With the college season a few weeks in, some have been asking me who it is that I am following for the Orioles selection at 1:4 in the 2011 draft. First, I think it is good to recognize that there really are no draft boards right now in the scouting departments. There are pretty much lists, the ranking comes later . . . much later in the process. For this post, I'll throw up a list of my top ten players to follow, so you don't make weird comments like Harold Reynolds last year when he said he would draft Manny Machado over Bryce Harper. John Hart said he would prefer Taillon over Harper, which is slightly defensible.
Also, Nick Faleris (Stotle) typically takes these questions on. He is posting much of his work over at Diamondscape Scouting. You should check that out. He is far more accomplished at amateur scouting than I am. I watch far less baseball than he does and I rely on a wide range of scouting reports the deeper I go into the draft. Nick writes scouting reports. Anyway, here is my list:
Anthony Rendon, 3B
Rendon is a rare occurrence. He is a true five tool college third baseman. If he was available last season, I think it would have been quite difficult to pick Harper over him. He is a plus defender with good speed, solid power, and is able to square up on the ball anywhere in the strike zone. His ankle injury last season does not appear to have any lingering affect on him. He should go first or second in the draft this year and quickly rise to the Majors.
Gerrit Cole, RHSP
Cole is the only player I could see taking the one spot from Rendon. Cole and Rendon make up what I consider to be the only elite talents in the draft. The next tier is very good as well, but Cole and Rendon look incredible to me. Cole rides a heavy fastball in the mid-90s, a 4-seamer that can rise to 98, and he also has a nasty slider. I had thought his change up needed some improvement, but reports are that it is a plus-plus offering. I may have been mistaken. His fastball and slider though are excellent pitches that could play consistently at the MLB level right now. I imagine he'll have a quick run through the minors and should see the Majors at the end of 2012 or beginning/middle of 2013. A similar comparison in terms of a path to the Majors would be something like Brian Matusz. You could see a few games at Frederick, a few at Bowie, and then some at Norfolk or Baltimore in 2012.
After the jump, the next tier of players.
Sonny Gray, RHSP
I might be on an island here, but many look at his full effort delivery and his small stature . . . then see a closer in the making. Although it is a full effort delivery, I think it can be repeatable. His stuff is electric with a hard, tailing fastball that he keeps in the mid to low 90s and a plus-plus curve that has movement in two planes. He has had some control issues in the past and many blame the delivery on it, but from reports I have read this year it sounds that control has not been as worrisome. He has also been working on a slider that would give his repertoire a boost in the depth of his offerings. I would be quite excited to land him.
Jackie Bradley Jr, CF
University of South Carolina
I might also be on an island here. Although, he won the most outstanding player in last year's College World Series tournament, there are doubts about how much his skills will play at the next level. His skill set could be described as fringe plus for his tool kit except for his arm and defense which rate plus to fringe plus-plus. He profiles as a CF in the majors with moderate power, plate discipline, and contact. This is not flashy potential, but I think it is one that will be quite dependable. I think he would be a good pick that could slide into CF at Camden Yards when Adam Jones seeks free agency or needs to be pushed into LF.
Taylor Jungmann, RHSP
University of Texas - Austin
Jungmann is safer than Gray and has the potential to be a front end starter. His pitching motion is easier than Gray's as it is not as maximum effort. However, it should be noted that there may be some interest in lengthening his stride as currently it is short enough that he puts extra stress on his shoulder to get his arm to catch up. It may also be a situation where he is a very good prospect and it might be a poor idea to change anything significantly. He has a low 90s fastball and slots his change up similarly to make it an effective offering. Jungmann also has a slurve that is not as sharp as Gray's, but flashes plus with good command. He is another solid arm in this draft class.
Bubba Starling, OF
Gardner Edgerton HS (KS)
Starling has boatloads of potential and will require boatloads of cash. I think it would not be shocking to see him able to command an 8MM signing bonus while not being drafted in the top two. He is an athlete, pure and simple, with a good deal of coaching needed to help him maximize his potential. His hitting needs work. His fielding needs work. However, while in need of all of these tweaks, he dominates his competition on the diamond. I do not doubt he can be coached. However, there is uncertainty in that. The cost it may take to lure him away from a football scholarship might not make me want to pull the trigger on him.
Jed Bradley, LHSP
I tend to value college players and college lefties a great deal. Bradley fulfills both. He throws a fastball in the low 90s and accompanies that with a fringe-plus change up and a good slider. He is the type of pitcher who is a safe bet to glide through the minors and not meet resistance until he faces more polished hitters in the Majors. He has a good strong body and a motion without any red flags for me. I'm hoping to see him in person when I make it to Clemson this year.
Danny Hultzen, LHSP
University of Virginia
Hultzen is a highly polished pitcher with fringe plus offerings. I do not think there is much projection left in his pitches with the exception of his change up. He shows good feel for it and it might qualify as a future plus-plus offering. Command is not an issue, but I think he could improve upon his placement and that would improve how he uses those pitches. His dominance so far this season has been largely due to how well he has been able to place his slider. Some like to think if you flash a skill, you own the skill. I'm a little more conservative than that, but do think the possibility is there. Like Bradley, I think he will move quickly through the minors and not be challenged until the Majors. For comparison's sake, I would put Brian Matusz above him or Bradley.
Matt Purke, LHSP
Texas Christian University
I think Purke is one of those lefties who becomes overvalued. I think he is a thrower who slings the ball. This should give him a lot of horizontal movement which should be deadly against lefties, but wind up with a decent number of hit balls for righties. Some pitchers are able to be quite effective slinging the ball, but I think it adds a layer of difficulty that is not going to be equal to the cost he will likely demand. I'd want a pitcher who misses bats. What I have written above may sound dismissive, it probably is. I do not mean it to be quite so strong. Purke has a mid-90s fastball and a fringe plus vulcan change. No one should discount that. In a lesser year of talent, I would be far more excited as I would not have as many other options to choose from.
Daniel Norris, LHSP
Science Hill HS (TN)
Norris is the second high schooler on my list. He impresses me with a low 90s fastball and what has been reported as a fringe plus change. I have not seen him, but have been told that he has been dialing up to 95, which would make it a plus pitch for a lefty. He also apparently has a good feel for a curve. That is the makings of a solid left handed pitching prospect. I'd like to see more of him.
Big Name Missing . . .
George Springer, OF
Springer has been on pre-season draft rankings ranging from the second to the fifth slots. I see him about ten slots behind those. I agree that he has a great deal of athleticism and potential. However, he is in a sub-elite collegiate conference and struggles mightily with his strikeouts. He should not be so easily disposed of by pitchers at that level. It is a major red flag that spooks me. Good hitters just do not seem to have that issue. So due solely to his approach, I would not likely consider him for the Orioles at 1:4.
A few more for the second round:
Mason Hope, RHP, Broken Arrow HS (OK
Dwight Smith, Jr., McIntosh HS (GA)
Kes Carter, OF, Western Kentucky
Charlie Lowell, LHP, Wichita State
Brandon Martin, SS, Santiago HS (CA)
Brad Miller, OF, Clemson
Dillon Maples, RHP, Pinecrest HS (NC)