Tuesday, June 9, 2009

O's Get The Win On Draft Day

The O's have lost five games in a row, but in more important long-term news for the team, today was the Rule IV draft. With the #5 pick in the first round, the Orioles chose high school right-handed pitcher Matt Hobgood. I hadn't seen Hobgood even going in the top 10 in any mock drafts, and while not it's not a really out there pick, it certainly wasn't expected. Hobgood's a big guy at 6'4" 245, throws pretty hard, and is supposed to have some secondary pitches. I still don't get the pick though, with Zach Wheeler, Tyler Matzek, Jacob Turner, and various other pitchers still on the board who were more highly regarded than Hobgood. I'm generally not a big fan of drafting pitchers high given their attrition rate, but this draft didn't have very many well regarded position players so I understand going with the arm at #5. Why Hobgood though?

From the MLB Outsider mock draft, where he was picked at #26:
"The 18 year-old Hobgood is 10-0 with a 0.34 ERA, 90 K's, 21 BB's with Norco HS in the Mountain View League. His 2-seam fastball has officially been clocked at 93 mph, but Baseball Beginnings professes that the speed may actually increase to 95 mph in the middle innings. Besides 2-seam and 4-seam fastballs, Hobgood also mixes in curveballs and change-ups. His 6'4" frame enables him to have a higher release point than other pitchers, giving him another edge over hitters.

Hobgood is also hitting .479/20/53 as a senior, making him somewhat more appealing to NL clubs, plus 19 put outs and 13 assists with 0 errors defensively. Hobgood has been on the varsity squad at Norco for all four years in high school, three as a starter, and was named first team All-League back in '07, for his sophomore season. Weight had been somewhat of a problem for Hobgood, but he lost weight for his senior season and has made it a point of emphasis in his conditioning in preparation for his professional career."
From the Baseball Prospectus chat:
"Kevin Goldstein (3:39:02 PM PT): Baltimore eyed young pitching all along, but in the end, they decided that the top guys weren't worth the coin as they take Matt Hobgood, A guy most people saw as a mid-to-late first round kind of talent.

If you see the video on MLB, you can see why conditioning could end up an issue. MLB people talking about how he moved up, but there's only one reason -- when teams called him, he didn't mention the name Rick Porcello....

Kiley McDaniel (3:39:58 PM PT): Bryan: Is it weirder to see Sanchez or Hobgood in the top 5?

Bryan Smith (3:41:44 PM PT): Kiley, I think it's weirder to see Sanchez, because he has a lot less upside. But the weirdest, to me, is that the Orioles are so worried about signability: with the successes of picks like Wieters and Jake Arrieta, you'd think the Orioles would understand more than everyone else how to benefit from other teams tight wallets...

Kevin Goldstein (4:46:47 PM PT): dkdc (NYC): Where would you rank Hobgood in the Baltimore pitching hierarchy? I'm guessing he's behind Tillman and Matusz, but is he ahead of Arrieta? Erbe? Patton?

Top of head, I'd put him behind all of them but Patton . . . maybe Erbe depending on the health."
Additionally, the BP guys seemed to agree that the #11-20 picks were generally better than the top 10 picks (excluding Strasburg, I imagine). Thats' not good for baseball, but that really seems to be what happened. It's a capshoot anyway, but still.

From Saberscouting:
"Hobgood caught scouts’ attention at recent showcases in similar fashion to Younginer: with big stuff and a lack of contol. Hobgood has worked from 91-95, depending on whether he’s working with a power sinker or trying to top out a four-seamer for the radar guns. With either approach, he hasn’t been hitting spots too often and had trouble locating his offspeed pitches. There’s a lack of feel, some effort in the delivery, and some softness in his body, but the pure power stuff and workhorse frame are there."
From MLB.com:
Fastball:Hobgood threw his fastball in the 89-92 mph range and went right after hitters with it.
Fastball movement:Has heavy, hard life.
Curve:A plus pitch, 11-to-5, true curve, thrown 74-79 mph. It has the chance to be the best high school curve in this class.
Slider:It's slurvy at 80 mph, and is a usable pitch.
Changeup:Didn't show a changeup and may lack a feel for it.
Control:Has average high school command, but was throwing to the radar gun a bit too much.
Poise:Exceptional. He challenged hitters, daring them to try and hit him. He has a little mean streak on the mound.
Physical Description:Hobgood is a big, physical animal -- like a Josh Beckett type.
Medical Update:Healthy.
Strengths:Size, strength and durability. Also has two plus pitches now, with the intangibles to be a front-of-the-rotation starter.
Weaknesses:Doesn't show a feel for a changeup. He lands a little hard and will have to soften his front side a little to hone command.
Summary:Hobgood is a big, strong right-hander with two plus offerings in his heavy fastball and outstanding curve. Some small tweaks to his delivery should help him find even better fastball command. If he can add a changeup to go along with his other offerings and his tremendous mound presence, he has the chance to be a front-of-the-rotation starter in the future.
From Joe Jordan, via MASN:
"As always, every year we've got a group of two or three names we were wrestling on. I just got a gut feeling on this one, seperated it with more intangible stuff than anything. He's 6'4" and has power stuff. A high school kid that throws up to 95 or 96. He'll attack hitters with his sinker, his 2 seamer at 92,93. He throws a breaking ball for a strike and has a feel for a changeup. He's ready physically....

