Dylan Bundy (rhp, Owasso HS, Owasso, Okla.) Bundy was viewed by many, including us, as the top prep arm in the draft class, and one of the best overall draft-eligible arms. This selection was roundly applauded by the trade journals and national publications covering the amateur draft, as well as the talking heads at MLB Network and ESPN. Bundy lacks prototypical size, but is plenty strong and utilizes sound mechanics and an advanced approach to the craft. Along with Gerrit Cole, the Oklahoma ace sat on draft day as one of the only true potential #1 starters available. Our full report on Bundy can be found here. While we ended-up going in a different direction in our Shadow Draft, this is a strong pick and a nice pairing with last year's 1st Rounder, Manny Machado (ss, A Delmarva)
Anthony Rendon (3b, Rice Univ.) With our unprotected pick (pick given in exchange for our 2010 Shadow Draft pick, Karsten Whitson, not signing) we tabbed the #1 prospect on our board -- Anthony Rendon. The Rice third basemen struggled through the spring with a sore shoulder, limiting him to DH duty. Time will tell if his down power output in 2011 was a result of the shoulder, being pitched around, the new BBCOR bats, or some combination. In the end, the upside was too great to pass on, as "Tony Rendoni" represents elite upside in the safest cross-section of draft-eligible players -- college position players -- and also addresses an organizational need. Our full report on Rendon, including several in-game videos, can be found here.
Derek "Bubba" Starling (of, Gardner Edgerton HS, Gardner, Kan.) We stayed with upside with our protected pick, grabbing perhaps the highest-ceilinged talent in the entire draft. Starling has split his attention between three sports (this year, just football and baseball) and is less refined than his contemporaries at the top of our preference list. Despite limited focus on baseball, he stood out among the top high school talents through last year's scouting circuit, and represents a true potential five-tool talent capable of plus defense in center field and true plus tools across the board. This is a roll of the dice, but our feeling was that Baltimore needs impact talent more than anything, and pairing Rendon with Starling gives the O's a shot at the two top positional talents available. Because Starling is a two-sport player, his bonus will likely be broken down over five years, which should allow us to target one or two more over-slotters later on. Our full report on Starling with lots of video can be found here.
Jason Esposito (3b, Vanderbilt Univ.) Esposito ended his 2010 season at Vandy as an early 1st Round favorite, but struggled some manifesting power with wood through the summer with the USA Collegiate National Team. He shifted off of shortstop this spring and fit nicely at third base, showing solid hands, enough range and a strong and accurate arm. The big question mark for Esposito will be his ability to square-up advanced pitching, and in particular good velocity, with wood. Tony Pente at OriolesHangout.com reported that Scouting Director Joe Jordan feels confident that bat speed will not be an issue (with a focus on "going the other way" the culprit in his uneven performances last summer and this spring). If he hits, he has the potential to provide 20-25 homeruns a year and solid defense at third.
Dillon Howard (rhp, Searcy HS, Searcy, Ark.) With Daniel Norris (lhp, Science Hill HS, Johnson City, Tenn.) and Dillon Howard on the board, we couldn't pass on the opportunity to add another young power arm to our system (keep in mind we drafted Zack Wheeler and Brody Colvin in prior Shadow Drafts). Howard throws a bowling ball of a fastball, showing bore and producing soft groundball contact. His change-up, at its best, is in the discussion for best prep off-speed behind Tyler Beede, and the projectable frame gives some comfort that he'll get even stronger as he continues to mature -- lessening the chance that the longer pro seasons will negatively impact his stuff. Howard will be a tough sign, but we estimate around $1.5 to 2 million could get it done.
Mike Wright (rhp, East Carolina Univ.) Wright is a big bodied groundball machine, firing a 89-92 mph sinker and a low-80s slider with average bite. Over 100 IP this spring, Wright allowed just two homeruns -- we'll see this is a theme for Baltimore this year. The Orioles clearly see Wright as a potential starter and he has the size to endure a long pro season. His arsenal is currently light for a pro starter, but his fastball/slider combo will be enough to live on through A-ball, giving him time to refine his change-up or look to add an off-speed in another form, such as a splitter. This is a slight reach in our opinion, but if Jordan and company are correct in viewing Wright as a starter, they could be landing a true #3/#4 on the cheap.
