Last week, Major League Baseball held its annual, first-year-player draft.
The Orioles selected 22 pitchers and 18 position players in the three-day event. Breaking it down further, the club took 16 right-handed pitchers and six lefties. Of the position players, seven each were listed as infielders and outfielders, while the Orioles added four catchers.
They stuck to the trend of picking mostly college players. This year, the Orioles only took 12 players from high school. That’s the same number as last year. And, in 2016, it was just 10.
It’s hard to believe, but we’ve now experienced three drafts here at BaltimoreBaseball.com. And as longtime readers know, it’s our tradition to break down all the Orioles’ selections.
That’s what is happening doing today. Carve out some time to check this out.
With the help of Google, Baseball America and other sources, I’ve put together a snapshot into each of the club’s 40 picks in 2018. If you want to get to know these guys even better, click through the links in the write-ups below.
Before we get started, a small note: My weekly “Dean Jones Report” on the Orioles’ current minor leaguers will return Friday, June 22. By then, Short-A Aberdeen will have about a week of games in the books. So, we’ll have more players to talk about going forward, potentially including some players drafted last week.
So, let’s learn about the Orioles organization’s newest additions.
ORIOLES’ 2018 DRAFT PICKS
First round (11th pick): Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Central Heights H.S. (Texas)
Before you do anything else, read my colleague Paul Folkemer’s post about the first night of the draft. Orioles director of scouting Gary Rajsich called the 6-foot-5, 220-pound right-hander “a future power pitcher with an advanced delivery.” While listing Rodriguez, 18, at No. 24 in its Top 500 prospects list, Baseball America praised the hard work that he has put in. “Over the winter he got into the gym, worked with a trainer and overhauled his body, cleaning it up and looking like a completely different pitcher this spring. The results were astounding.” According to the publication, Rodriguez has routinely hit the upper 90s and sits in the mid-90s with “remarkable ease in his delivery.” Meanwhile, MLB.com listed Rodriguez as the 22nd-best player heading into this year’s draft. The website said the former Texas A&M University commit’s fastball has “heavy life that should turn wood bats into kindling.” Rodriguez recently agreed to a deal worth a reported $4.3 million – slightly under the slot value of $4,375,100. He will head to the Orioles’ facility in Florida and will likely start in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Here’s a video of Rodriguez pitching in April.
Competitive Balance Round A (37th pick): Cadyn Grenier, SS, Oregon State Univ.
Grenier, 21, and his Oregon State University teammates advanced to the College World Series last weekend. That means the 5-foot-11, 188-pound junior infielder’s professional career will be on hold for at least a little bit longer. Grenier, No. 63 in Baseball America’s Top 500 prospects rankings, can’t officially sign while still playing. The publication called Grenier, “perhaps the best defensive shortstop in the class” and said he possesses “fantastic instincts, an above-average arm, solid-average range and some of the surest hands in college baseball.” In 2015, Grenier (pictured above with Oregon State) was picked by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 21st round out of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nevada – the alma mater of Orioles outfielder Joey Rickard and Texas Rangers slugger Joey Gallo. Do you know another Bishop Gorman alum in Baltimore? Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who graduated in 2012.
Third round (87th pick): Blaine Knight, RHP, Univ. of Arkansas
Baseball America listed Knight, who will turn 22 on June 28, at 84th overall on its list of Top 500 draft prospects a year ago. But as a draft-eligible sophomore, he fell all the way to the 29th round because of a high asking price. The 6-foot-3, 165-pound right-hander decided to return to the Razorbacks instead of starting his professional career with the Texas Rangers. The move paid off. After his start last Saturday in the NCAA super regionals against South Carolina, Knight is a perfect 12-0 with a 2.84 ERA. He has 92 strikeouts in 101 1/3 innings. Ranked No. 36 on Baseball America’s Top 500 list heading into this year’s draft, Knight dropped once again. But this time, he only fell into the third round before the Orioles called his name. According to MLB.com, Knight “has some power to his fastball, which sits at 90-94 mph and peaks at 97. He also has a mid-80s slider/cutter that qualifies as a plus pitch at its best. He also will mix in an effective changeup and a curveball he can drop in for strikes.” We’ll see if the Orioles can get a deal done. If so, he could be the steal of the draft.
