The 2019 MLB draft is just a couple of days away, which is weird considering that we are close to reaching the half-way point in the league’s regular season. We are also just starting the postseason tournament for college baseball, but we could be here a while if we try to argue the logic of this set-up. Instead let’s focus on the possibilities ahead of us. The Baltimore Orioles, my favorite team conveniently enough, hold the first overall pick. They are followed by the Kansas City Royals at two, Chicago White Sox at three, Miami Marlins at four, and the Detroit Tigers rounding out the top five. As you can tell by the title, most of this will be focused on Baltimore, but there will be some stuff for the other guys. As it stands, the O’s are weighing their options for that first selection. There is a general consensus on who that will be, but let’s take a look at their potential choices:
C Adley Rutschman
Argument For – Rutschman is considered the favorite to go first, and for good reason. The former Oregon State catcher had an excellent college career, and is arguably the most well-rounded prospect in this class. His bat is advanced, with the ability to hit for power and average, and has the defensive acumen to thrive at the next level. While Baltimore has promising catchers in the minors, they have been marred by injuries and inconsistency. Adley would instantly supplant Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns as the next great Oriole catcher.
Argument Against – Strangely enough, Rutschman might be too ready. Baltimore is still several years from building to a true contender, and are in no hurry to rush that. Adley is likely to be big league ready by 2021, and while the Orioles could be back to relevance, a lot has to go right for that season to matter. There is nothing wrong with having potential star talent on the roster by then, but it could be awkward if the timing does not work out. That is how great players get traded and teams stay in a constant state of rebuilding.
Game Changer – Baltimore puts their faith in the catchers they’ve got and opts for a different prospect, probably making a mistake in the process.
SS Bobby Witt Jr. and CJ Abrams
Argument For – I lump this duo together because they play the same position and both are in high school. Witt carries the higher ranking and has some of the highest upside of any player in this draft. He has the physical tools and developmental potential to be a five tool player down the road. It is also quite rare for a high school shortstop to have the defensive tools to stay at that position, but Witt has a pretty good chance of doing so plus adding a strong bat. Abrams is lightning fast and has lead-off caliber offensive tools. His arm is not bad either, and offers positional versatility at the major league level. Because of their youth, both players fit Baltimore’s rebuild timeline.
Additional Draft Tidbits: The top guys mentioned for the Orioles are all likely to go in the top five as they are the consensus top of the draft. Behind them is a trio of outfielders in JJ Bleday, Riley Greene, and Hunter Bishop, that are good bets to go between three and nine. There is a distinct lack of top pitching, with a few guys like Nick Lodolo and Alek Manoah likely to crack the top ten or twelve. Given the universal need for pitching, players who would normally go in the 30s or 40s may get a bump to the late teens or early 20s. This could lead to intriguing prospects like Logan Davidson or Michael Busch falling and representing good value. While there are a handful of elite high school prospects, college players dominate the middle of the first round.
In case you are not aware, the MLB draft is quite an event. It contains 40 rounds and over 1200 picks, meaning you’ve got a chance to be picked if you’ve played baseball at any point in your life. Most sites covering the draft will only pay attention to the first four rounds (137 picks), so you won’t hear much after that. Many players picked lower will either go to college if young enough or not reach the majors, but there are always surprises. Hall of Fame Pitcher Nolan Ryan was taken in the 12th round in 1965, and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was taken in the 13th round in 1999. And of course we have to mention HoFer Mike Piazza who went in round 62, back when the draft was that long in 1988. Who knows if anybody from this class will rise to such heights, but once they are in, they’ve got a shot. Thanks for reading, and I will see you next time.