05 September 2011

Review of Joe Jordan's Drafts (First Round Selections)

There has been uncertainty as to whether Joe Jordan would continue as the Orioles scouting director for the amateur draft.  His tenure began in 2004 under Flanagan's regime and he has overseen seven drafts for the Orioles.  During his time, the Orioles have not developed into a year in and year out top tier team with minor league talent.  His GMs often left him with lost picks and did not plan well to give him extra picks in the compensation rounds.  It is also difficult to separate responsibility between Jordan's scouting group and the organization's developmental staff.  It does appear as though the team has not done will with targeting or developing the right raw, toolsy position players and the team also appears to have a knack selecting or acquiring pitchers who quickly break down and/or lose velocity.  This all may be chance and the responsibility of development, but some aspect of it likely lies at Jordan's feet.  In this post, we will begin to assess how Jordan performed over the past seven years by focusing solely on the first round.

Jordan walked into the organization from the Florida Marlins in November of 2004 under Mike Flanagan.  He was considered a well respected scout in the Marlins system who could not be promoted beyond his immediate boss Dan Jennings.  In his first draft, Jordan selected an offensive minded high school catcher named Brandon Snyder.  It was a somewhat controversial pick as Snyder was a slight reach, questionable as to whether could remain as a catcher, and he did not profile as an elite bat.  His bat has actually come along as well as can be respected.  He has a smooth solid swing and hits the ball hard.  He has a line drive swing with moderate power.  This would be considered a success if he was able to remain as a catcher, but shoulder injuries pushed him to first base where his offense does not profile him as a starter at the MLB level.  Only 24, he has spun his wheels in Norfolk the past two and a half seasons.  Snyder is unlikely to provide any significant value for the Orioles.

The following selection in that draft was Trevor Crowe by the Cleveland Indians.  Crowe has also experienced periods of success in the minors, a couple injuries, and an inability to transfer it to the Majors.  As a 27 year old, he appears unlikely to show anything new.  The White Sox then selected Lance Broadway whose progress slowed once he reached AAA.  He has now bounced to the Mets system and has shown no ability to succeed as a reliever in the Majors.  Jordan's old team, the Marlins, then took Chris Volstad.  Volstad, as a prospect, has been the most heralded and has seen the most success.  After a solid half season to begin his career, he has gone backwards with an ERA+ in the low 80s over 450 innings.  2005 was a difficult year for players taken at the Orioles selection and the three that followed.

For those who have been frustrated by Jordan's tenure, Billy Rowell's name comes up often.  It should be remembered that Rowell was not a reach.  He was a decent athlete with an incredible arm and a bat capable of light tower displays of power.  The only fear was that as a New Jersey baseball player he had not had the reps or played against high level competition.  These two aspects can hurt a scout in evaluating a player and being sure what he sees is real.  Rowell showed good ability to hit and decent enough defense in rookie ball, but began to struggle as he began to see more advanced off speed pitches in Delmarva and Frederick.  He could still show off his light tower power in batting practice, but it could not transfer over to the game with pitchers actively trying to get him out.  At 22, he could not handle AA pitching at all in Bowie and finished his season with a few at bats in the Gulf Coast League where it had become apparent to all involved that he would not longer be with the Orioles' franchise in the future.

What makes this selection burn more than the Snyder pick is that the toolsy Rowell was selected just in front of Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum, potential top tier pitcher Max Scherzer, and heralded Kasey Kiker.  Only Kiker has sputtered out after getting injured.  To provide context, Lincecum was avoided by many because of his thin frame and unconventional pitching mechanics.  Scherzer was avoided due to some concern with his mechanics, but a lot of concern over his price tag.  As it stands, Jordan was trumped here by two of the three teams.  His hands may have been tied due to financial considerations, but that is not readily apparent.  Again, it should be recognized that Rowell was not a reach.

Jordan had Matt Wieters fall into his lap as the new defunct regime in Pittsburgh took Daniel Moskos the pick before.  There was some concern that Angelos would overrule the Orioles brain trust as he did in 2004 and not allow them to select a player with a large price tag.  However, they did.  More concern followed as Andy MacPhail was hired and indirectly shared sentiment that he would not have selected Wieters.  All that came to naught as a contract was inked and Wieters became one of the best catchers in baseball.  This selection was an unqualified success and Jordan should be congratulated for recognizing that money spent here was better than spreading it out in later rounds.

The following three picks have been a mixed bag.  Ross Detwiler (who many thought the Orioles would select) has been a high quality prospect, but has had his share of injury woes.  Matt LaPorta is a valuable commodity that has yet to effectively display his power potential.  Casey Weathers is an example as to why top draft picks should not be used for relief pitchers.  The upside was limited and he hurt his arm.  His career is now uncertain.  Three years in and Jordan's record has been a push--not bad or good.

