22 June 2012

Just a note....

...to let you know that, yes, I am still alive.  Believe it or not, scouting the 2013 class has already started eating into a ton of my time, but I plan to get back on the proverbial horse and post some stuff here soon.

If you have article recommendations/requests relating to the Orioles draft class, any prospects, or the MLB club, just drop them in the comments section. Otherwise, I'll let my muse (which is my pet name for Jon) be my guide.

-NJF

17 June 2012

Orioles are rather unique when it comes to double plays

An angle about this weekend series in Atlanta that seems to have missed being discussed is that the Braves and the Orioles represent extremes in one special way: Ground into Double Plays.  The Orioles have had the most GiDPs for most of the season and currently sit at 73, eight ahead of the next hopeful, the Minnesota Twins.  The Braves, on the other hand, seem to be quite adept at avoiding double plays.  By pure count, the Braves are tied with the Red Sox with 40 GiDP for third in MLB.  However, if you calculate the percentage of base runners at first base with less than two outs, the Braves have the leanest GiDP rate in the league.  The following graph illustrates this:


The league average rate is 11.4% of runner on first base with less than two out being involved in a double play.  The Orioles' value for this metric is 15.7%, which is 38% greater than the league average and 2.42 standard deviations away.  The Braves are 23% less likely to ground out in a double play than the league average with a rate of 8.7%.  This story has remained relatively consistent through the first two games of the three game series with the Orioles leading the Braves 5 to 2 in GiDPs.

What is interesting is trying to figure out why the Orioles are much more proficient in inducing these than Atlanta is.  First off, both teams hit about the same amount of ground balls with the Orioles having the 13th highest rate in baseball and the Braves with the 16th highest rate.  If you put any stock in Speed Scores, the Orioles have the least team speed in baseball and the Braves are average.  However, a comparison of speed score with GiDP does not yield much.  For instance, the second slowest team in baseball according to this metric, the Red Sox, have the second lowest GiDP rate.  Fangraphs Base Running metric also does not yield much as the Orioles rate as average and the Braves rate are a fringe first division team on the base paths.

J.J. Hardy has the most GiDPs on the team with 11.  He actually hits fewer ground balls than a league average hitter.  He has always had a variety of players bat in front of him who are not exactly slow (Endy Chavez - 19 times; Nolan Reimold - 14; Robert Andino - 13; Xavier Avery - 11).  Hardy appears to be having bad luck.  He is on pace to shatter his previous mark of 18 GiDP in a season.  I expect him to do better in the future.

The next two players on the Oriole leader list I am less sure about.  Adam Jones is second with 9 GiDPs.  Half of his hit balls are grounders and he has had Hardy and Nick Markakis in front of him (not exactly burners on the base paths).  Third is Andino with 8 GiDPs, which may result from half of his hits being ground balls and having players like Luis Exposito and Chris Davis bat in front of him. 

The Orioles propensity of GiDP may simply be due to lineup construction and the specific attributes of the team's star players.  The Orioles have a number of good players who happen to be unlucky or simply have a greater chance for ground balls.  When this is combined with other good players on the team not having good speed, it can result in a heavy GiDP situation.  The Braves on the other hand have a burner in Michael Bourn and players like Dan Uggla, Freddie Freeman, and Brian McCann who simply do not hit ground balls (33%, 35.2%, and 38%). 

06 June 2012

2012 MLB Draft -- Day 2 Review and Shadow Picks

So, Baltimore had an interesting second draft day, though they went about things slightly differently than did Camden Depot in our Shadow Draft. Baltimore stayed fairly balanced throughout the first ten rounds, beginning with hometown selection Branden Kline (pictured, copyright DiamondScape Baseball LLC), a Frederick native who has spent his collegiate career at UVA. The O's followed a more traditional approach to the draft by mixing-in some signability picks with some upside JuCo and high school selections. The net result, in my opinion, is a very solid collection of talent with five of the selections falling outside my evaluative comfort zone.

