The Orioles should be happy with what they see from their newest draft class.
The Orioles front office and coaching staff have introduced the 2022 draft class to pro ball, and they should be pleased with the early results. Most picks who signed have debuted at this point, and they are playing well as a group overall. We are talking about the dreaded small sample size since the draft was less than two months ago, and the signing deadline was only a month ago.
Even so, the draft picks are showing encouraging signs to people within and outside the organization. Of course Jackson Holliday is the big name since he was the first overall pick. The shortstop prospect was promoted to Low-A last week because the Florida Complex League schedule ended. Holliday tore up the FCL with a 1.167 OPS in eight games, and he filled up the stat sheet in the process. He hit a home run. a double, drove in three, scored six runs, stole three bags, and drew ten walks. He is only 2-15 so far with the Shorebirds, but that is in only four games while being more than two and a half years younger than the average player.
After three games at the Complex to get his feet wet, Dylan Beavers hit the ground running with Delmarva. He has an OPS of 1.036 in eleven games. He has no homers yet, but Beavers has legged out four doubles and two triples, along with three steals and twelve runs. I think the competitive round pick will finish the season in Salisbury and start 2023 in Aberdeen.
Second-round draft pick Max Wagner played exactly one game in Florida before moving up to Maryland. In nine games with the Shorebirds, Wagner is hitting .250 with seven walks, giving him a .432 on-base percentage. Pitching is still pretty wild in the low levels so don’t read too much into that, but is certainly good to see plate discipline. The ACC Player of the Year hit 27 homers in the spring, but he is still looking for his first as a pro.
The oldest Orioles draft pick has been the best player so far, as Jud Fabian is already up to High-A. After not signing with the Red Sox last year, Fabian went back to Florida and is now on the fast track to the Majors. He has not played with the IronBirds yet since they got rained out Tuesday. Fabian more than earned his promotion after ten games at Low-A, whacking three home runs, two triples, and eight doubles. That immense production came out to a slugging percentage of .841! Of course that is not sustainable, but the number is very exciting. We have to see how he fairs against age-appropriate competition before declaring him a draft steal.
Unsurprisingly, from here on out the results so far aren’t as pleasant. The highest pick on Day 2 to sign, Silas Ardoin looks like the defense-first catcher we expected. In four games on the Complex, he went 0-8 but drew nine walks, creating a comically lopsided batting line. At Delmarva he is still drawing walks but only hitting .185 with no extra-base hits after seven games. He has thrown out one of five base stealers. The numbers are similar for college teammate Douglas Hodo, who is 2-14 with two singles and two steals.
The third of the defensive-minded college picks is Adam Crampton, who is only hitting .177 with three doubles in nine games with the Shorebirds. Ardoin, Hodo, and Crampton have plenty of time to figure it out at the plate, but they are showing why they weren’t higher draft picks despite great defense.
The Day 3 hitters include Adam Retzbach, who looks like a less extreme version of Ardoin so far. The 14th rounder is hitting .227 with a double and six walks in seven Low-A games. Million-dollar 18th-rounder Carter Young is showing little power but more hitting ability than what he showed at Vanderbilt. He has an average of .290 but only one walk and three doubles in six games with the Shorebirds, which comes out to an OPS of .700. Hopefully he can limit his strikeout issues going forward.
Trace Bright has only pitched in one affiliated game, giving up one run in three innings. Preston Johnson and Wyatt Cheney have only played in one game at the rookie level. Cameron Weston has pitched in three games at Low-A, allowing three runs in six and a third innings. Seven-footer Jared Beck has given up two runs in five innings across two games. Reese Sharp has the same line but in three games. Bradley Brehmer and high schooler Zack Showalter have not played yet. Clearly the Orioles are being careful with the pitchers they took in the draft.
It is too soon to glean much from these 18 players after just a handful of games, but the Orioles and the fans should be very happy with what Holliday, Beavers, and Fabian have shown so far. After all, the top picks are the ones that matter the most. Hopefully at least one or two of the late-rounders emerges as a real prospect.