MLB Pipeline's Jim Callis projects Orioles' options for 2020 draft - BaltimoreBaseball.com

2020 MLB Draft

MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis projects Orioles’ options for 2020 draft

Austin Martin
Photo credit of Austin Martin: John Byrum - Icon Sportswire

The Orioles have the second pick in this summer’s Major League Baseball draft, which might be as short as five rounds. They also have the 30th and 39th picks.

MLB Pipeline senior writer Jim Callis spoke with BaltimoreBaseball.com about the draft. The interview has been edited for brevity.

Question: How strong is this draft class?

Callis: “I think it’s stronger than usual. I’ve been covering this stuff for more than three decades. I have to keep telling myself, ‘You can’t keep writing about how scouts say the crop is down.’

“I think that’s the standard line. It’s missing this or it’s missing that. It’s not like back in the ’80s when guys weren’t getting signed out of high school and you had these great college classes. Now, teams are aggressive.

“Most years, people are like, ‘It’s OK. There’s this, but there’s not that,’ but this year, it’s actually pretty deep.

“Last year was probably the worst group of pitchers, college pitchers that belonged in the first round, in 30 years. I had scouts tell me the same thing.

“This year, college pitching is the strength of the draft. There’s a ton of it. There are some really good college position players, and I don’t think it’s a superlative year on the high school side, but it’s fine. There are some bats. There are some arms.

“I think it’s a pretty deep draft, which is obviously good news for the Orioles.”

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Q: Because of the abbreviated high school and college seasons, is it harder to make evaluations?

A: “It’s not as bad as I think the average fan might think because, especially for high school players, the most important scouting is the previous summer when they’re playing on the showcase circuit and the best players are facing off against the best players.

“Same thing for college players. You have all these wood bat summer leagues. You get to see them in, and that’s huge. You have fall showcases. You have fall baseball in colleges.

“There are some places in the country that didn’t get started that much but, at least in college, all those teams played four weeks. A lot of the warm-weather high schools at least got started with scrimmages. You had looks.

“Next year is going to be interesting because I can’t imagine we’re going to have much in the way of summer leagues or showcases this summer. Teams will be flying blind. I think teams would tell you it’s not optimal, but they do have a lot of information, not as much as they normally have, but they do have a lot.

“We’re not going to know who emerged or who got off to a hot start and tailed off because that didn’t have a chance to happen.

“The only difference in my coverage is I have not really dug on whom the college senior signs teams might take in rounds six or 10 to save money or move money around in their [signing bonus] pool. I haven’t really dug on those guys because there’s a chance we may not have rounds six or 10.”

Q: Because there’s a lot more development from age 17 to 18 than there is from age 21 to 22, are high school players at a handicap in this draft?

A: “In terms of who is affected the most, it would be that subset of projectible high school pitchers who are tall and lean, but not filled out yet, and maybe they were throwing in the upper 80s, or around 90 last summer.

“In a lot of cases, these guys come out and are throwing 92 of 93 as seniors. Those guys, it stinks because they didn’t get the chance to do that.

“You look at the way the industry treats high school pitching. It’s considered risky and there’s oftentimes a big gap between how their present stuff is, but how good it might be three years down the line. Sometimes those guys wind up going to college because there is a gap between the two.

“I think it’s going to be very tough to sign those guys this year and take them high enough to take them away from college. If it’s a five-round draft, I think there were 40 players who got $600,000 or more in the first five rounds of the draft. I still think you’ll see 40 of the best high school players sign in the first five rounds of the draft.

“The high school guys who have proven themselves are going to get taken and could get paid. They have the leverage because they can go to college, but for that projectible kid who was hoping to take a step forward this year, those guys didn’t get the chance, which is unfortunate for them.”

Q: Because of where they are as an organization, will the Orioles suffer more than other teams from this strange year?

A: “I don’t think necessarily so. They’re fortunate that it’s a deep draft and they have three of the first 39 picks. You could argue that because they have the highest bonus pool of any team that doesn’t carry as much weight as it would in a normal 40-round draft where you can use that money and spread it around.