Our approach centered on an analysis of the draft class up top (players in consideration for selection at 1:4), the number of players we had rated as Day 1 talents but with strong enough college commitments to drop them in the draft, and an estimate as to how many "expensive" selections we might be able to afford (this, in particular, is heavily dependent on what Gausman ultimately signs for). We came out with the general idea that any top tier high school selections would have to be made early and a portion of the top 10 bonus allotment slots (rounds 1 to 10) would need to be inexpensive college seniors that would sign for around or under $100 thousand in order to free up a little more cash. The specific high schoolers available after Round 3 would determine whether we could grab one, two or three solid college picks in the mid-single digits. I'll post a piece tomorrow morning that mirrors this piece, but covers our shadow picks rather than the actual picks discussed below.

Here is a quick set of notes covering Baltimore's actual selections today rounds 2 to 10. We'll have more in-depth reports on these players, and some of those selected in rounds 11 to 40, between this week and next:

2nd Round, Branden Kline (rhp, University of Virginia)
As mentioned in our draft preview piece covering local talents, Kline made the jump from reliever to starter this year.  Prior to 2012, the righty utilized a high-effort but utilitarian wind-up, moving to a crouched set and delivery from the stretch. As is the case with many (most) UVA starters, Kline moved to a crouched approach in his wind-up this year, as well, with mixed results. Kline's low-90s fastball and power slider can miss bats, but his new crouched delivery, married with a high arm slot, regularly drives balls up and out of the zone and makes it difficult to spot his secondaries. If Baltimore is willing to break down and rebuild his mechanics, he has the raw talent to mold into a potential mid-rotation starter. Otherwise, he's likely destined for the pen, where he could top out as an 8th inning guy.

3rd Round, Adrian Marin (ss, Gulliver Prep. School, Miami, Fla.)
Marin, a University of Miami commit, likely profiles best as a second baseman or center fielder due to his straight line foot speed, average arm strength and below-average power.  Marin shows quick hands in the box but puts together inconsistent showings due to some quirks in his swing mechanics, including some dip in his eye level and a top-heavy cut that makes adjust to off-speed problematic at times. He's an excellent student with a chance to play for the hometown 'Canes, so he may require the full slot allotment to sign -- maybe a bit more.

4th Round, Christian Walker (1b, Univ. of South Carolina)
We discussed Walker in the local talents draft piece, as well, noting his slightly undersized stature for a first baseman and an offensive profile that skews hit tool over power. Walker was one of three players Jon identified in his "three outcomes" study for 2012 (if you ask him nicely, I'm sure he'd discuss it in more detail in the comments section or even a separate piece!). We know Walker understands the strikezone well and is battle tested in the SEC. What we don't know is how well his power tool will develop once he makes the switch to wood and starts squaring off against advanced pro pitching. Jon pegged the 4th Round as the target round for Walker, and while I overruled him for purposes of the Depot shadow draft, this is certainly a solid value pick for the veteran Gamecock middle-of-the-order bat.

5th Round, Colin Poche (lhp, Marcus HS (Flower Mound, Texas)
Poche was down in Jupiter last October with the MSL All-Star squad, gaining a degree of notoriety as a draft-eligible lefty that broke the 90-mph barrier. He's the type of recruit you feel good about as a college coach, lacking the "now" profile you expect to be poached by MLB clubs, but showing enough stuff to help you out in relief early on while eventually growing into a weekend starter role. Provided he signs, he could spend the remainder of the summer with the Gulf Coast rookie squad, tackling Aberdeen next year. Poche isn't likely to be a fast mover, there is solid projection in his body and stuff, and providedd a reasonable signing bonus he should be a nice addition to the lower-levels of the system.

6th Round, Lex Rutledge (lhp, Samford Univ.)
Rutledge caught my attention two summers ago as a relief arm invited to partake in the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team Trials. He was eventually cut from the squad before the final roster was set, but had the opportunity in scrimmage action to show a mid-90s fastball that bumped 97 mph and a hard low-80s 1-to-7 curve (which worked as a chase pitch but which he struggled to command). As a starter, Rutledge sees his velo drop to 88-92 mph range, and below-average control and command further complicates his future as a starter.

