With their earliest selection in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft since 2012, the Orioles took Valdosta (Ga.) High School left-hander DL Hall at No. 21 on Monday night.
“It was a very exciting and emotional time,” Hall said during a conference call with reporters around midnight Monday. “It’s always cool to hear your name called on television… We’re actually down the beach – just sitting around the TV and just watching.”
The Orioles haven’t picked a high school pitcher in the first round since 2013, when they selected right-hander Hunter Harvey at No. 22. Harvey, 22, is currently rehabbing from the elbow surgery that he underwent last summer. He has made just five starts since 2014.
Hall, who will turn 19 in September, is committed to Florida State University. When asked about it Monday, Hall wouldn’t say whether he’ll give up his college eligibility to begin his professional career. But he said he’s happy to have the choice.
“It’s a tough decision,” Hall said. “I grew up as a huge Florida State Seminoles fan, but I trust that me and my family will make the right decision here in the coming days and just see what happens. Either way, I think it’s a blessing to have both of those opportunities and I couldn’t be more thankful.”
Hall’s fastball can reportedly touch as high as 96 mph and is consistently in the low-to-mid-90s. He also throws a change-up that sits in the low 80s and a curveball that breaks late.
The Orioles were happy to see Hall still available when they picked.
“We weren’t planning on him being there originally,” Orioles scouting director Gary Rajsich said during the conference call. “But when it got closer to our time to pick, we realized that it was a possibility. And we began to get pretty excited.”
Baseball America, which ranked Hall as the 16th-best prospect in this year’s draft, said that he “has arguably the highest ceiling of any pitcher in this year’s class.” MLB.com listed the 6-foot, 190-pound left-hander at No. 14 in its top 200 list.
“I think Hall has the potential to be a great value for the Orioles here at No. 21,” MLB.com’s Jim Callis wrote on the website. “He’s a smaller left-hander who draws comparisons to Scott Kazmir with his low-90s fastball and overpowering curve. Based purely on talent, he could have gone five or so picks higher.”
By taking Hall with the 21st-overall selection, the Orioles passed over several other players who had been linked to them in the days leading up to the draft, including University of North Carolina shortstop Logan Warmoth, Vanderbilt University outfielder Jeren Kendall and University of Missouri right-hander Tanner Houck.
Immediately after the Orioles’ pick, those three players went in order to the Toronto Blue Jays, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox.
In the second round, the Orioles chose another Hall – shortstop Adam Hall out of A.B. Lucas Secondary School in Ontario, Canada – at No. 60 overall. The second Hall of the night was listed at No. 99 by Baseball America and 115th by MLB.com heading into the draft.
“Adam Hall is an exciting shortstop,” Rajsich said. “He’s very toolsy. He can run, he can throw. And we believe he’ll be able to hit. So we’re looking forward to bringing him into the organization as a young shortstop.”
Hall, 18, is committed to Texas A&M University. At 5 feet 11, 165 pounds, he has room to grow. But Baseball America said Hall “has long been known as one of the top prospects in Canada, having established himself on the national scene as an underclassman.”
With their final pick on the draft’s first day, the Orioles took Xavier University left-hander Zac Lowther at No. 74 overall in competitive balance round B. It was the second-to-last selection of the night.
“Zac Lowther is a swing-and-miss left-hander from Xavier,” Rajsich said. “We like his fastball. We like his breaking ball. We think he’ll be a nice addition to our rotation down the road.”
Lowther, 21, went 5-5 with a 2.92 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 83 1/3 innings for the Musketeers this season. Baseball America listed the 6-foot-2, 235-pound southpaw as the 112th-best prospect in the draft, while MLB.com ranked him at No. 127.
“His stuff was down a little this spring from the 87-92 mph range he sat at” during the Cape Cod Baseball League, according to Baseball America’s scouting report. “Now he’s typically pitching mostly at 86-89 mph, touching 91 mph. Lowther hides the ball well in his delivery and he is generally around the strike zone.”
The Minnesota Twins selected shortstop Royce Lewis out of JSerra Catholic High School in California with the first overall pick. A college player wasn’t taken until No. 4, when the Tampa Bay Rays picked the University of Louisville’s two-way standout Brendan McKay.
Gilman graduate Gavin Sheets became the first player with local ties to come off the board. The Chicago White Sox picked the Wake Forest first baseman at No. 49 overall in the second round. Baseball America had listed him as the 65th-best prospect in the draft.
Sheets, 21, is the son of former Orioles outfielder Larry Sheets. The Atlanta Braves previously selected the 6-foot-5, 235-pound left-handed slugger in the 37th round in 2014.
Sheets and the Demon Deacons were eliminated from the NCAA super regionals Monday night by the University of Florida, so at least he received some good news after that.
Meanwhile, the Orioles continued a recent trend with their pick of DL Hall.
In four of the five years since the Orioles selected Louisiana State University right-hander Kevin Gausman at No. 4 overall, the club’s first pick has come in the early-to-mid-20s. The lone exception was 2014, when the Orioles didn’t have a selection until the third round.
In addition to Harvey in 2013, they picked outfielder DJ Stewart with the 25th overall selection in 2015. He’s now playing at Double-A Bowie. And last June, the club added right-hander Cody Sedlock – who is now at High-A Frederick – at No. 27.
After the Orioles took Sedlock out of the University of Illinois, they selected Western Michigan University left-hander Keegan Akin in the second round (No. 54 overall). Both Sedlock and Akin pitched well enough for short-season Aberdeen last summer to skip Low-A Delmarva and move straight to Frederick to start the 2017 season.
Sedlock, 21, was 0-1 with a 3.00 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 27 innings for the IronBirds in 2016. Meanwhile, Akin, 22, outshined his teammate in their first professional action. He went 0-1 with a 1.04 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 29 innings.
But both pitchers have endured some growing pains with the Keys this season.
Sedlock has an underwhelming 6.10 ERA through 12 starts after he gave up five runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings Sunday in Frederick’s 5-2 loss at Lynchburg. He has a 4-4 record overall, but three of those wins came in April. He was 1-3 with a 9.13 ERA in May.
Akin is 4-4 with a 5.01 ERA in 11 starts for the Keys. He has struck out 58 hitters in 50 1/3 innings. However, Akin has allowed eight home runs after giving up none last year.
Last year, the Orioles signed 34 of their 41 selections. Their highest unsigned pick was Archbishop Spalding left-hander Tyler Blohm in the 17th round (511th overall). Blohm, 19, earned the Big Ten Conference’s Freshman of the Year award after he went 8-6 with a 3.48 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 75 innings for the University of Maryland this spring.
The 2017 draft will continue over the next two days. Rounds 3-10 will begin Tuesday at 1 p.m., while the final 30 rounds will start Wednesday at noon.