In wrestling with whether to attend college or agree to an above-slot deal with the Orioles, third baseman Coby Mayo peered across the baseball landscape for direction. What caught his eye were how many superstars seemed to be so close to his age, from 21-year-old Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. to 22-year-old Braves center fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. and others. Such evidence ultimately helped Mayo, 18, decide to forgo his commitment to the University of Florida, which he had considered his “dream school” for years.
“Having the opportunity to go there would’ve been a dream come true,” Mayo said on a Zoom call Tuesday. “At the same time, I knew pro ball would start my career much faster and get me where I want to be much faster. Major League Baseball these days is all about the young talent, and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Though the Orioles have not confirmed the deal because it is pending a physical, Mayo acknowledged an agreement is in place. It is reportedly worth $1.775 million, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, well above the $565,600 slot value for the 103th overall pick.
It is one of two over-slot deals the Orioles, with their Draft-high bonus pool of nearly $14 million, are expected to strike with their high school selections. The other is fifth-round pick Carter Baulmer, an Iowa right-hander with a commitment to TCU who told his local paper on Draft night that he planned to sign.
“It was definitely difficult. … It was definitely a decision to sit down and talk to my parents about,” Mayo said. “Having a chance to start my career when I’m younger is an advantage. The young talent in the league -- Fernando Tatis, Ronald Acuna -- those guys are going to be great for so long, and that’s what I want to be.”
It is the Orioles’ hope, too, that one day Mayo can reach those heights. What they see now is a player with what scouting supervisor Brad Ciolek called “an extremely high ceiling,” given that he has as much power and arm strength as any high school third baseman in his Draft class. At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Mayo shows 70-grade power in batting practice and produced some of the top bat speed and exit velocity readings among high schoolers this spring at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Mayo is the latest in a line of highly touted picks from the school that also produced Anthony Rizzo and Jesus Luzardo, which is also known as the location of the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history. Mayo was a sophomore on Feb. 14, 2018, when a former student opened fire in the school, killing 17 and injuring 17 others. The tragedy sparked widespread debate and activism regarding gun reform.
Mayo is the second player present at the time to be drafted since, joining Rangers’ 2019 24th-rounder Luke Schiltz. Mayo said that he’s had to “mature five times as much as any high school kid would’ve wanted to because of what happened,” and looks back on it “[thinking] I am so lucky to be here today.”
“That day was obviously a day I will never forget. My community will always hurt from that. It will always be a recovery,” Mayo said. “If it wasn’t for my coaches, my family and my friends -- I wouldn’t be here without them to push me. Doing it for those who were lost; I play for those who can’t play. They don’t have voices. They couldn’t do what they wanted to do, and I can. Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to be a Major League baseball player. Those people had dreams, too. I want to fulfill their dreams by fulfilling mine. The whole community needed something really big to come out of it. That’s what I wanted to do, and that’s what happened when the Orioles selected me.”