“They don’t have all the flexibility that would normally come with having that big a bonus pool, but they still have the biggest bonus pool of anybody. They can be aggressive early. I don’t think it necessarily affects them too much.

“You’re picking second every round so you’d like to have as many rounds as you could. They’re in as good a position as anybody.”

Q: Who are some of those players the Orioles are considering in the second slot?

A: “Most people believe that Detroit’s going to take Spencer Torkelson, Arizona State first baseman number one overall.

“He’s the best power hitter in the draft. He’s an accomplished hitter. A right-handed hitting first baseman has never gone number one overall, but this bat has a chance to be really, really special.

“I think he’d be an obvious choice at number two, but I don’t think he gets there. If he goes number one, I think they’re looking at a group of three or four guys on the hitting side.

“You’d be looking at Austin Martin from Vanderbilt, who’s a centerfielder/third baseman. Maybe he winds up at second. He’s very versatile. He’s probably the best pure hitter in this draft. He doesn’t have Torkelson’s power, but he’s got a better all-around game. He can do more things. He can run.

“I think the bats behind him are Nick Gonzales, who’s a shortstop at New Mexico State who probably winds up at second base, also, who hit 12 home runs this year. He was Cape Cod League MVP.

“Those would be the two prime bats they’d look at.”

Q: What about pitchers?

A: “I think you could make a very strong case for taking Asa Lacy, who’s probably the best pitch in the draft. He’s a left-hander out of Texas A&M who’s got at least a plus-fastball, slider and changeup and the curve’s close.

“Emerson Hancock is a right-hander from Georgia, maybe Max Meyer from Minnesota. His slider might be the best pitch in the whole draft.

“Those guys are all interesting. I think if we were in this scenario last year and the Orioles were pitching second instead of first, they might have entertained, if everything was equal, we’ll take a pitcher here because there aren’t enough of them, and we’ll get a hitter later.

“Because there’s so much pitching in this draft, if I had to guess, I’d say they’d probably go with Martin or Gonzales, as tempting as Lacy, Hancock or Meyer might be because when they pick again at 30, the pitchers won’t be that good. There’s going to be quality arms, especially for what you’d normally find 30 in the draft.

“If I had to guess today, I’d probably go hitter over one of those pitchers and then come back and get a pitcher at 30, possibly 39th, too.”

Q: How good was last year’s draft? How much better is the Orioles’ farm system since Mike Elias took over?

A: “I have a lot of respect for Mike. His track record is very, very strong. I think Mike would have told you that anyone could have made the Adley Rutschman pick. I think Adley Rutschman’s the best catching prospect in the 30 years I’ve covered the draft. He’s better than Buster Posey was at the same stage or Matt Wieters or Joe Mauer. He’s that good.

“I really like the kid they got in the second round, Gunnar Henderson. He was a guy who came on last spring in Alabama. He probably winds up at third base, but I think he has a chance to be a really good hitter there.

“They have some depth behind those guys. They have Kyle Watson and Zach Stowers, centerfielders who played in prime programs. Joey Ortiz was Nick Gonzales’ double play partner at New Mexico State last year.

“I think it did get stronger. I think it should get stronger if you have the number one overall pick, and they had an extra pick in the second round, and they had bonus pool money to play with, and I think they did a good job of using all that.”

Q: Undrafted players will be limited to signing bonuses of $20,000. Will there be quality players available?

A: “I don’t think you’re going to see high school guys sign for $20,000. I don’t think that happens. The thinking is we’re going to have a five-round draft.

“The agents will disagree with me, but I think more players are going to sign for $20,000 than people think. I know last year after the fifth round, there were 395 players who got six-figure bonuses, and those bonuses are important.

“These guys are not going out to buy cars. They’re basically paying off college loans, and they’re using that money to live because they’re not getting anything to play in the minors.

“If everybody goes back, and you’re going to have all the guys who are in next year’s draft, anyway. Guys are all going to be a year older. Teams put a priority on age. There’s no guarantee you’re going to get more money next year. You might not even get drafted. There’s going to be fewer minor league teams.

