15 June 2016

2016 Orioles Draft: Sinkers, Strong Arms, and Good Contact

The Orioles went hard after pitching in the draft this year, which makes sense because this draft was dominant with pitching prospects.  Based on the word of several people in the industry, the Orioles' draft went hard after pitchers who effectively use two seam fastballs.  The glory of the two seam fastball was preached in Moneyball and is generally well respected and acknowledged to this day.  It is also known that on level swings with these pitches results in a good bit of homeruns.  In short, everyone knows about sinkers and everyone knows they are not a silver bullet in a repertoire.

What may not be known is whether there is a greater probability of advancement or production for pitchers with established two seamers.  That might be where the Orioles might think they have an advantage.  A movement toward being an organization catering to two seam pitchers may be real.  The club has focused on drafting strong armed infielders when available.  It also appears to have some notion to which catchers pitch frame well.  Framing helps a two seam pitcher use a strike zone that is slightly extended below the knees.  Frankly, it would not be surprising to see an average framer like Matt Wieters being let go and having excellent framers like current Oriole Francisco Pena or FA-to-be Jason Castro being paired up with Caleb Joseph.

For the few position players the Orioles drafted, there is one commonality: arm strength.  Nearly all of the draftees who play the field have a strong arm and good contact skills.  One minor contention I had was the selection of Austin Hays over Heath Quinn.  Both are valued about the same with Quinn possessing plus raw power, but with Hays having a more polished and playable swing. Prep SS Alex Torres can be described similarly: strong arm and good contact.  Preston Palmeiro's arm is not bad, but is largely irrelevant at first base.  His swing though is a good contact swing.  Position players chosen outside of the top ten also share those attributes.  It may be that the powers that be in the Orioles system want position player arm strength (as players like Schoop show it can make up for poor range) and contact skills (which appear to soon be reaching their high point as a value skill in the current main stream iteration of Moneyball).

Back to pitchers, below is a table summarizing the pitchers the Orioles selected in the first ten rounds.  I was only able to verify two of the top 10 pitches as two seam fastball pitchers, but the others fit the stereotypical slider accompaniment and scouting report descriptions about heavy fastballs.  The pitches column should be read as "Established.Unestablished" pitches.  What I mean by unestablished is that a pitcher has shown the ability to throw that pitch and it has the potential to be an average or better offering, but it is not there yet.  For a prep arm like Hanifee, that is pretty common and the expectation is that the second pitch will become established while the third pitch hopefully becomes established.  When we are discussing later picks like Humpal, then that silver lining is a bit thinner.

Name Hand FB
Sedlock R 2S
Akin L 2S*
Dietz R 2S*
Hanifee R 2S*
Myers R 2S*
Moseley R 2S
Humpal R 2S*
Dube R 2S*
* 2S is expected to be main fastball based on indirect evidence.

Depot Shadow Draft
Each year since 2007, we have gone off and done our own shadow draft.  Briefly, our farm system has been more productive than the Orioles system.  However, that might well change because we did not choose Manny Machado.  He alone will likely offset whatever advantage we currently enjoy.

Anyway, a few years back, Nick Faleris departed and I became the sole maker of decisions.  Whereas he was able to directly scout the players, I use more analytics and reports to try to assess talent.  My focus typically is on starting caliber college position prospects, injured high projection HS talent, projectable two way HS talent, and then up-the-middle players or guys who can light up a radar gun.  In years past, I tend to be more in line with where players are taken, but this season saw me open with selecting four players who ultimately went in the third round.  Moving forward, I think I might consider the presumed Orioles approach of finding position players with strong arms.  That intuitively makes sense to me.

1:27 - RF Heath Quinn (3:95, Giants)
Analytic choice. Quinn went in the third round to the Giants, a few picks behind the Orioles who selected Austin Hays.  Hays is a more all around player who no loud tools, while Quinn has plus raw power and carries a little more risk.
2:54 - C Sean Murphy (3:83, Athletics)
Analytic choice. Murphy is a solid catcher and catcher defense is one of those skills that is difficult to acquire as a pro.  He has lately come into his body while dealing with a broken hamate, so his offensive talent might be obscured a bit.  Regardless, my model thinks he is a solid average prospect.
2:69 - LHP Jesus Luzardo (3:94, Nationals)
The analytics no longer project any prominent college player as a starter, so I switch gears to try to find damaged goods plus talent.  He is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery, but in the past has worked in the mid 90s with a heavy fastball and a decent changeup.  He will likely be an overslot selection, meaning I will have to lean heavily on college signings.
3:91 - LHP/OF Khalil Lee (3:103, Royals)
Lee is a two way prep prospect.  As a southpaw, he edged into the mid-90s this year.  Good speed and defense, I would probably try him out as a position player first and then work backwards into a pitching career.  Lee will also likely be an overslot signing.
4:121 - RHP Ryan Hendrix (5:138, Reds)
Hendrix has a strong arm, topping out at 100 mph.  He also has shown a plus curveball.  However, he has incredibly poor control, which was not present in former years.  The thought here is to acquire a live arm with past success and put faith in the developmental system to make this arm useful.  Sitting in the upper 90s, several mph could be lost and Hendrix would still be useful.
5:151 - RHP Bryan Garcia (6:175, Tigers)
Garcia throws a mid 90s fastball and a plus slider.  He could move quickly as a reliever or be tried out as a starter.  I think this is a high floor for a fifth round selection.
6:181 - SS Brandon Lopez (10:303, Twins)
Projects more as a utility player with limited range, but has performed well at the plate this year.  The key for me here is to simply bring in more athletic position players.  Quantity in hopes for hidden quality.
7:211 - SS Daniel Pinero (9:265, Tigers)
Pinero has average tools across the board with a decent arm.  A Canadian player, he growth curve may be a little behind others and might more fully blossom in the professional ranks.  The backup plan would be to try him out as a reliever.
8:241 - LHP Alec Bostic (10:305, Giants)
Sinker/slider pitcher who could start out in a rotation roll until proven otherwise.
9:271 - LHP Connor Jones (11:338, Yankees)
Mid 90s fastball from the left side provides a decent foundation to work with.
10:301 - UTL Weston Wilson (17:501, Brewers)
Wilson shows good power, but it has yet to play.  He has experience at both 2B and 3B.  Squint and perhaps a Ty Wigginton-like player might be in there.  Again, I am trying to find flexible players.

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