The Baltimore Orioles made some bold decisions in the off season when they decided to part with their first and second round picks, 17th and 55th overall, for the likes of starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez and outfielder Nelson Cruz. Their first foray into trading away a 2014 draft pick came late last season when they traded a couple of prospects and their competitive balance pick, 37th overall, and their international signing bonus slot to the Houston Astros for Bud Norris.
With the production of Cruz over the entirety of the season so far it’s easy to say losing your second round pick was worth it. After a rough start to the season in April, Jimenez has rebounded nicely and posted a sub-three ERA since May and Norris has had a few good starts himself. Had the Orioles not forfeited their top two draft picks to compensation free agents and traded the other away, who could they have had the opportunity to draft 17th, 37th and 55th overall?
With the 17th overall pick the Kansas City Royals selected LHP Brandon Finnegan, a junior, out of Texas Christian University. Finnegan doesn’t exactly tout the ideal size for a starting pitcher, standing at just 5’11” and just 195 lbs., but he has an electric fastball that generally sits 92-95 and has occasionally touched 98 according to some scouts.
His secondary offerings leave something to be desired. He has an average curveball, which is more of a slurve, but could potentially become an above average pitch for him. Christopher Crawford from MLB Draft Insider reported that Finnegan doesn’t have elite command but he “does a good job of hitting his spots and doesn’t put a ton of runners on base via walk or hit by pitch. He repeats his delivery well, and again, he has a very good idea of how to pitch.”
Two other players, who were drafted after Finnegan, were also intriguing prospects the Orioles could have selected at 17 overall if they had retained the pick.
Casey Gillaspie, a first baseman out of Wichita State, was selected 20th overall by the Tampa Bay Rays and he profiles as a switch-hitting power threat that also hits for contact. He’s not fast, as in he has feet of stone, so he’s relegated to first base or DH but he’s already a great fielder so he won’t hurt you there. His brother, Connor, is currently the third baseman for the Chicago White Sox.
Right after Gillaspie the Cleveland Indians snatched up outfielder Bradley Zimmer out of the University of San Francisco. Zimmer is a monster in size and ability at the plate. He stands at 6’5” tall and weighs in at 205 lbs. His most outstanding tool is his ability to hit, as he sprays line drives all over the place. The other assets that he has are outstanding speed and a cannon for an arm. That’s why he could play center field in the majors, but is likely a corner outfielder if he gets there.
In Competitive Balance Round A the Astros decided to take Virginia outfielder Derek Fisher 37th overall. This kid has the size and the eye to get on base at an alarming rate, he led the summer college circuit with a .453 OBP, and certainly projects as a plus hitter in average and power. However, the prospect that has many of those that have seen him play drooling at what he could become is high school shortstop Jacob Gatewood.
The scouting report on him from Baseball America had this to say, “At least 70-grade raw power is Gatewood’s best tool and he hit home runs into the third deck of Citi Field and out of Wrigley Field. He has arguably the most raw power in the high school class.”
Those home runs out of Citi Field and Wrigley mentioned are from last summer when he was invited to the Home Run Derby at Citi Field and then the Under Armour All-American Game at Wrigley. At 6’5” and 190 lbs. he still has some filling out to do, but it’s easy to project what this kid could do as a power-hitting shortstop in the majors in four or five years if he continues to develop. His father, Henry, is a former first round draft pick in the secondary draft of 1982 so he certainly knows the hard work and dedication required to make it to the next level.
Finally, with the 55th selection the New York Yankees selected RHP Jacob Lindgren out of Mississippi State. Lindgren has shown an ability to get quick outs when coming out of the bullpen and one of his better pitches is probably his sinking changeup. That said, the last half of the second round was littered with pitching prospects that could have made their way through the Orioles system quickly as a power arm in the bullpen.
Of the Orioles first three picks in the draft that they traded away, the only pick it would be nice to have back is their compensatory round pick at 37. Obviously, it’s no sure thing the Orioles would have selected Gatewood with that pick but the opportunity to do so and his upside make you wonder if Bud Norris was worth it.