7th Round, Matt Price (rhp, Univ. of South Carolina)
A former power arm in the Gamecocks pen, Price has seen his velocity drop over the past two seasons, with his fastball generally a low-90s offering at this point that will still scrape 95 mph. He has thrown in many a high leverage situation for the back-to-back defending national champs, though his future at the professional level is more likely to be that of a low-leverage middle-reliever due to his current quality of stuff. His breaker is a tilty slider that can flash bite and counts as his second fringe above-average offering when paired with his fastball.

8th Round, Torsten Boss (3b/of, Michigan St. Univ.)
Boss isn't quite a "toolsy" player, though he flashes five of them throughout his game. While his 15% walk rake and .323/.443/.497 triple slash line (as of mid-May) jump out as impressive, his stats are buoyed by a heavy starter/reliever split, with Boss walking 24% of the time against relievers and triple-slashing .329/.505/.579 vs. an 8% walk rate and .319/.394/.442 triple-slash against starters. He also shows his pop almost exclusively against righties, with just 3 of his 20 extra base hits (as of mid-May) coming against southpaws. Making a name for himself with homers against St. John's Kyle Hansen and Texas A&M's Michael Wacha, Boss otherwise struggled some against elite pitching, striking out 22% of the time against arms that figured to go in the top 10 rounds, as compared to a 15% strikeout rate on the season. He is a coin-flip to stick at third, and should at minimum be able to provide a little bit of versatility between the hot corner and the outfield. 

9th Round, Brady Wagner (rhp, Grand Canyon Coll.)
Wagner, like Rutledge, is a low- to mid-90s power arm with a hard breaking ball a pension for periodic issues finding the strike zone. Also like Rutledge (and Kline), he has experience both in the pen and as a starter. Baltimore could run him out as a starter and see how far some mechanical tweaks can go in helping him to find some more consistency.

10th Round, Joel Hutter (ss, Dallas Baptist Univ.)
What is likely a cost-saving selection, Hutter is a senior middle-infielder with some outfield experience. As a pro, he likely profiles as a tweener without traditional speed for center field and what can be a fringy arm for the left side of the infield. He'll run into some balls at the plate, but profiles generally as a n org guy, offensively, with some swing-and-miss to him.

Camden Depot Shadow Draft selections (Rd 1 - 10)
As noted above, we went aggressive with high schoolers early and determined there to be room for two college juniors before switching over to easier signs (but also guys we liked).  Additionally, we tried to mix-in a local flavor, per directives of the O's front office. Jon lobbied hard for Christian Walker in the 4th, but was overruled due to my insistence on a higher upside high schooler in the first three rounds today.


Rd 1, Kevin Gausman (rhp, Lousiana St. Univ.)
Rd 2, Tanner Rahier (ss, Palm Desert HS, Palm Desert, Calif.)
Rd 3, Avery Romero (ss/3b, Menendez HS, St. Augustine, Fla.)
Rd 4, Ty Buttrey (rhp, Providence HS, Charlotte, N.C.)
Rd 5, Josh Elander (c/of, Texas Christian Univ.)
Rd 6, Lex Rutledge (lhp, Samford Univ.)
Rd 7, Jeremy Rathjen (of, Rice Univ.)
Rd 8 Zach Cooper (rhp, Central Michigan Univ.)
Rd 9, Michael Boyden (rhp, Univ. of Maryland)
Rd 10, Chris Kirsch (rhp, Lackawanna JC, Penn.)

05 June 2012

2012 MLB Draft -- Gausman stats; Day 2 Targets

The Orioles, with the fourth overall selection in this year's first-year player draft (Rule 4), drafted LSU righty Kevin Gausman (pictured right, copyright DiamondScape Baseball LLC).  Gausman was the top rated player in the draft class on our pref list and our "shadow selection" as well, for the O's.  We'll have an in depth report on Gausman later this week, but for this morning let's take a look at some stats that I'm fairly certain you have not yet read. And if you were wondering, yes, that was me on MLB Network clearly visible in the Kevin Gausman video they were running from the LSU/Arkansas game.