“If you’re a guy who would have gone in the eighth round and would have gotten $150,000 in a normal year, and you don’t get drafted, and you really want to play pro ball, you might want to take the $20,000 because you might not get that opportunity next year.”

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Baltimore Castaway

    May 6, 2020 at 11:16 am

    Andy MacPhail had a good saying from when he was here; “Grow the arms, buy the bats..” It makes a great deal of sense still for this Orioles organization. They have a small core of projectable starting pitchers, but not an abundance. This kid Asa Lacy at Texas A&M looks like he would really bolster the Organization’s depth significantly.

    Have to think that Mike and Sig will have crafted a very good methodology for this year’s unique draft and will be able to take advantage of it well.

    The 2021 Draft maybe another story entirely–especially if they don’t play this year..

  2. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    May 6, 2020 at 2:26 pm

    Rich very thorough interview with Jim Callis. I always like hearing what he has to say about the baseball draft. The Coastal Plain League which is a college summer league-3rd tier. They are actually starting their season on July 1st. Also are planning to have fans attend games.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 6, 2020 at 2:53 pm

      Thank you, Grand Strand. I wasn’t aware of The Coastal Plain League. I just looked it up, and see that they play in smaller, less dense areas, and I would think they could easily distance spectators with small crods.

    • Grand Strand Bird Fan

      May 6, 2020 at 6:16 pm

      I didn’t know about the league until we moved here. The local news recently ran a few stories about the Florence team starting in July. I agree with you about the small crowds. I plan to see a few games if everything works out. Especially since MB Pelicans won’t likely have games.

  3. BirdsCaps

    May 6, 2020 at 9:17 pm

    How in the hell (excuse my mild language) did we go from a 40 round draft to a 5 rounder? I must have missed the memo! I know that everyone is going to lose a milb affiliate, but cutting the draft down this much is kinda nuts. There was a certain pride for players that were talented enough to be drafted, along with a somewhat decent signing bonus. With more relievers and 9 players + a dh, this draft will only field 1/3 of the amount of players used in a given game. Furthermore, with a 20k cap on signing bonuses a Ndfa will choose strong, historic franchises (NYY, bos,LAD, Cubs,etc) over weaker or non historic franchises. This becomes similar to college football, where the best players go to the good programs with rock star coaches. Unless there are massive (40-100k a yr) salary jumps for milbers, this deal sucks for most of them. This deal hurts smaller organizations and helps the bigger clubs which makes it just another wonderful idea by commissioner Manchild. Also, will this force milb rosters to shrink, most are huge? Part of me wonders if mlb would be better with the old draft and a reliance on Indy ball for the youngsters (like major junior hockey in Canada). As for the interview and who the orioles will take, the orioles need infield help, so any of the three mentioned would fit a need. Plus they’re college guys, so they will likely only need a few years in the minors.

    • ClayDal

      May 6, 2020 at 10:50 pm

      Even before the shutdown, MLB was apparently proposes a 20 round draft down from 40. Instead of a player going to Aberdeen after being drafted, they would go to the Spring Training facility in Sarasota. The players that aren’t drafted will still be out there, especially the College seniors who wouldn’t be getting much of a bonus anyway. Oddly, it gives them some leverage. Instead of being drafted and getting a tiny bonus, they can pick the team to give them a tiny bonus. The Orioles might actually benefit here because they can offer something a team like the Yankees can’t-opportunity. While the Orioles will hold back top prospects as to not start their clocks(Hays, Mountcastle, Rutschman) serviceable pitchers can move quickly up the ladder. So Elias’s scouting ability and recruiting skills will be put to the task

      • Baltimore Castaway

        May 6, 2020 at 11:03 pm

        Thinking that you are onto something here… The new format could play out for the Orioles initially.

        Hoping that you are right.

      • BirdsCaps

        May 6, 2020 at 11:41 pm

        I hope you are right. I didn’t think of it that way.Also, I was always under the impression that the bonuses of the mid round guys were significantly higher than 20k. Is this just going to force a lot of hs players into going to college (like football, mlb gets more free player development). It will be interesting to see how this plays out between players choosing classic/well run organizations or trying for a quicker route to the show with Baltimore, Pittsburgh, AZ, and other ball clubs that have a track record of awful player development (also the birds have an awful history of screwing up pitchers which despite a new regime is an albatross).

