This article is part of a regular series in which we profile a specific prospect, detailing his background, strengths, weaknesses, and future.
The Baltimore Orioles entered this season with a "Big 3" in terms of prospects, the top two of which, right-hander Dylan Bundy and shortstop Manny Machado, were deemed untouchable, and the third, infielder Jonathan Schoop, who was not far off. The fourth pick in the 2012 draft added Kevin Gausman to that group, leaving the rest of the Orioles farm system competing for the distinction of best available prospects for a resurgent major league club looking to add pieces this summer.
At or near the top of that grouping within the Orioles farm system is Nick Delmonico, the team's sixth round pick in the 2011 draft, who signed for an over-slot $1.525 million. Selected as a third baseman out of high school in Knoxville, TN, Delmonico has yet to play there as a professional, instead seeing time at both first and second base in difference to 2011 second-rounder Jason Esposito, who is at the same level as Delmonico.
The big question surrounding Delmonico may be where he eventually plays in the field, Baseball America even suggesting at the time of his selection in the draft that he had the tools to catch, something his older brother did in the minor leagues. There were some questions about his bat after his senior year of high school, with Baseball America saying at the time:
"His value is in his bat, and his swing has become more stiff in the last year, perhaps as a result of a nagging back injury he had from lifting weights. Some scouts consider his swing mechanical, while others believe he just lost bat speed due to draft pressure and trying too hard."
Any questions surrounding Delmonico's bat have been answered for the time being, as the right-handed hitter has put together a nice first professional season. Skipping over rookie-ball and beginning the season in April at Low-A Delmarva of the South Atlantic League, Delmonico has posted a line of .250/.353/.418, and was named to the Sally League all-star game, of which he eventually won MVP honors. While his raw numbers may not seem too exciting, for a 19-year-old one season removed from high school competition, 11 home runs at this point in the season and a 12% walk rate are reasons to get excited.
Delmonico may never be a big time power hitter, so the question about his defense becomes that much more important. Mike Newman of FanGraphs.com scouted Delmonico earlier this season, questioning his ability to stay at second base while at the same time comparing him to Neil Walker, who has turned himself into a solid second baseman.
Newman's writeup is both good and bad news for the Orioles. If Delmonico can turn into a Neil Walker-type player, then the Orioles will be thrilled. Reports on his speed, athleticism and movements make it hard to believe he will be able to ever approach Walker's levels of defense at 2B, if he can stay there at all.
If he ends up being a first baseman, Delmonico projects, at this point, as a second-division regular. If he can stay at second base, he could carve out a nice career as a starter. The most likely scenario that I can see is as a valuable utility player. He's already seen time at first and second base, and played third base in high school, where he has enough arm strength for the position. At some point, I'd expect him to see time at one or both corner outfield spots. If he can approach average at a number of those positions, he could have a career as a left-handed (and more athletic) version of Ty Wigginton. He's has a much different build than Wigginton, and of course hits from the other side of the plate, but he could be used in a similar fashion, or close to the way the Cardinals have used Matt Carpenter this season.
Of course, it's very early in the development process of Delmonico. Ultimately, it's his bat that is more intriguing than his glove, and the hope for the Orioles is that he can develop defensively enough that he can be used at a position where his bat will have the most value.