It's more a Kevin Millwood type package for me. This is a guy that if we're right, we can stack some innings on this guy. I think he'll be physical enough to handle it. I'll take that...

He's got a curveball, slider and changeup. Like most high school guys, he doesn't use his changeup enough, that's something that will have to be developed. But he's got quality to all of them. I would never take a guy at number five that was a big project or anything. This guy knows what he is doing, he'll be fine. He's going to really do well vs. wooden bats...

This was not a money saver. I knew I would be asked that, because he wasn't a name guy that people kept seeing in the paper. We scouted him all year long, I saw him the first time early in February and saw him two times after that. This had nothing to do with money. Look at what we've done lately. It's who I want and who our staff wants."
So, here's the deal (in my opinion); the team had several pitchers ranked very close together on talent - with them having Hobgood higher than most other teams but still not quite at the top - and decided that it made more sense to pick the guy they could sign easier and then put those savings to maybe going over slot later in the draft. If that is, in fact, their reasoning, then I'm more or less OK with it. The video clips I saw of him looked good (nice fastball and a plus curve), but I don't believe that Hobgood was legitimately the best player left at #5.

Here's video of Hobgood + family and friends during the draft. Regardless of my feelings above, he seems like a good kid and I'm happy to have him in the system. I'll be cheering for him.

Round two saw the O's pick two-way player Mychal Givens (high schooler as well), who was announced as a pitcher. (Really? Mychal? Is that necessary?)

From BP:
"Kevin Goldstein (6:36:17 PM PT): Really like the selection of Mychal Givens at 54 by the Orioles, a two-way star who was announced as a pitcher. He has a lot a velocity, but his arm angle and action is a bit kooky. Still, he dropped more because he didn't do as well as expected as opposed to him suddenly not being good."
From Saberscouting:
"At the PG National showcase, he was up to 94 while flashing an above-average slider and changeup from a low 3/4 arm angle; similar to what I saw, but showing improvement across the board."
Givens is a good athlete, and as a lanky guy he should have some room to add a little velocity as he fills out. The video of him makes me think more reliever than starter though. [Edit: Apparently they actually intend to have him play shortstop instead of pitch. That makes much more sense to me.]

Alrighty, then. From MLB.com:

Hitting ability:Givens isn't a raw hitter, like some athletic high schoolers are, but there is some risk in his bat.
Power:He's got some strength for future power, but doesn't currently have a power stroke. He hits off his front foot.
Running speed:He's not a burner, but he does have plus speed.
Base running:He appears to have a good idea of what he's doing on the basepaths.
Arm strength:Also a talented pitching prospect, he has at least plus arm strength.
Fielding:He shows the ability to be a good defender at shortstop.
Range:He's got very good actions and can go left and right very well.
Physical Description:Givens has a rangy, athletic frame that should allow him to add strength as he matures
Medical Update:Healthy.
Strengths:His athleticism, with plus speed and good overall defensive actions.
Weaknesses:Will he hit enough? There's talent there, but there's a question over whether the bat will carry to the next level.
Summary:Givens is one of the better all-around athletes in the Draft class who will get looks both at shortstop and on the mound on Draft day. He's a good defender with a plus arm who uses his athleticism well. A plus runner, he's got the kind of frame that should allow him to get stronger ... which could lead to more power. The key to unlocking that will be a better overall hitting approach. There is some risk with his bat, but if a team feels he'll hit, he'll go early.

