A trademark of Orioles drafts under Mike Elias has been a willingness to take players loaded with physical tools, even if the entire package may also include some serious questions. They continued that trend with their second-round pick from this most recent draft.
Mac Horvath was selected 53rd overall by the Orioles this past summer out of the University of North Carolina and went on to sign for a slightly below slot ($1.58m) deal at $1.40 million. Announced as a third baseman, Horvath also spent a lot of time roaming the outfield for the Tar Heels, a role he is expected to stick at long term in the professional ranks.
In his final college season, Horvath hit 24 home runs and slashed .305/.418/.711. That slugging percentage jumps off the page. FanGraphs credits that power to his “extremely quick and powerful hands that generate above-average pull power.”
That ability to pull balls is also viewed as something of a weakness for Horvath. FanGraphs says that he is “geared to pull in the extreme” and MLB Pipeline explains that “his uphill right-handed stroke and pull-heavy approach work against him at the plate, and he particularly struggles with quality fastballs, especially up in the zone.”
However, both outlets also praise his patience at the plate. Pipeline says “he shows a willingness to draw walks when pitchers try to work around him.” FanGraphs claims that he “tends to identify [breaking stuff down and away] and doesn’t often chase.” That sounds like a hitter already on board with the sort of swing decisions the Orioles preach.
Horvath played in 22 games at three different levels of minor league ball in 2023 after signing in mid-July. He racked up five hits in three games at Rookie League. That bumped him to Low-A Delmarva, where he went 16-for-52 with a .922 OPS. And he got a brief, five-game crack at High-A Aberdeen, apparently enough time for him to hit two home runs, drive in nine, and OPS 1.082.
The sample size is small, but Horvath looked quite comfortable at each level. While he did rack up 26 strikeouts in just 22 games altogether, he also walked 19 times and peppered in 25 hits, 12 of which went for extra bases.
Speed is also an important part of Horvath’s game. He stole 25 bases on 29 attempts at UNC this year, and kept on running in the minors, going 14-for-15 across the three levels. His future probably won’t include leading MLB in steals, but his above-average speed does add another element to his game that pairs well with his ability to take a walk.
While there is already a lot to like about Horvath’s offensive abilities, far more questions surround his fieldwork. Physically, things are good. Pipeline gives his arm a 60 grade, a plus tool, and they say he “has the range for third base.” But they also call him an “erratic defender who has struggled with his throwing accuracy.” FanGraphs flat out says Horvath “wasn’t very good” as a third baseman in college. Both outlets see his future in a corner outfield spot.
Understandably, the Orioles are going to see what Horvath can do on the infield as a pro, at least for a little while. His offensive profile would be a whole lot more valuable as a passable defender at the hot corner than it would be in right field, a spot commonly occupied by a lumbering power threat in the game’s top league.
The Orioles have already trotted Horvath out at four different positions in his brief time with the organization. Second base has been his most common role (84 innings), followed by third base (71 innings), right field (16 innings), and then left field (nine innings).
It’s impossible to thoroughly scout defense from a box score. So while his five errors and .917 fielding percentage between second and third this year don’t look great, there isn’t much context on which to judge those numbers. We can guess that the Orioles aren’t expecting Horvath to win a Gold Glove as an infielder, but rather they believe his tools and coaching at this level can get him to the point of being competent.
If that doesn’t work, an eventual move to one of the corner outfield spots isn’t an awful outcome. Horvath has a good arm, and his speed would allow him to cover plenty of ground. He even has some amateur experience in centerfield.
Horvath still has plenty of time to figure out his work with the leather. He will play his first full season of professional baseball in 2024 and isn’t Rule 5 eligible until 2026. And the Orioles have no reason to rush him as they have several players ahead of him on the organizational depth chart. That’s not to say he is “blocked” as a big season from Horvath could entirely upend internal evaluations.
Will Horvath be on the 2024 Orioles? No. He’s likely to start the year back in Aberdeen, where he may need to settle into a position and continue to flash his impressive abilities at the plate. A strong showing is likely to earn him a promotion to Bowie before the year is out, but anything beyond that could be asking a lot. The Orioles simply have too many players ahead of him, all with impressive pedigrees. Jumping all of them inside of a year seems impossible.
Tomorrow: Cade Povich