Tomorrow night the draft begins and regardless of whom the Orioles select. I will be rooting for them to become first rate major league players as all of you will be. Needless to say, over the past few months I've been following this draft best that I can and have at times loved this prospect or that one. Only to re-evaluate my own thoughts a few days later. Each year it seems I take a shine to one player over another. In 2010 it was James Taillon, Taylor Jungmann in 2011. I hope no one really minds, but I'm going to list those I really like first and the order in which I like them.
For the 22nd pick...
Aaron Blair RHP, Marshall
Originally one of the prospects I skipped over because he was thought to be a late second or third round choice. To my eyes, he looks like someone that has a chance to develop into a mid rotation starter. He's big and tall and has a pretty good build. His delivery doesn't look forced or land like a train wreck. He also has some projection left. The key issue is he's got a fine fastball with good sink. Another consideration is that he is unlikely to take 3+ years to reach the majors. One tidbit I would like to throw in: Reading his tweets is no way to judge anyone. However, I can't help but like him as a young man. Sure talent matters, but this likeable young man could become an important face of the Orioles franchise. If he does, I'm glad he strikes me as a pretty decent human being. That said a recent story listed Blair as having positive test for Adderall. I couldn't care less frankly. This is not for penis enlargement or a form of steroid. It's an ADHD drug.
Tom Windle LHP, Minnesota
Frankly the love here is that LHSP does not come easily. He's been consistent and done well for an extended stretch. I don't read articles where scouts and fans are questioning what the problem is. He's a fastball/Slider guy with a change up that will need some work in the minors. However, it seems that a lengthy grooming process won't be needed. He's tall and got a pretty good build and even as a back end starter (not necessarily his ceiling) makes a good fit in Baltimore. So far as I can tell via the internet his change up is the only real question.
Jonathon Crawford RHP, Florida
I suspect Crawford will be long gone by the 22nd pick. However, as he's not the biggest guy on the mound (6'1") there is a very outside chance he slips. It won't be by much though if he does. With reportedly being a high velocity guy teams will no doubt draft him prior. Still because there are always some players over hyped that teams shy away from I decided that Crawford deserved a place on my list.
Jon Denny C, OK HS Nick Ciuffo is a name associated with the Orioles, but that's because he's a solid consolation prize. Denny is the one you want. He's staying behind the plate and has an advanced hit tool without being a statue that moves. It's unlikely Denny is available however if he is you can easily image the loss of Matt Weiters being easy to forget in a few years with Denny on your roster.
Bobby Wahl RHP, Ole Miss If the club really believes in him as a starter then this makes very good sense. If you don't then you can slide him as a potential third rounder. He's no lock as a closer and you really have to weigh risk/reward here. That said let's assume he's a starter. He shouldn't take too long in the minors. His fastball and slider are arguably plus.
Needless to say, I strongly prefer pitching this year. I would feel differently if there was a SS or 2B that appeared a lock to stay at the position and not threaten me as a fan batting 9th. Essentially there are no early prospects this year at either position (J.P. Crawford maybe) that make you say that the hit tool will be team strength in five years. Certainly there are utility middle infielders that can be picked up later in the draft.
Next I will focus on players that in my opinion make some sense
Nick Ciuffo C, Lexington HS
He's a left handed batter and is a pretty good catcher. Questions are: Do you believe in his hit tool? Is he signable? Are you willing to groom him for 5-6 years in your minor league system? The big issue with any high school catcher to me is how will the knees be in a few years? I like Ciuffo please do not mistake my questions as criticism. I just feel strongly about weighing risk and reward. Catchers usually are not huge run producers. Sure some power is nice but I value getting on base and running up opposing pitch counts more than solo home runs.
Austin Wilson OF, Stanford Everthing I've read is that he's going to become a good run producing outfielder with plenty of power. The big knock is that he doesn't run very well. That said he's supposed to stick in RF. I'm sorry I like outfielders that can run and go from 1st to 3rd on a right field single. He's also had some elbow issues in the past. If the team targets a bat it's likely Wilson. I just want it said he's not a perfect outfield prospect.
Phillip Ervin OF, Samford
If your team needs speed and needs a prospect likely becoming a pretty good doubles machine. With an outside shot at leading off. This may or not be your player. He's no sure thing with the hit tool. He hasn't the best arm. He does however, have sensational speed. If scouts truly believe in his hit tool coming on with just a little patience then he's an outstanding prospect the Orioles are likely considering. If not then forget it. The team needs players that can help manufacture runs. Not another prospect like Xavier Avery that leaves you saying "If only..." That said, he's usually listed relatively high in this draft. The team is not brimming with outfield talent and of course needs to improve conventional run production. He might be a solid fit.
Tim Anderson SS, East Central CC
Can he stay at SS? If the team is sold on him remaining there then this is an outstanding fit. If not just how much do you believe in his hit tool? He also has above average speed. But if he's an OF you have to believe in his hit tool. The MLB site loves to tease "can be moved a la Billy Hamilton" The issue is, this isn't Billy Hamilton. Also Billy Hamilton isn't Mike Trout! This is where I learn more by where he's drafted than I do by what anyone online says.
OK. So you've a pretty good idea on who I like and who I am on the fence with. How about I just come one and say "I'm praying the Orioles do not draft this player"?
Kevin Ziomek LHP, Vanderbilt
Ever since the season began I've yet to see a single thoughtful article regarding Ziomek that didn't frighten me. That said, I have considered a restraining order. I'm not sure if I can get one, but I do not want the Baltimore Orioles going anywhere near him.
Ryan Eades RHP, LSU
If not for the Labrum issue a few years ago I would have very different things to say regarding Eades. If it takes weeks of soreness for the Orioles to get an appointment with Dr Andrews for Dylan Bundy then I do not feel confident in the teams ability to size up Eades medical status moving forward.
Aaron Judge OF, Fresno St
If he stays healthy he's going to hit a lot of HRs. However having suffered through Brandon Warring strikeouts in the minors for sometime now. When I read "Long Swing" I get nervous. When I see a player compared to Nolan Reimold and think about the Orioles drafting that player with a top pick. I picture myself in meadow protected by large fuzzy bears from the hard realities of life. It's a nice place. I'm safe there. Nothing safe about Judge as a pick in Baltimore though. Maybe he fits better in Houston or for the Mets.
I will be rooting for whomever the team drafts tomorrow. Though you can bet I will be watching Blair, Windle and Denny regardless of where they end up. Looking back it's easy to judge past front office personnel regarding the draft knowing who the hits were as well as the many misses. It's harder to judge our current front office as very little time has passed and there is less of a track record. Last year Colin Pouche was the obvious blunder. I am hoping the team doesn't make that mistake again. I'm OK drafting from the high school ranks if your certain of talent. More certain the prospect is willing to sign.
If you disagree by all means respond (Prior to the draft). I want to hear the opinions of others as well.