All stats from the regular season:
  • Against players that figure to go out in the first ten rounds of the draft, Gausman had a 25% SO-rate, 4% BB-rate and a 19/3 SO/BB-rate.
  • Gausman threw more than 120 pitches in a game just four times this year and never in back-to-back weeks.
  • Gausman logged just 11.1 innings pitched once passing the 100-pitch mark in his starts.
  • 61% of the batters faced by Gausman either struck out or hit the ball on the ground.
  • 57% of the batters faced on RPI Top 25 teams faced by Gausman either struck out or hit the ball on the ground.
  • 68% of the batters faced for the third time or more during the same game (3+ times through order) by Gausman either struck out or hit the ball on the ground.
  • Batters in the 1 through 5 slot hit .218 against Gausman.
  • Gausman allowed two homeruns over 100.2 innings pitched, neither with runners on base.
  • Gausman averaged less than four pitches per batter faced (3.7).
  • Gausman had a 26/1 SO/BB-rate facing batters between pitches 76 and 100, and a 1.88 GB/FB-rate during those same at bats.

Gausman video:
From my trip down to Baton Rouge this spring...


Some targets for Day 2:
Here are some players to look at from rounds 2 through 15, which will be covered on Day 2 of the Draft. We'll have a full wrap of Baltimore's selections, and our Shadow Draft picks, tomorrow morning. Happy Draft Day 2!

2nd to 5th rounds
Hunter Virant, lhp, Camarillo HS (Fla.)
Nolan Sanburn, rhp, Arkansas
Mitch Brown, rhp, Century HS (Minn.)
Tanner Rahier, ss, Palm Desert HS
Wyatt Mathison, c, Calallen HS (Texas)
Branden Kline, rhp, Virginia
Ty Buttrey, rhp, Providence HS
Carson Kelly, 3b/rhp, Westview HS
Duane Underwood, rhp, Pope HS (Ga.)
Kenny Diekroeger, 2b/ss, Stanford
Chase DeJong, rhp, Wilson HS (Calif.)
Austin Nola, SS, LSU
Nathan Mikolas, of, Bradford HS (Wisc.)
Christian Walker, 1b, South Carolina
Steven "Paco" Rodriguez, lhp, Florida
Austin Maddox, rhp, Florida



Mikey White, of/2b, Spain Park HS (Ala.)
Barrett Astin, rhp, Arkansas
Edwin Diaz, rhp, Naguabo HS (P.R.)
Lex Rutledge, lhp, Samford Univ.

6th to 15th rounds
Ross Stripling, rhp, Texas A&M
Kevin Ross, Niles West HS (Ill.)
Jeremy Rathjen, of, Rice
Dylan Floro, rhp, Fullerton
Hudson Randall, rhp, Florida
Bralin Jackson, of, Raytown South HS (Mo.)
Josh Conway, rhp, Coastal Carolina
Christian Jones, lhp, Oregon
Hoby Milner, rhp, Texas
Kevin Brady, rhp, Clemson
Xavier Turner, of, Sandusky HS (Ohio)
Blake Brown, of, Missouri
Eric Semmelhack, rhp, UW-Milwaukee
Ryan Ripken, 1b, Gilman Academy (Baltimore, Md.)

04 June 2012

2012 MLB Draft - 1st Round Post

We will be using this entry to serve as our focal point for discussing the draft and, in particular, the Orioles' selection.

Our top five for the draft is:
1. Kevin Gausman, rhp, Louisiana St. Univ.
2. Albert Almora, of, Mater Acad. (Hialeah Gardens, Fla.)
3. Carlos Correa, ss/3b, Puerto Rico Baseball Acad. (Gurabo, P.R.)
4. Mark Appel, rhp, Stanford Univ.
5. Byron Buxton, of, Appling County HS (Baxley, Ga.)

Let's have some fun!

Update: Follow me and Nick on twitter.