Fourth round (115th pick): Drew Rom, LHP, Highlands H.S. (Ky.)
The 6-foot-2, 170-pound left-hander committed to the University of Michigan in April 2017. But after the Orioles drafted Rom, 18, in the fourth round, it appeared that he had changed his mind. On Twitter, Rom said: “Blessed for this opportunity! Thank you to the @Orioles for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream!” Heading into the Kentucky state baseball tournament, Rom was 8-6 with a 2.42 ERA and 119 strikeouts in 66 innings – according to this article on Cincinnati.com. In the first round, Rom pitched Highlands High School to a 4-2 win over South Oldham last Friday. He gave up four hits – including just one after the first – and struck out 10 batters in a complete game. Baseball America, which listed Rom at No. 187 in its Top 500, said: “He works to both sides of the plate with an 89-91 mph fastball and his potentially above-average slider has sharpened up and gotten harder, jumping from 77-79 mph last summer to 80-82 this spring.”
Fifth round (145th pick): Robert Neustrom, RF, Univ. of Iowa
In its scouting report, Baseball America said the 6-foot-2, 208-pound left-handed hitting junior outfielder “puts on quite a show in batting practice, when he displays plus-plus raw power. But in games, he’s just as comfortable poking a ball to right field with a contact-oriented approach.” Neustrom, 21, hit .311 with 11 homers and 36 RBIs while starting all 53 games for the Hawkeyes this spring. He finished second on the team with 114 total bases. Neustrom reacted to his selection on his Twitter page: “Huge thanks to all who have helped me get to this point. Work doesn’t stop here! Excited to be apart of #BirdLand.” He was the University of Iowa’s highest-drafted position player since 1992. Finally, here’s a nice feature about Neustrom’s trip from walk-on to the fifth round of this year’s draft.
Sixth round (175th pick): Yeankarlos Lleras, RHP, Leadership Christian (P.R.)
The Orioles originally listed his first name as “Yeancarlos,” but that appears to have been a mistake. Regardless, he’ll be the answer to a trivia question one day. Lleras, 17, is the Orioles’ first draft pick ever to have been born in 2000. On Twitter, Baseball America’s Carlos Collazo applauded the pick: “I really like Yeankarlos Lleras. He’s small, but he has whippy-fast arm strength and he gets up into the mid 90s.” The publication – which didn’t have the 6-foot, 150-pound right-hander in its Top 500 draft prospects list – wasn’t as kind in its scouting report: “It’s a tough sell in the top 10 rounds for pro teams though, thanks to his height and a below-average slider that has sweeping shape in the upper 70s. Lleras hasn’t held his velocity deep into games, which is another area of concern.” Lleras is committed to Florida International University. If you’re looking to buy a baseball card autographed by Lleras, you can do that right here. Finally, you can find several YouTube videos of Lleras in action.
Seventh round (205th pick): J.J. Montgomery, RHP, Univ. of Central Florida
It’s cliché, but baseball is more than just a game. To prove it, I suggest you read this Orlando Sentinel article about the bond between Montgomery, 21, and University of New Orleans pitcher Eric Orze – his former junior-college teammate at Northwest Florida State College who is currently battling testicular cancer. Montgomery, No. 240 on Baseball America’s Top 500 draft prospects list, only spent one season at the University of Central Florida. He was 6-4 with a 2.54 ERA in 17 appearances (eight starts). Montgomery had 74 strikeouts in 63 2/3 innings. Baseball America wrote: “He profiles better as a reliever at the next level, with a fastball that’s better out of the bullpen, touching 95-96 mph.” The San Francisco Giants took the 6-foot, 200-pound right-hander in the 33rd round of the 2016 draft, but he stayed in junior college. Last year, Montgomery went undrafted.
Eighth round (235th pick): Ryan Conroy, RHP, Elon Univ. (N.C.)
