For the first time, Major League Baseball scheduled its draft to begin the night before the Home Run Derby as part of All-Star Game festivities. In previous years, the draft was held in early June.
There was a lot happening on Sunday. It was the final Orioles game of a disappointing first half, the Futures Game and Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Still, MLB succeeded in getting more attention for the draft
Combined with Trey Mancini’s outstanding performance in the Home Run Derby and Cedric Mullins’ start in center field for the American League, it was a busy few days for Oriole fans.
MLB didn’t want players distracted by the draft during the College World Series. By moving the draft by five weeks, they succeeded.
It gave fans more time to familiarize themselves with prospective draft choices, and to grade the Orioles’ draft.
Everyone wants to know how the Orioles did. Check back in 2027.
If you think I’m being flip, let’s review the 2015 draft, which looks different now than it did even a year ago.
Seven of the Orioles’ 41 draft choices have played in the major leagues: outfielder DJ Stewart, first baseman/designated hitter Ryan Mountcastle, who were both first-round picks; left-handed pitcher Garrett Cleavinger, 3rd ,outfielder Ryan McKenna, 4th; right-handed pitcher Jay Flaa 6th, right-hander Ryan Meisinger, 11th; and Mullins, 13th.
A year ago, Mountcastle and McKenna had yet to play in the majors and Mullins hadn’t established himself. Fans would have fixated on Stewart and labeled the draft a bust.
Cleavinger was sent to the Philadelphia Phillies in July 2017 along with outfielder Hyun-Soo Kim. He pitched in one game for the Phillies last season and has a 2.25 ERA in 18 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers this season.
Meisinger was 2-1 with a 6.43 ERA in 18 games for the Orioles in 2018, and is in the Chicago Cubs’ organization.
Flaa pitched in one game for the Orioles on April 27th, was waived and last week was outrighted to Triple-A by Atlanta last week.
Getting Mountcastle, McKenna and Mullins in one draft is impressive, but if you evaluated the draft in 2018, 2019 or even 2020, the result doesn’t look as good.
Also drafted in 2015 were right-hander Gray Fenter and left-hander Nick Vespi. If one or both makes the majors, that draft looks even better.
Even though this year’s draft can’t be evaluated for five or six years, there were some interesting patterns.
Twenty of the 21 picks were college players, and the only high schooler, catcher Creed Willems, taken in the eighth round, announced on Twitter he was signing with the Orioles.
Another was a junior college player, outfielder Trendon Craig, from Louisburg College, where Mullins played.
Only one pitcher was taken among the first 11 picks, and eight were grabbed among the final 10.
The Orioles apparently believe they can develop college pitchers quickly within their system, and that they’re far less risky than high school pitchers. A year ago, they took Iowa high school right-hander Carter Baumler in the fifth round, and he had Tommy John surgery in November.
In several of their trades — Dylan Bundy and José Iglesias to the Los Angeles Angels, and Miguel Castro to the New York Mets — they brought back a number of high-end pitching prospects. Perhaps they believe that pitchers with at least some professional experience are less risky than drafting high-schoolers.
It will be interesting to see where some of the prospects are placed. With two teams this year in the Florida Complex League, some can start there, but that level has historically been for high school players. Many of the players on those teams are young international prospects from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.
Historically, most college players began at Aberdeen when it was a short-season team, but the New York/Penn and Appalachian Leagues are gone, and some may start at Low-A Delmarva.
Notes: Keegan Akin will start Friday night as the Orioles begin the second half of their season with a three-games against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. The Orioles haven’t named their starters for Saturday and Sunday. … Tuesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays will be televised exclusively on YouTube. Orioles broadcaster Melanie Newman will be joined by MLB.com’s Sarah Langs and field reporter Alanna Rizzo for the first all-female broadcast crew. You can watch at YouTube.com/MLB. … John Means allowed a run on five hits in three-plus innings for Triple-A Norfolk in Memphis. Means struck out four and walked three while throwing 74 pitches. It was Means’ third rehab start, and he should rejoin the Orioles next week.