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2015 MLB Draft: Early Look at Top Players at Each Position

The 2015 MLB draft is now less than six months away. 

The order is set (well, mostly). The top talents have been identified.

College baseball squads are getting ready to head back to the diamond, and high school squads across the country are waiting for the fields to thaw so they too can get back on the field.

This year’s draft class isn’t particularly strong, and while it doesn’t offer that one guy who’s a surefire No. 1 pick, it does offer a great variety of players.

Athletic high school infielders. Check. See Brendan Rodgers.

Seasoned college bats. Check. See D.J. Stewart.

Projectable high school lefties. Check. See Kolby Allard.

Hard-throwing college pitchers. Check. See Michael Matuello.

Heck, this year’s draft class even has a large collection of second- and third-generation soon-to-be professionals.

The top prospects are so varied that the easiest way to preview them all might be to break them down by position—rather, the position they are projected to play at the next level.

Let’s start by taking a look at the top talent available at each position. 

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6 Moves to Fix the Baltimore Orioles Before 2015

I know what you’re thinking.

“Fix” is a silly word to use for a team that won the American League East by 12 games last year, clubbed more than 200 home runs for the third consecutive season and swept the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series.

Still, after losing Nelson Cruz, Andrew Miller and Nick Markakis to free agency and with Delmon Young possibly on the way out as well, the O’s have some work to do if they want to compete for another division crown in 2015.

In many regards, they’re already way behind. The Blue Jays, Yankees and Red Sox have already made major splashes, bringing big names like Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin, Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval into the division, not to mention lesser but impactful players like Michael Saunders, Didi Gregorius and Marco Estrada.

Luckily, we haven’t even entered into 2015 yet, so there’s plenty of time for the O’s to make moves of their own. Also working in Baltimore‘s favor is the fact that it has Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter pulling the strings.

The duo swept Baseball America’s manager and executive of the year honors, earning rave reviews for their work with a roster that endured several maladies in 2014, including season-ending injuries to cornerstones Matt Wieters and Manny Machado and the disappointment that was Ubaldo Jimenez.

Here are six fixes—easy to not-so-easythat could set the Orioles on a similar path back to the playoffs.

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Why the J.J. Hardy Contract Extension Is a Great Move for O’s

On October 8, Shortstop J.J. Hardy agreed to a contract extension that will keep him in black and orange until 2017, per John Perrotto of USA Today. The deal contains a vesting option for 2018, assuming Hardy reaches a predetermined number of at-bats. Considering Hardy has only missed 61 games since joining the O’s, it seems like a good bet the club won’t have to worry about shortstop for the next four years.

As for the financials, the deal is worth $40 million.

While some might find it interesting that Hardy was granted such a sweet deal in the midst of one of his worst offensive seasons since joining Baltimore, those critics aren’t taking into account all of the little things that Hardy does well, better than nearly every other big league shortstop.

It’s well known that Hardy is one of the better fielding shortstops in the game today, as evidenced by back-to-back Gold Gloves in 2012 and 2013, but the impact he’s had on the O’s since coming over in a truly one-sided deal in 2011 has been striking.

Year Fielding % MLB rank Runs Saved MLB rank
2009 0.985 14th -10 19th
2010 0.982 18th -26 23rd
J.J. Hardy Traded to Baltimore
2011 0.982 22nd -20 22nd
2012 0.983 18th -12 20th
2013 0.991 1st 19 11th
2014 0.986 6th 50 3rd

In addition to being an integral part of the best defensive unit (by fielding percentage) in baseball history in 2013, Hardy has also done well for himself on a personal level. Despite playing just four seasons in Baltimore, he already has the 10th-highest defensive WAR (8.3) in team history.

To truly gauge the impact of Hardy, one has to take into account the impact he has at the plate as well. In fact, one can make the argument that he was the top-hitting shortstop in the American League in 2014.

