Orioles 2019 Draft: Round 2 and Comp Round B
The Orioles have been on the clock for over 7 months, and now crunch time has begun. The draft is a little over two weeks away, and a good portion of the franchise’s future rides on the results of those 36 picks made over three days. Over the next two weeks, I’ll be discussing some of the choices that the Orioles face, focusing in on 1) Round 1 Pick 1, 2) The rest of Day 1, Round 2 and Comp. Round B, 3) Day 2, Rounds 3 through 10, and 4) Rounds 11 through 35.
In my previous article, I looked at the Orioles’ options with the first overall pick. While there are many options, I concentrated on three options: Adley Rutschman, Bobby Witt Jr., and Andrew Vaughn. In using their DRAFT Scores—based on the output of my draft model—I determined that independent of financial concerns, the Orioles should target Adley Rutschman, a player with scores similar to Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, and Carlos Correa.
The thing is, no pick is ever made independent of financial concerns. The Orioles have a little over $13 million to distribute to their first 11 picks. Based on slot values, over 75% of that pool is expected to be allotted to the top overall pick. Now, of course, it doesn’t have to all go to the first pick, as the team can save money for a later pick. Mike Elias has seen this before, with the Astros taking Carlos Correa at number 1 overall on an underslot deal while taking talented high school pitcher Lance McCullers overslot at 41. That the Orioles have picks 1 and 42 in this year’s draft just seems to invite the opportunity for Elias to pull the same play.
However, for this play to make sense a lot of things have to go right. Talented players—usually high schoolers—have to demand high enough bonuses to fall, communication is essential. If one thing goes wrong, you’ll be left with a subpar draft class, which is the last thing the Orioles need.
With this in mind, let’s look at the Orioles’ options in both scenarios, in which the Orioles take Rutschman overall for the full slot price of $8.4 million or where the Orioles take a lower player—say Andrew Vaughn or J.J. Bleday in an extreme savings—and plan for an overslot signee at 42.
Pick 1-1 Signed At Slot
According to the assigned slot value, the Orioles have $1.8 million available for pick 42. To begin narrowing our targets, let’s look at the players ranked between 40 and 44 by Baseball America, along with their DRAFT Score and DRAFT ranking.
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At this point in the draft there’s an supposed to be a run on high school pitchers. Problem is that several of these high school pitchers—particularly Walston and Williams—have some strong commitments to some of the top college baseball programs and they’ll need a little extra financial incentive to get them to break that commitment. Even further, there might be several other players whose scores are higher than this quintet of options. Below, here are two other options that could be available at 42 who fit that bill.
||Class and Pos
All told, taking Walston and Williams off the board due to signability concerns, that’s five options for the pick. Let’s take a look at each of these guys in brief, in order of their DRAFT ranking.
Chase Strumpf: A second baseman out of UCLA, Strumpf has shown strike zone judgement—evidenced by a walk rate near 16.5% over the past two years—and power—career ISO north of .200—out of a 6’0″ 200-pound frame. That power can go to the opposite field, but his profile is not exclusively clean. He isn’t a strong defender, and his numbers have all backed up from his incredible sophomore season. Despite this, his DRAFT score of 3.04—60% chance of reaching the majors and a 7.4 RAR expected contribution given that he reaches them—pushes him squarely into Comp A round consideration.
Matt Wallner: In his Freshman year at Southern Miss, Walner looked like a sure future first-round pick. At that time, he held much potential, not just for his power at the plate but for his 95-MPH fastball on the mound. However, coming into the season he experienced a forearm injury that limited his throwing ability in the outfield and his swing at the plate. While he has improved as the year has gone on, the injury still brings questions along with his swingplane—generates some bat-to-ball concerns—and likely corner outfield landing spot. Even so, a walk rate over 15%, a career ISO over .300, and a plus arm out of right field is hard to argue with. A probability of reaching the MLB at 56.1% with 6.67 RAR expected once he reaches there yields a DRAFT Score of 2.34, much better than his Baseball America rank of 50 would imply.
Ryan Zeferjahn: When he’s on, Ryan Zeferjahn has the stuff of a first-rounder. His fastball sits at 94-95 MPH, but he can ramp it up to 97 MPH with major life to it. His slider can be plus with good depth, and he flashes a plus changeup. This season alone, he has three 10-strikeout games to his name, including 14 strikeouts against University of Texas. So, what’s the catch? His armslot consistently varies, leading to some extreme control problems. If he figures it out, his ceiling is very high. If not, he definitely has a future in the bullpen. His DRAFT Score comes in at 1.70, with a 37.6% chance of reaching the majors. Assuming he gets to the majors and performs at a playable level, he could be expected to put up 13.30 RAR.
Rece Hinds: While he plays SS for IMG Academy, his 6’4″ 210-pound frame as a high schooler implies he’ll lively be moving over to third base in the near future. That frame allows him to put up 70-grade power, with some scouts pushing him to 80. His hit tool is questionable and his defense needs improving, but there’s definite potential in that bat. At a 30.8% chance of reaching the majors and an expected RAR of 8.95, his draft score of 1.65 lines up fairly well with his Baseball America ranking of 40th overall.
Bryce Osmond: Osmond is a skinny high school righthander with good raw stuff but delivery concerns. Last Summer, the fastball topped at 96 but has fallen to sit at 90-93 since. His breaking pitch was a potentially plus slider, but similarly this pitch has backed up this Spring. Adding some strength to his 6’3″ 180-pound frame may help with this, but the drop off over the past 12 months has some concerned. Despite this, the potential is clearly there, evidenced by a DRAFT Score of 1.45, driven by a 33.8% chance of reaching the Majors and an expected RAR of 14.38 assuming he reaches the Majors and performs well enough.
