Like many on the East Coast, my wife and I have been kept from our Sunday errands by the massive amounts of snow covering the ground. So, with some down time this afternoon I was left to daydream on the draft. My thoughts eventually brought me to this -- were the draft tomorrow, how would the first ten rounds ideally go down for Baltimore?
I thought about the likelihood of a general draft budget for Joe Jordan to operate under (I kept coming to around $9million -- note that I don't know he's actually given a specific amount). I considered the fact that Baltimore lost it's second round pick when it inked reliever Mike Gonzalez (potentially more money to spread to fewer picks, but fewer picks to bring in talent). And I thought about the players that are draft eligible for this year's Rule 4 draft (this was the easiest, as I'm working on my pre-season positional rankings over at PnRScouting.com and have these talents on my mind quite a bit already). So where did I arrive? At the end of the day, I think there are currently two elite talents in the draft, and if Baltimore has the opportunnity they are best served paying for those talents.
Quick step through my current "dream draft" for the Orioles as of December 2009 after the jump...
1:3 Jameson Taillon, RHP, The Woodlands HS (Texas) -- I think it's highly unlikely Washington passes on Bryce Harper, at this point. That leaves one elite talent in my book, as I have Taillon ahead of other stud prep arms like Cole and Whitson, and college arms such as Ranaudo, McGuire and Pomeranz. Pittsburgh went slot in the first last year to allow for more room to spend later, and my "dream draft" would have them doing it again in 2010. Taillon gives BAL a prep talent with a big league body (6-7/235) and big league stuff right now (his mid-90s fastball and 2-plane power curve could get out big league hitters right now). He'll likely get a large bonus, but if he's around Baltimore takes him in my ideal draft. Estimated Bonus, $5.5million; Total Spent, $5.5million.
2:3 No Pick -- To Braves as compensation for signing Mike Gonzalez. Total Spent: $5.5million.
3:3 Marcus Littlewood, SS, Pineview HS (Utah) -- Littlewood is a switch-hitting prep shortstop with good athleticism and clean actions in the field. He's a good bet to stick at short as one of the steadier fielding shortstops in the prep ranks. He's a strong addition to an organization very weak up-the-middle. Estimated Bonus, $450K (a little over slot); Total Spent, $6.0million.
4:3 Tyler Holt, OF, Florida State Univ. -- Holt has very little in the way of power, but he possesses terrific on-base tools, including an advanced understanding of the strikezone and good speed. There are some questions as to his whether or not his arm and instincts will play in centerfield, but I'm confident they will. He could profile as a top-of-the-order bat with gap power and solid centerfield defense. Estimated Bonus, $375K; Total Spent, $6.38million.
5:3 Nick Pepitone, RHP, Tulane Univ. -- Pepitone is a big-bodied ground ball machine that projects as a bullpen arm. This past summer with Team USA, Pepitone lead the team with an .045 Batting Average Against and a minuscule WHIP of 0.477. He went 14.1 innings pitched over the course of the summer and didn't allow an extra-base hit. Estimated Bonus, $200K, Total Spent, $6.58million.
6:3 AJ Vanegas, RHP, Redwood Christian HS (Calif.) -- Noting I have NO inside knowledge of the matter, Vanegas's commitment to Stanford and strong academic profile could cause him to hold out for top 2-rounds' money in order to convince him to skip his collegiate years. The righty has potential top 60 overall stuff, but the sheer number of talented high school arms in this year's class could cause some teams to shy away from potential tough signs. Ideally, Baltimore finds an arm like this that drops and snatches him up here. Vanegas profiles as a mid-rotation starter with a low-90s fastball and a downer curve effective in and out of the zone. Estimated Bonus, $900K, Total Spent, $7.48million.