J.J. Hardy 0.268 0.309 0.372 28 9 52 56 3.4
Jose Reyes 0.287 0.328 0.398 33 9 51 94 3.1
Alcides Escobar 0.285 0.317 0.377 34 3 50 74 2.4
Erick Aybar 0.278 0.321 0.379 30 7 68 77 3.9

The thing that gives the other three the edge is their runs scored, higher OBP and steals. This all makes sense, of course, because they’re all top-of-the-order hitters in their respective lineups. Looking beyond the standard measurements for hitting is where Hardy really edges ahead.

  Two-Strikes RISP 2-out, RISP High Leverage
Hardy .256/.297/.328 .315/.362/.413 .341/.383/.364 .266/.317/.298
Reyes .243/.300/.342 .225/.278/.287 .206/.270/.265 .308/.360/.433
Escobar .225/.263/.273 .277/.302/.405 .229/.264/.337 .252/.279/.341
Aybar .187/.248/.261 .266/.319/.392 .200/.273/.300 .250/.284/.333

While Hardy’s home run total was down from his usual pace, he was a master at driving in runners in scoring position.

Taking into account that 2014 was a down year offensively for Hardy, it makes more sense to factor in the damage he did during his first three years as an Oriole when comparing him to some of the best shortstops in baseball.

J.J. Hardy   0.259 0.301 0.420 112 86 276 283 2 14.7 8.3
Troy Tulowitzki 0.311 0.389 0.548 89 84 266 257 13 17.3 4.0
Jose Reyes 0.301 0.352 0.437 121 37 189 339 124 13.0 -2.2
Hanley Ramirez 0.277 0.351 0.464 105 67 265 260 65 10.4 -2.3

More home runs than Tulowitzki, more doubles than Ramirez and a higher defensive WAR than all three combined. Toss in two Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger and ZERO on- or off-the-field distractions in four years, and it’s no wonder the O’s were so keen to lock Hardy up.

Even more impressive is that the O’s only paid Hardy $26,850,000 for those four years of production while Tulowitzki was paid $39,750,000, Reyes $47,000,000 and Ramirez a whopping $57,500,000.

Still, this new contract isn’t about the past. It’s about what the O’s expect from Hardy going forward. Considering he’ll be 37 years old during the final year of his deal, it could be a gamble for the front office. This is where Dan Duquette and Co. earn high praise.

Hardy has never been known for his speed. He’s never been known for his high-walk or low-strikeout totals. He’s never been considered a flashy defender. What he is is a solid defender who puts himself in great position before the ball ever gets hit to him, eliminating the need for diving plays or throws from the outfield. What he is is a power-hitting shortstop who drives in runs even when he’s not hitting home runs.

Aging four years shouldn’t hinder Hardy’s ability to do any of these things.


All advanced statistics via

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Ranking the Top Leadoff Hitting Prospect in Each Organization

For most of baseball history, the No. 1 spot in the lineup was reserved for the speediest, and therefore often the smallest, player on the team.

Vince Coleman, Maury Wills, Tim Raines, Lou Brock, Kenny Lofton and the immortal Rickey Henderson, each of whom checked in at less than six feet tall and less than 185 pounds, turned the position into a cliche that forced teams to overlook important statistics like on-base percentage and one’s ability to hit with no one on base.

Today, the leadoff position is a different ballgame.

Of the qualified leadoff hitters in the game today, only five have cracked double-digits in stolen bases this season. 

Bye-bye speed. Hello on-base percentage!

Among those players qualified, Cincinnati’s Shin-Soo Choo has the highest on-base percentage (.425). He checks in at 5’11” and 205 pounds and has more career home runs than stolen bases. 

The top batting average (.316) belongs to St. Louis second baseman Matt Carpenter. He checks in at 6’3” and 200 pounds and for his career has exactly two stolen bases.

Neither Choo nor Carpenter would have had the opportunity to hit leadoff 30 years ago with stolen base totals and figures like that.

That’s not to say there isn’t a place for the young up-and-coming leadoff hitters of the future, guys like Gary Brown and Billy Hamilton, who still place an emphasis on speed.

The simple truth is that today’s leadoff hitters are as balanced as ever, containing a combination of on-base skills and speed with a dash of pop for good measure.

