Orioles mock draft roundup: Experts still divided on who will be taken No. 1
With the Orioles showing unexpected quality in the 2022 season, it seems likely that the days of the team earning a top 5 draft pick each year are over for now. The No. 1 pick they lined up for tonight after earning MLB’s worst record last season could be their last “easy” chance to nab a top talent for the farm system. From now on, it will take more common sense and luck.
Who will the Orioles end up selecting with the top pick tonight? A variety of draft/prospect experts weighed in in the final days before the draft, including a couple who did mock drafts on draft day. The only sure thing is that no one really knows.
Four different publications have published fictional drafts in the past 48 hours or so and there are four different ideas of who will be taken at No. 1. These are not surprising names for anyone who has followed the rumor mill over the weeks. preceding the project. The names the Orioles could choose from have been guessed at for a while. It’s just a matter of who they’ll take.
One thing to keep in mind when posting this roundup is that the Orioles’ decision has almost certainly not been made. The pattern that was set when Mike Elias was an assistant for the Astros is that right before the draft, the top decision makers hunker down and make a final decision. It’s unlikely that any of the high-level thinkers will talk to a reporter about their process. These assorted simulacra are all just guesses based on sources other than high levels of the O’s front office.
Druw Jones – OF – Wesleyan HS (Georgia)
Jones, pictured above, is the No. 1 prospect on virtually everyone’s drafting board. He is the son of longtime MLBer Andruw Jones, who was on a Hall of Fame track in his 20s until his production almost crashed as soon as he hit 30. Druw Jones is the Orioles’ choice according to both halves of the MLB Pipeline duo, Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis, in their Draft Day simulation.
Whether the Orioles make the move to draft Jones may depend on what kind of signing bonus they think he’s going to demand. A previous rumor suggested that Jones could shell out $10 million. In his latest simulation, Callis suggests the Orioles could get Jones for an $8 million bonus — roughly $800,000 under the No. 1 pick slot. If that’s an accurate number, it’s hard to imagine that. the Orioles pass on the best talent in the draft.
The recon report on Jones to Pipeline:
While Jones’ right-handed swing is still a bit of a work in progress, he understands it well, shows his ability to make adjustments, and does damage against a quality throw. He already has plenty of batting speed and pushes balls into empty spaces, and as he fills his 6-foot-4 frame, he should develop more power. He is a plus-plus runner when he turns on the jets and is able to batter ground balls down the left side.
Even for top high school talent, it will likely be true that the swing is “a work in progress” — you don’t find 18-year-olds who can go straight to MLB, and even in exceptionally rare situations. where a player moves to MLB at 19 or 20, players usually still have adjustments to make.
Termarr Johnson – SS – Mays HS (Georgia)
Johnson is the Orioles’ choice in the draft day simulation presented to FanGraphs. Eric Longenhagen recalls that aside from when they took Adley Rutschman, the Orioles went for sub-pitch deals at their first pick in an effort to use the money to get better talent with later picks. “There’s a significant opportunity to do that” in this draft, he says, so he considers the key question to be: Which of the players the Orioles are considering has the best incentive to take a lesser signing bonus?
There has generally been agreement in the weeks leading up to the draft that Johnson is the player who would receive the biggest discount among the players whose talent has placed them in the No. 1 pick conversation. Johnson does not appear to be among the first 3 picks unless the Orioles take it. If so, then his alleged best signing bonus would be $7 million – slot value for the No. 4 pick. The Orioles could offer him something like $7.25 million and still cash in nearly $1. .6 million in cash for later.
FanGraphs ranks Johnson as the No. 4 prospect in the class, which isn’t a knock on his talent – he could be one of the game’s top 30 prospects when he signs, according to their estimate. FG’s report on Johnson includes some exciting stuff and work in progress:
Johnson has the most electric batting speed in this draft and showcases a rare combination of current power and potential adjustment in midfield, while also being one of the youngest prospects in the class. The stocky Johnson is short but not short, just 5ft 8in, but physical and explosive (especially in his lower half), and his swing mechanically resembles Bryce Harper’s, especially his finishing. Johnson’s height is actually an advantage for his swing, as he can take advantage of a bat path designed for power and lift without it being too long.