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound junior right-hander didn’t waste any time deciding whether he’d return to the Phoenix or start his career with the Orioles. In a statement released by the school shortly after he was picked, Conroy, 21, said: “Now I have the blessing of beginning a professional (career) with the Baltimore Orioles. Without Elon, my family and my teammates, I wouldn’t be here.” Although he started 14 games for the Phoenix this year, Baseball America noted that his professional future is in the bullpen: “Conroy throws a fastball in the 90-93 mph range, has a good splitter and a hard slider. He profiles as a reliever at the next level.” Conroy went 4-3 with a 3.29 ERA in 17 games this spring. He had 67 strikeouts in 79 1/3 innings. On March 21, Conroy gave up one run and two hits in one inning against the University of Maryland. Then, in Colonial Athletic Association play, he struggled against Towson University on May 13. Conroy allowed five runs (four earned), five hits and four walks in 2 2/3 innings.
Ninth round (265th pick): Kevin Magee, LHP, St. John’s Univ. (N.Y.)
The government will have to take a backseat to the Orioles. Magee, 22, told NorthJersey.com last Friday: “At the time, I was close to getting a job with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency and was just waiting on my health assessment test to come back. I was also in the process of filling out an application with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency as backup.” Instead, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound left-hander likely will begin his professional career. Magee posted a 7-3 record and 2.67 ERA in 15 appearances (14 starts) for the Johnnies. He struck out 92 batters and only walked 15 in 77 2/3 innings. According to a St. John’s University’s press release, Magee is the first St. John’s player to be drafted by the Orioles since outfielder Bob Bellini in the 24th round in 1985. Bellini only played one season. Baseball America said that Magee throws “mostly 86-89 mph with his fastball. His best offspeed offering is his changeup, but he also has an average breaking ball and can consistently throw strikes with all three pitches.”
10th round (295th pick): Dallas Litscher, RHP, Univ. of St. Katherine (Calif.)
The Orioles have developed a pipeline at the tiny National Christian College Athletic Association school in San Marcos, California. Last year, the club picked left-handed pitcher Tucker Baca in the 12th round. He was the first Firebirds player ever selected. This year, the Orioles added two more – Litscher and 27th-round selection Jason Montville. The school has only been around since 2010 and boasts less than 300 students. That’s remarkable to me. Litscher, 22, went 8-1 with a 3.05 ERA and 105 strikeouts in 73 2/3 innings as a senior. The 6-foot-8, 250-pound right-hander is a “late bloomer,” according to Baseball America. More from the publication’s scouting report on Litscher: “His 89-93 mph fastball features steep plane and he uses a sharp spike curveball in the low 80s to generate swings and misses. He also shows the makings of an average slider in the 82-85 mph range.”
11th round (325th pick): Cody Roberts, C, Univ. of North Carolina
Roberts, who will turn 22 on June 16, kicked off the NCAA super regionals against Stetson University (Fla.) in a big way this past weekend. Although the 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior has been the Tar Heels’ starting catcher for the past three seasons, he suffered a painful injury when a foul tip hit him in the groin about a month ago. So, in the game against the Hatters, Roberts started in right field. In the fifth inning, he broke open a tie game with a three-run homer against Stetson right-hander Logan Gilbert – the 14th overall pick by the Seattle Mariners this year. The Miami Marlins took Roberts as a draft-eligible sophomore in the 38th round last year, but he decided to return to school. According to Baseball America, Roberts is “as defensively advanced as they come at the college level.” The publication went on to write he is ” a safe pick with a high floor as a backup catcher at the pro level.”
12th round (355th pick): Clay Fisher, SS, Univ. of Calif., Santa Barbara
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound shortstop underwent Tommy John (elbow-ligament-reconstruction surgery) on his throwing arm last March. The Cincinnati Reds still took a flyer on Fisher, 22, when they picked him in the 27th round of last year’s draft. However, he decided to return to the Gauchos for his final year of eligibility. Fisher batted .294 with 34 RBIs and 13 stolen bases in 53 games as a senior. But Baseball America noted in its scouting report: “Offensively, Fisher has improved but still has a long swing and lacks strength, projecting as a bottom-of-the-order hitter, at best.” Before Fisher’s injury, though, some considered him one of the best defenders in the country. We’ll see how that translates into the professional game.