Logan Verrett (rhp, Baylor Univ.) Verrett didn't thrill this spring, and didn't get much ink in the national press. But the Baylor righty was solid and continued to show the three-pitch mix that projects well to a pro rotation. He can miss bats with both secondaries (change-up and slider) and will scrape 94 mph, sitting more regularly 89-92. He lacks Wright's size, and his fastball, but has a more well-rounded complement of offerings. His ceiling probably isn't any higher than Wright's, but he may have a slightly better chance of reaching it.
Kyle Simon (rhp, Univ. of Arizona) Simon throws from a low, almost side-armed, slot, relying primarily on a fastball/change-up pairing. Like Wright, he is a big-bodied righty with some arm strength and a chance to start if things break right. Inconsistencies in his release and his low-angle make it difficult for him to command his slider right now -- improving that offering will be key in determining whether or not he ultimately ends up in the pen. Like Wright, he's tough to lift because of the sink on his heater and his change, allowing him to go 128.2 IP while allowing just two homeruns. He doesn't miss may bats right now, but the hope is that he will once he finds a more consistent breaker.
Charlie Lowell (lhp, Wichita St. Univ.) Lowell is an arm-strength lefty with a solid slider, sitting low-90s with his fastball and touching 95 mph. He comes with deception and creates a tough angle on his pitches. We view him as a likely bullpen arm with enough size and stuff to make it to at least Double-A as a part of a rotation. If he can find consistency in an off-speed offering, he could stick as a back-end starter.
Matt Taylor (lhp, Middle Georgia Coll.) A Jordan special, Taylor is a JuCo arm with some velo and some projection in his stuff. Taylor likely profiles in the pen, where his upper-80s to low-90s fastball might see a bump in shorter stints. His change-up is workable and will even show flashes above-average, but the secondaries are a step behind. At the time of the draft we considered Taylor an over-slot sign due to his opportunity to join the Georgia Bulldogs next year and further improve his stock. But the Orioles proved us wrong, inking the lefty this past weekend. Taylor doesn't wow you, but he is a solid upside lefty that could provide solid innings in a pro pen or potentially develop into a back-end arm with mid-rotation ceiling if a pro development staff can help him get more out of his secondaries.
Matt Skole (3b/1b, Georgia Tech) Skole's best assets are his head and his raw power. He is a savvy hitter, commanding the strikezone well and showing competency in hitting-where-pitched. The Tech third baseman is likely not long for the hot corner, however, which will put pressure on his bat to tap into the plus raw power he possesses. His swing and approach is geared more to the gaps, but our hope is that some adjustments in pro ball will allow him to generate a little more loft. He could be a bit of a tweener, but after missing out on Cody Asche by a dozen or so picks, we felt we needed to grab a corner bat and Skole was a nice fit.
Rounds 1 through 5: Summary
Essentially, the comparison between the Orioles's draft and the Depot's draft will come down to how the kids up top perform. Assuming Bundy, Rendon and Starling all sign, the pairings we'll be watching will be Bundy/Machado vs. Rendon/Starling. While we love the upside of our picks, there are questions with both Rendon (health) and Starling (refinement), making it difficult for us to trumpet our selections over Jordan's. Where we did surpass Baltimore's approach, I think, is in the 2nd Round, where we grabbed another 1st Round calibre talent in Dillon Howard. Time will tell if he signs, but provided he does he will be another entry into our growing low minors talent base.
Outside of the first two rounds, the Orioles did an excellent job of identifying players with solid upside and high floors. There is a little more potential swing-and-miss for us with Skole and Lowell, but ultimately we think the Depot Shadow Draft was well balanced through the first five rounds. Tomorrow we'll look at Rounds 6 through 10, including two examples of Scouting Director Joe Jordan reading the draft pool noticeably better than us.