Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Eyeing the 1st Pick on the MLB Draft

Today is the first day of the MLB Draft, and also for Andy MacPhail to work. Obviously a farm system is built through the draft, but most picks are important. The Orioles have the 5th pick in the draft.

Looking over the first round draft field: This is a very pitching heavy class, primarily from high schoolers. Only a few position players have a chance to break the top 15. Steven Strasburg is expected to be taken first overall by the Nationals, but their is plenty of solid arms behind him.

Possible position targets with the 1st pick:
Starting Pitcher: A farm system never has enough starting pitching, even the Orioles. The Orioles have had mixed success looking for a starter in the first round. Getting Brian Matusz seems to be working out, but getting Adam Loewen did not. Starters can go one of two ways in the draft, you could draft a high school player as a four-five year project, or a college player expecting to play in the majors within two or three seasons.
Possible targets for starting pitcher:
--Aaron Crow, RHP, Fort Worth Cats: A power pitcher with a big fastball and a deadly sinker, Crow refused to sign with the Nationals in last year's draft. Could be a wildcard due to this, but expected to go top-10, with many believing top-5.
--Tyler Matzek, LHP, Capistrano Valley HS: A solid starter with a good fastball and reliable off-speed pitches. Obvious risk going on a high school player, but Matzek is considered by many as the top high school pitcher in the draft, and should go top-10, possibly top-5.
--Tanner Scheppers, RHP, St. Paul Saints (formerly Fresno State): A strong fastball-changeup pitcher has great potential, but is coming off shoulder problems from last year and did not sign with the Pirates last year after being drafted in the second round. A high-risk player with high reward chances, and will probably go top-15.
--Zach Wheeler, RHP, East Paulding HS: A raw talent righty with an excellent fastball and potential in other areas. A number of possible risk factors, but with time could develop as a big starter. Will go top-10 most likely.
--Ben White, RHP, North Carolina: A starter with a wide array of pitches that make him a strikeout machine. He does have control issues and can be inconsistent, but his upsides are great. Was preseason top-5, but may have fallen to 6-15 range.

First baseman or other top position player: The main weakness of the Orioles farm system is its position players, primary at the infield corners.
Targets for position players:
--Dustin Ackley, 1B/OF, North Carolina: A very consistent player with great power and contact, plus can play outfield and first baseman. However, it is very likely he will not fall to #5, but the Orioles should take him if he does.
--Donovan Tate, OF, Centerville HS: A smart player with great speed and great defensive abilities. His bat will be the focal point, as there are questions with contact and potential power. Should go in the top-10, but where exactly is a question.

Shortstop: The Orioles do not have anyone in the farm system considered a long term solution at shortstop with the possible exception of Blake Davis. A good shortstop is very hard to come by, and as Baltimore knows very well, is a very important defensive position.
Targets at shortstop:
--Grant Green, SS, USC: A quick shortstop with very good contact and can place the ball well. Not much power and will need to work on defensive skills. Pre-season was top-10, but may have fallen to the 11-15 range, so the pick may be not be worth getting Green.

Because Ackley will be off the board by #5, I believe the Orioles will target a pitcher and take advantage of the big arms of the draft. Also because of the success of other pitchers in the farm system, it may be worth it to target a high schooler for the long term. I believe at #5 the best player to take will be Tyler Matzek, and let him grow into the system as a project. As Andy MacPhail has said, "Grow the arms, buy the bats."

Around the Harbor Prediction- Orioles 1st Round: Tyler Matzek

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