13th round (385th pick): Andrew Fregia, 3B, Sam Houston State (Texas)
Kendall Rogers, the managing editor of D1Baseball.com, remarked on Twitter that he thought the “Orioles got a steal” with Fregia, 21. Rogers said that the 6-foot-1, 170-pound infielder – who can play shortstop and third base – “has impressive power for his frame and was a steady defender for me when I saw him this year.” In 56 games for the Bearkats, Fregia hit .328 and led the team with 11 homers and 49 RBIs. He also has the most career triples in Sam Houston State University history (19). Here’s a video of Fregia hitting in the Southland Conference Home Run Derby in May. He didn’t win, though. He also played in the illustrious Cape Cod League last year. Although Fregia only batted .182 with 11 RBIs in 33 games for the Bourne Braves, he has perfected the art of the pregame interview.
14th round (415th pick): Doran Turchin, OF, Univ. of Illinois
Although the University of Illinois junior had a year of eligibility left, he switched the biography on his private Twitter account to: “Professional baseball player in the Orioles Organization From Milwaukee, Wisconsin.” Turchin, 20, hit .272 with nine homers and 32 RBIs while starting all 53 games this spring. Most notably, he didn’t make an error in 90 chances in the outfield. As a sophomore, Turchin only made one error in 118 chances. Here’s a video of the 6-foot-2, 195-pound outfielder hitting an opposite-field homer in 2017.
15th round (445th pick): Cody Hacker, LHP, Wentzville Holt H.S. (Mo.)
The Orioles better apologize to Hacker, who will turn 18 on June 18. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, they prevented the 5-foot-11, 180-pound left-hander from the incredibly difficult (at least for me) task of winning a “battle royale” in the video game Fortnite. Hacker had committed to Jefferson College, a community college in Hillsboro, Missouri. However, the article later says that he’ll sign with the Orioles. As he told the Post-Dispatch: “I’m ready to get started. I’ve been waiting all my life for this moment – and now it’s here.” If he wants to learn about life in the Orioles’ system, Hacker can touch base with Triple-A Norfolk right-hander Tim Melville, who graduated from the same high school a decade ago. This spring, he struck out an incredible 92 hitters in 48 innings. Hacker went 7-1 with a 2.04 ERA.
16th round (475th pick): Parker McFadden, RHP, Washington State Univ,
Three years equals four rounds. At least in the case of the 6-foot, 200-pound junior right-hander. The Seattle Mariners picked McFadden, 21, in the 20th round out of high school in 2015 “after much speculation that the Washington State signee could be drafted in one of the first five rounds,” according to The Olympian (Wash.). At the time, he said his “number” was a little higher than $700,000. McFadden struggled in his first two years with the Cougars, going 2-5 with a 7.88 ERA across 53 2/3 innings in 2016 and 2017. This spring, he improved on those numbers. McFadden went 1-1 with a 3.56 ERA in 15 games (six starts). He had 46 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings. However, McFadden walked 27 hitters in that span. Baseball America wrote that he’s “one of the hardest throwers in college baseball.” But it also noted that he has “never quite figured out how to throw strikes.” If McFadden returns to Washington State University, he could be the school’s Friday night starter in 2019.
17th round (505th pick): Trevor Putzig, 3B, Tennessee Tech Univ.
Orioles starting pitcher David Hess – a former Tennessee Tech pitcher – loved that his organization picked the 5-foot-11, 200-pound senior infielder. Putzig, 22, was one of three Golden Eagles players with at least 17 homers heading into the NCAA super regionals against Texas last weekend. He was batting .315 with 72 RBIs in 55 games. As a senior, he’ll join the organization in the coming weeks. Here’s a nice feature on Putzig from the Herald-Citizen in Cookeville, Tennessee. A notable quote: “Playing pro baseball is a dream for me. I feel like I have worked hard enough, and I feel like I am good enough, but the coaches here aren’t the ones that draft me. You can consider my size, but size doesn’t really matter. It is about putting in the work, being committed and just enjoying the game.”
18th round (535th pick): Jake Zebron, RHP, Colonel Richardson H.S.
Zebron, 18, was the Orioles’ only selection out of a Maryland high school this year. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound right-hander committed to North Carolina State University in July 2017. According to an article in The Star Democrat in Easton, Zebron “did not say yesterday whether he was going to sign with the Orioles.” However, Zebron – who went 7-1 with a 0.69 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 51 innings as a senior at Colonel Richardson High School in Caroline County – switched the information on his Twitter page to say he’s a “Pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles.” So, it appears that he may have made the choice to spend the rest of his summer in the Gulf Coast League. It’s always good to see the Orioles defend their home turf.
