How the O's Round 2 Draft picks break down

July 13th, 2021

When it comes to the Draft, the Orioles have a type. They love college position players these days, with executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias selecting college bats with five of his top six picks over the past three Drafts.

That trend continued Sunday with the selection of Sam Houston State outfielder Colton Cowser fifth overall, and also Monday when the Orioles scooped up hitters with nine of their 10 picks on Day 2 of the Draft. All told, Baltimore chose position players with 10 of its first 11 picks, nine from the college ranks.

“Bottom line, we’re looking to take the best available player,” Orioles amateur scouting supervisor Brad Ciolek said. “Granted, there is a lot of data and analytical insight with the college bat demographic that we feel comfortable with. So we went ahead to target those guys early and often.”

Here is how the O's selected on Day 2:

Round 2, 41st overall: Connor Norby, 2B, ECU

Notable Skill: Norby’s best skill is his pure hitting ability; he led the nation in hits (102) as a junior, batting .415 with 15 home runs, 1.143 OPS and nearly as many walks (33) as strikeouts (34) in 61 games for the Pirates. Norby hit safely in 30 of his first 31 games this spring, reaching base in 56 straight at one point dating back to 2020. He has a disciplined approach and a short, compact right-handed swing, with sneaky strength and improving power. The rest of Norby’s tools rate about average, with his arm strength probably limiting him to second base defensively. But the Orioles are looking for high-contact hitters in this Draft, and he fits the bill in that regard.

Fun Fact: East Carolina head coach Cliff Godwin recently called Norby “the best right-handed hitter I’ve ever coached,” in an interview with the Greensboro News & Record. That's high praise considering Godwin was an assistant at Louisiana State when Yankees star DJ LeMahieu was there.

Quotable: “When you don’t get four hits in a game, you kind of feel down about yourself a little bit, but I always want to have as many good at-bats as I can in a day,” Norby told the News & Record. “If I’m hitting .400, I want to hit .500. If I’m hitting .500, I want to hit .600. There’s not an end goal for me and there never will be. That’s a trait the great players have.”

Competitive Balance Round B, 65th overall: Reed Trimble, OF, Southern Mississippi

Notable Skill: One of the more prominent second-year freshmen in this Draft, Trimble stands out for his combination of power and speed. He’s a switch-hitter with power to all fields from the left side, an above-average runner and a capable center fielder. Trimble hit .345 with 17 home runs and a .638 slugging percentage and tied for the national lead with 72 RBIs this spring. His speed received 65-70 grades from scouts heading into the Draft, and he stole 12 bases in 14 attempts in 2021 for the Golden Eagles.

Fun Fact: Trimble is a converted shortstop. He retains enough speed and athleticism for some to believe he could play the infield in pro ball as well as the outfield. That versatility should serve him well going forward.

Quotable: “He’s a very athletic kid,” Ciolek said. He’s played some second base and some shortstop. We will kick the tires on that potentially. But we did draft him first and foremost as a center fielder. The key thing is: we do like guys who are versatile and he fits that mold as well.”

Round 3, 76th overall: John Rhodes, OF, University of Kentucky

Notable Skill: Rhodes became Draft-eligible after this year’s event was moved from June to July, and in turn, he was one of the top second-year college bats available. He had a .426/.485/.672 slash line in 17 games as a freshman at Kentucky during the shortened 2020 season, then impressed in the Northwoods League during the summer, before slumping in 2021. He’s still regarded as an advanced hitter with a quick right-handed swing and enough strength for at least average power at the next level.

Fun Fact: Rhodes played third base as a freshman and moved to left field as a sophomore, where his arm strength continued to play. He led the nation in outfield assists and did not commit a defensive error this spring for the Wildcats.

Round 4, 106th overall: Donta' Williams, OF, Arizona

Notable Skill: Williams benefitted from his excellent performance at Arizona, where he hit .342 with eight home runs and more walks (50) than strikeouts (40) this spring. He’s a left-handed batter with a strong hit tool and good instincts in the outfield, where he can play all three positions capably. He is another high-contact college outfielder for the Orioles in a Draft full of them.

