having been from a colder weather state for high school, with little early college playing time, and as a young player for the draft class.

Obviously, I’ve never seen this guy play baseball in my life, and unless you’re really into college baseball, you’ve never seen him either. The phrase upside is always a nice one to read in scouting reports. Most guys don’t reach the upside, but some of them do. Load up on guys with potential and see who your player development can get to unlock the potential.

The final Orioles day 1 pick is the one they got earlier this year from the Marlins as part of the Tanner Scott/Cole Sulser trade. At #67 overall, they drafted Fabian. That’s an interesting pick because the O’s had been rumored to be interested in taking him at #41 last year. The Red Sox drafted Fabian first, then didn’t sign him. So the Orioles, a year later, have gotten to pick Fabian after all.

Fabian’s biggest booster among the trio of draft rankings is at FanGraphs, where he’s the #26 prospect in the class. That’s some phenomenal value to get with the 67th pick. Law has Fabian at #47, with Pipeline putting him #52. That’s still pretty good value for 67.

FanGraphs on Fabian:

(Fabian) did quell his strikeout issues somewhat, with his K% dropping from 29% to 22%, though he still has a hole at the very top of the zone and tends to pull off of in-zone sliders. Fabian’s power is still likely to play in games because he has great feel for the zone and lifts the ball consistently, and he has some room to strike out in excess because of his defense in center field. There’s definitely bust risk associated with the strikeouts, but there’s also clearly everyday ability.

When talking about the power, here’s the results from college: Fabian hit 20 home runs in 59 games last season, and 24 home runs in 66 games this season. That’s hitting in the SEC, which we know is something that impresses Elias. It also didn’t come with a high batting average, as he only hit .239. That’s why the bust risk comes up. Like Wagner, Fabian is a right-handed hitter. The Orioles do need to start finding guys who can summit Mount Walltimore, so...

That’s the end of day 1 of the draft for the Orioles. They’re going to have the first pick to make on Monday afternoon when the draft resumes with round 3 at 2pm Eastern. The draft will roll through rounds 3-10 on the second day. Presumably, Elias will take a pitcher somewhere with one of these picks, but maybe he won’t!