Orioles Real Draft: Kevin Gausman, RHP, LSU
Orioles Shadow: Kevin Gausman, RHP, LSU

http://camdendepot.blogspot.com/2012/05/2012-draft-coverage-weekly-pref-list_30.html

Comparison of Draft Talent: 2008 - 2012

Each year there is often a comparison of how this year's draft class matches last year's or some other time before.  Nick Faleris has provided me with a product from his draft notes comparing the players draft day grade versus each other.  For instance, Tyler Matzek's 2009 ranking is based on what it was in June 2009, not what it is now in June 2012.  Below are listed 50 prospects.  The 2011 draft has the most with 15 players on the list while 2008 has 6.  2012 compares favorably with 2009's group.  2012 does not have the elite name like Strasburg, but it does have a pretty solid top 7.


Overall 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
1
Stephen Strasburg


2

Bryce Harper

3


Anthony Rendon
4


Gerrit Cole
5 Buster Posey



6

Jameson Taillon

7


Bubba Starling
8



Kevin Gausman
9


Sonny Gray
10
Tyler Matzek


11


Dyland Bundy
12

Karsten Whitson

13



Albert Almora
14


Blake Swihart
15



Carlos Correa
16 Pedro Alvarez



17



Mark Appel
18
Donovan Tate


19
Zack Wheeler


20


Daniel Norris
21


Taylor Jungman
22


Francisco Lindor
23



Byron Buxton
24 Tim Beckham



25


Archie Bradley
26 Brian Matusz



27

Chris Sale

28

Matt Harvey

29

Nick Castellanos

30



Max Fried
31



Kyle Zimmer
32


Jed Bradley
33


Danny Hultzen 
34


Trevor Bauer
35

Zach Cox

36 Justin Smoak



37



Lucas Giolito
38 Aaron Crow



39
Alex White


40



Mike Zunino
41

Christian Colon

42

Deck McGuire

43

Manny Machado

44

Brandon Workma

45

Drew Pomeranz

46
Aaron Crow 


47



Marcus Stroman
48
Shelby Miller


49


Matt Barnes
50


Jose Fernandez

03 June 2012

Duquette wants to draft local? A list of local players for the 2012 Draft

Last fall, Dan Duquette mentioned that he had interest in building the team up with some local scouting.  The mid-Atlantic is not a hot bed of baseball prospects, but there are some interesting players from the area who are likely to be drafted.  I utilized Baseball America as a source for compiling the names and Nick has supplemented with comments below.

Delaware
Jamie Jarmon, OF, Indian River HS
Raw and athletic. Two sport player who lacks baseball experience. Ticketed for back-to-back defending national champs South Carolina as a part of a strong recruiting class that includes Ryan Ripken (son of Cal).

Maryland
Kevin Brady, RHP Clemson
Brady was an intriguing arm a couple years back coming out of Gaithersberg. After struggling with injuries throughout his career at Clemson, Brady may profile best as a reliever in spite of a workhorse body and three usuable pitches. His fastball plays to the mid-90s in shorter stints.

Josh Conway, RHP Coastal Carolina
Conway played HS ball at Smithsburg HS.  He will have to recover from Tommy John surgery before beginning his career.  Before the injury, he showed a mid-90s fastball and an above average slider. He is almost certainly a reliever as a pro, and a likely sign considering the timing of his injury.

New Jersey
Pat Light, RHP, Monmouth
Light was drafted late when he came out of Christian Brothers Academy.  He now figures to be a top three round pick.  Light utilizes a plus to plus-plus fastball, which he commands fairly well. Both his change-up and slider are workable pitches, though he gets a lot of value out of his slider off the merit of hitters chasing out of the zone. If he can't harness that pitch, he figures to ultimately land in the bullpen where his stuff should compare favorably with Andrew Miller.

Patrick Kivlehan, 3B, Rutgers 
After devoting four seasons to Rutgers football, Kivlehan gave baseball a shot and wound up taking the triple crown in the Big East.  He profiles as an outfielder as a pro, depsite playing third at Rutgers.  There is a chance for some above-average pop, though he has yet to be tested against advanced pitches or with wood.

