09 June 2014

Reverse Engineering the Orioles' 2014 Draft Strategy

The MLB draft is plagued by a heavy optimism and heavy pessimism in a way that seems unique compared to other professional drafts, such as ones conducted by the NFL or NBA.  The major reason for this, I presume, is that to even the more studious followers, baseball draftees appear as more or less a blank slate with which one's hopes and fears about a club are easily projected.  For instance, after the Orioles drafted Pat Connaughton in the fourth round, someone tweeted me about lunacy required for the Orioles to acquire another guy who has poor control.  That is a rather unrealistic response to a player drafted in the fourth round.  Talent distribution in the draft is largely exponential early on and then peters out to a trickle after the first couple rounds.  If you go out of your way to draft a player with great control, then you are acquiring a player with at best pretty average pitches that you hope you can turn into something more.  That is a bit unrealistic.

Likewise, if you were listening to the MLB telecast of the draft, you just might think that 300 MLB starters were drafted with amazing tools ready to be unleashed onto the professional ranks.  Noticeably, the talking heads would speak somewhat positively about all of the catching skills in the draft while it was actually one of the poorer drafts for defensive catchers.  One front office person informed me that the differences between catchers this year and last is almost night and day.  The catchers in this class have a lot of work cut out for them to develop defensively and it is one of the hardest positions to develop defensive skill.

All of these views often ricochet around the message boards and turn into a rather confusing collection of dialogues filled with an impressive amount of conviction.  That conviction is often tied to Baseball America's rankings, which are often called an industry consensus.  That is inaccurate.  There was no consensus number one this year among teams.  Top 100 rankings vary widely between clubs.  Some team rank 200 players and then simply list likes on organizational needs.  Here is how the top ten rounds shookout:

Round Selection Rank Name
3 90 386 Brian Gonzalez
4 121 129 Pat Connaughton
5 151 267 David Hess
6 181 184 Tanner Scott
7 211 360 Max Schuh
8 241 NR Steve Wilkerson
9 271 NR Austen Anderson
10 301 NR Jay Gonzalez

 Basically, the club went with their board and drafted according to the strength of this year's draft, arms.  None look to be exceptional or overslots.  They simply look like decent organizational arms that the developmental staff will try to figure out.  I am not sure you can say much more than that.


Matt Perez said...

I wonder if the Orioles were trying to save money in this years draft whether to make up for the amount they spent on payroll or for future drafts.

Anonymous said...

That would be troubling, since the max Baltimore could reasonably spend would be around $2.5 MM. At most maybe they could save $500 - 700 K? That small savings would seem to be short-sighted.

Jon Shepherd said...

I think it is difficult to know much of anything here. There are a lot of could be scenarios. Maybe money is needed on the international front, I don't know.

Anonymous said...

The Orioles found great value in Gonzalez in the 3rd round. He was on 3 state and 1 national championship teams in 4 years. He was the best pitcher on Archbishop McCarthy's staff as a sophomore that included Reds number 1 pick in 2012, Nick Travieso. Gonzalez is a dominant lefty that recorded two no hitters in this year's playoffs alone and was also their best offensive weapon. He was voted Best Player in Broward County which is arguably the best baseball county in the United States (4 out the last 6 national champs)...The Orioles were not trying to save money, they played into the heart of the draft which was pitching. They didn't have a pick in the top two rounds and went after a prep star not far removed from Brady Aiken. I've seen Aiken and Finnegan and I can tell you for a fact that Gonzalez is not far removed from those two. He has exceptional command with his low 90's fastball and off speed pitches. Savvy with a very high IQ, solid character and work
ethic. Lasted into the 3rd round because scouts were convinced he was UM bound without 1st round money. If the O's sign him to slot money it will be a great pick! Good blog Jon.

Jon Shepherd said...

Thanks. I hope that is true, but the few scouts I know were not impressed with Gonzalez. One thought he had a better future with his bat. All thought he could use college to develop. I guess we will see. All the luck to him.