The first pick can set the tone for an entire draft, and for the third straight year the Baltimore Orioles will have a chance to make a strong statement with a Top 5 overall selection. With each of the first five rounds, Jon and I will step through three targets apiece. In preparation for the last five rounds of the Shadow Draft (5th - 10th) we will offer-up two picks a piece. Remember, we are selecting these targets with a general eye towards the needs we identified in the Draft Strategy piece, keeping in mind the players we think will be available in each round.
After the jump, our three targets for the 1st Round...
This is an easy question for me, as my draft board has a fairly distinct cut-off with three talents a notch ahead of the rest of the pack.
Bryce Harper, C, College of Southern Nevada
All signs indicate that Harper is bound for the Nationals system (barring a breakdown in negotiations this upcoming summer). I’m sure you know all about the young phenom already, but the big takeaways are: 1) he tested out of high school two years early to test himself against JuCo competition (so he is a high school junior playing with a wood bat against competition around three to four years his senior); 2) though a catcher now, he has the athleticism to profile at 3B, or worst case RF; 3) he projects to true “80” power (the highest grade on the scouting scale), an “80” arm and an above-average hit tool with average footspeed; and 4) he dominated his competition this spring (stats here). Harper is the clear #1 in the class and if he somehow slips to BAL he should be scooped-up. PnR Scouting Report with video on Harper here.
Jameson Taillon, RHP, The Woodlands HS (Texas)
Though a clear step behind Harper, Taillon is an easy #2 on my draft board. The big Texas righty has a workhorse build (6-7/230) and elite stuff, including two plus offerings now. His fastball sits in the 94-96 mph range and has been clocked by some as high as 98 mph this spring. His curve is a low-80s power breaker that could be plus-plus down the line and already shows 2-plane action and hard late bite. His mid-90s slider is another potential above-average pitch and his low- to mid-80s change is raw but promising (particularly with his arm speed). PnR Scouting Report with video on Taillon here.
Karsten Whitson, RHP, Chipley HS (Fla.)
Some have faultered on Whitson this spring, but I still believe he is the best high school arm behind Taillon by a fair amount. He has now low- to mid-90s heat with a heavy fastball, and a hard slider that can flash above-average to plus right now. Though his landing concerned me some down in Jupiter, reports from the spring have him commanding his offerings well. Even if he isn’t an elite command guy, his raw stuff should play very well in and out of the zone so long as he can generally throw to the quadrants. He has a nice frame upon which to hang some strength and his arm action is fairly easy with only the slightest hint of recoil. PnR Scouting Report with video on Whitson here.
My philosophy as it applies to the draft is diversification. I prefer spread risk over a variety of selections in order to increase the chances of developing Major League talent. This perspective can result in me passing over better talents in order to secure a slightly less talented prospect and retain money to spend on overslotting. This process worked relatively well last year given what we knew. Stotle and I both had Matzek over Wheeler, but we settled in on Wheeler as we put a good deal of faith in the public stance Matzek was taking over his bonus demands and signability. With the extra resources available, we then were able to select fallings talents like Ian Krol and Brody Colvin.
We both agree that Harper and Taillon are elite talents, both worthy of the selection at 1:3. Taillon does pose some risk as he is a prep pitcher who will likely demand a figure north of 7MM as well as a Major League contract. My risk averse side makes me question whether a 40 man roster slot should be secured for Taillon, but I think it is a worthwhile risk. Taillon has a fastball and a curveball that can play at the MLB level right now in a limited role. There is also not much projection left on his frame. He should be a pretty easy pitcher to project. Also, scouting typically does well projecting right handed prep pitchers. With that in mind, if he is available at this slot, I would concur and take him.
After those two, this year has the chance for Stotle and I to argue over the next spot on the board. The third pick is a toss up for me. I agree with the ceiling presented earlier for Karsten Whitson. I think he can be special, but there is a decent amount of development that needs to occur. Likewise, I think well of Drew Pomeranz (LHP, University of Mississippi). Pomeranz lacks the ceiling that Whitson has, but he is a pitcher who should be able to slice through the minors quickly (~2 years) and help out on a Major League squad as a mid-rotation starter. That level of safety is typically not something many want in a top three pick in the draft. The draw is typically for a pitcher who can be a top of the rotation arm. There is a slight chance that with an improvement in command Pomeranz could be that, but I doubt anyone thinks it will happen. The real question comes down to this: who is willing to sign for less? For me their value is pretty similar. As such, I would look to see who would let me throw down money later for falling talent.
Monday (5/31) - Three Suggested Targets (1:3)
Tuesday (6/1) - Three Suggested Targets (3:3)
Wednesday (6/2) - Three Suggested Targets (4:3)
Thursday (6/3) - Three Suggested Targets (5:3)
Friday (6/4) - Quick Hits: Two Targets Each (6:3 - 10:3)
Monday Morning (6/7) - Dream Draft; Orioles Draft Chat (11am - 1pm EDT).