19th round (565th pick): Andrew Jayne, CF, Terry Sanford H.S. (N.C.)
In my opinion, this is the coolest story of the Orioles’ draft. First, let’s start with a video of Jayne, 18, listening as his selection was announced. Do you notice how the 6-foot-4, 195-pound outfielder looks a lot like that guy next to him? It’s his twin brother, Christian. The Arizona Diamondbacks took Christian in the 27th round (819th overall). Back in February, The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer wrote a nice feature about the Jayne twins. Andrew had committed to play football – and potentially baseball – at Davidson College. However, he told the newspaper last week that he’s going to bypass college to sign with the Orioles. From the article: “I’ll graduate and fly down to Florida in a week or so. I’m just grateful for the opportunity to play professionally right now. You never know what’s going to happen.” As a senior, he batted .418 with six homers, 34 RBIs and 22 stolen bases.
20th round (595th pick): Caleb Kilian, RHP, Texas Tech Univ.
In its scouting report, Baseball America dubbed the 6-foot-4, 180-pound draft-eligible sophomore as a “revelation.” That’s because Kilian, 21, was 9-1 with a 2.39 ERA in 18 games (nine starts) heading into the Red Raiders’ NCAA super-regional matchup with Duke. As a freshman in 2017, he went 6-0 with a 3.55 ERA in 38 innings, mostly out of the bullpen. However, Baseball America noted: “He doesn’t have a plus pitch that scouts project as a weapon in pro ball, so he’ll have to either add some life to his fastball or refine his breaking ball.” The All-Big 12 first-team selection could prove to be a tough sign since he has two years of eligibility remaining. We’ll see if the Orioles can get the job done.
21st round (625th pick): Nick Meservey, LHP, Seattle Univ. (Wash.)
I’ll admit: I didn’t realize Seattle University was a Division I program until I searched for information about Meservey. The Redhawks did well this year. They went 34-23 overall, including 13-11 in the Western Athletic Conference. OK, let’s get back on track. Meservey, 22, underwent Tommy John surgery during the 2017 season. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound left-hander returned this spring to go 0-3 with a 5.26 ERA in nine appearances. Meservey struck out 19 batters and issued 11 walks in 25 2/3 innings. Those numbers aren’t pretty, but they’re also misleading. Before the injury, Meservey was picked as the Western Athletic Conference Preseason Pitcher of the Year in 2017. As a sophomore in 2016, he went 7-2 with a 2.32 ERA in 16 games (15 starts). So, there’s upside if he can return to full strength.
22nd round (655th pick): Garrett Martin, 3B, Standley Lake H.S. (Colo.)
If nothing else, the Orioles took a tremendous athlete with this selection. First, check out the ups on this dunk! He’s also a Colorado state champion in high jump. Martin, 17, committed to play baseball next year at McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas. However, according to that last link from the Denver Post, the 6-foot-3, 175-pound three-sport star is also drawing interest from Oregon for track and field. According to his statistics page on MaxPreps, Martin batted .421 with seven homers and 26 RBIs in 20 games in 2018.
23rd round (685th pick): Bradley Brehmer, RHP, Decatur Central H.S. (Ind.)
Brehmer, 18, is committed to Wright State University in Ohio – the 2018 Horizon League champion. The 6-foot-5, 190-pound right-hander throws in the upper 80s and touches the low 90s – according to this Prep Baseball Report scouting page. As of Thursday, the Dayton Daily News reported that Brehmer “is still undecided if he will jump into the professional ranks or come to [Wright State] as planned.” At least he was excited to receive the news.
24th round (715th pick): Herbert Iser, C, San Jacinto College – North (Texas)
Let’s start with a 2080 Baseball video of Iser, 20, in action last month against Alvin Community College in Texas. The 6-foot-3, 217-pound left-handed-hitting catcher batted .322 with 11 homers and 51 RBIs in 59 games this season. A perennial junior-college powerhouse, San Jacinto finished in third place in the NJCAA Division I World Series. But in one of the games, Iser hit a towering 435-foot home run. For now, he’s committed to play at Dallas Baptist next year, so we’ll see if that changes. From Baseball America: “Iser has a plus arm and plus power. He does need to continue to improve his receiving and footwork.”
