The Orioles are so bad they didn’t have a home run from a first basemen until their 77th game. They’re so bad that they may be the first team ever to go into the All-Star break without at least one four game-winner. So bad that they’re five games behind the next worst team in baseball, have a far worse winning percentage than the worst-in-baseball 2008-09 Nats and are pacing towards more losses than the 1988 Orioles team that started 0-21.
The return on all that suffering? The same pot of gold that netted Stephen Strasburg in 2009 and Bryce Harper in ’10, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2011 MLB Draft. But who does that figure to be, exactly?
Since I have no expertise on the subject, I turned to three leading MLB Draft experts, the Mel Kipers of hardball, for the answer. Here’s what they said:
Baseball America’s Jim Callis (via email; emphasis added):
I wouldn’t say [Rice 3B Anthony Rendon is the] clear No. 1, because it’s a much deeper crop next year, but he’s still the leader. Here’s a brief report I adapted from earlier in the year:
Rendon won Baseball America’s Freshman of the Year Award in 2009 after hitting .388 with 20 homers, then topped that by batting .394 with 26 homers to become the rare sophomore to win BA’s College Player of the Year Award this spring. His hands and wrists are quick and strong, allowing him to consistently barrel balls, and he’s patient enough to wait opponents out when they try to pitch around him. He’s also a skilled defender at third base, with terrific hands and a strong arm. If he had been eligible for the 2010 draft, I would have rated him ahead of Bryce Harper as a prospect.
MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo (back in June; emphasis added):
Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice: Rendon heads into the summer as the best bat in the Class of 2011. He should hit for average and plenty of power. He’s got great discipline at the plate and the ball just jumps off of his bat. He gets good marks for his defense at third as well, with excellent range, hands, and arm strength from the hot corner. He has the chance to be a true impact player in the big leagues.
ESPN’s Keith Law (back in February; again, emphasis added):
There’s one college bat in the 2011 draft class who already stands out as a potential No. 1 overall selection (more often known as “one-one” within the industry): Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon. He has one of the best swings I’ve seen on a college hitter, with excellent hip rotation and strong, quick hands. He pairs it with good pitch recognition and a patience that’s born both of a good eye and the fact that opposing pitchers don’t want to pitch to him right now. (On Friday night, he didn’t get the bat off his shoulder until he had two strikes on him in his third plate appearance.) He taps his front foot twice and gets it down a little late, but everything about his transfer and swing is quick and forceful enough that it doesn’t seem to affect him against college pitching. His plate coverage is good, and he can shorten his swing to square up a ball up in the zone. He’s a solid defender at third with an above-average arm and good reads. Though it’s possible he’ll get so big he’ll end up moving off the position, right now I wouldn’t bet on it. If he’s not one-one next year — and he’s the early favorite just because of the higher probability of a position player over a comparably talented pitcher — he’s not going to get out of the top five picks.
Sounds great, like the O’s answer to Evan Longoria. Though someone somewhere was probably saying something similar about Matt Wieters and/or Jeffrey Hammonds once upon a time.