Oriole fans are eagerly anticipating Monday’s First Year Player Draft as Baltimore will make the 1st Overall Pick for only the second time in franchise history. This pick could very well define the Mike Elias era and the rebuild overall. More than likely whoever gets drafted 1.1 will immediately be the face of the Orioles for years to come. This guy will be billboard material and a guy people will rally around, watching his every move as he ascends through the Orioles system.
Elias recently said he and his staff have narrowed the list down to four for the first overall pick, with the fourth presumed to be Texas High School shortstop C.J. Abrams. Abrams isn’t widely thought of as a 1.1 worthy pick, but he does have 80 grade speed with a plus hit tool. All things considered, it doesn’t make much sense to spend time evaluating him in this article with that being the case.
Adley Rutschman, C Oregon State
“The best prospect since Bryce Harper,” claims Baseball America. That’s high praise for a guy who hit .234 his freshman year at Oregon State. At the time, he was also on the Oregon State football team. So focusing only on baseball would turn out to be the biggest key to his success. He revamped his swing heading into his sophomore campaign, slashing .408/.505/.628 and lit the world on fire in the playoffs collecting 17 hits, a College World Series record.
Adley had established himself as a bona fide top of the draft candidate heading into 2019.
Then, he somehow got even better. He’s already broken the Oregon State record for walks in a season and through Friday, holds a .580 on-base percentage, something almost unheard of among Division I hitters.
The craziest part? In Friday night’s regional against Cincinnati, they chose to walk him with the bases loaded to walk in a run. This is something I can’t remember seeing since the likes of Barry Bonds, when Buck Showalter boldly made the choice to do so with Arizona and the Diamondbacks ended up winning the game (Cincinnati also won Friday night).
The point being, Adley Rutschman is one of the most feared hitters in college baseball. He ranks 2nd among catchers in home runs, but first among catchers in slugging percentage. Rutschman is also considered a well-above average defender behind the plate. He has fantastic receiving skills that he’s honed over the years and a pop time of right around two seconds flat. He is also throwing out runners at a 50% clip. To couple the offense with great skills behind the plate, Rutschman is the no doubt best prospect in the draft.
Why the Orioles will pick Adley Rutschman: He’s the best available player plain and simple at a premium position. He can work his way through the ranks of the minor leagues with the top Oriole pitching prospects and become an immediate impact face-of-the-franchise type.
Bases loaded intentional walk!?!?
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 1, 2019
Bobby Witt Jr., SS Colleyville Heritage HS
Witt certainly has a pedigree. Bobby Witt Sr. was the 3rd overall pick of the 1985 Draft as a pitcher. Witt Sr. had a 15 year MLB career, so he’s fully aware of what it takes to stick at the big league level. Witt Jr. has all the tools to succeed. Not only his actual physical skills, but scouts say his mental toughness puts him over the edge as a potential #1 pick.
Witt is considered to have at least as high as a ceiling as Rutschman, but perhaps a lower floor. Witt easily has the makings of a 5-tool player, but if there is any hole in his game, there is a little bit of swing and miss. Still, Witt faced some the best competition in the high school ranks when playing in the Under Armour All-American game. He’s faced potential 1st Round picks Jack Leiter and Daniel Espino, but flourished in every big spot. Diving deeper into some of the analytical measures, Witt ranks in the 99th percentile in Max Barrel Speed, Impact Momentum, Exit Velocity, and Max Acceleration.
All of this data suggests he’s a superstar in the making.
Did I mention Witt is no slouch on the mound? He can touch the low to mid 90’s on the mound and occasionally has closed games for his High School Team.
If Adley Rutschman is already Captain America, Witt is Captain America in waiting.
Why the Orioles will take Bobby Witt Jr.: He matches up with the current timeline the O’s have for the rebuild. He would likely come up right around the same time as other High School prospects DL Hall, Grayson Rodriguez, and Drew Rom. He provides yet again a plus bat at a premium position and could be the next Cal Ripken or maybe even A-Rod if he reaches his full potential.
Baseball’s next big thing is here. Meet @BwittJr, the incredible talent who dominated elite competition on his way to being named the 2018-2019 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year! #GatoradePOY https://t.co/os5gsqgOvL pic.twitter.com/WWj2vtdOTU
— Gatorade (@Gatorade) May 29, 2019
Andrew Vaughn, 1B Univ of. California
Each year, the best amateur baseball player in America is awarded the @USAGoldenSpikes award.
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) June 28, 2018
Think Paul Goldschmidt, if Vaughn reaches his ceiling (well maybe without the steals). He is a special talent with the bat. Vaughn slashed .387/.549/.728 in 2019 which is quite similar to Rutschman. Vaughn is considered to have the same if not slightly better of a hit tool than Adley with the power also being similar. The thing with Vaughn that excites scouts are his future projection models. These numbers come in off the charts. Fangraphs ranks Vaughn’s future hit tool as a 65 future value (20-80 scouting grade scale). This suggests Vaughn may be only scratching the surface of his potential. His defense, however, is considered lackluster which is why he isn’t considered quite in the same tier as Rutschman and Witt. He also plays 1B, which recently has shown to bring less value to teams, because those players are more interchangeable. This could make Vaughn’s draft position slip slightly, but most still expect him to land in the Top 5. It’s hard to see a special talent like Vaughn slipping in the draft, but he may be the hardest nut to crack in terms of future value.
Scouts say he has potential to be a perennial .300 batting average/30 Home Run hitter, which would be an absolute tremendous value outside the Top 3.
Why the Orioles will take Andrew Vaughn: Maybe the models show Sig Mejdal that Vaughn is indeed the best player in the draft and his potential is too great not to take a gamble on. The more likely scenario is that Mike Elias sees an opportunity to save some slot money. They could potentially sign Vaughn for less than $7 million (1.1 pick slot value is around $8.4 million) in order to sign a two sport athlete like Maurice Hampton or Jerrion Ealy later in the draft over slot. Elias has experience doing this with Carlos Correa in 2012 and it worked out masterfully as they were able to snag Lance McCullers with their next pick and dissuade him away from his college commit at the University of Florida.
Over the same 2-years: Andrew Vaughn has hit .395/.540/.777 in the same conference. Walks in 21.4% of PAs. Strikes out in 10.5% of PAs.
28 2Bs, 38 HRs in 476 PAs.
Same 2-years JJ Bleday. .361/.477/.664 in the SEC. Walks in 17.6% of PAs. Strikes out in 15.8 %
16 2B, 2 3B, 30 HRs. https://t.co/oB8gK8BTjh
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) June 1, 2019
I still think the pick here is Adley Rutschman, although I feel less confident than I did a few days ago. Again, Elias recently said the team is considering four players with the top pick. Of course he would say this, because the scouts have to do their due diligence. There have been rumblings about Adley’s past shoulder problems and as a catcher that could have scary implications. I do think these reports and concerns are overblown and Adley’s floor is too high to pass up. Adley would immediately slot in as the club’s top prospect and has Top 5 prospect potential in baseball when the current Top 5 all lose prospect status (all currently with their big league club).
Rutschman could very well be a generational talent and passing on him would no doubt cause a stir among fans, but we need to trust in Elias and Co. to get the job done, because they’ve been in this situation before.
The excitement is palpable for Orioles fans, because whoever gets selected 1.1 on Monday, will get the moniker ‘Savior of the Orioles.’
This pick will set the tone for the Orioles rebuild and potentially could serve as a benchmark for the Orioles’ future success.