The Orioles didn’t get anywhere near Paul Skenes, the LSU right-hander who was the top choice in the Major League Baseball draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Even though they didn’t take Skenes’ teammate, right-hander Ty Floyd in the first round, they did take a pair of LSU pitchers on the final day of the draft on Tuesday.
“Any time you have the opportunity to add power arms, guys that have some pitch ability from the SEC, it’s always a focal point for us,” Brad Ciolek, the Orioles’ director of draft operations, said in a video conference call.
Blake Money, a right-hander, was taken in 12th round, and left-hander Riley Cooper was their 13th-round pick.
Money, who played in the Little League World Series, and Cooper were part of the Tigers’ pitching staff that won the College World Series in Omaha last month.
“We do envision him as a starter. The fastball and the slider played extremely well,” Ciolek said about Money. “We’re going to stretch him out, get him more innings.”
Cooper pitched three innings for the win in LSU’s win over Florida in Game 1, and he appeared in Game 3.
“Riley Cooper is a fierce competitor,” Ciolek said. “We like his pitch ability. His changeup is very effective as well. He’s got a four-pitch mix as well. Just the fact that those guys have been on a championship club, the championship pedigree that goes along with that and they’re fierce competitors and we think that will carry over well here.”
Money was 1-0 with a 5.97 ERA in 20 games and Cooper was 5-3 with a 4.38 ERA and a save in 32 games this year.
“We do have a lengthy history with them,” Ciolek said. “Whenever they go out and perform on a big stage like that, it just adds additional conviction as far as what you’re getting in a ballplayer. When they’re here and on the big stage, they’re not going to shy away from the pressure. They’ll be able to perform at a high level.”
The Orioles continued to select college pitchers on the third day, choosing them from rounds 11-through-14 and 17-through-18.
Overall, they selected 20 college players and just two high school players. Thirteen of the college crowd were pitchers — 12 right-handers, five outfielders, a shortstop and a catcher.
“A lot of our resources are dedicated toward the college crop,” Ciolek said. “We do focus extensively, a majority on the college crop because that’s the data that we do get and allows us to do a deep dive on those players.”
Nestor German, a right-hander from Seattle University, was the 11th-round choice. He was 5-6 with a 5.97 ERA in 17 games and Michael Forret, a right-hander from Sarasota’s State College of Florida, was the 14th-round selection. Forret was 10-3 with a 3.34 ERA in 15 games.
Zane Barnhart, a right-hander born in Towson who pitched for Michigan’s Hillsdale College ,was the 17th-round pick. He was 5-1 with a 2.06 ERA with five saves in 20 games.
Tanner Witt, a right-hander who was 2-1 with a 10.97 ERA in six starts at Texas, was the 18th-round pick. Witt had a great start to his college career, going 5-0 with a 3.16 ERA in 2021 before having Tommy John surgery in 2022.
Witt, who turned 21 on Tuesday, was MLB.com’s 75th highest draft prospect, and Ciolek said he hoped the Orioles could make a deal with him.
“The goal for us is to put our best foot forward to sign each and every one of these guys,” Ciolek said.
The Orioles took their first high school player, Georgia outfielder Qrey Lott, in the 15th round.
“Qrey is a quick-twitch athlete,” Ciolek said. “There’s a lot of upside here. He’s a slam-dunk centerfielder that can really run. He’s got a plus-arm. We think that there’s some more projection down the road to add some weight and strength to his frame where he can tap into some power.”
Catcher Cole Urman from Cal State Fullerton was the pick in the 16th round. In 49 games, Urman hit .270 with four home runs and 30 RBIs.
Their final two picks were shortstops — Oklahoma high schooler Kollin Ritchie and Jalen Vasquez, from South Carolina’s North Greenville University, in the 19th and 20th rounds. Ritchie was brought to Oriole Park for a workout.
“Left-handed hitter with plus-power. He’s got great bat-to-ball skills,” Ciolek said. “Also has a pristine eye to the plate. I believe he broke the Oklahoma State high school record for walks.”
Vasquez hit .332 with 12 home runs and 40 RBIs with 10 stolen bases in 53 games this year.