With an eye to the future of the position, let’s take a look at the top leadoff hitting prospects in baseball right now.

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Jeremy Martinez: Prospect Profile for Chicago Cubs 37th Round Pick

Player: Jeremy Martinez

Drafted by: Chicago Cubs (No. 1,098 overall)

Position: C

DOB: 12/29/1994 (Age: 18)

Height/Weight: 5’11”/200 lbs

Bats/Throws: R/R

School: Mater Dei High School (Calif.)

Previously Drafted: N/A 



Martinez burst onto the scene as a high school sophomore for arguably the most prestigious program in the country, Mater Dei High. It didn’t take long for him to emerge as one of the top prospects of the 2013 class, and while he’s continued to perform as expected, he hasn’t managed to stay in the limelight. As of right now, he’s widely regarded as the fourth- or fifth-best catching prospect in this year’s class.

Martinez has been a regular on the showcase circuit and has flashed impressive tools, including good hitting ability and power to go along with superior defensive ability. He committed early to USC and appears willing to honor that if the money isn’t ripe for the taking. A questionable track record for recent Trojans draft prospects might be enough to change his mind.


Full Scouting Report

Note: Numerical scores are on the conventional 80-point scouting scale, with the current score first and projected score second.

Hitting: 55/60

Martinez has one of the best bats of any catcher in this draft, regardless of class; smooth, easy swing with no holes; if he reaches his potential, he should have no problem hitting over .300 on a regular basis; his bat should carry him, regardless of whether or not his power develops into anything more than a bunch of doubles; an incredibly patient hitter considering his age; if he goes the college route, he should have no problem drawing more walks than strikeouts; as a pro, he’ll likely go through the motions early on, but he should develop into a serious on-base percentage threat.


Power: 45/55

Has shown good raw power; always one to watch in batting practice sessions; yet to really translate into game action; will likely be more of a gap-to-gap hitter in the early stages of his pro career; in-game power will take a while to develop; if power develops, Martinez could have 15-20 homer potential.


Speed: 40/45

Below-average runner, not surprisingly given his position; likely won’t get much better as he progresses in age; will have to work hard to not be a base-clogger.


Defense: 55/60

Defensively, there isn’t much more to ask of Martinez; he’s quick behind the plate, quicker than others of his size; there are concerns about his lower half getting too thick down the road; should be a slightly above-average defensive catcher for at least a few years; arm strength and accuracy are tools; good fundamentals.


Arm: 55/55

Martinez’s pop-times have been consistently clocked in 1.9 to 2.1 range; his arm strength is just slightly above-average; compensates by showing great accuracy with all of his throws; also shows a quick arm behind the plate; very quick release.


MLB Player Comparison: Wilin Rosario


Projection: Solid everyday catcher with Gold Glove potential.


MLB ETA: 2018


Chances of Signing: 50%

A commitment to USC is no small thing, but Martinez has a chance to capitalize on the weakness of this year’s crop of catchers. If he heads to SoCal, he could end up as a sure-fire first-rounder, but there’s always risk in passing up a chance to turn pro.

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Chris Okey: Prospect Profile for San Diego Padres 31st-Round Pick

Player: Chris Okey

Drafted by: San Diego Padres (No. 928 overall)

Position: C

DOB: 12/29/1994 (Age: 18)

Height/Weight: 6’0”/180 lbs.

Bats/Throws: R/R

School: Eustis High School (FL)

Previously Drafted: N/A 



Okey came on strong last summer, parlaying his experience with Team USA’s 16-and-under squad in 2010 into a spot on the 18-and-under team, where he emerged as one of the top all-around players in the country.

Ever since, he’s been high on draft boards for his talent both at the plate and behind it.

At first glance, Okey resembles Alex Bregman, who spurned a 29th-round offer from Boston to sign with LSU a year ago. Bregman has emerged as one of the top hitters in college baseball this season, and there’s ample reason to believe that Okey could do the same if he heads to Clemson.


Full Scouting Report

Note: Numerical scores are on the conventional 80-point scouting scale, with the current score first and projected score second.