  4. CGarcia

    May 7, 2020 at 6:01 pm

    @Rich, any preference on who the O’s will pick? It would be nice to get a pitcher, but Martin and Torkenson seem to be the safe bets. We can’t afford to flop on these picks.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 7, 2020 at 8:57 pm

      Unless the pitcher is a real can’t miss, a position player sounds better, and I think Jim Callis, who knows far more about these prospects than I do, has sound reasoning about taking a position player first and a pitcher with the 30th pick.

    • ptjhu

      May 8, 2020 at 9:02 am

      I’m afraid the O’s are going to take whichever player — Torkelson or Martin — is left over. And that’s too bad, ‘cos I think N.M. State’s Gonzales is the best hitter in the draft (as his stats at the Cape Cod League showed).

  5. OriolesNumber1Fan

    May 8, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    Buy the bats and grow the arms in this pitching deep draft would certainly make the most sense in loading up on THIS pitching. Remembering the days when the Orioles had 4 – 20 game winners and Cy Young pitching would make them winners! My pick would be Emerson Hancock hands down. He had a lats injury so his numbers weren’t as good as the year before but he has 4 excellent pitches at 60 plus. Asa Lacy has great stuff too but tends to have control issues. Emerson reminds me of a younger Justin Verlander a number 1 starter for quite a long time. Here’s hoping the Orioles play it smart and load up on very good pitching draft!!! Buy the bats later once the pitching starts to make it to the big leagues.

    • Baltimore Castaway

      May 8, 2020 at 7:33 pm

      Amen to that Brother…

  6. CGarcia

    May 8, 2020 at 8:08 pm

    I would target the best player available versus need.

    Both Asa Lacy and Emerson are risky (not considered at the level of Verlander/Cole when they were drafted) and pitchers tend to have a low success rate vs hitters.

    Also, how did McPhail’s grow the arms mantra work out? Only one pitcher turned out to be an average O’s starting pitcher. Arrieta went elite somewhere else.

    • Baltimore Castaway

      May 8, 2020 at 8:21 pm

      I used MacPhail’s tagline…the fact that he proved to not be too effective at obtaining pitching talent is more a reflection on him than the pitching talent available…

      The Orioles have not had a GM as talented as Elias since the days of Harry Dalton and Frank Cashen in the 60’s and 70’s…

      Elias is the real deal. It might even be that they have caught up w many other teams in MLB teams relating to scouting and analyzing talent.

    • CalsPals

      May 9, 2020 at 8:20 am

      I’m not sure I’d call Elias the real deal, he really hasn’t done anything anyone could’ve done at this point, gut the team, anyone could do that, clean house, again, anyone could’ve done that, pick Adley, again, the minors won last yr w/players that were here already…give him time…but he’s done less for the O’s than Rich has done with his articles…go O’s…

      • Baltimore Castaway

        May 9, 2020 at 10:08 am

        CalPals,

        Nothing wrong w having a healthy skepticism about Elias. The very nature of turning around a moribund franchise that was mostly bereft of talent and likely the worst in the game does not lend itself to quick results.

        Before results show up at Orioles Park the entire framework and staffing has had to be redone. He has created a whole new playbook for the Minor League system; new Managers, new Hitting, Pitching PLUS Analytics Coaches for EACH Minor League Team.

        Complete ground-Up International Scouting and Development Staffing, A “one-system” Hitting, Pitching and Analytics Scouting and Development Staff. A central organization-wide Analytics Unit for Player Development and Player Evaluation.

        Lastly, he has brought in an entirely new Manager, Coaching, and Support Staff for the Major League team.

        This has been done quickly and quietly.

        It requires being patient as a fan. They still need some time. They are probably (my guess here) 30%-50% through the rebuild.

        The Orioles had an above average Draft in 2019. They have a good number of picks in next month’s draft (although it will be interesting to see how teams deal with a Five Round Draft).