From Saberscouting:
"Givens has all the makings of a first-round prep shortstop with a body that won’t outgrow the position, true shortstop actions with above-average defensive tools, and a quick release from a good arm that sits in the low 90s on the mound. He’s also an excellent athlete and basketball standout that made an amazing play at pitcher versus Dunedin as he charged a swinging bunt to field and flip to the catcher in one motion while he was running past home plate. He’s a vocal leader, good student, and likable personality with great makeup...

His speed is deceptive: he looks more quick than fast and somewhat labored once underway, but I got him at 3.87 to first from the right side on a bunt (confirmed on video) and he’s a 55 to 60 runner.

So there’s all the reasons to like Givens, but there are some things I saw that I didn’t like from these two games. Givens certainly has more upside as a shortstop as he lacked feel on the mound and throws from a true sidearm angle, which is very effective in the 90s versus high school competition, but would project him as a set-up man at best in pro ball.

As far as his swing goes, the elements are there and he has shown the ability to hit with wood against top competition, but the mechanics break down too often for me, and with his smallish frame (I’d estimate 5′10, 170) and lack of leverage, he projects to have average power at best. He struggled to square the ball up against average to good pitching when I saw him and showed bad habits in lunging at the ball, being flat-footed, out on his front foot, and an intricate toe-touch I’m not crazy about. Still, those are things that don’t become problems until professional ball, so he was still clearly the best player on the field.

I think Givens compares favorably to past hyped shortstop prospects like Jays’ SS prospect Justin Jackson or Padres SS prospect Drew Cumberland. Both were late-first to supplemental round prospects with limited ceiling or warts at the plate, a long track record of success, great defense, and the makeup to succeed with all eyes on them."
It's nice to get a shortstop into the system, but from the video I saw it doesn't look like he'll ever be an impact hitter. I have hopes that he'll stick at short and hit well enough to at least make it to the majors there. [Note: Justin Jackson is hitting .247 in A-Ball with modest on-base skills and no power. It's his third year in pro-ball. Drew Cumberland is hitting .316 with relatively poor on-base skills and no power in A-ball, also in his third year.]

In the third round (the last of the day), the O's selected first-baseman Tyler Townsend, who put up very good numbers in college. He's tried to work out in RF but will end up at first, and he's been compared to Brad Hawpe (who's a good hitter, but not as valuable at first).

From BP:
"Bryan Smith (7:22:05 PM PT): I don't know, if I'm the Orioles, I'm a lot more interested in high school slugger Jeff Malm than I am Tyler Townsend, college numbers be damned. The Orioles draft today has been strange -- their budget is clearly being impacted by the economy."
There were a fair number of slugging first-baseman in the draft last year, and the O's passed on the them much to my chagrin. At least they went for it this time, and I'll mostly hold out judgment until we see how Townsend does with a wood bat. Apparently he's a local kid (from Delaware) and really wanted to be an Oriole. That's nice to hear.

That's it for day one of the draft, which certainly had some surprises. On the bright side, all three guys the team picked are pretty good and the O's should have a decent amount of money left to take some players that slide due to signability reasons and pay them over slot. Joe Jordan has more or less earned the benefit of the doubt. we'll see how things shake out the next couple of days.
Oh right, the game!

Well Brad Bergesen looked very good, and he had the strike-out pitch working. The final line was 8 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K. He also kept the ball down for the entire game (which has sometimes been an issue for him) which resulted in a lot of groundballs (14 GB to 4 FB) and no home runs. There was talk of him being comfortable working with Wieters behind the plate, and so far (small sample size warning), that's been the case. In his last three games he's gone 23 IP, 17 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 12 K, only 1 HR, and lowered is ERA from 5.49 to 4.04.

Nolan Reimold provided some offense, hitting his 7th home run of the year (a solo shot) and adding an RBI single, and George Sherrill pitched the ninth and picked up a save despite giving up a run.

The O's get off the schneid with the 3-1 win. [Note: "To break a scoreless, hitless, or winless streak (i.e., a schneid). According to the Dickson Baseball Dictionary, the term "schneid" comes to baseball via gin rummy, and in turn comes from German / Yiddish "schneider," one who cuts cloth, i.e., a tailor." - Wikipedia]

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