Welcome to Overreaction Of The Week, my over the top, uninhibited, Baltimore sports-fan takes on this week’s Orioles activity.
A few weeks ago, I hopped in the time machine and jumped to 2019 to took a look at three players that the Orioles might land with the first overall draft pick. Back in reality, the 2018 MLB Draft is set to occur on June 4th. In just over two weeks, the Orioles will add another first round selection to their below average farm system with the 11th overall pick.
Here are the Orioles first round picks since 2010: Manny Machado, Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Hunter Harvey, Josh Hart, DJ Stewart, Ryan Mountcastle (conditional pick), Cody Sedlock, and DL Hall. Machado, Bundy, and Gausman have made the majors, while Harvey, Mountcastle, Hall, and Sedlock are top 10 organizational prospects. Who will be the latest to join that group?
My overall take on the draft is that the process seems much different than the NFL or NBA drafts. NFL and NBA teams can draft to fill immediate needs through the draft, while the MLB draft is much more volatile. The Orioles can’t necessarily draft the best player available, like several football teams, like the Ravens, tend to do. The best player available in the MLB draft may not be the best potential player. There is so much projection and development after the draft, that even a first round pick’s impact is several years away.
For the O’s, I think there is another aspect here. Though it has grown stronger in the last few seasons, the Orioles have a relatively weak farm system with only Mountcastle and outfielder Austin Hays appearing in the MLB Top 100 Prospects list. With this in mind, I think the Orioles will also be particularly aware of the floor of the players they may draft and pay more attention to the best player available adage. A weak farm system requires that the Orioles hit on their early on, which leads me to believe they may not take a huge risk with their first round pick. To me, this means they’re likely to target successful college players who may not have the highest ceilings but will get promoted quickly, rather than raw, skilled high school players who are several years away from the majors. Here are three players the Orioles may take a look at with their first pick:
Jonathan India – Third Baseman, Florida
India is a strong overall hitter and has flourished this season in the very talented SEC. He may be the best collegiate hitter in this draft and projects to continue to hit as a pro. He is very strong defensively, and according to MLB Pipeline, he has the athleticism and instincts to play all infield spots. This will work in his favor, as the Orioles don’t have any starting caliber infielders in their farm system, including Mountcastle. Industry experts has clamored for Mountcastle to move to the outfield since the day he was drafted and he has not shown the ability to play infield at a major league level. India’s combination of approach at the plate, athleticism, defensive prowess, and potential for rapid promotion make him an ideal pick for the Orioles.
Shane McClanahan – Pitcher, South Florida
McClanahan would be a fan-favorite pick because he is a Baltimore native. Fans would also love this pick because he is a lefty with a plus, plus fastball that has already touched 100 mph. He also features a very good change-up and a solid slider to give him true swing and miss stuff. He does struggle with his command and has already had Tommy John surgery, so there are some question marks. But he has been favorable compared to Chris Sale as a draft prospect, which is eye opening. Overall, he is a strong candidate to select at 11 because of his plus stuff and solid frame. Adding top flight collegiate starting pitching will never be frowned upon by the Orioles nor their fans.
Travis Swaggerty – Outfielder, South Alabama
Swaggerty is speedy centerfielder with a cool name from South Alabama that projects as a traditional leadoff hitter. According to minorleagueball.com and Kiley McDaniel at Fangraphs, Swaggerty has a strong approach at the plate but can get off balance and swing and miss a little too often when he tries to generate too much power. He does get on base at a healthy rate, which is a strong trait to have as a potential leadoff man. With his speed and strong arm grade, he should be able to play centerfield. Minorleagueball.com projects him as an everyday starter in the majors, which would provide the Orioles with a solid, true leadoff man, something they haven’t had since Nick Markakis or Brian Roberts.
McClanahan has an excellent arsenal of pitches, but the injury history and his violent motion and follow through give me reason for pause. Swaggerty is an intriguing prospect, but the Orioles have a logjam of young outfielders with Mountcastle, Hays, DJ Stewart, Cedric Mullins, and Anthony Santander.
My prediction is that the Orioles will select Jonathan India if he’s available. He possesses the offensive tools and discipline to advance through the minors quickly and make him a candidate to be a top of the order bat. His plus defense at the hot corner may make him the next foundation type player for the Orioles. Also I’m an Indian American, there would be at least one guaranteed jersey sale.
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