25th round (745th pick): Nick Horvath, LHP, Univ. of Florida
The Orioles listed Horvath, 21, as a pitcher in their breakdown of draft picks. But this year, the 5-foot-10, 201-pound two-way player actually spent most of his time in the outfield. He patrolled center field for the top-ranked Gators, who played Southeastern Conference rival Auburn in the NCAA super-regional round last weekend. On the mound, the senior posted a 9.82 ERA in 3 2/3 innings for Florida. And offensively, he was hitting .275 with six homers, 32 RBIs and 13 doubles in 62 games heading into the matchup with the Tigers. Earlier this year, Florida manager Kevin O’Sullivan spoke highly of Horvath’s defense in an article on 247Sports.com: “I’ll tell you what, he’s a special, special defender. There’s a reason why we keep him in the lineup.” But it appears that he’ll start his professional career as a pitcher.
26th round (775th pick): Ian Evans, 1B, Grand Canyon Univ. (Ariz.)
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound first baseman shined as a senior for the Western Athletic Conference regular-season champion. Evans, 21, tied for the lead with 38 RBIs in conference play. He also ranked in the top five in batting average (.385). Overall, Evans batted .333 with 53 RBIs and 48 runs in 56 games. Thanks to this press release from the school, we can see that he’s eager to get going: “It means a lot to get picked up after all I’ve been through. It’s a blessing and just surreal. It’s been a dream of mine since I was five years old, and I just can’t wait to get out there and start playing ball.”
27th round (805th pick): Jason Montville, LHP, Univ. of St. Katherine (Calif.)
Montville, 21, was the second player from the small school in the northern suburbs of San Diego picked by the Orioles this year – and third in the past two seasons. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound left-hander had 66 strikeouts in 55 innings for the Firebirds this year. In his final start, Montville struck out nine batters and only gave up four hits in seven shutout innings – a complete game – as St. Katherine beat Hiwassee College (Tenn.), 5-0, on May 25.
28th round (835th pick): Trey Whitley, CF, North Johnston H.S. (N.C.)
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound outfielder posted on Twitter that “words can’t even [begin] to describe how truly grateful I am for the opportunity and to see all the hours of dedication I put in pay off.” So, it seems like Whitley, 18, will be ticketed for the Gulf Coast League. For what it’s worth, he also seems to be a pretty good football player. Here’s more proof.
29th round (865th pick): Jared Denning, C, Solano Community College (Calif.)
Maybe this is normal deep in the draft. To be honest, I’m not sure. But the Orioles didn’t break the news to the 5-foot-11, 205-pound left-handed-hitting catcher that they had drafted him. Instead, according to the Vallejo (Calif.) Times-Herald, Southeastern Louisiana manager Mark Riser called him Wednesday. From the article: “I was kind of confused and then he made a picture of a screen shot from the draft tracker of me being taken by Baltimore. I was kind of expecting to get drafted, but I wasn’t trying to get my hopes up either.” Denning, 21, batted .323 with six homers and 32 RBIs in 37 games in his second year at Solano in 2018. Back in November, he committed to Southeastern Louisiana. So, we’ll see what happens.
30th round (895th pick): Tyler Joyner, RHP, Univ. of North Alabama
The two-time Pitcher of the Year in the NCAA Division II’s Gulf South Conference is the 15th player ever taken from North Alabama – and the first since 2006. Joyner, 22, went 8-5 with a 3.15 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 105 2/3 innings as a senior this spring. In two years at the school, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound right-hander finished 18-7 with 210 strikeouts in 209 1/3 innings. Here’s a video of Joyner pitching against Point Loma Nazarene University in February. Without looking it up, can anyone tell me where Point Loma Nazarene is?
31st round (925th pick): John Ham, SS, Tennessee Tech Univ.
