Baltimore Orioles: MLB Pipeline Links O’s to Jack Leiter
After a frustrating sweep at the hands of the Rays, Orioles fans are looking ahead to what talent the team could bring aboard in this year’s draft
Unlike the last two years, there is no clear number one pick. Instead, there is a group of six players at the top: high school shortstops Jordan Lawlar, Marcelo Mayer, and Brady House, Vanderbilt pitchers Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker, and Louisville catcher Henry Davis. A new mock draft from MLB Pipeline has the Baltimore Orioles taking Leiter at five.
This prediction should get the fanbase excited. Widely considered a top-two pick just a few weeks ago, Leiter dropping to five would give the Orioles a potential front-line starting pitcher. Leiter has been hit around a bit recently, but he has a plus fastball and curveball, and his slider and changeup could also end up being plus pitches. His strong sequencing and command allow him to get through lineups and pitch deep into games.
Highly regarded before the season, Leiter raised his stock by throwing a no-hitter against a strong South Carolina team, a feat that still means something in college. But, after a string of sub-par starts and a scratch, some concerns have been raised about his success long term, which has led to a small drop in mock drafts. I don’t think this should be a serious issue for an organization with a good development team, which the Orioles now have.
Also available in this mock draft is Kumar Rocker, who Pipeline has the Diamondbacks taking at number six. If the draft falls this way (which is unlikely as we are two months out), the Orioles would get their pick of the Vanderbilt teammates. Rocker drew national attention in 2019 for throwing a no-hitter in the NCAA baseball Super Regionals, but he has also somewhat struggled lately with a baffling fluctuation in fastball velocity. Rocker likely has a higher ceiling while Leiter has a higher floor, the latter of which I am more partial to.
Who the Orioles draft will, of course, depend on who is taken before their pick, as any of the top six players could go number one or fall a little bit. But, most centrally important is what the rival Boston Red Sox do one pick earlier at number four. Pipeline believes they will select Brady House, who has the best raw power of anyone at the top of the draft. This is a change from their previous mock when they had the Rangers drafting Leiter at number two and Rocker at four, leaving the Orioles to take House at five.
If there really is not much difference in long-term value, the Orioles front office should draft the best available player at full price and shake hands in celebration. But, after they cut a deal with Heston Kjerstad last draft season instead of picking Austin Martin, there is a distinct chance the Orioles do it again. Going below slot at number five is easier to swallow since there is a smaller drop-off to the eighth or ninth prospect.
Who could the Orioles cut a deal with this year is anyone’s guess. I really like Sal Frelick, an all-around outfielder from Boston College who could stick in center field. Another player is Jackson Jobe, who has huge upside and Pipeline believes to be the best high school right-hander in four years. Ty Madden out of the University of Texas is the next best college pitcher with similar potential and issues to Leiter and Rocker.
Ultimately, this is just one mock draft two months ahead of decision time. It does not really matter who analysts predict to go where when teams have yet to solidify their big boards. Still, the Orioles are in a comfortable position with many appealing options.