|Aaron Nardone - Diamond in the Rough?|
Targets for the 90th Selection
I was going through some names with a talent evaluator and he suggested strongly to me that I should be considering the Orioles to go for a mature college player ready to sign. He thought most likely it will be a pitcher based on availability and how the team has acted this Spring. Keep in mind that there has been a lot of talk about how the Orioles are very much thinking about signability. This makes sense because with two fewer picks, there is less wiggle room to fit in eight draftees if your ninth pick is squeezing you.
With that in mind, a college selection makes sense. Here are some possible targets:
6'2" 190 lbs
Ravenelle is a Junior at Vanderbilt and is thought of as quite willing to sign if he gets selected in the top three or four rounds. He has logged 35 innings this year and has been usually almost exclusively as a reliever during his collegiate career. He has shown an upper 90s four seamer, but works more with a low 90s sinker and an at times plus slider. The two big questions facing him are whether he can develop an effective secondary pitch against lefties and how long can his arm be stretched out. He has a strong, athletic body, so there is potential. His sinker should let him start up to Bowie. By that point, several years down the line, he will have need to figure out a third quality pitch.
6'5" 215 lbs
RHP, Notre Dame
Connaughton is very raw Junior who is known far more for his exploits for the Fighting Irish basketball team. However, his frame is not truly NBA quality, which has meant that he has somewhat redirected himself towards baseball. His mechanics are currently a bit of a mess and result in a great deal of wildness. In fact, he has walked more batters this year than he has struck out. That fastball though has flashed in the high 90s and he has shown some feel for a curve. At 6'5 215 and athletic, he may have the ability to be valuable. That said, several reports have suggested that his signing will be highly dependent on him being allowed to finish out his collegiate basketball career. That desire to play hoops could result in him dropping a round or two further. However, it might also provide a chance to save money in the third round and overslot later.
6'0" 210 lbs
OF/RHP, Oregon State
Davis is one of those hedge your bet types of selections. The Junior shows massive power in batting practice that does not completely show up in the games. His bat lofts up, so it does not remain long in the strike zone, which could make it difficult for him to make contact and result in high strikeout totals. His range is poor, but he has a plus arm that would play well in right field. However, if that package fails, that arm could be repurposed in a role in the bullpen. All of his appearances this year have been relatively short starts that have him strikeout out as well as walking a player per inning. He has flashed high 90s and may need to be kept to the pen to maximize his chances if he is to make it to the Majors on the mound.
Diamonds in the Rough
I have written before about my process in trying to performance scout college prospects. The basic idea is trying to find players who perform exceptionally at several did skills as represented by certain statistics. College Splits no longer exists as an open source for baseball statistics, so I had to compile things more old school. I look for college players who performed in the top 40% of batting average, isolated power, walk rate, and walks to strikeouts. The two first rounders that came up as positive hits were Michael Conforto and Casey Gillaspie. The success rate for a fit who also plays in a tough conference is about 80%.* However, those guys will be taken long before the Orioles have a selection.
* - Keep in mind that the 80% number is the number of players who are performing above league average. Many of these players are in the lower minors and one should expect that individuals who excel at Division I baseball would be more likely to excel in the low minors. As they advance up the ladder, physical limitations will likely overshadow their polished skills. That said, we still have a ways to go to see if exceptional performance across the board is a viable strategy when identifying players at the college level.
For the Orioles, two players came up from incredibly uncompetitive conferences as far as Division I baseball is concerned: Aaron Nardone and Daniel Miles. Both are college seniors and should be very easy signs. Neither appear in Baseball America's top 500 draft prospects. I asked a talent evaluator about them and he said that Nardone is an easy sign 5-10 round guy while Miles is filler who might be drafted somewhere past the tenth round.
They just might be decent flyers to take a chance on in order to go overslot on other players.