Analyzing Day One of the Baltimore Orioles 2017 MLB Draft
Every year, teams use the upcoming MLB Draft to stock their respective farm systems with new talent that they think they can develop, with a few hopefully affecting the major league ballclub in some way. The Baltimore Orioles are no exception to this.
After taking three collegiate arms with their first three picks in last year’s draft (Cody Sedlock, Keegan Akin and Matthais Dietz), the front office was once again reportedly focused on college players, with Dan Duquette even pointing out on-air that Amateur Scouting Director Gary Rajsich was focusing on “what pitchers could help them” in the upcoming 40 round marathon.
However, to the surprise of many, the Orioles opted for two high schoolers with their first few draft picks, and boy did they get quite the “Hall” (sorry).
Let’s analyze what went down for the Orioles on Monday night and what it means for the team moving forward over the next few days and into the summer.
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#21 Overall Selection: LHP D.L. Hall, Concordia Lutheran (Texas) HS
The Situation: With the first ten or so picks seeing the consensus top players being selected, the Orioles were probably wondering what guys may start to fall as they got through the middle of the opening round? Going into the draft, it was expected that the team would look for either a college arm or bat. However, proven college pitchers like North Carolina right-hander J.B. Bukauskas, Florida starter Alex Faedo and Oregon lefty David Peterson were all selected before the O’s were on the clock. There were also a few college position players who were snatched up in the 11-20 range too, like Missouri State’s Jake Burger and Kentucky’s Evan White, both of whom would have been great fits in the Orioles farm system.
So with a few college targets off the board, what this meant was that a high school lefty was up for the taking by the time the 21st selection rolled around. Hall was expected to go in the mid-teens, with draft analysts projecting him to go as high as 13 to the Miami Marlins. However, the Orioles took advantage of this little bit of a slide, and probably had to adjust its draft plan on the fly because of the unexpected development. Still when you can walk away with a potential middle-of-the-rotation starter in the first round, a pitching-starved franchise like the Orioles probably won’t complain too much.
Scouting Report: The 18 year-old likely future Oriole will most assuredly start his pro career rather than head to Florida State with the amount of money the club is going to offer. At just 6’0’’ feet, 190 lbs., Hall has a projectable body and flashes plus athleticism when he’s on the bump. He can also maintain a low 90’s fastball with a quick and loose arm that projects to add more velocity as he continues to mature in the years to come. Hall flashes an above-average breaking ball and changeup, but with his lack of experience, you can guess that he still needs some work in this area. But considering his athleticism and natural arm movement, it looks like he should be able to improve his secondary stuff. Hall also has the ability to fine-tune his command pitching every five days as a professional. It’s been a few years since the Orioles took a high school pitcher in the first round, with Hunter Harvey being the last one in 2013. I would say that Hall is a similar prospect in terms of outlook to the Orioles first round selection four years ago. He’s got more upside in his profile than an Akin or Sedlock, but also is just naturally riskier being that he’s so young and most of what’s expected is being projected onto him at this point. I’m going to say that Hall should be slotted as the Orioles top pitching prospect without a doubt and could seriously challenge both Chance Sisco and Ryan Mountcastle at the top of the system if he looks good in limited innings this summer.
#60 Overall Selection: SS Adam Hall, Lucas (Canada) SS
The Situation: After taking a high schooler with the 21st overall pick, surely the Orioles would opt to go with a college player with their second selection? Not so fast, the Baltimore scouting department actually opted for a young shortstop that may not even stick at the position in Canadian Adam Hall. The team bypassed over some college arms and bats that were selected shortly after like pitchers Morgan Cooper of Texas and Wil Crowe of South Carolina, as well as anaccomplished college hitter in Arizona’s J.J. Matijevic. The Orioles also passed over still available hitters on high profile college teams like K.J. Harrison of Oregon State and TCU’s Evan Skoug. It was another surprise from a draft that didn’t unfold the way many Orioles followers expected.
Scouting Report: Like his fellow Hall, Adam is a raw prospect that currently has much more projection than his fellow Oriole draft pick. Listed at 5’11’’, 165 lbs., the recent high school graduate has the body to project as a shortstop, but MLB Pipeline states that Hall, would “make an outstanding second baseman, and has the arm for third base.” This is if he can’t stick at short long-term. Being so frail for his height, Hall has the frame to add weight and become at least somewhat of a power threat with the bat. His hit tool is in front of the power, but he’ll need to make a few adjustments as he transitions to facing much better pure stuff not only moving to the minor leagues, but moving to another country. We’ve seen the Orioles have success with another high school infielder whose defensive position was questioned in Ryan Mountcastle. I’m going to say that the now top Orioles prospect has more upside with the bat than the Orioles newly-drafted middle infielder, but Hall is said to be better with the glove.
#74 Overall Selection: LHP Zac Lowther, Xavier
The Situation: Here is the low-risk college hurler that many people expect when the Orioles go into the MLB Draft. Unlike Keegan Akin, who came out of college with less career stats and more stuff, Lowther is coming into professional baseball with the exact opposite. The team needed to select a fast-track type pitcher at some point in the early rounds and they got their man in Lowther, while passing over some higher upside options on the college pitching pitching front. Although, it’s hard to blame the O’s for snatching a productive college hurler considering how quickly sure-fire college pitchers were being selected.
Scouting Report: Watching Lowther at Xavier can make you scratch your head at just how he’s putting up such monster number during his junior season at Xavier. In the regular season, the lefty pitched to a 2.92 ERA, while striking out a ridiculous 13.3 batters per nine innings. For a guy that throws 87-89 and lacks plus command, there just must be something about his delivery that makes it tough on hitters to pick up his pitches. He also throws a change and a curve, but neither of those can be projected as anything more than average offerings. It remains to be seen if minor league hitters will have more success at barreling up Lowther in the years to come, but I have my questions about how his below-average pitching arsenal will play at Bowie or Norfolk.
Looking Forward to Day 2
Rounds 3-10 will kick off at 12:30 today on MLB.com, and there is still a lot of talent to be had over the course of the day. It should be noted that all these players the Orioles select will be subjected to the draft pool that every Major League franchise follows based on how many picks they have and where these picks are slotted. It’s always interesting to see where teams could cut deals in order to spend more on some of their higher-priced high school selections.
This is just one of the storylines to follow if you’re a fan looking to see what players the team is bringing into the minor league system. Third round pick Austin Hays looks like a real keeper in the outfield, so we’ll see if the O’s front office can strike gold again with a few picks On Tuesday afternoon.
Most likely, there is going to be a focus on college players, mostly being pitchers as Dan Duquette indicated because the team already selected two high school players. You’ll also likely see a few seniors get taken because that can save the Orioles money on spending for their high school selections who have considerably more leverage because they can threaten to go to school instead.
Pitching should remain the focus throughout the day considering that is where the farm system is lacking, with a few proven college bats hopefully thrown in.
Day two of the MLB Draft is certainly not as sexy as the first round, but a lot of scouts make their living on the impact guys they find in this area of the process. Make sure to be on the lookout tomorrow morning for my full breakdown of what the Orioles did on day 2 and a look ahead to the final day of the Orioles 2017 MLB Draft.