Hitting: 45/65

Pure hitting ability is a plus; great feel at the plate; projects for a high average; good bat speed; not a lot of movement in his lower half; patient but aggressive hitter; has looked great on the showcase circuit, even against premium velocity; will need to get a better handle on breaking pitches in order to reach his full potential at the plate.


Power: 40/50

Have to dream on the power for right now; doesn’t show much in-game power, but puts on solid displays in batting practice; even if power develops, shouldn’t hit more than 10-15 home runs per season; even if power doesn’t develop, he’ll hit enough to warrant being a viable threat at the plate.


Speed: 45/45

Not great speed, but not a liability either; solid athletic frame that shouldn’t cause worries about putting on more weight, meaning he shouldn’t get much slower.


Defense: 50/65

Excellent defensive ability all over the diamond; like Bregman, could play a multitude of positions, including second and third base or in the outfield; has been playing behind the plate since he was seven years old; possesses a strong arm and quick release; very athletic movements behind the plate; quick to his feet and as graceful as a catcher can be; excellent leadership skills that should help him lead a pitching staff.


Arm: 60/65

Okey‘s arm strength is a definite plus; produced the best pop time (1.80) at Perfect Game Showcase in 2011; incredibly quick release; clocked as high as 84 mph from behind the plate at PG; clean throwing mechanics.


MLB Player Comparison: Kurt Suzuki


Projection: perennial Gold Glove-caliber defender; .300 hitter with lots of doubles.


MLB ETA: 2018


Chances of Signing: 50%

Like Bregman, Okey has a strong college commitment. Clemson hasn’t had a catcher of his quality in at least a decade, so whichever team selects him will have to pony up an above-slot bonus in order to sign him.

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Wil Crowe: Prospect Profile of Cleveland Indians 31st Round Pick

Player: Wil Crowe

Drafted by: Cleveland Indians (No. 921 overall)

Position: RHP

DOB: 9/9/1994 (Age: 18)

Height/Weight: 6’3”/225 lbs

Bats/Throws: R/R

School: Pigeon Forge (Tenn.) HS

Previously Drafted: N/A



The 2013 Gatorade State Player of the Year, Crowe put on quite a performance in his senior season. The right-hander went 16-1 with a sub-1.00 ERA and nearly 200 strikeouts. His final outing was a 15-strikeout, 157-pitch gem that clinched Pigeon Forge High’s first-ever state championship. Earlier in the season, he tossed a mercy-rule, game-shortened perfect game and a no-hitter in another.

Next season, assuming he doesn’t sign professionally, Crowe will be headed to the University of South Carolina where he will likely emerge as the staff ace in no time. If he doesn’t sign, he’ll likely be a top-10 candidate for the 2016 draft. 


Full Scouting Report

Note: Numerical scores are on the conventional 80-point scouting scale, with the current score first and projected score second.


Impressive overhand delivery; strong, thick physical build; doesn’t have much physical projection left; clean mechanics and delivery; works quick; repeats his delivery very well; can get into stretches where his delivery gets out of whack, but they don’t last for very long; pretty good athlete for a guy built like he is.


Fastball: 55/65

Fastball sits 90-93 mph; rarely tops 94 mph, but he makes up for it with added movement to the pitch; offering has a lot of late life; feels faster than low 90s for hitters; hard to square up against his fastball; pounds away down in the zone and commands the pitch really well; lack of further physical development means he doesn’t have much velocity to add to fastball; does hold velocity deep into games and is no stranger to throwing well over 100 pitches.


Curveball: 50/65

Great feel for curveball; about as polished a breaking ball as any high schooler possesses in this year’s draft class; sits 76-81 mph; huge break on the pitch; commands it nearly as well as he does his fastball; willingness to throw the pitch in any count against any hitter; should be an above-average offering at the professional level.


Changeup: 45/60

Shows good feel for change; good velocity on the pitch, which sits 77-82 mph; some decent fading action on the pitch; considering how well he has developed his curveball, you can likely expect to see the same development on his changeup; could survive with just his fastball and curve, but will likely need changeup to thrive at the next level.


