Over the last few months, Jordan, Don and I have done our best to get Orioles fans geared up for the draft. Don has assembled an excellent pool of scouting reports on 12 of the top draft prospects in the nation. Follow this link to read those and other draft related write-ups in our draft archive. Here’s a little more of what you can expect on draft day.
The 2011 First Year Player Draft (the official name has changed many times) begins on Monday, June 6th. Coverage begins at MLB.com and on MLB Network at 6 PM, with the clock starting at 7 PM. The first round and first supplemental round (including selections awarded as compensation to teams who lost Type-A and Type-B Free Agents) will be broadcast completely on day 1. Day 2 is comprised of rounds 2-30, with day 3 completing rounds 31-50 in rapid fire succession. Follow this link to MLB.com’s draft tracker including the complete order of selections.
The Orioles hold the fourth overall selection in this year’s draft. This class is heavy on college pitching at the top, and unless top prospect Anthony Rendon (3B, RICE) falls due to concerns over shoulder soreness, the Orioles will likely add another arm to their system. Here is a quick and dirty rundown of some of the most likely candidates for Baltimore’s selection:
Dylan Bundy (RHP, OWASSO HS, OK)
Bundy is, in my opinion, the most likely selection at 1:4. The 6-1, 205 pound righty is the brother of current Orioles prospect Bobby Bundy, and might end up the better pitcher of the two. With a mid-to-upper 90s fastball, a strong and well-conditioned frame, and surprisingly advanced secondaries, Bundy is the rare HS pitcher who projects as a potential ace and could move through a minor league system in two or three years. All things being equal, the Orioles would prefer a college arm here, but Bundy’s combination of stuff and feel could make him the best overall pitcher on the board at 1:4.
Danny Hultzen (LHP, VIRGINIA)
Hultzen is one of the safest arms in the draft, and has accordingly been linked to both Pittsburgh (first overall selection) and Arizona (third overall). Hultzen was drafted in ’08 by the Diamondbacks but chose to play college ball for UVA. Arizona has been following him closely over the last three years, and they are currently the front runner to select him, but a Bundy or Bauer selection could cause him to drop to Baltimore. If Bundy and Hultzen are both available, Scouting Director Joe Jordan will have a tough decision ahead of him. Hultzen doesn’t possess Bundy’s Ace upside, but he fits the Orioles mold of a polished, college lefty and could step into the middle of a rotation as soon as August of 2012.
Trevor Bauer (RHP, UCLA)
Over the last few years, Bauer has stood in the shadow of teammate Gerrit Cole, who is arguably the best arm (and possibly best overall talent) in this year’s draft. An unbelievable junior campaign, however, has earned Bauer top 10 consideration in his own right. The right-hander accumulated 189 Ks and just 34 walks over the regular season, and on Saturday broke Mark Prior’s PAC-10 record of 202 strikeouts. There are some concerns: Bauer has accumulated high pitch counts on consecutive starts regularly through the season and he carries an unusual violent delivery (somewhat reminiscent of Tim Lincecum’s motion). He has at times this season fallen in love with the strikeout, getting ahead of hitters and then nibbling out of the zone in an attempt to produce the swinging strike. Some scouts question whether his swing and miss tendencies and overall command will translate at the highest level, but the results so far are pristine. Several evaluators have recently gone so far as to say they would select Bauer over any arm in the draft, including Cole.
Several other candidates are possibilities, including Broken Arrow HS (OK) righty Archie Bradley, Gardner-Edgerton HS (KS) two-way phenom Bubba Starling, and, in the unlikely event that one drops out of the first two slots, Rendon and Cole. If the the top of the board goes as currently projected, however, the three aforementioned pitchers stand the best chance of entering the Orioles system.
It is imperative that Baltimore choose wisely with their first overall selection, as they don’t pick again until slot 64 overall. Still, as good as the 2011 draft class is at the top, its biggest strength is depth. Plenty of safe, college players should be around in rounds 2-5, and high bonus demands of some of the riskier HS talents could drop them as well. Joe Jordan has shown a propensity for nabbing fallen players for overslot bonuses in the middle rounds, and that strategy could serve him well this year.
Alex Dickerson (1B, INDIANA), Matt Skole (3B/1B, GEORGIA TECH), Kyle Gaedele (OF, VALPARAISO), and Jason Esposito (3B, VANDERBILT) represent some of the best college bats that could fall past the first and first supplemental rounds, while there should be plenty of safe, potential mid-to-back-end college starters available, such as Sean Gilmartin (LHP, FLORIDA ST.), Joe Osich (OREGON ST.), Tony Zych (RHP, LOUISVILLE), Matt Price (SOUTH CAROLINA) and several others.
Some notable high-profile players who might drop a bit due to injury are Matt Purke (RHP, TEXAS CHRISTIAN), Andrew Susac (C, OREGON ST.), Kyle Winkler (RHP, TEXAS CHRISTIAN) and Blake Swihart (C, Cleveland HS, NM). Others could drop unexpectedly due to high bonus demands or other issues. There are surprises in every draft class.
Regardless of how the draft shakes out, there will be plenty of opportunities for the Orioles to infuse some much needed talent into their minor league system. We’ll find out very soon just who the biggest names will be.