7:3 Colin Bates, RHP, Univ. of North Carolina -- Bates spent 2009 in the Tar Heels bullpen but could get a shot at the rotation in 2010 with the loss of Friday starter (Alex White, Indians, 1st Round) and Sunday starter (Adam Warren, Yankees, 4th Round) last June. A 37th-Round selection by Oakland last year, Bates returns as a redshirt junior and will look to potentially raise his value as a starter. He flashes low-90s velocity with some boring action on his fastball and a solid slider. He'll need to show he can maintain his stuff late in a game in order to stick as a starter, but could otherwise be a useful arm in the pen. Estimated Bonus, $200K, Total Spent, $7.68 million.
8:3 Blake Kelso, 2B/SS. Univ. of Houston -- Kelso isn't known for his bat, but he takes to the plate an advanced and controlled approach (walked more than he struck-out last year) and profiles as a solid glove at second base. He has solid speed but needs to improve his reads on the bases to become a threat to steal as a pro. With a couple of over-slot picks earlier, Kelso serves as an inexpensive sign that could add some depth up-the-middle in the minors and potential slot in as a utility guy. Estimated Bonus, $125K, Total Spent, $7.93million.
9:3 Jake Rodriguez, C, Elk Grove HS (CA) -- Rodriguez doesn't profile enough with the bat yet to warrant an early-round selection, though he's one of the better defensive catchers in the prep ranks. He has played on the showcase circuit for some time, and is comfortable handling talented arms -- I grab him here and sell him on the difficulty he faces facilitating his baseball growth at Oregon State with uber-freshman backstop Andrew Susac set to take over as the starting catcher in 2010. Estimated Bonus, $175K, Total Spent, $8.11million.
10:3 Matthew Price, RHP, Virginia Tech (Sophomore) -- Price is a projectable sophomore-eligible righty capable of getting to the low-90s with his fastball and generally sitting upper-70s with his slider. Consistency of stuff will determine how high he's selected in June, but Baltimore should have plenty of coverage with Virginia Tech so close, and it wouldn't surprise me to see Jordan make a selection like this, looking for good value by jumping on a talent before all the pieces have quite clicked. It'll take some extra jingle to sign him away from his last two years at Va. Tech, but there's good upside as Price was roundly considered one of the more intriguing arms on the Cape this summer when throwing his low-90s gas and solid slider out of the pen. As he adds strength, he could gain enough durability to maintain that stuff as a starter. Estimated Cost, $450K; Total Spent, $8.56million.
Summary: If Baltimore were able to sign each of these nine picks, my guess is there is room for at least one significant over-slot signing later on in the draft. As far as the haul described above, Baltimore would have achieved the following:
1. Added a true elite draft talent on par with the likes of Matusz and Wieters (Taillon, 1:3). He's advanced enough to catch-up to the Hobgood/Bundy group likely headed to Delmarva (A) this summer and profiles as a true ace.
2. Added depth up-the-middle with a potential future starter to above-average shortstop in Littlewood (3:3) and a solid second-baseman in Kelso (8:3). It doesn't fix the system, but it chips away at the dearth of middle-infielders. Kelso should sign quickly and could allow Baltimore to take an extra year with Hoes's development at the Delmarva (A)/Frederick (A-Adv.) levels, if needs-be.
3. Jake Hernandez (9:3) slots in as an experienced d-first catcher to climb the system with the talented group of Taillon, Hobgood, Vanegas (6:3) and Bundy.
4. "Safe"ish picks of Holt (4:3)/Pepitone (5:3) should be good bets to provide Major League value with upside of solid regulars, and perhaps more.
5. Bates (7:3)/Price (10:3) represent high-upside picks with some risks. Both could develop into solid starters or provide potential back-end value in the pen with more consistency in their stuff. Each qualifies as a power arm, which I'm always excited to bring into the system.
So, it's way too early for any of these thoughts to matter too much -- some players will get injured, some will raise their stock and others will fall some. But I think there's always value in taking stock of where a draft class currently sits, as well as strategizing as to how best to tap into the collection of talent. In the end, I've passed a couple of hours putting these thoughts down, stayed warm with the snow swirling outside and given you a glimpse into the types of selections I'd like to see Baltimore make come June.
Stay warm; speak to you again, soon!