Control: 55/65

Shows great control over the pitches that he throws regularly (fastball and curve); fastball control is slightly ahead of his curve, but he controls his breaking ball better than most high school pitchers in any draft class; changeup is lacking in both control and command and will need some sharpening.


Command: 50/60

Nearly pinpoint command of his fastball; curveball grades out at slightly above-average, but could still use some work; changeup is lacking, but command should come with more use of the pitch; so good at repeating his delivery that command at the big league level should be average at worst.


MLB Player Comparison: Phil Hughes


Projection: No. 3 starter on a first-division team; workhorse inning-eater.


MLB ETA: 2018


Chances of Signing: 70%

It’s going to be hard to sway Crowe away from a commitment to the school that has become a regular in the College World Series. His overall package of stuff and mentality will be highly sought after on draft day, and if he goes high enough, he’ll get enough money to turn pro.

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Nick Longhi: Prospect Profile for Boston Red Sox 30th Round Pick

Player: Nick Longhi

Drafted by: Boston Red Sox (No. 893 overall)

Position: 1B/OF

DOB: 9/16/1995 (Age: 17)

Height/Weight: 6’2”/208 lbs

Bats/Throws: R/L

School: Venice High School (Fla.)

Previously Drafted: N/A 



It isn’t the kind of thing that anyone thinks about, but as mentioned in a draft report by Perfect Game, there have been only 57 non-pitchers who bat right-handed and throw left-handed in major league history. Nick Longhi could be No. 58. 

An accomplished athlete with a future both on the mound and at the plate, Longhi has opened some eyes.

Off the mound he can hit 90 mph with his fastball and offers a solid curveball. He’ll likely turn pro as a hitter, though, where he has more experience. He also has potential to be an above-average defender at first base. Longhi is committed to LSU


Full Scouting Report

Note: Numerical scores are on the conventional 80-point scouting scale, with the current score first and projected score second.

Hitting: 45/60

Incredibly polished hitter; makes consistent contact; simple, but strong, powerful swing; slight toe-tap; great bat speed; has shown considerable ability to hit against premium velocity; tends to get a little pull-happy; should hit for a relatively high average as a professional; patient hitter who doesn’t have many holes in his swing; has performed well against quality breaking stuff; shouldn’t be prone to strike out too often.


Power: 45/55

Great hand and wrist strength; can drive the ball to all parts of the field; has the raw power to hit the ball out of any park; will likely be a doubles machine, regardless of whether he grows fully into his power stroke; assuming he reaches his ceiling, could be a 25 to 30 homer guy.


Speed: 40/45

Doesn’t have great speed; lacks savvy to make up for below-average speed with his instincts; will have to work in order to avoid becoming a liability on the basepaths; more quickness than speed, which shows more on defense than on the basepaths.


Defense: 55/65

Amazingly polished defender at first base; great footwork; incredibly soft hands; has already shown ability to pick tough throws; has seen some time in the outfield and on the mound; complements quickness and great hand-eye coordination with a cannon arm; if he continues to progress, he should be a Gold Glove-caliber defender.


Arm: 60/65

Two-way player who has spent a significant amount of time on the mound; clocked as high as 90 mph during his junior season; manning first base won’t require a lot of arm strength, but it’s nice to know he can make all the throws he has to.


MLB Player Comparison: Paul Konerko


Projection: Gold Glove first baseman; .280/25-homer potential


MLB ETA: 2018


Chances of Signing: 65%

Depending on where Longhi gets selected, he could be headed to LSU. The earlier he gets tabbed, the likelier he his to sign. It will likely require a bonus close to $1 million in order to sway him to the professional ranks. Considering his skill set, he’ll likely get that kind of money.