Pennsylvania
Jared Price, RHP, Twin Valley HS
Price throws a high 80s-low 90s fastball and shows some handle for a curveball.  Inconsistent performance, a less-than-ideal frame, and limitations on spending this year under the new CBA will likely send Price to college (Maryland commit).

Joe DeCarlo, 3B, Garnet Valley HS
DeCarlo put on a show with the Midland Redskins down in Jupiter last fall, fixing his name prominently on the follow-lists of local area scouts.  His calling card is strength (with the arm and with the bat), but he is easily a potential above-average defender at third with good hands and excellent reactions (helping to negate his below-average footspeed.  If he's not signable in the 3rd to 6th round, he'll head to Georgia where he could develop into a top 100 prospect by 2015.

Chris Kirsch, LHP, Lackawanna JC
Kirsch is somewhat comparable to Texas prospect, and former Missouri Tiger, Nick Tepesch.  He is an intriguing prospect for scouts due to his four average pitches (fastball, curve, slider, and change) and solid frame, but area scouts come away from him questioning his desire to make the jump to pro ball. Since turning pro, Tepesch has alleviated those concerns and proven a potential steal as a double-digit pick.  Kirsch has the same potential, and could come off the board much earlier if he's willing to sign.

Christian Walker, 1B, South Carolina
Walker originally hails from Kennedy-Kenrick Catholic HS. He also is a player that was identified by my three trait criteria (contact, power, and strike zone judgement).  He is a good hitter with fringy power for a first baseman, and lacks ideal size for the position (though he handles the three-spot well).  He compares favorably to former Oriole and current Ranger Brandon Snyder (whose brother, Matt, is draft eligible this year out of Ole Miss).

Virginia
Eddie Butler, RHP, Radford
Butler lacks physicality and a consistent average pitch to pair with his above-average to plus fastball. The type of player that area scouts love to push as potential starters, reality most likely places Butler in the pen where he could grow into a groundball specialist.

Branden Kline, RHP, Virgina
Kline graduated from Thomas Johnson High School in 2009 and was a 6th-round selection by the Red Sox.  After showing promise out of the pen through his first two years at UVA, as well as this past summer with Team USA, Kline made the conversion to start in 2012.  He is a power arm with a lot going for him, including the ability to spin a plus slider and a long and lean frame scouts love to see. Unfortunately, he loses a lot of the benefits of that frame due to his crouched delivery and arm slot. A team with the patience to completely break him down and build him back up could get a mid-rotation starter for their efforts. He has the mental make-up to pitch in high-leverage situations out of the pen.

Damion Carroll, RHP, King George HS
Not scouted by Nick.  Low-90s fastball, reliever projection, per Baseball America.

Chris Taylor, SS, Virgina
Taylor is unlikely to hit enough to fill a regular spot on a Major League roster, though his versatility, speed, and soft hands could help him carve out a career as a utility option.  He should go somewhere in the late single-digits as a signable up-the-middle player with good feel for the game.

Steve Bruno, SS/3B, Virgina
Bruno profiles similar offensively to current Orioles prospect and former UVA middle-infielder Greg Miclat as a gap-to-gap bat with little in the way of power but a solid ability to find the ball with the barrel.  He lacks Miclat's speed and feel on the bases, but provides some value as a glove that fits all around the infield. He should come off the board after teammate Taylor could provide solid value as an organizational player with an outside shot at some value as an up-and-down utility play.


Blake Hauser, RHP, Virginia Commonwealth
A graduate from Manchester HS, Hauser shows a low-90s fastball and low-80s slider as his two-pitch combo.  He's a potential middle-reliever at the next level and could come off the board relatively early on Day 2 (Rounds 2-15) to a team looking to save some money.

Jack Wynkoop, LHP, Cape Henry HS, Virginia Beach
While a pitcher rather than a first baseman, Wynkoop shares Ryan Ripken's profile as a lanky and projectable South Carolina commit that could grow into a top draft talent with continued maturation and improvement in body control.  Right now, Wynkoop probably isn't ready for pro ball given his below-average velocity and limited secondary repertoire. As a pro he likely would be limited to multiple seasons in instruction and rookie ball. At SC, he will get a chance to grow in one of the top programs in the country with a prominent stage in the SEC to display his progress to pro scouts.