This draft was another strong draft for Jordan to select a quality prospect.  This was also the first year that MacPhail publicly announced that the team's philosophy would be to acquire pitching talent in the draft and sign hitters.  The reasoning behind it was that pitchers are less likely to come to Baltimore because wins would be scarce facing the stacked lineups of Boston and New York.  A perfect pitcher was available for the Orioles when Brian Matusz was available.  He was a polished lefty who had a wide range of offerings enabling him to pitch backwards.  Matusz quickly made his way through the minors, but has seen his career derail in 2011.  His velocity has decreased and, always prone to be hit hard, has been hit hard more often.  Only recently has this looked like a poor pick.  At the time, I thought it was the right one.  In fact, Matusz was also selected in our shadow draft.  Hopefully an off season will help correct whatever issue Matusz is dealing with whether it is proper conditioning or something else.

Buster Posey was taken next.  The Orioles shied away from him due to his excessive demands and that the team already had Matt Wieters in the fold.  In hindsight, drafting Posey and sticking him at third base probably would have been the smartest move, but it made since at the time given what we all knew not to select him.  Kyle Skipworth was selected by the Marlins and has had a great deal of trouble developing into something more.  Yonder Alonso went after him and is trying to wiggle into a Reds' lineup where he has no position and his hitting is essentially Ryan Howard light.  All in all, Jordan's work here has been a push.  I think it will be difficult to ever really fail him here.  Matusz undeniably has talent.

This year was the year I began having doubts on the direction Joe Jordan was taking in the draft.  According to various reports, he was faced with a decision between Tyler Matzek, Zack Wheeler, and Matt Hobgood.  Hobgood was a pitcher with little projection, but great performance.  He was rushing up boards with a hard, heavy fastball and a hammer curve.  Jordan was also impressed with Hobgood's makeup.  Tyler Matzek was considered the consensus best player, but his demands and the manner in which he carried himself turned many teams off.  Zack Wheeler was in between it all in terms of potential and makeup.  In the end, Hobgood's character, allegedly, influenced the pick.  From that point onward, Matzek has been shaky, but appears to have lately resurrected his young career.  Zack Wheeler has been astounding and is now in the Mets organization arguably as their top pitching prospect.  Hobgood's character has not exactly transferred over to baseball.  He was not well developed in understanding how to take care of himself physically and then has suffered potentially serious shoulder issues.  Things do not look good for him.

Following his selection, the Giants took the aforementioned Zack Wheeler who has done nothing but succeed in the minors.  The next two picks were safe, polished selections in Mike Minor and Mike Leake.  Both have been useful to their MLB organizations, but more time is needed to get a better handle on how well they will pitch.  Regardless, all three of the following pitchers look vastly better than Hobgood has.  Also, all three were rated on average higher than Hobgood.  I think Jordan may have gotten carried away with a lackluster draft year and trying to look for something that stood out among the draftees.  Instead, he became overly enamored with an aspect of a player (e.g. makeup) that should almost never be the primary reason for selecting someone.  To be clear, much of this is conjecture rooted with a couple sources from the media and a few others with hearsay and a couple more from the horse's mouth.

From my perspective, the 2010 draft was similar to the 2009 draft.  I thought there were two elite talents (Jameson Taillon, Bryce Harper) and a bunched group clearly below.  Most others disagreed and saw Manny Machado also in that group.  Jordan selected Machado and so far has shown that his choice was likely better than our own, Karsten Whitson (Whitson is doing quite well at Florida though).  There is only a season of data to lean on, but it is fair to say that Machado will be a top ten talent next year.  I still fear that he will be pushed to third, but many think he will maintain his ability to play shortstop.

The next three taken were Christian Colon, Drew Pomeranz, and Barrett Loux.  Loux was found to have some structural damage in his shoulder, but has looked good so far.  Drew Pomeranz was looking good and pulled back Ubaldo Jimenez for the Indians before getting hurt.  Christian Colon has looked like an an eventual Major Leaguer, but not exceptional.  As such, I think Joe Jordan did a solid job in last year's draft even with my doubts

At this point, we do not know what this year has brought.  Dylan Bundy is certainly in the conversation for the most valuable player.  So were Bubba Starling and Anthony Rendon, the players taken after Bundy.  It is just too early.

In the seven years Joe Jordan has been leading the draft effort, he has taken a community defensible player every year except his first year in 2005 and in 2009.  Two out of seven years, Jordan went in a direction different from the mainstream.  Claims of signability and peculiar assessments just do not hold water for first round selections.  He appears as above average as a scouting director considering only these picks.

Next...rounds 2-5.


JordanB said...

I'm more interested in rounds 2-5 which you're covering next. The O's have had so many early picks from losing that Joe Jordan is usually narrowed down to 2-3 players to choose from. Rds 2-5 is where O's draftees don't materialize at all whether it's poor drafting or poor development or both.

Catcher of the Wry said...

It's not as hard to choose a first pick -- okay, Jordan's choices make it look a lot harder -- as it is to get talent in the later rounds of the draft. Given the talent in the Orioles system at the moment, I'd have to give Jordan a very low mark. Is there any minor leaguer who appears to be ready for the majors? Can you name one?

Jon Shepherd said...

I'm not sure how you can get that from what I wrote here. Jordan is fine for first round picks and is comparable to his peers.