The day after selecting Owasso, OK high school RHP Dylan Bundy with the fourth overall pick, and seeing division rivals Tampa Bay, Boston, and Toronto select 20 of the next 56 players chosen, Joe Jordan and the Orioles’ scouting department settled in for the real meat of the amateur draft: rounds 2 through 30.
In the past, Jordan has employed several different strategies with the Orioles. In 2009 he took many high-upside high school and junior college players who also carried some injury risks, and in 2007 took just seven high school players, five of whom did not sign.
Jordan also has shown a tendency to prefer specific types of players, mainly ground ball pitchers and athletic position players. So what did he and his staff do this year? Let’s break it down.
Rounds 1-30 By the Numbers
Pitchers/Position Players: 15/15
HS/JC/4yr pitchers: 3/6/6
HS/JC/4yr position players: 6/2/7
That first number may be a little misleading as seven of the O’s first ten picks were pitchers, and four of the first five. Perhaps the most interesting number above is that only three of the Orioles’ first 30 picks were high school pitchers. The first was, of course, Dylan Bundy, and then no more HS pitchers until Zach Davies and Chris Oliver in rounds 26 and 27.
Last year, the O’s took six high school pitchers in the first 30 rounds, and five in 2009. It does appear that they are focusing on more high-probability guys on the pitching side this year, with twelve of fifteen coming from the college or JUCO ranks.
Now let’s look at some common themes and other interesting stories coming out of Day 2 for the Orioles.
Joe Jordan Specials
It seems like every year the Orioles pick a center fielder from a four-year college somewhere in the top ten, and they always fit a similar mold: not a lot of power, good speed, good glove, and they often “do all the little things well”.
In 2007 it was Matt Angle, Kyle Hudson in 2008, and Trent Mummey in 2010. This year, it’s Arizona State center fielder Johnny Ruettiger. Ruettiger didn’t hit a home run for ASU in 2011, but he walked more than he struck out (33 to 29) and stole 22 bases. He’s probably closer to Angle than Hudson or Mummey.
The other “Jordan Special” is the ground ball inducing pitcher, and of course, the O’s were on top of them as well. Third-round pick Mike Wright throws a fastball that is best described as “heavy,” and fourth-rounder Kyle Simon gets a large amount of sink on his fastball as well.
In 2009, the Orioles took several players who were considered injury risks at the time, and it quite simply has not paid off at all. All nine of the O’s picks in the first ten rounds who signed have spent significant time on the DL. Of the many high-upside pitchers taken, only ninth-round pick Ryan Berry performed enough to show flashes of that potential.
The injuries that many of the 2009 picks suffered were not entirely a surprise, as many had been injured before, and several had mechanics that likely contributed to the injuries they would suffer as pros.
This year looks to be different. Of the pitchers taken, Bundy, Wright, Simon, and fifth-round pick Matt Taylor all, as best I can tell, own squeaky clean mechanics. Simon has an unusual arm slot, and Bundy and Wright throw very hard, but there are no clear red flags in their deliveries, which a welcome change from the ’09 class.
Of the video I’ve been able to find, Jose Rivera (21st) and Zach Davies (26th) look to have very clean deliveries as well, and Nick Carmichael (17th) has only very minor concerns. In fact, the only pitcher who I saw video of and could see injury concerns with was 10th round pick Tyler Wilson. A far cry from Jake Cowan, Ashur Tolliver, and Aaron Wirsch all going in ’09.
Prep Corner Infielders
Fun fact: Until yesterday, Joe Jordan had never selected a high school first baseman in the first 30 rounds of the draft with the Orioles (not counting Brandon Snyder, who was originally a C/3B). That changed when the O’s took Kyle Raubinger from Arroyo Grande High in California in the 28th round.
Additionally, one year after only taking one single HS position player — Connor Narron — who was not a catcher, middle infielder, or center fielder, the Orioles grabbed five in the first 30 rounds in 2011, three third baseman among them. In fact, the Orioles only took one up-the-middle player out of high school all day in 22nd round pick, shortstop Michael Miedzianowski.
And a year after taking seven catchers, three out of high school, they took just two in thirty rounds on days 1 and 2, neither coming from the HS ranks.
Potential bullpen help?
After Bundy in the first round, there are questions surrounding each of the pitchers the Orioles selected in the first ten rounds. A great deal of these questions have to do with whether or not they can stick as starters. I would imagine that not all of them will be starters long-term, or even short-term, really.
Wright was a starter for East Carolina but pitched out of the bullpen in the Cape Cod League, and some believe that’s where his future lies. Matt Taylor, being a largely unheralded lefty, will get the “future LOOGY” label slapped on him, perhaps unfairly.
Tyler Wilson mostly relieved at UVA before 2011. 7th round pick Trent Howard is in the same boat as Taylor, but the future LOOGY label is probably more accurately applied to him.
To draft five or six guys who could be nothing more than relievers in the bigs in the first ten rounds is unusual, to say the least. However, there may be some clear reasons for this strategy. First, last year the Orioles drafted Dan Klein and Clayton Schrader, both of whom have been pitching out of the pen this year with great success.
Klein is already at Bowie and Schrader at Frederick. Relievers can move very quickly and therefore may have higher probability than starters. Second, the Orioles have recently spent lots of money on free agent relievers who have not always panned out.
Mike Gonzalez might be the worst offender, but this is a running theme going back years and years. If they can develop some homegrown bullpen arms they may be able to save that money that has been spent on relievers.
And finally, JJ Hardy and Mark Reynolds were acquired for four young relievers this offseason. Clearly, there is some value in growing arms, not just for the rotation.
With all that said, there are still twenty more rounds to go in the draft. It will be interesting to see if these trends continue in rounds 31-50, or if we see a completely new strategy on day 3.