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Logan Shore: Prospect Profile for Minnesota Twins 29th Round Pick

Player: Logan Shore

Drafted by: Minnesota Twins (No. 860 overall)

Position: RHP

DOB: 12/28/1994

Height/Weight: 6’2”/190 lbs

Bats/Throws: R/R

School: Coon Rapids (Minn.) High School

Previously Drafted: N/A



The University of Florida “Gator Nation” extends far and wide and has it’s tendrils in cities and towns all across the country. Thanks to Logan Shore, “the Nation” now also includes Minnesota. The Gators fought hard for Shore’s services, and thanks to his two-way capability, they’re getting a heck of a deal.

Shore is one of the top two-way players in this year’s class, but he’s likely to end up on the mound as a pro. Minnesota’s high school season begins in late April, so most teams have yet to get a real good look at Shore, but those who have have witnessed an incredible athlete capable of producing easy low-90s heat. Shore became the first freshman in Coon Rapids High’s history to make the varsity squad.


Full Scouting Report

Note: Numerical scores are on the conventional 80-point scouting scale, with the current score first and projected score second.


On the mound, Shore has a fairly easy delivery. He utilizes a slow but relatively high leg kick. Has a quick release. Has a lithe, athletic frame. Should be excellent at fielding his position. Could stand to put on a little more weight. He’s an incredible athlete who plays shortstop and third base when he’s not on the mound. Shows fluid fielding motion. Shore’s mound presence is a definite plus as well. He has the mentality of an ace when he’s on the hill. He hit a rough patch during his junior campaign when he was felled with a lingering back injury.


Fastball: 55/65

Clocked in the 90-93 mph range; touched 94 mph on occasion in 2012; has no problem carrying velocity deep into games; pitch has some definite life and some sinking power; locates the pitch real well, especially down in the zone; should be a ground-ball machine; really tough for hitters to make consistent contact against his fastball; pitch has above-average potential.


Curveball: 45/60

Shore’s curve is his most developed breaking pitch; more of a cross between a curve and slider; has great sweeping action; has been his out-pitch during his prep career; velocity varies, but usually sits 74-79 mph; will need some definition in order to be a usable weapon at the professional level.


Changeup: 40/55

Has shown the makings of an above-average changeup; incredible movement on the pitch; needs more experience throwing the pitch to make it a usable offering; rarely has had need to use the pitch; control of change is limited at best.


Control: 45/60

Fastball is the only offering he has a real handle on; curveball and changeup are works in progress; both offerings should get better with more usage; can paint fastball pretty much wherever he wants, especially down in the zone.


Command: 40/55

Again, command of fastball is light-years ahead of his other offerings; could benefit from pitching in college; would allow him to sharpen command of all of his pitches, especially breaking ball; won’t ever be more than a middle reliever without improving command.


MLB Player Comparison: Alex Cobb


Projection: Ceiling as No. 3 or 4 starter; more likely career reliever.


MLB ETA: 2019


Chances of Signing: 30%

Few schools have been as determined to keep their top recruits as UF, and it’s actually had a pretty good retention rate the past decade. Shore’s passion for both aspects of the game, hitting and pitching, leads one to believe he’ll be headed to college where he can better decide the path he’d like to take. If he can bring along his secondary pitches and improve command of all his offerings, he could emerge in three years as a sure-fire first-rounder.

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Baltimore Orioles Top Prospects: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not, May 12

In a near unprecedented run of success, two of the Baltimore Orioles‘ minor league affiliates (Norfolk and Frederick) currently sit atop the standings in their respective divisions.

And while the two other squads (Bowie and Delmarva) are struggling to reach the .500 mark, this season is shaping up to be one of the most successful that the Baltimore organization has had in at least a decade.

Factor in the big league squad’s 22-15 record and the case could be made that the Orioles currently have the most successful organization in baseball, top to bottom.

The past month has been chock-full of highlights down on the farm.

Former first-rounder Kevin Gausman has slowly rounded into form and has looked as dominating as any pitching prospect, Christian Walker has continued his assault on South Atlantic League pitching and L.J. Hoes and Jonathan Schoop have turned into one of the better bottom-of-the-lineup combos in all of baseball.

Let’s check out who’s been hot and who hasn’t during the past month of Orioles minor league baseball.

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