Rajsich's drafts produced major leaguers, but no stars for Orioles - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Rajsich’s drafts produced major leaguers, but no stars for Orioles

Photo credit: Dan Connolly

The seven-year run of Gary Rajsich as Orioles scouting director has come to an end. The news, which wasn’t unexpected, means that Mike Elias, the Orioles’ executive vice president/general manager, will put his stamp on scouting.

Rajsich’s dismissal, which was first reported by MASNsports.com and confirmed by an industry source, has yet to be announced by the team.

In his time running the scouting department, the 64-year-old Rajsich has produced 19 major leaguers, but no stars. Thirteen of the 19 big leaguers played for the Orioles in 2018.

His most notable first-round pick was his first, Kevin Gausman, who was the fourth overall selection in 2012, and traded to Atlanta last July 31.

Gausman and DJ Stewart, the Orioles’ first-round pick in 2015, are the only top picks during Rajsich’s regime to play for the team. Hunter Harvey, the first-round selection in 2013, has been hampered by injuries throughout his career, but the Orioles remain hopeful he’ll soon play in the big leagues.

The most notable success story under Rajsich was Trey Mancini, who was taken in the eighth round in 2013 and has become a major league regular.

In 2014, the Orioles didn’t pick until the third round because the first two selections were forfeited for signing free agents Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez.

Mancini is one of eight Rajsich picks in 2013 to play in the majors. Two of them, third-rounder Stephen Tarpley and 11th-rounder Steven Brault, were packaged to Pittsburgh in exchange for outfielder Travis Snider in January 2015.

Another notable selection was Josh Hader, the local reliever who has blossomed into an All-Star with the Milwaukee Brewers. Hader, a 19th-round pick in 2012,  was sent to Houston in the Bud Norris deal in July 2013.

Since it takes three-to-five years to evaluate a draft class, the number of players selected by Rajsich who make it to the major leagues will undoubtedly increase.

Austin Hays, who was the third-round selection in 2016, became the first player from that draft to play in the majors when he debuted in September 2017. Injuries kept the outfielder from the Orioles this season.

Rajsich’s selections were heavily influenced by Elias’ predecessor, former executive vice president Dan Duquette. Rajsich’s defenders say that he wasn’t given a free hand to choose players, and some of his best work came in the later rounds.

Besides Mancini, catcher Austin Wynns (10th round, 2013), right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis (13th round, 2013), left-handed reliever Donnie Hart (27th round, 2013) and center fielder Cedric Mullins (13th round, 2015) are examples of players in the later rounds who have become useful major leaguers.

Branden Kline, a second-round selection in 2012, was added to the 40-man roster last month and the late-blooming reliever, who has been slowed by injuries, has a chance to become the 20th Rajsich selection to play in the majors.

Another top prospect is Ryan Mountcastle, who was the 36th overall selection in 2015. Mountcastle has hit well in the minors but has shown defensive liabilities.

Some of Rajsich’s early picks haven’t worked out well. Josh Hart, an outfielder taken 37th overall by the Orioles in 2012, never made it past High-A Frederick before he was released earlier this year.

Cody Sedlock, the Orioles’ first-round pick in 2016, has been slowed by injuries and poor performance. The right-hander has a 5.20 ERA in three seasons and hasn’t pitched above Frederick.

One of Rajsich’s most controversial picks was catcher Chance Sisco, the second-round pick in 2013. Sisco, who was heavily promoted by Duquette, had an awful 2018 with the Orioles, batting .181 in 63 games and showing defensive weaknesses. Sisco was twice sent back to Triple-A Norfolk during the season and hit just .242 in 38 games with the Tides.

Rajsich’s critics will say that he hasn’t produced a real impact player. The Orioles’ principal AL East rivals, Boston and New York, drafted Andrew Benintendi (1st round, 2015) and Aaron Judge (1st round, 2013) during his tenure.

Rajsich’s later drafts have drawn praise. His picks of left-handed pitcher DL Hall, the first-round selection in 2017, and right-hander Grayson Rodriguez, 2018’s top pick, have shown early promise.

One Rajsich draft choice has had a fine career in another sport. Pat Connaughton, who was the Orioles’ fourth-round pick in 2014, pitched six games for Short-Season Aberdeen in 2014 before returning to Notre Dame for his senior year.

Connaughton starred for the Fighting Irish’s basketball team and is in his fourth season in the NBA. Currently with the Milwaukee Bucks, Connaughton is unlikely to return to baseball.

That year’s draft wasn’t a total lost cause. Four players from that draft, David Hess (fifth round), Tanner Scott (sixth), Steve Wilkerson (eighth) and John Means (11th) played for the Orioles in 2018.

Minor pitching move

Chris Holt has been hired by the Orioles to serve as their minor league pitching coordinator. He’ll replace John Wasdin, who held that job for the past two seasons. Wasdin will be reassigned in the organization. The news was first reported by The Athletic and confirmed by an industry source.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Orial

    November 28, 2018 at 10:43 am

    I guess his track record speaks for itself(average). Interesting but common assessment–“was never given free hand”. May be be true,may be an excuse. Next move for Elias should be Brian Graham. Graham’s title “Director of Player Developement” speaks for itself. No one is safe EXCEPT Brady and that may be tenuous.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 28, 2018 at 8:57 pm

      Orial, the minor leagues can only develop what’s drafted and acquired for them, and I think that they’ve done a decent job with what they’ve been given.

  2. TheGreat8

    November 28, 2018 at 2:02 pm

    Seems average and yes the evil empires have had more stars but do we know how many MLers other teams have drafted over that time period too? Seems tough to judge Rajsich without that info.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 28, 2018 at 8:56 pm

      Great8, my point is that his drafts were effective in drafting depth pieces, but few impact players.

  3. BirdsCaps

    November 28, 2018 at 2:52 pm

    Letting Rajsich go was definitely the right move. He was a decent evaluator of early mid round talent, but the lack of success with top tier talent meant that he had to go. The Orioles have the 1st overall pick and can not mess it up. If the rebuild is to be relatively short, the drafting needs to be impeccable. Thus, we needed a better scouting director to facilitate successful drafts.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 28, 2018 at 8:58 pm

      I will be interested in who the new scouting director will be, BirdsCaps.

      • BirdsCaps

        November 28, 2018 at 10:19 pm

        I’ll take a shot in the dark and say it will be someone from the Houston organization.

  4. Disco Stupid

    November 29, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    Seems like a decent draft history. This org has had problems with pitching development and lacks depth due to lack of international activity. Good luck to Gary and thanks for the work but we have to trust Elias for now.
    Also, I’m hoping Stewart becomes a player but it’s a tough first round draft choice for someone with limited upside.

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