The Orioles attempted to corner the market on the Golden Eagles’ infield. In the 17th round, the club picked third baseman Trevor Putzig. Later Wednesday, they took the 5-foot-10, 190-pound middle infielder in the 31st round. Let’s see what Orioles right-hander David Hess thought of the club picking another player from his alma mater. Two exclamation points. I think that means he likes the move. Ham, 21, was batting .321 with 13 homers and 62 RBIs in 61 games heading into the NCAA super regionals against Texas. He’s only a junior, so we’ll see if the Orioles are able to sign him away from Tennessee Tech. If this update on Twitter is any indication, though, it appears that he’ll turn pro.
32nd round (955th pick): Jayvien Sandridge, LHP, Mercersburg Academy (Pa.)
At first, it seemed to me that it would be hard to pull the 6-foot-5, 220-pound left-hander away from his commitment to the University of Central Florida. But Sandridge, 19, told the Chambersburg (Pa.) Public Opinion that he had to seize the opportunity. From the article: “This is what I’ve been working for since I was 12 years old. … I don’t want to miss my opportunity. There’s nothing guaranteed that if I go to college, I’d get drafted again. … I feel like I have to do what’s best for me.” He also made it “Twitter official” with a post that included the Orioles’ logo. According to this Prep Baseball Report scouting page, he throws in the upper 80s. The Hagerstown native will likely head to the Gulf Coast League.
33rd round (985th pick): Zachary McLeod, SS, Colorado Mesa Univ.
McLeod, 22, batted .325 with seven homers, 44 RBIs and 16 doubles in 54 games for the NCAA Division II Mavericks. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound senior infielder broke the school’s all-time record with 710 career at-bats. He enjoys fishing, snowboarding and playing basketball. If nothing else, McLeod appears to be pretty tough. I’ll let the Grand Junction (Colo.) Daily Sentinel explain what I mean: “Zach McLeod was hit by a pitch in the bill of his helmet in the win against Mines and ended up with a split lip when the ball caromed off the helmet. It took several minutes to get the bleeding to stop, but McLeod finished not only the Mines game. … [he] played the championship game, still with gauze in his mouth.” Gamer.
34th round (1,015th pick): Trey Truitt, CF, Mercer Univ. (Ga.)
Here’s a scary story about the 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior outfielder from the university’s student newspaper, the Mercer Cluster. Long story short: Truitt, who will turn 22 later this month, was hit in the head by a pitch about two years ago. It led to a substantial vision issue. But it looks like the problems are behind Truitt now. In 58 games this spring, he batted .373 with 12 homers, 44 RBIs and 19 doubles. He also had 15 stolen bases and 71 runs. If you’d like a brief look at what Truitt can do, here’s a (sometimes out of focus) video to watch. After his family heard his name called, Truitt told the Dothan (Ala.) Eagle: “There was a lot of crying, cries of happy tears, a little screaming and everybody running around.”
35th round (1,045th pick): Conor Grammes, RHP, Xavier Univ. (Ohio)
A draft-eligible sophomore, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound right-hander has ties to the Baltimore-Washington area. Grammes, 20, played for McLean (Va.) High School and was the school’s “Most Outstanding Male Athlete” after batting .500 with nine doubles, 22 RBIs and 17 runs in 2016. According to his biography on Xavier’s website, he also won two state titles in wrestling. Note to self: Don’t make him mad with anything I write. This year, Grammes went 0-5 with a 6.75 ERA in 18 games (three starts) for the Musketeers. However, he shined at the plate. Grammes batted .330 with 10 homers and 27 RBIs in 51 games. According to Baseball America: “Grammes has had more success at the plate for the Musketeers and has some pop in his bat. But his professional future is as a reliever, thanks to his powerful arm.” It’s worth noting that the Orioles took left-hander Zac Lowther out of Xavier last year. Since he was such a late-round pick, it might be hard to sign Grammes.
36th round (1,075th pick): Matt Beaird, C, Coastal Carolina Univ.
This jumped out at me from Coastal Carolina’s press release: “Beaird will go down as one of the top defensive catchers in CCU history as he threw out a school-record 46 would-be base stealers in his career.” Offensively, though, it doesn’t seem that the 6-foot, 205-pound senior catcher brings much to the plate. Beaird, 22, only hit .231 with 29 extra-base hits and 66 RBIs in 189 career games (139 starts) with the Chanticleers. However, I do want to point out that three of the four catchers that the Orioles drafted – including Beaird – bat from the left side. It might be a coincidence, but I’m sensing a theme here.
