With this year’s edition of the MLB draft rapidly approaching, the assorted prospect writers who cover the draft are in full swing trying to get a handle on the rumor mill and make their predictions about who teams will take with their first round picks. These mock drafts have had a tough enough time getting a handle on the Orioles thought process when they were picking in the top five in recent years. Now, at #17, that’s even tougher.
There’s still a lot of fluidity in what’s possible for how the draft will play out from the top down to where the Orioles pick. Teams are really only now getting serious about getting a sense from players about what they’re going to look for in order to sign at a certain pick. This could even impact the top of the draft, with ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel indicating that presumptive top 2 pick Dylan Crews, the LSU outfielder, is now implying he wants a bonus of at least $10 million.
The slot value at #1 is about $9.7 million, so that would be overslot even at #1. McDaniel’s mock moves Crews off of #1 as a result, which could end up shaking up everything behind that, all the way down to where the Orioles choose at #17. The uncertainty is no surprise to the Orioles, as GM Mike Elias told Orioles reporters yesterday that the team has 10-12 players it’s considering who they think could make it to their pick. Having a firm preference list will be important, so they know who’s at the top after everything that happens ahead of them.
Each of these writers have different sources giving them snippets of rumors, along with their own individual ideas of which players have the talent to move them higher up draft boards. Everyone’s 1-16 plays out quite differently, so who will even be available to the Orioles is uncertain, let alone who the team would like out of who’s left. Here are the best guesses of some mainstream writers in the waning days:
Colin Houck - SS - Parkview HS (Georgia)
This is the Orioles selection in yesterday’s mock draft by Eric Longenhagen at FanGraphs. That seems to be based on his understanding of what teams behind the Orioles are guessing that the O’s will do - namely, that they are focused on high school shortstops who are thought to be mid-to-late first round caliber talents. He adds that he thinks University of Miami third baseman Yohandy Morales would be the O’s type, though he has no specific information connecting the team to Morales.
Houck is the #24 prospect on the FG draft board, with this scouting report:
Explosive hitting hands and a projectable, athletic frame spearhead Houck’s prospect profile. He has a top-hand dominant swing that generates considerable power across a short mechanical distance, and his feel to hit might improve as the two-sport star focuses solely on baseball (he’s a Division I-quality QB prospect, too). Raw from a bat-to-ball standpoint and on defense, Houck is a high-upside dev project.
In the other mocks from this roundup, Houck is selected at 12th, 19th,
Ty Floyd - RHP - LSU
Floyd is the pick from The Athletic’s Keith Law, who released a mock draft just this morning. With Elias having the draft pattern he’s had with the Orioles so far, not drafting and signing a pitcher earlier than the fifth round, it would be a surprise to see the Orioles take a pitcher. However, Law isn’t the only one in this mock draft season who thinks the O’s might do it. It seems like if the position player or two who the O’s like best are off the board, pitcher is a possibility.
On Law’s ranking of the prospects in this draft class, Floyd checks in at #47, so if the Orioles did end up drafting him, they’d probably be betting on being able to improve Law over the current projection of his talent. From Law’s report on Floyd:
Floyd’s fastball is elite ... as hitters don’t see it at all, coming in 94-97 with great ride and some added deception from a short and lightning-quick arm stroke. The knock on Floyd is that he doesn’t really have an average second pitch — he throws a slider and curve but neither is better than a 45, without great spin or break, and his changeup has good separation but not a ton of action. He walked just under 10 percent of hitters this spring for LSU, which he’ll have to bring down in pro ball regardless of the development of his offspeed pitches.
“doesn’t really have an average second pitch” is not too exciting to read for a potential mid-first round pick to the Orioles, especially if they pass on some of the interesting high-upside high school players in the process.
Floyd is not mocked nearly so high in some of the other recent mocks, with one having him at 28th and another that mocked up to 39 picks not having Floyd go at all. Law notes that Floyd “is flying up everyone’s draft board lately.”
Tommy Troy - SS - Stanford
Up-the-middle players with college track records do seem to be favored by Elias when all else is otherwise equal. Sometimes, all else is not equal. Last year, they went to the high school ranks to take Holliday at #1, and in 2020 they sidestepped Vanderbilt’s Austin Martin to get Heston Kjerstad, a corner outfielder. MLB Pipeline’s Jonathan Mayo mocked Troy to the Orioles with his latest mock last night.
Troy is the #17 prospect on MLB Pipeline’s ranking for the draft class:
Troy’s standout tool is his ability to make consistent, hard contact from the right side of the plate. He has impressive bat-to-ball skills and rarely strikes out or chases out of the zone, showing excellent pitch recognition, though there are some moving parts of his swing. There’s enough extra-base pop in there for there not to be concerns about impact at the next level and he could have average power in the future. ... He moved to the hot corner for Stanford this year, but most teams see him as a future solid second-base type, with enough speed to perhaps play center field, to go along with some offensive upside.
This is a similar profile to University of Maryland shortstop Matt Shaw. Troy, listed at 5’10”, is on the short side for an MLB player (Shaw is 5’11”) and like Shaw is suggested as a future big league second baseman. The mocks are split about whether Shaw will be available when the O’s pick at #17.
George Lombard Jr. - SS - Gulliver Prep HS (New York)
This one comes from ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel. That’s another mock draft that sees the Orioles looking at the high school shortstop group. It was a bit of a surprise for me to see this name on McDaniel’s mock because that’s not a player who’s generally been going in the teens in previous versions of mocks. Of the pick, McDaniel writes:
I’m hearing prep position players and (Florida RHP Hurston) Waldrep here. Lombard is in the mix and may have moved ahead of the more commonly named prospects like Houck and (Aidan) Miller.
Waldrep is a name that came up to the Orioles in earlier Pipeline mocks, so it’s interesting to hear another connection of possible Orioles interest. The writers are collectively not convinced that Elias will avoid all first round pitchers forever.
In the other mocks from this round, Lombard is selected at 26th, 29th, and undrafted through 32nd. To me, that suggests the possibility of this being an underslot selection, with money saved for later in the draft.
The slot value of the #17 pick is $4,169,700, with the Orioles having a total bonus pool of $10,534,800.
Day 1 of the draft begins at 7pm on Sunday. It’ll be quite a while before we get to the Orioles pick at #17. The draft will run through the first two rounds on the first day. The O’s will also have picks #53 and #63 on day 1.