Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Recapping the First Three Rounds

Well, it was a heck of a night for Orioles fans, with excitement both on and off the diamond. Before I get to offering my take on the first three picks by the Orioles in last night's draft, I do want to take a moment to comment on what was really the most encouraging thing about last night's game.

The Orioles had lost five games in a row, and it was not their veteran stars who pulled them out of it but their youth, with Nolan Reimold knocking in two runs and Bergesen pitching eight shutout innings in a 3-1 win over the Seattle Mariners. If you look at guys like Nolan Reimold and Brad Bergesen, they represent the hope that Orioles fans can have for the future in that not only are they rookies performing well, but they are not even considered the best young prospects this organization has. Nolan Reimold was an afterthought heading into this season, and Bergesen was a relative unknown across baseball. Nevertheless both have exploded onto the map, with Reimold leading all rookies in home runs and RBIs and Brad Bergesen settling into the surgical efficiency with which he pitched in the minors last season. Both players are looking like early contenders for AL Rookie of the Year, and both were drafted and brought up through this group by Joe Jordan and his staff. I profiled both of these players last season as prospects, and while I expected some success I'll be honest I did not see this immediate impact coming.

The success of these rookies in last night's game should give fans immense confidence in Joe Jordan and the scouts for this organization. Reimold and Bergesen are the first Jordan-drafted players to come to the majors, and based on recent successes (Billy Rowell aside) in the lower levels as well it is becoming apparent that he has earned the benefit of the doubt in the draft process. I'll have more of my thoughts on this year's rookie class in a later post, but I feel that in this draft time it's important to address the brains behind the picks. Now, onto the selections.

Round 1, Pick 5 -- Matthew Hobgood, RHP, Norco HS (CA)
A good number of people didn't like this selection, but I'll be honest I'm very happy with it. Falco did a good job profiling the young man yesterday, who wasn't even on the radar initially. But in examining the list of options out there I do believe that the O's made the correct selection in choosing the big right hander. He is a late riser, true, and oftentimes that can increase the bust factor significantly. This is a philosophy I hold very true in football, but I believe that the draft is a completely different animal in baseball and that Hobgood is deserving of his late rise. Not only does he have an ideal build for a workhorse pitcher, but he has the right mentality. Unlike other young phenoms, he has had to deal with hardship in his own life and takes a very aggressive blue-collar attitude to pitching. That sort of bulldog mentality is exactly what you want of a young pitcher who has great raw stuff with somewhat spotty command. Over time his command can be improved, and his below average changeup is a pitch that can be developed over time. What you can't teach -- the arm strength, the devastating curve ball, the mental makeup, the natural build -- is what this guy has in spades. Joe Jordan scouted this player heavily and took time in the decision, and I believe he made the right one.

Round 2, Pick 54 -- Mychal Givens, RHP/SS, H B Plant HS (Tampa, FL)
The Orioles again went to a young high schooler, this time going for a two-way player in Mychal Givens. The organization, based on Joe Jordan's comments to Roch Kubatko of MASN, seems to view Givens as a shortstop which certainly increases his value to the club. Standing at 6'1" and 190 pounds, Givens seems to fit better on the infield than on the mound, and although he has a high 90's fastball I believe that the right decision is being made by moving him to the infield. Not only do the Orioles desperately need infield help in their farm system, but Baseball America does have him listed as the third best shortstop in this year's draft. His rocket arm certainly increases his ceiling overall, and could end up with one of the superior arms across the majors from the shortstop position, not to mention his plus speed. He was known as an excellent defender in high school and does have the frame to potentially develop more power.

There is always heavy risk when drafting a high school position player, as there is immense guess work on where their body will mature and whether or not they can make adjustments to superior pitching. There are certainly a number of risks with this pick, but for the second round it's hard to find player with this high of ceiling so I think that fans should be more than happy with this pick. As with Hobgood, the Orioles see no need to draft a player who would be expected to contribute in the very near future. With the young talent coming along in the upper levels, there is no reason for impatience. Roch Kubatko posted a YouTube of Givens which can be found here.

Round 3, Pick 85 -- Tyler Townsend, 1B/OF, Florida International University
The Orioles went back to the college ranks for their third round pick, selecting the 6'3" power hitter from FIU. Unlike the previous two picks, Townsend not only fills a need but also looks to be able to contriubute sometime in the next few years. He batted well over .400 with 24 home runs this past season and was named an All-American. Best of all it seems is that the Delaware native is ecstatic about joining this particular organization, which is key not only for signing purposes but for clubhouse presence down the line. Though Townsend did play primarily in the outfield, there is little doubt that the Orioles will place him at first base and are looking for him to provide much needed help at that position. As it stands right now, the only legitimate prospect at the position is Brandon Snyder (and maybe Brandon Waring, though I'm not sold) and thus the organization could certainly use his bat in the near future. As of right now I don't have much information on this left-handed hitter, but seeing as he is expected to be in Aberdeen later this summer, I smell a Prospect Report coming on.

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