37th round (1,105th pick): Andrew Ciolli, RHP, Mercyhurst Univ. (Pa.)
Poor guy. Ciolli, 22, cheers for the Cleveland Browns. And if you’re wondering what he looked like at some point in the past, San Diego Padres minor leaguer Nick Margevicius has you covered with this picture on Twitter. It’s not clear how tall he really is. Mercyhurst’s website lists him at 6 feet 7, 215 pounds. Meanwhile, the official draft record on MLB.com says he’s 6 feet 5, 190 pounds. Either way, I’ll be looking up at Ciolli. I’ll have to remember to bring a tape measure if I ever meet him. I’ll report back on what I find out. In 13 innings this spring, Ciolli had a 6.92 ERA and two saves for the Lakers.
38th round (1,135th pick): Slade Cecconi, RHP, Trinity Prep School (Fla.)
In its “Way Too Early” mock draft back in October, Baseball America projected that the 6-foot-3, 186-pound right-hander would go No. 27 overall to the Washington Nationals. About Cecconi, who will turn 19 later this month, the publication wrote: “It doesn’t seem like a power arm like Florida’s Slade Cecconi, a high schooler who has reached 97 mph and has both a slider and a curveball, should last this long. Maybe he won’t.” That’s why they play the games, folks. Cecconi didn’t pitch much this spring because of what appears to be a triceps injury. Beyond that, it doesn’t seem like people are glowing with praise for Cecconi. From the Baseball America scouting report: “He’s thrown some bullpens for scouts later in the season, but teams have less off-the-field information on him than they would like after dealing with obstacles when trying to reach him in the offseason.” That sounds ominous, but who knows, maybe he was frustrated because of the injury troubles. Either way, it’s going to be extremely unlikely for the Orioles to lure the Perfect Game Preseason All-American away from his commitment to the University of Miami. Watch Cecconi pitching right here.
39th round (1,165th pick): Ted Stuka, RHP, Univ. of Calif., San Diego
It looks like the 6-foot-7, 225-pound right-hander has something in common with the 1999 Orioles. He played in Cuba at least once. Stuka, 21, cites that as his “most memorable baseball moment” in his biography on the NCAA Division II Tritons’ website. It’s also important to note that MLB.com’s Draft Tracker lists Stuka as a junior, but he’s actually a draft-eligible sophomore. This spring, Stuka went 1-0 with a 3.69 ERA in 15 appearances out of the bullpen. He had 37 strikeouts and walked 20 batters in 31 2/3 innings.
40th round (1,195th pick): Sam Grace, RHP, Francis Howell North H.S. (Mo.)
First of all, shout out to the student journalists at Francis Howell North High School. This profile from the school’s “student news site” taught me more about Grace, 18, than a lot of the articles I found about the previous 39 players on the list. That’s part of why I love compiling these capsules every year. Regardless of whether the Orioles can sign the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Southern Illinois University commit – and as a last-round pick, I’d say it’s a long shot – I’ve learned a little bit about the life of one of the top 1,200 amateur baseball players in America. In his third year on the varsity team, Grace went 5-3 with a 2.53 ERA in 10 starts in 2018. He struck out an impressive 80 hitters in 44 1/3 innings.
OTHER DRAFT PICKS WITH LOCAL TIES
Third round (103rd pick, Indians): Richie Palacios, SS, Towson Univ.
Fifth round (153rd pick, Cardinals): Nick Dunn, 2B, Univ. of Maryland
Seventh round (223rd pick, Indians): Cody Morris, RHP, Univ. of South Carolina (Reservoir H.S.)
13th round (397th pick, Yankees): Isaiah Pasteur, RHP, George Washington Univ. (Winters Mill H.S.)
16th round (473rd pick, Athletics): Bryce Nightengale, RHP, George Mason Univ. (Allegany H.S.)
22nd round (672nd pick, Astros): Marty Costes, OF, Univ. of Maryland (Archbishop Curley H.S.)
26th round (772nd pick, Braves): Zach Guth, LHP, Harford C.C.