The Orioles come into the draft in their best position as a franchise than they have done in many years. The big league club is 54-35 and the farm system began the season ranked as the #1 organization in MLB. On Sunday night, they made their first round pick at 17th overall: Vanderbilt outfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr.
This was not a pick that was anticipated by the assorted mock draft complex, but I think that’s mostly because the mocks thought that Bradfield would be gone before the Orioles picked. The draft played out in a different way than that and he was available at the O’s pick. The Athletic’s Keith Law rated Bradfield as the #12 player in his draft class. FanGraphs ranking had Bradfield at #17, exactly where the O’s took him. MLB Pipeline’s ranking was lowest on Bradfield, but even that was #21. That wasn’t a reach at the O’s slot.
Bradfield is listed at 6’1” and 170 lbs. The lefty batter is fresh off a junior season where he slashed .279/.410/.429 in 62 games for Vanderbilt. He’s a “walked more than he struck out” player, with 45 walks to 40 strikeouts in his draft year.
Law’s scouting report points strongly towards a potential future big league center fielder:
Bradfield brings two elite tools to the table – he’s an 80 runner and at least a 70 defender in center, maybe an 80, thanks to that speed and very good reads on balls off the bat. He’s stolen 129 bases in three seasons with the Commodores, through the end of this year’s regular season, with just 13 times caught stealing, none as a sophomore when he was a perfect 46 of 46.
Law noted some possible downsides to Bradfield, describing him at the plate as having “a swing that needs a ton of help.” Law added, “It’s a wonder he hits as well as he does, but (this) opens up a world of possibilities for improvement. The Orioles of late have a pretty good track record with improving hitters, so this is not as daunting of a task as it might have seemed back when, let’s say, the Orioles drafted DJ Stewart out of Florida State in 2015.
We can all hope that Mike Elias and company will still be able to find a good prospect and a good future big leaguer now that the team is not picking in the top 5 of the draft for its first pick, as has been the case every year since they got here. Picking 17th and picking first or second or fifth are very different things, no matter the strength of the draft class - though the assorted pundits all do think this is a very deep draft class.
One thing we’re never going to know for certain is who else the Orioles might have really coveted in this draft class and hoped would slide down to their pick. Players who were mentioned as possibly being of interest to the O’s in mock drafts were taken before their pick: FAU 1B Nolan Schanuel (#11 to Angels), Stanford SS Tommy Troy (#12 to Diamondbacks), and 6’7” Virginia high school possible two-way player Bryce Eldridge (#16 to Giants).
Other mock draft players mentioned as being of interest to the Orioles, which could be a good sign of who they considered and ultimately chose Bradfield instead of these: Florida high school shortstop Arjun Nimmala, Georgia high school shortstop Colin Houck, and University of Florida right-hander Hurston Waldrep.
The slot value for the #17 pick is about $4.2 million. That’s part of a total bonus pool of about $10.5 million. It does not look like Bradfield’s selection is a marker of potential maneuvering with the draft bonus pool, like the Orioles did in 2020 and 2021 with Heston Kjerstad and Colton Cowser.
The Orioles have two more selections on Day 1 of the draft on Sunday night. They’ll be making their second round pick at #53, and then in competitive balance round B at #63. Check back on Camden Chat after those picks are made for more on those players.