Josh Sborz, RHP, McLean HS
Sborz put together a nice start for Canes Baseball down in Jupiter, showcasing an upper-80s fastball bumping the low-90s and solid feel for a change-up and a mid-70s curve with 11-to-5 break.  This spring he showed much of the same, lining him up for a 3rd to 5th Round valuation on talent, and likely lower valuation when signability is taken into account.  If he heads to school at UVA he could develop into an early-round arm, and should also get the opportunity to swing the bat some and potentially log time at first base.

RC Orlan, LHP, North Carolina  
A graduate from Deep Run HS, Orlan is a potential lefty specialist with a below-average fastball that plays up due to his ability to create angles.  He may need to focus on his out-of-zone command, as pro hitters will have less trouble squaring-up his fringy pure stuff pounding the zone.

West Virginia
Korey Dunbar, C, Nitro HS
Not scouted by Nick: UNC commit.



30 May 2012

2012 Draft Coverage: Weekly pref list, May 30, 2012

With the Rule 4 Draft scheduled for next week, we are coming down the home stretch and narrowing focus to a final five targets for the Orioles' first round pick (4th overall). Our last pref list was ten names long -- today we shorten to five, with one player set as a "back-up" pick, and four dropping out of consideration completely:

Final Pref List:
1. Kevin Gausman, rhp, Louisiana St. Univ.
2. Albert Almora, of, Mater Acad. (Hialeah Gardens, Fla.)
3. Carlos Correa, ss/3b, Puerto Rico Baseball Acad. (Gurabo, P.R.)
4. Mark Appel, rhp, Stanford Univ.
5. Byron Buxton, of, Appling County HS (Baxley, Ga.)

Back-up consideration:
Kyle Zimmer, rhp, Univ. of San Francisco

No longer considering:
Gavin Cecchini, ss, Barbe HS (Lake Charles, La.)
Deven Marrero, ss, Arizona St. Univ.
Lucas Giolito, rhp, Harvard-Westlake HS (Studio City, Calif.)
Mike Zunino, c, Univ. of Florida

Gausman vs. Appel:
Gausman and Appel were the two most impressive starters on the Team USA squad last summer, my top two college arms coming into the season, and finish as the top two arms in the draft class.  Both have electric stuff, both have areas to improve upon and, most importantly, both have shown some growth over the past 12 months.

Appel has seen an improvement in SO/9 between his sophomore and junior seasons in Palo Alto (a sizable jump from 7.16 to 9.44), with the ability to miss bats being the biggest question mark for the two-year Friday night ace.  While the quality of his stuff has been inconsistent throughout the spring, Appel has finished strong, flashing two plus secondaries (power slurve and change-up) and a mid-90's fastball through most of May. Additionally, Appel has held his velocity late into games and late into the season.  He has front-end stuff, with his ultimate ceiling to be determined by the ability of a developmental program to tease a little more precision and consistency out of him. 

Gausman was the best pure arm on Team USA behind Marcus Strohman (Duke Univ.), breaking the triple-digit barrier multiple times on the radar gun and showing flashes of a quality curve and slider. This spring he has focused a little more on the fastball/slider/change-up combo, reserving the curve for particular occasions requiring a change of the hitter's eye-level.  A high-ceilinged arm with mechanical inconsistencies when he arrived in Baton Rouge, Gausman has been shaped by Coach Mainieri and staff into perhaps the best Friday night starter in the country.  In my last look-in this spring, Gausman showed two future plus pitches with his slider and change-up, and a future plus-plus fastball that hit 97 mph in his last inning of work.  As one AL cross-checker stated upon Gausman's exit from the game, "You win championships with arms like that." 

Like Appel, Gausman profiles as a front-end arm, but there is a little more athleticism in the LSU righty and a little more room for growth. Gausman tends to produce a greater number of groundballs than does Appel, in no small part because of a tougher pitch plane and greater ability to create angles with his pitches. These two are highly talented arms, but both the scouting and the advanced statistical breakdowns favor Gausman as the slightly better investment.  Gausman finishes the year as the top arm in the draft and the top prospect on our preference list.

