Crew pick of Orimoloye could be historic
MILWAUKEE -- Many years and hurdles must be cleared if Demi Orimoloye is to make baseball history. Born in Nigeria and raised in Canada, the 18-year-old outfielder was the Brewers' fourth-round pick Tuesday in the 2015 Draft, but he still must be signed away from a scholarship to Oregon, then sent on a long Minor League journey to polish the rough edges of his game.
If it works, it could be a historic journey. Never before has a player born in Africa played in the Major Leagues, and MLB knew of only one player born outside of South Africa to play in the Minor Leagues. Ntema Ndungidi was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and spent most of his time in the Baltimore organization from 1997-2002, topping out in Double-A.
"If anyone can pull it off," Brewers amateur scouting director Ray Montgomery said, "I'll bet on Demi."
Orimoloye (pronounced "ORA-malloy) took up baseball as a teenager and learned the game in Team Canada's junior national program. He toured with the Langley Blaze, the same travel outfit that helped produce former Brewers closer Jim Henderson, and caught Montgomery's eye as a 14-year-old during a tournament in Taiwan.
Now a high school graduate, Orimoloye remains raw but has promise as a power-hitter with speed. A scout told Sports Illustrated that Orimoloye reminded him of a young Bo Jackson, a "comp" Montgomery brushed aside as unfair.Complete 2015 Draft coverage
"We've gotten to see him from the beginning," Montgomery said. "It's like with your own kids, you see them grow and sometimes you're watching them and you don't realize how much they're growing right in front of you. Then you step away for a little bit and you come back and you say, 'Wow.'
"This is a pretty dynamic, full-grown man now, and I remember when he was just raw. ... Credit him. We couldn't be any happier to have him, and obviously with our Canadian influence, I think he'll enjoy being here."
The Brewers' general manager (Doug Melvin) and assistant GM (Gord Ash) are Canadian-born, and the Brewers have heavily scouted Canada over the years for everything from premium Draft picks (Brett Lawrie was Milwaukee's first-round selection in 2008) to hard-throwing closers (Henderson and John Axford signed as Minor League free agents).
Orimoloye is 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds. Some scouts project him as a right fielder.
As for the Bo Jackson comp?
"I wouldn't put that comp on three players. Maybe five players," Montgomery said. "That wouldn't be fair. What you have with Demi, I think you have an athletic, untapped potential-guy who has shown flashes. We like to say he touches all five tools. But you're not going to get them on a day in and day out basis, and the Bo Jackson comp is, I would say, a little bit strong for me."
But he is, according to Montgomery, "A really energetic personality. He's got some character to him. He's still raw in what he does on the field, and we recognize that, but it's in his best interest to be out in our game, to be around our [player development] staff, and let him go out and have some fun."