On Monday, Major League Baseball conducted the first two rounds of its 2019 first-year player draft (). The draft will resume on Tuesday, running through the 10th round before then wrapping up on Wednesday with the completion of the 40th round. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s take a step back and examine nine takeaways from day one of the draft.
1. Orioles make the obvious pick
Coming into the draft, there was question as to whether the Orioles would select Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman with the first overall pick. Rutschman, a switch-hitting catcher,. Yet rumors had surfaced to Cal first baseman Andrew Vaughn and Vanderbilt outfielder J.J. Bleday.
In the end, Rutschman won out. For good reason, too. Scouts believe Rutschman has the potential for four above-average to plus tools. He can hit for average and power, has an advanced approach, and combines a good arm with quality receiving abilities. The only thing Rutschman can’t do is run like the wind, and … well, he’s a catcher, so who cares?
For all the talk about Mike Elias and the Orioles implementing the portfolio approach — thereby taking a player with a lesser price tag in order to land a better player later on — they instead drafted Rutschman, who was widely considered the best available talent. It wasn’t a cute move, but it should prove to be an effective one for a franchise in the midst of a total rebuild.
2. Vaughn makes history
We. He projects to be a middle-of-the-order hitter who could reach the majors quickly. At the same time, he’s a 6-foot tall right-handed first baseman — that’s an atypical top-of-the-draft profile.
In fact, Vaughn became the first right-handed first baseman (collegiate or prep) to be drafted in the top five. Previously, the “record” had been sixth. The White Sox are taking a gamble here, but they seem to believe the reward of landing a well-above-average hitter is worth the risk.
3. Draft makes history
As it turns out, Vaughn was part of another bit of draft-related history as well.
The draft started with six consecutive position players selected. The Reds broke the streak by drafting TCU lefty Nick Lodolo with the seventh pick. That marked the first time in draft history that no pitcher had been drafted in the top six. Previously, Ricky Romero (sixth, 2005) had held the “honor” of being the latest first pitcher selected — .
The Orioles and most of the other teams stuck to the script in the early going – or, at least, came close enough that it wasn’t jarring. There were a few exceptions later, including the Cubs and Astros.
The Cubs, choosing 27th, took Ryan Jensen, a small right-hander from Fresno State with big-time stuff. Jensen had ranked 99th on MLB.com’s pre-draft rankings. No player drafted before him had ranked higher than 52nd.
Not to be outdone, the Astros chose Cal catcher Korey Lee with the 32nd pick. Lee had ranked 119th pre-draft despite receiving high grades for his arm strength and power potential.
Obviously pre-draft rankings mean only so much, and both the Cubs and Astros have good reputations. We’re simply noting the picks raised some eyebrows when they were made.
5. Touted prep arms slide
Oddly enough, the Cubs had been rumored to be taking prep pitcher Matthew Allan (ranked 13th by MLB.com) before announcing their pick. Later, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported the Cubs had considered Allan, a Florida commit, but then went with Jensen due to signability concerns:
Allan isn’t the only highly touted prep arm heading to the SEC. Jack Leiter should be honoring his commitment to Vanderbilt after going unpicked on due to his own demands.
6. Bauer analyzes Cleveland’s first rounder
One prep arm who didn’t slip was Georgia Premier Academy righty Daniel Espino. Espino was drafted 24th by Cleveland, and the team likely valued his high-velocity fastball and high-spin breaker — he’s reportedly touched triple digits before, and has the potential for a plus breaking ball.
Coincidentally, MLB Network had Cleveland right-hander Trevor Bauer break down Espino before the draft:
For those who can’t watch right now, just know that Bauer compared Espino to both Tyler Glasnow and himself — noting that Espino has the chance to get even better if he makes some adjustments to his mechanics to clean up his posture and improve his line to the plate.
7. Abrams slips to Padres
Depending on the judge, the Padres might have the best farm system in baseball. The rich grew richer on Monday after picking up prep shortstop C.J. Abrams with the sixth pick.
Abrams entered the draft ranked fourth by MLB.com due in part to his near-elite speed. MLB.com also gave Abrams a chance to finish with four average or better tools, noting he draws comparisons to Dee Gordon — albeit a more powerful version of Gordon.
8. Diamondbacks have busy night
The Diamondbacks had seven of the top 75 picks on Monday, making them the busiest ants in the colony.
Arizona started its night by taking prep outfielder Corbin Carroll 16th. The Diamondbacks then went pitching-heavy for most of the rest of the evening, selecting Blake Walston, Brennan Malone, Drey Jameson, Ryne Nelson, and Tommy Henry before picking collegiate outfielder Dominic Fletcher to round out their haul.
For those wondering, the Diamondbacks landed the 15th-, 20th-, 49th-, 52nd-, 59th-, 85th-, and 91st-best prospects in the draft, per MLB.com. To put it another — a junk stat way — the sum of the Diamondbacks’ pick slots was 314, while the sum of their picks’ pre-draft rankings was 371.
The odds of the Diamondbacks having a, but Arizona seemed to do fine.
9. Strumpf homers after being drafted
UCLA infielder Chase Strumpf was drafted 64th by the Cubs. About a minute later, he celebrated by doing this:
That the draft is ongoing while eligible players are in action is always weird. But sometimes it can result in neat synchronicities. Consider this the latest example of that.