Welcome to Overreaction Of The Week, my over the top, uninhibited, Baltimore sports-fan takes on this week’s Orioles activity.
Well, the Orioles haven’t been very good. Manager, Buck Showalter, and Executive VP of Baseball Operations, Dan Duquette, have referred to Memorial Day as the season’s first check point, but it’s easy to jump the gun and write this season off before that. I’m not here to say you shouldn’t do that, in fact, I’m looking to the future as well. How far? How about to 2023, when the number one overall pick in the 2019 MLB draft will be making his debut in an Orioles’ uniform.
The Orioles are currently tied for the worst record in Major League Baseball, and could very well end up with the number one overall pick in 2019. There’s a chance the top pick in 2019 is currently a junior in high school, which is just weird for me to think about. It is extremely difficult to project prospects, so I’m using the top of the Fangraphs and Perfect Game prospect rankings to pick 3 players that may fit the bill. If the Orioles’ current performance persists, they could be drafting just another guy, a franchise player, an All Time Oriole Great, or even a Hall of Famer. Let’s take a look at who that guy might be.
Option 1: Bobby Witt Jr., SS Colleyville Heritage (High School)
Witt Jr. is the top ranked position player in both Fangraphs and Perfect Game. Perfect Game describes him with a “near limitless ceiling on offense and defense…” which is very intriguing. He’s 17 years old, stands at 6’1″ 180 pounds, and should have the opportunity to fill out. Think of an Alex Bregman type of guy, but out of high school. He has the defensive range, strong arm, speed, and power to all fields that match Bregman, who was the 2nd overall pick in the 2015 MLB draft himself. It would make sense for the Orioles to pick a shortstop: there is a serious lack of depth of middle infielders in the organization and a franchise shortstop is a piece to build the team around. While the Orioles haven’t been able to develop too many infielders recently, they must be given a ton of credit for Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop. Witt Jr. is verbally committed to play at Oklahoma once he graduates, but being the number one overall pick could change that in a hurry.
Option 2: Hunter Barco, P The Bolles Jacksonville (High School)
Barco is a big, left handed pitcher out of Jacksonville, measuring in at 6’4″ 205 pounds. While he’s also being scouted as an outfielder and first baseman, Fangraphs and Perfect Game both feel he projects better as a pitcher. He features good velocity, he touched 94 mph this past fall, and projects to have a plus change up and above average slider. A lefty who features a three pitch arsenal is something the Orioles haven’t had since Brian Matusz was a starter (maybe). Stockpiling young arms is a sound way to build a farm system. It would be difficult to argue against adding Barco to a stable of pitchers like Hunter Harvey, David Hess, and the surging Zac Lowther.
Option 3: Shea Langeliers, C Baylor University
Langeliers is the only college player I’m mentioning in this article. He’s already been drafted once in 2016 in the 34th round by the Blue Jays. Many feel college players are safer picks and are a bit easier to project than raw high school players, so it may make sense for the Orioles to go after a college player. Also, hopefully he would be ready before 2023. As a freshman last year, he received several Freshman All-American awards while slashing .313/.388/.540 with 10 home runs. Langliers has a compact frame, more common to today’s professional catcher, rather than a giant like Matt Wieters. According to Perfect Game and 2080 Baseball, he is a plus defender with an above average offensive game. He’s projected to hit about .275 and knock 25 home runs at his best, which will definitely play from the defense-first catcher position. He has already played some first base, so he could switch between catcher and first much like Buster Posey does for the Giants. This pick makes sense because catcher Chance Sisco is under team control until the end of 2023. If he performs the way the Orioles expect him to, he may price himself out of the Orioles bidding range. Having another cornerstone catcher take over after Sisco would provide for a seamless exchange going into 2024.
All of this is an gross overreaction. There’s a good chance the Orioles will be picking at or near the top of the 2019 draft, but there are so many moves the Orioles could make that change their outlook on even the 2018 MLB draft, not to mention 2019. If the Orioles sell off many of their major pieces, the prospects they receive will likely have a major impact on the personnel decisions made in the future. Of course, there could be other prospects that climb to the top of the rankings and these three aren’t even in play for the O’s. During a season that hasn’t gone to plan, it’s easy to look ahead, especially to the draft where there are endless possibilities. Picking at the top of the draft is not where teams want to be too often. But when you’re there, the possibilities are limitless. There’s only one catch: you better get it right.