2017 MLB Draft Grades: Baltimore Orioles
Best Pure Hitter: Canada has a better track record of producing hitters than shortstops, but SS Adam Hall (2) could be both. He has excellent bat speed and quick hands and has seen plenty of quality pitching while playing for Canada’s junior national program.
Best Power Hitter: In a pitcher-heavy O’s class, C Ben Breazeale (7) has the best power potential. He heartened club officials with five homers in his .318/.428/.467 debut after having hit only one homer with wood in summer collegiate action previously.
Fastest Runner: Hall turns in plus times, as has OF Lamar Sparks (5), who has a projectable 6-foot-2, 165-pound frame that could add strength while allowing him to maintain his speed.
Best Defensive Player: Sparks has the body and speed for center field and has shown the Orioles he has some baseball instincts as well. His arm also earns plus grades if he ever has to move to a corner, but they see him as a future asset in center field.
Best Athlete: Hall and Sparks both have the athletic ability to potentially stay in the middle of the diamond.
Best Fastball: LHP D.L. Hall (1), no relation to Canada’s Hall, has a plus fastball from the port side, reaching up to 96-97 at his best but sitting comfortably at 92-95 mph when he’s back in rhythm, which he was in instructional league after an inconsistent spring and pro debut. RHP Michael Baumann (3) also has reached 97, with good natural late life.
Best Secondary Pitch: Both Hall’s curveball and changeup have plus potential, with the curveball earning the consistently higher marks. If he commands his plus fastball, he has frontline starter stuff.
Best Pro Debut: LHP Zac Lowther (2.5) used his elite extension in his delivery to baffle short-season New York-Penn League hitters, going 2-2, 1.66 with a 75-11 strikeout-walk ratio in 54.1 innings. Opponents hit .182 against him. Baumann (4-2, 1.31, 41/19 SO/BB in 41.1 IP) was wilder but nearly as good.
Most Intriguing Background: LHP Cameron Bishop (26) missed the spring for UC Irvine with a strained oblique but showed a 94 mph fastball and four-pitch mix in three Cape Cod League starts, and the Orioles signed him for a $605,00 bonus. Baumann was the second-straight Jacksonville Dolphin selected by the Orioles in the third round; Austin Hays already has reached the major leagues.
Michael Baumann Makes Adjustments
The 25-year-old righthander spent the summer trying to take another step forward at the alternate site after a breakthrough 2019 campaign.
Closest To The Majors: If Lowther keeps getting awkward swings at his fastball, which can be 88-90 mph on bad days and 89-94 on good ones, he’ll move quickly as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
Best Late-Round Pick: Bishop stands out, but RHP Reed Hayes (13) also stands out for raw arm strength. A former two-way player at Walters (Tenn.) State JC, he just pitched at Vanderbilt and is still inexperienced on the mound.
The One Who Got Away: RHP Jack Conlon (4), who is good friends with Sparks, didn’t pass his physical and was declared a free agent by the commissioner’s office. He didn’t pass a physical with the Giants, either, and wound up at Texas A&M.