        I have confidence in Elias and his Staff and I have faith that the Angelos Brothers have the strength to stay the course in building a team that can compete in a Brave New World of Major League Baseball…

    • CalsPals

      May 9, 2020 at 3:49 pm

      Elias has one thing past GM’s didn’t get, especially the Angelos, freedom to what he wants, prior GM never had that luxury, that’s why I said give him time, he really hasn’t proven anything YET…go O’s…

      • Baltimore Castaway

        May 9, 2020 at 5:41 pm

        ….that is true if one chooses to ignore what I posted to you previously….

        …whatever….

      • OriolesNumber1Fan

        May 9, 2020 at 7:30 pm

        Other GM’s had no reigns to do what they wanted? Are you kidding me! 165 million dollare payroll for Duquette but not 1 number 1 starter! At least not 1 by default. Gallardo and Ulbaldo are you kidding me! Trading away Jake Arrieta are you kidding me. Who you blaming for these moves, the owners group? Get a grip on reality.

        • Baltimore Castaway

          May 9, 2020 at 7:40 pm

          The Orioles have been a hot mess for many years under Mr. Angelos’ leadership. But you are absolutely right in pointing out that Dan Duquette was given a lot of leeway in his decision-making early in his tenure here. Before Duquette the Orioles spent a lot of money on player contracts that just never worked out..sad to say.

          What I scratch my head about is the mentality that some people still have that you can turn a ML team around by signing a Free Agent or two and making a trade or two and be back in the hunt. Successful franchises ALL having a rock-solid foundation, process and structure for maintaining excellence and getting the talent needed to succeed.. Period. There are no shortcuts.

    • OriolesNumber1Fan

      May 9, 2020 at 7:45 pm

      Best player available is Emerson Hancock, hands down. Hopefully Tigers take Torkelson and Orioles get their number 1 ace! With any draft there is a risk but no risk in taking a future ace. Pair him with Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall and Michael Baumann and possibly Cody Sedlock now we’re talking some pitching!!!

      • ptjhu

        May 9, 2020 at 9:02 pm

        I know the 2020 season was a tiny sample-size, but Hancock was pretty ordinary. If the Orioles want to go Pitching, they should do it with picks #30 and #39. But if they do go pitching, I think they’d be better-served taking Texas A&M’s LHP Asa Lacy.

        • OriolesNumber1Fan

          May 10, 2020 at 10:41 am

          Pretty ordinary coming off a LATS injury! Look at his numbers from the time before his injury at he was outstanding! I just hope the Tigers don’t wise up and select him. He’s an ace in the making. Especially what Mike Elias has done for the minor league pitching! Like I stated I like Lacy as well but he is wild. Reminds me of current O’s lefty reliever Tammer Scott.

    • ClayDal

      May 9, 2020 at 10:13 pm

      Do want to defend Duquette in reference to Ubaldo and Arrieta. Ubaldo had a very good year in Cleveland in 2013 after a bad 2012. He had had some good years in Colorado, not an easy place to pitch. He was a flop here, but those things happen. However he should been released after 2016. Arrieta was dreadful in 2012 and worse to start 2013. He needed a change of scenery. If anyone is at fault here, it was the Orioles pitching coaches who messed with him. The Cubs coaching staff simplified things and straightened him out

    • CalsPals

      May 10, 2020 at 8:51 am

      Scouts have also rated Lacy higher than Hancock, obviously minimally, are these the most recent ratings?…go O’s…

  7. OriolesNumber1Fan

    May 9, 2020 at 8:03 pm

    Here’s what professional scouts have to say about Emerson Hancock

    https://www.mlb.com/prospects/draft/emerson-hancock-676106

    • CGarcia

      May 10, 2020 at 10:56 am

      @Rich, it seems like draft talk is a popular subject. Any plans to do a story on potential picks in the later rounds or ar least 2nd/compensation pick round.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 11, 2020 at 8:48 am

      Callis and others have listings of the top 100 prospects. It seems guessing on those are difficult because the Orioles and other teams select the best players available regardless of position. Also signabilty becomes an issue.

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