All five of these options represent viable directions for the Orioles to go assuming they do not go overslot at #1. Generally, these guys are a little undervalued compared to their Baseball America ranking, so that even allows for a little margin for error if Rutschman tries to play hardball at #1. Given my choice, after a generally solid pick like Rutschman I would lean slightly toward a player with a bit higher of a ceiling, albeit despite having extra risk. With this in mind, I really like Rece Hinds or Ryan Zeferjahn at this slot. All told, despite not necessarily possessing as high of a ceiling as some of the overslot options, all these players would be valued additions to an improving but still middling Orioles farm system.
1-1 Underslot, #42 Overslot
If Elias et al decide to go underslot with the #1, this opens up several options for the team. Again, at $1.8 million, the team has several options depending on how under they are willing to go. There are a couple of high school pitchers who are thought to be tough signs, but additionally the Orioles may be able to outbid a few teams if they go underslot enough at #1. Below are a few options for overslot signs, along with the DRAFT Score and Rank, along with how much money the Orioles need to add to their $1.8 million to get to either their known signing demands or the slot bonus for their Baseball America ranking.
Jack Leiter: HS RHP, BA Rank: 22, DRAFT Score: 5.06 (28th), $1.2 million Son of Al Leiter, the younger Leiter has advanced pitchability and one of the best breaking balls and changeups in the high school class. However, his size—6’0″ and 190 pounds—along with his strong commitment to Vanderbilt raise questions about where he will go in the draft.
Kody Hoese: Col 3B, BA Rank: 30, DRAFT Score: 6.70 (26th), $500K Hoese has been on the rise this Spring after mediocre Freshman and Sophomore years. This season at Tulane, he has a ridiculous slash line of .406/.498/.831 with only 23 strikeouts in nearly 250 plate appearances. His previous performance—along with middling wood-bat results—will raise questions, but Hoese’s improvement definitely has scouts taking notice.
Hunter Barco: HS LHP, BA Rank 33, DRAFT Score: 2.05 (42nd), $500K Barco has had an up-and-down prep career, but a few adjustments to his pitching motion have vaulted him to the top of the prep lefthanders. His split-changeup is an effective weapon, and scouts praise his makeup. However, he is a Florida St. commit and expected to be tough to sign.
In most cases, these overslot signings would not make up the drop expected by moving from Adley Rutschman down to any other player at #1. The only possibly intriguing option would be if Andrew Vaughn could be gotten for #3 slot money—$1.2 million less than the #1 slot—and the Orioles put that money towards Jack Leiter. That is a major risk and I would not necessarily advocate for it over Rutschman-Hinds at #1 and #42, but it does give the Orioles another option to consider.
Pick 71: Lots of Options, Little Clarity
At 71, predicting who will be available is a fool’s errand, as teams often have very divergent evaluations by that point. However, there are several players who represent intriguing possibilities, usually with one or two flaws that require fixing. With that in mind, here are four guys with good DRAFT Scores and one intriguing projectable player that have a decent chance of being available and likely wouldn’t require extra financial incentives.
Ryan Pepiot: Col RHP, BA Rank: 100, DRAFT Score: 0.87 (61st) Big righthanded starter with a plus changeup, big strikeout numbers, and a few command issues. Solid relief fallback option if he can’t start.
Nick Quintana: Col 3B, BA Rank: 82, DRAFT Score: 0.86 (63rd) Line drive gap power with room to grow, good baseball instincts in the field, but mitigated by strikeout concerns and concerning wood-bat performance.
Ryan Garcia: Col RHP, BA Rank: 90, DRAFT Score: 0.81 (68th) Nothing is plus in the pitches, but 12.4 K/9, 4.5 K/BB, and 1.88 ERA in the top two collegiate Summer leagues is hard to argue with. Strong chance to reach the majors even if the ceiling is lower.
Zach Hess: Col RHP, BA Rank: 77, DRAFT Score: 0.75 (74th) Been used out of the rotation and bullpen. Out of the pen his fastball touches 100 and his power slider is a weapon. Worth seeing if he can harness the raw stuff in a starting role with a power closer backup plan.
Matthew Lugo: HS SS, BA Rank: 74, DRAFT Score: 0.47 (153rd) Projectable Puerto Rican shortstop with power potential, plus speed, and all the defensive tools needed to stick at shortstop. However, very raw and a long way off from his full potential.
Where do We Go?
All reports indicate that the Orioles are leaning Rutschman, as I believe they should be doing. With that in mind, there won’t be much room for overslot signings beyond a couple hundred thousand dollars extra. For the rest of Day 1 of the draft, I hope the Orioles take some chances on players whose profiles present a little more risk but whose ceilings represent incredible opportunity. Rece Hinds, Ryan Zeferjahn, Ryan Pepiot, Zach Hess, Matthew Lugo, all these players would be a boon to the farm system and have the opportunity to reach incredible heights for the team. Some represent higher risk, some allow for fallback options in spite of the risk. No matter what, Mike Elias and the rest of front office are doing their homework on these and all the other options that this draft class represent, ultimately to the benefit of the team going forward.
In my next article, we’ll be looking at Rounds 3 through 10, looking for the deals that will allow the Orioles to stay in their draft pool while still maximizing their potential talent.
Dr. Stephen Loftus received his Ph.D. in Statistics from Virginia Tech in 2015 and is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematical Sciences at Sweet Briar College. Prior to that, he worked as an Analyst in Baseball Research and Development for the Tampa Bay Rays, focusing on the Amateur Draft. He currently writes at FanGraphs and Baltimore Sports and Life, with previous work available at Beyond the Box Score. As a lifelong fan of the Orioles, he fondly remembers the playoff teams of 1996-97 and prefers to forget constantly impending doom of Jorge Julio, Albert Belle's contract, and most years between 1998 and 2011.