His current weakness is the outside third of the plate, and Longenhagen also writes that Johnson “tends to expand the area and make suboptimal contact.” He’s not expected to stay at shortstop, but he could be a second baseman. Elias has a little experience with a short second baseman from his days in Houston. If he sees some of that Jose Altuve “it” in Johnson, it might make him want to go that route for the No.1 pick.
Jackson Holliday – SS – Stillwater HS (Oklahoma)
Holliday is another son of a longtime MLB outfielder. Her father is Matt Holliday. He’s the Orioles’ pick according to Keith Law’s latest mock draft at The Athletic. Law offers no specific intelligence to link the O’s to Holliday, just that it’s his “best educated guess”. It looks like Holliday will be the No. 2 pick if he’s not taken by the Orioles, so there wouldn’t be much savings compared to slot allocation. They might just like the talent, though.
Jackson, unlike his father, is a left-handed infielder who, if not staying as a shortstop, has the potential to play center field. We know that Mike Elias likes premium guys in the middle, and a player who could be a shortstop or a central defender might appeal to him. Holliday is ranked as Law’s No. 6 prospect in the draft:
He has one of the best swings in the draft, even with a slight bat wrap, with strong plate coverage and above average power, more likely to be a high-doubles guy with 15-20 home runs than a 30 homer guy even in his prime. He’s been hard to knock off as an amateur, showing only occasional weakness against fastballs, and so far his court recognition has been strong for his age and experience level.
I’m just a guy blogging and knowing nothing about amateur baseball prospects, but Holliday seems less exciting to me than Jones or Johnson, based on what the various pundits have written about them. Fans can now hope the Orioles bid farewell to the top 5 or even the top 10 for a while. It’s time to have the best guy.
Brooks Lee – SS – Cal Poly
Lee’s name came up with the Orioles throughout the mock draft season, including in the final simulation released by Prospects Live. The rationale they offer is similar to why the Orioles might pick Johnson in terms of slot economies: Lee seems unlikely to be picked ahead of No. 4 if he’s not taken by the Orioles . They write that it offers “the best set of tools and incorporeal” and that will make him the choice of the O’s.
In this outlet, Lee is the No. 5 ranked prospect in the draft class — he’s not even the best college player they rate, because they put him behind Georgia Tech wide receiver Kevin Parada.
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, Lee is an extremely physical, barrel-chested shortstop with significant strength throughout his frame. Lee carries his size extremely well on the dirt where his fluidity and huge arm really stand out. He receives high marks for his instincts and leadership on the pitch, captaining the defense between games. A switch hitter with power on both sides, Lee exhibits at least one more striking tool, perhaps 70 with punch. It’s an above-average raw power he throws himself into, spraying missiles across every field. Scouts think there’s more game power to come, though he’ll probably never be a “power hitter” at the next level. Lee may eventually have to move to third base.
Multiple reports on Lee note concerns about recurring back injury issues for Lee. It’s also not terribly exciting to read about a potential No. 1 pick, although as with all of this, teams will have the most complete information and that will go into the decision-making process.
Elias has yet to choose a high school player with his first pick in the draft as Orioles general manager and if he takes Lee tonight, it’s really going to feel like an intentional philosophy after passing on several highly regarded high school kids to the #5 last year as well.
The draft begins at 7 p.m. ET Sunday night. The Orioles will be on the clock soon after, and then we’ll know which combination of talent and signing price they prefer. I’m hoping for Jones or Johnson, but more than that, I’m hoping Elias and company’s judgment on how best to allocate draft dollars will generate several good or great players for the farm system.