An early mock draft, an opening night matchup and more

Is it too soon to talk about the 2021 First-Year Player Draft? Probably so, but not at Baseball America.

A day after the recent draft, Baseball America was already projecting the top picks (subscription required) for the next one. Never too soon, I guess. In fact, Baseball America has already put out a mock draft for June of next year and they have the Orioles picking first. Major League Baseball has not even announced how the draft order will work for that draft, but if they are going to crown a World Series champion for a 60-game season, it is probably a safe assumption that the order will work as it always does. The team with the worst record the previous year picks first.

This listing of a possible top 10 picks worked off projected 2020 records by FanGraphs.com, which has Baltimore at 21-39. That would be three more losses than both Detroit and Seattle.

Elias-Laughs-Sunglasses-Sidebar.jpgIf the Orioles did select No. 1, it would be for the second time in three years and third time in club history. In this mock, the publication says the Orioles will select Vanderbilt right-hander Kumar Rocker.

Rocker comes with big size, a big fastball in the upper 90s and a big resume. In the shortened 2020 season, he went 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA as a sophomore. He fanned 28 and walked eight over 15 innings.

In 2019, he was the national Collegiate Freshman of the Year and also the College World Series Most Outstanding Player. He was getting better throughout his freshman season and went 10-1 with a 2.17 ERA in his last 11 starts. That included throwing a no-hitter with 19 strikeouts versus Duke in a Super Regional game. In the NCAA playoffs, he went 4-0 with an 0.96 ERA. In the College World Series, Rocker was 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA.

That’s some matchup: The New York Post reported that while the MLB schedule is not completely finalized, that the current version calls for an opening day pairing of the New York Yankees at Washington. That could lead to an opening night pitching matchup between new Yankees right-hander Gerrit Cole and Nats right-hander Max Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner.

There has been speculation that there will be a national television doubleheader on opening night on July 23. The other 26 teams would play opening games the next day and night on July 24.

Cole’s Yankees debut was slated for March 26 against the Orioles at Camden Yards before the pandemic shut down the sport. In December, he signed a whopping nine-year free agent deal worth $324 million, easily the richest contract ever for a pitcher. That is an average annual value of $36 million for Cole. Last year with Houston, he went 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA and 326 strikeouts.

A .400 hitter?: Could we see a .400 hitter during a shortened 60-game season? Of course we could, but the odds say no. The online sportsbook betonline.ag has listed the odds for whether we could see a .400 hitter at 8/1 and 1/12 for no .400 hitters. So a $10 dollar bet at 8/1 would pay $80, but a $12 dollar bet for no would pay just $1 dollar.

The listed over/under for best batting average during the 2020 season is at .345. The over/under on the number of homers to lead the majors is 19 1/2.

By the way, 3.1 plate appearances are needed per team game to qualify for the batting title. So in a 60-game season, the number of plate appearances needed would be 186.

I checked to see which player in O’s history had the highest batting average with a minimum of 186 plate appearances in a year. It was first baseman Bob Hale, who hit .357 over 190 PAs in 1955. The lefty-hitting Hale was just 21 that season. He played with the Orioles through 1959, batting .280/.308/.337 in 253 games.

The next highest average was .340. Melvin Mora did that in 2004. Because that year he did qualify for the batting title with 636 plate appearances, that mark is a team record. Cal Ripken Jr. hit .340, but in just 354 plate appearances in 1999.

Two in the fold: The Orioles announced the signings of two draft picks Saturday. They officially signed Mississippi State shortstop Jordan Westburg, taken No. 30 overall in Competitive Balance Round A. They also signed Tulane outfielder Hudson Haskin, selected in round two with pick No. 39 overall. The slot bonus amount listed for the No. 30 pick is $2,365,500 and it is $1,906,800 for pick No. 39. Both players reportedly signed for exactly those slot amounts.

Earlier reports listed Coby Mayo, the high school third baseman taken in round four with an agreement at $1.75 million (slot was $565,500) for pick No. 103 and high school pitcher Carter Baumler, taken in round five, for an agreement at $1.5 million (slot was $422,300) for pick No. 133.

That leaves No. 2 overall pick Heston Kjerstad (at slot amount $7,789,900) and No. 74 pick Anthony Servideo (at slot amount $844,200) without agreements. So with the high school players both overslot, the O’s will need to come in about $2.25 million under on Kjerstad and Servideo with the two agreements.

In 16 games before the 2020 season was shut down, Westburg hit .317/.432/.517. Before the draft, he was ranked as high as the No. 25 prospect by Baseball America.

In 17 games, Haskin hit .333/.452/.500. That was a year after he hit .372 and led the nation in batting average among freshman. He projects as a center fielder and his highest pre-draft ranking was No. 51 by The Athletic.

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