Not as much attention has been paid to the Orioles’ draft this year. Part of that is likely a consequence of the team putting a product out on the field that can give people hope for back-to-back post seasons. Another part of it is, due to the team’s great success last year, that they have the 22nd pick in the draft instead of one in the top five. Simply put, when you are in the top five, you are looking at potentially elite prospects. Anyone can watch those players and see how amazing they look. When you get to the 22nd pick, it becomes more difficult for the lay person to discern differences between current and potential talent levels.
When I look at a draft class, I tend to keep to one approach. Is there a justifiable college position players? If not, find a high ceiling. At the top end of the draft, you will often come into a scenario where the best player available clearly is not a college position player. However, deeper down, it becomes more muddled and I become more comfortable going with college talent. So how do I identify the college talent? I ask my contacts who scout and then look at the grab bag, apply statistics to my level of comfort, and rank them.
1. Colin Moran, 3B (362/493/596; 19.0% BB, 2.75 BB/K, .234 ISO)
Top five pick.
Moran has been one of the statistical diamonds during his college years. He always performs well on the metrics I look at (i.e., walk rate, walk to strikeout ratio, batting average, and isolated power). He has shown a smooth and advanced approach at the plate with solid defense at third. I think he is the safest pick in the draft and is borderline elite. Why do I think he falls short of elite? His power potential has not shown up, yet. I think it will, but it will take time.
2. Kris Bryant, 3B (340/503/860; 22.4% BB, 1.55 K/BB, .520 ISO)
Top five pick.
Bryant is lauded as a top 3 pick. Most evaluators appear to rank him above Moran. This past season, he has shown his power tool and has silenced critics with respect to him being more than just a first baseman (which would hurt because it would place a great deal of pressure on his bat having to play very high…think of Justin Smoak). Nick Faleris actually articulated the concern over Bryant in this premium Baseball Prospectus article (buy a subscription, it is well worth it and pretty cheap). To be brief and to leave much to that article, there are concerns whether the power will continue to show as he progresses up the ranks.
3. D.J. Peterson, 3B (344/472/684; 18.0% BB, 1.44 BB/K, .340 ISO)
Top ten pick.
College position players are pretty heavy with respect to third base this year. However, we are talking about college third basemen, which do not always remain at the hot corner as they mature and more is expected of their defense. Peterson is a bat first guy and one that moves well enough to see himself in left field as a pro. The bat looks special, he has a good approach, and I think he should be a pretty safe selection.
4. Phillip Ervin, OF (337/459/597; 16.6% BB, 1.56 BB/K, .260 ISO)
Ervin is a tweener outfielder. Not quite a center fielder and not quite a left fielder. He is athletic though and shows a solid approach to the plate according to the statistics I am looking at. However, my ranking of him here seems to contrast with the trade journals. I see him as a 10-15 pick, which shows a bit of helium from me (but, honestly, is not that much different from him going 10-15 picks later). Ervin has had some knee and ankle injuries over the years, but I doubt they have any long term impact on his play.
5a. Hunter Renfroe, OF (352/450/652; 13.9% BB, 0.92 BB/K, .300 ISO)
Renfroe might be benefiting slightly from my chances of seeing him play in the summer with Bethesda. He is the only player on this list that I have had the opportunity to see often in person. Renfroe was clearly the best player on the field whenever I saw him and would fit well in right field. At the collegiate level, he showed good contact, power, and discipline. My only concern would be that he was a little too easy to strike out to be called a great hitter. Of course, many a great hitter has struck out a decent amount in college only to be quite successful at the MLB level, but it is a red flag.
5b. Eric Jagielo, 3B (378/494/622; 15.2% BB, 1.06 BB/K, .244 ISO)
Jagielo has slightly more positional use being a potential 3B than Renfroe’s RF. He also looks like he has more power potential in his swing. That said the only thing Renfroe really showed above Jagielo was power, but it was all pretty even. The main reason why he resides at 5b instead of 5a is simply due to my familiarity with Renfroe.
7. Hunter Dozier, SS (434/516/816; 13.8% BB, 0.97 BB/K, .382 ISO)
Dozier should be available to the Orioles in the first round. He might be available to them with their supplemental selection (37th overall). Dozier has shown a solid collegiate bat with great contact, discipline, and power. He may be pushed off short and may not have enough speed to handle 2B and perhaps not enough arm for 3B. I think you play out the infield string with him until you are forced to play him in left where his bat should have value.
8. Aaron Judge, OF (364/457/650; 14.5% BB, 0.66 BB/K, .282 ISO)
I see a great distance between Dozier and Judge. The difference for me is how often Judge strikes out. Additionally, at 6’7″, MLB simply does not have a large number of individuals who have been that tall and become successful. Arms are long and take a while to get the bat through the zone. Additionally, the strike zone is a tad bit larger. In the history of baseball only two players 6’7″ have been successful: Frank Howard (37.6 bWAR) and Tony Clark (12.5 bWAR). With other, relatively equal, options available, do you really want to challenge the historical record?
9. Michael Lorenzen, OF/RHP (320/407/515; 8.4% BB, 0.53 BB/K, .195 ISO)
Lorenzen, like Judge, would be a difficult pick to make at 1:22. He has hit well, but not exceptionally so. The key here would be for his bat to develop to make him a useful corner outfielder. However, he has a somewhat safe floor. Like Mychal Givens, Lorenzen has shown the capacity to throw the ball well. He throws in the mid 90s and has a good breaking ball. It would be difficult to take him solely on his potential as a bullpen arm, but it does decrease risk. I think there will be plenty of arms available to select at 1:22 with more promise than Lorenzen.
10. Austin Wilson, OF (297/394/483; 9.9% BB, 0.72 BB/K, .186 ISO)
Wilson looks like an amazing baseball player. He has not done anything much amazing on the field though. Teams are supposedly tantalized by his potential, but I see not much reason to believe in him. The is an everpresent Stanford refrain when others talk about him (the overblown issue of how Stanford changes batting mechanics and approach), but it is difficult to get a solid list of guys who became something significantly more once leaving campus. I think part of Wilson’s poor production has to be laid as his own doing. As such, I see him as a third rounder.
So, to review. I expect the players in bold to be available when the Orioles pick.
As you could expect, my choice would be Ervin. That said, it is pretty easy to argue for college arms or high upside high schoolers here as well.