The prep position players:
Earlier this month I broke down Almora and Buxton in detail, with Almora's combination of ceiling and probability beating out Buxton's sky-high potential.  The third prep position player we would have in the mix for Baltimore is Puerto Rican infielder Carlos Correa (who ranked third overall on our most recent pref list, behind Gausman and Almora).
Correa entered the year as an easy top 15 talent for me, with much of his value built off of strong showings in October and January in the tournament and showcase format, respectively. Already a sturdy 6-foot-3, 185-pounds, Correa has a broad frame that projects to another 20-pounds or so (perhaps a bit more). Couple the body with what is currently average range and quickness in his lower-half and you get a high likelihood that Correa will find his way over to the hot corner during his journey through the minors.  His hands and arm, however, should make him an easy plus defender at third and it is absolutely possible that the arm strength and fluid actions allow him to stick at short in spite of what is likely to be fringy range.  His defensive profile could resemble that of Troy Tulowitzki when all is said in done, though he lacks the first step quickness that allows Tulo to play an above-average short at the Major League level.

Offensively, Correa has a nice blend of projected power and hit tool, which is wholly a product of his first rate bat speed and hand-eye coordination.  He has knack for loud contact and has showcased the potential for plus in-game power down the road (he already flashes that raw pop during batting practice).  Assuming the move from shortstop, the best case scenario is a top-tier defensive third baseman with a chance to post triple-slashes of .315/.380/.550 -- easily one of the highest-ceilings in the entire draft class.

While Correa comes with a little more certainty than Buxton, he isn't as tested as is Almora and the difference in defensive value between third base and center field is not insignificant. Ultimately, the decision as to how to comparatively rank Almora, Buxton and Correa comes down to how you value probability versus ceiling. For me, Almora's blend of projection and probability gives him a slight edge over the other two highly talented prepsters and lands him second on the Camden Depot pref list. The Orioles would be fortunate to introduce any of the three to their system.  It's a nice situation this year wherein little separates the top five talents in the draft, as Baltimore is guaranteed a choice between at least two of them.

A not-quite-ace in the hole:
Though the numbers indicate that Baltimore will have a guaranteed shot at one of the top five talents in the draft, it's important to have a fallback in case of the unexpected.  San Francisco's Kyle Zimmer is a small step behind the two college arms listed above and can serve as that back-up if cost enters the picture.

This could come about under two scenarios. The first is a case where the two remaining top 5 talents indicate signing bonus demands well ahead of Baltimore's valuation.  While the O's are allotted $4.2 million to spend on this pick, the profiles of the available players would generally come in to the $2.75 to 3.25 million range, which would leave some extra money for Baltimore to spread out across the rest of their picks.  If advisors push this tactic -- treating the allotments as new "recommendations" for bonus amount -- it could make sense to revert to a fallback.

Likewise, even if the top 5 talents float reasonable signing bonus requests, it could make sense to sign a the fallback option provided the drop in value on the pref list is less than value of the money saved. That is, if the aggregate of your first and second round selections is better with a slightly lower value pick in the first and a much higher value pick in the second (say $2.5 spent in the first and second as compared to $3.5 spent in the first and $1.5 spent in the second), it's a scenario worth exploring.

The only name that fits the bill this year would by Zimmer.  He has similar upside to Appel and Gausman, but lacks their refinement. He has also seen fluctuations in his velocity and the quality of his stuff from game-to-game and at times from inning to inning. He is highly athletic and has a skill set that profiles well for a good developmental group.  The same, he hasn't been tested over the course of a long season and it is unclear where his stuff will ultimately sit once he's throwing every five days over the course of a six month season.

See for yourself:
For today's draft video, here's a look at our remaining pref list, one video a piece. Later this week we will link to my full detailed reports, which will be publishing at DiamondScapeScouting.com (and will include multiple videos for most of these players):

Gausman


Almora


Correa


Appel


Buxton