By Contributing Writer: Nick Stevens
While the Major League Baseball draft has yet to bring the same media attention as the NFL or NBA drafts, 1,215 high school and college baseball players earned a life-changing phone call over the recently completed, three-day MLB draft process. With the lack of media attention and long path through the minor leagues, most casual baseball fans do not look past the first round or two of their favorite team’s draft selections. Within the group of 41 Baltimore Orioles’ selections, you will find several players worth a deeper look; including OF Lamar Sparks.
Photo: Baby Birdland
Lamar Sparks, the Orioles’ fifth round pick, is a centerfielder from Seven Lakes HS in Katy, Texas. You will not find his name on Baseball America’s list of the top 500 draft prospects, but I hate lists and believe Sparks brings a great foundation of skill to build from, most notably, speed.
The 6’2”, 165 pound Sparks has been clocked at 6.65 in the 60-yard dash, putting him within the top 94% of this year’s draft class. This kind of speed is exactly what the Orioles need in their system. Yes, the outfield is crowded from Baltimore down to Delmarva, but if Sparks can hit like his projections predict, he will easily separate himself from the pack.
Immediately after being drafted, Jim Callis of MLB.com had many positive thoughts on Sparks, including his long outfield stride, solid defense, and quick hands at the plate, despite a lot of unnecessary movements. Callis expects Lamar to spend multiple seasons at the rookie ball level to develop his bat, but at 18 years old, the Orioles can afford to be patient.
Sparks’ 91.86 mph bat speed and 91mph exit velocity on balls hit (according to The Baseball Cube) also rank near the top of his draft class. He showed a lot of pop in high school and could pan out to be a line-drive hitter with the ability to stretch out his hits into extra-base opportunities. Adding more weight and making the necessary swing adjustments will be critical to his growth.
Sparks said he plans to sign with the Orioles, as reported by Katy Times reporter, Dennis Silva and he indeed has already signed. Expect him to report to the Gulf Coast League. Could you imagine a true top-of-the-order hitter who can steal bases in the Orioles’ lineup? Get excited, Birdland.
Make sure you are following @BabyBirdland, @CoachNick_14, and @CABoemmelJR on Twitter to keep up with Sparks, McCoy, and the rest of the Orioles’ 2017 draft class as they begin their professional careers.