Fun Fact: Williams led Arizona with a .481 on-base percentage, and he reached base in 47 consecutive games at one point.

Quotable: “The pop started showing up this year a little more,” Draft reporter Jonathan Mayo said. “He’s always hit -- good contact, good approach. [He] maybe profiles as a fourth outfielder when it's all said and done, but the defensive instincts plus the hit tool make him a good pick in the fourth round.”

Round 5, 137th overall: Carlos Tavera, RHP, University of Texas-Arlington

Notable Skill: The Orioles drafted their first pitcher of the 2021 Draft in Tavera, a 22-year-old righty with strong college performance and pitchability. His best pitches are a low-90 mph fastball and an advanced slider, which he used to rack up 117 strikeouts in 83 innings this spring. Tavera has a simple, repeatable delivery and throws a lot of strikes, walking only 33 in 15 games in 2021.

Fun Fact: Tavera was part of a combined 11-inning no-hitter this spring at UT-Arlington, the program’s first no-no in 38 years. Tavera completed nine innings of no-hit ball in the contest, striking out 11 and walking just three.

Quotable: “This year he was up to 96, sitting 92-94, with feel for a slider and a plus changeup," Ciolek said. "In addition to what our scouts saw, having the data to cement those findings, we feel really happy about the overall stuff in the package we have with Carlos.”

Round 6, 167th overall: Collin Burns, SS, Tulane

Notable Skill: Another bat-first second baseman, Burns posted a .353/.410/.571 slash line with 20 steals this spring for Tulane. He is a left-handed hitter with good across-the-board tools who used the pandemic to get stronger, resulting in an increase in power as a junior. But Burns’ best tool is his plus speed: he converted 80% of his stolen-base attempts and hit four triples this season.

Fun Fact: Burns is the second Tulane player selected by the Orioles in the past two Drafts, joining 2020 second-round pick Hudson Haskin.

Quotable: “He moves very well in the dirt -- has excellent instincts and a big league clock,” Ciolek said. “We take pride in our defensive evaluations as well.”

Round 7, 197th overall: Connor Pavolony, C, Tennessee

Notable Skill: Defense. Pavolony is a glove-first catcher with good receiving skills and a solid arm. He presided over the Southeastern Conference’s second-best pitching staff by ERA in 2021. Pavolony's offense is secondary here, but he did reach base at a .365 clip or better in all three seasons in Knoxville.

Fun Fact: Pavolony played a big role in Tennessee’s 2021 College World Series run, homering as part of a three-RBI day in the Volunteers' second Super Regional win over LSU on June 13. He’ll be reunited with former Tennessee battery mate Garret Stallings in the Orioles' system.

Quotable: “He’s a guy with a chance to be a pretty good pick this year,” Draft reporter Jim Callis said. “Coming into the year, he could’ve been a third-round pick. [He] didn’t have a great year, so you get him in the seventh round. If you get him back on track, that’s some pretty good value.”

Round 8, 227th overall: Creed Willems, C, Aledo (Texas) High School

Notable Skill: Willems is physical for his age (18) at 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, with big-time power potential. He’s a left-handed hitter who showed strong bat speed and exit velocity readings this spring, as well as good arm strength behind the plate.

Fun Fact: How good is Willems’ arm strength? He was clocked at 95 mph on the mound during his senior year, before he converted to catching full-time. He also has a commitment to Texas Christian University.

Quotable: “We will look to develop him as a catcher,” Ciolek said. “We had him here [for a workout] at Camden Yards, and he hit three or four balls onto Eutaw Street. He has prodigious raw power, and we’re really excited about that.”

Round 9, 257th overall: Ryan Higgins, 3B, Fresno State

Notable Skill: Power. Higgins has always showed big pop potential, but he didn’t tap into it consistently until he made changes to his body prior to the 2021 season. The result was a breakout spring as a junior, with Higgins hitting .352 with 11 home runs and a 1.120 OPS for the Bulldogs. Higgins' defense is a question, and he may need to shift to left field at the next level. But he has a chance to hit for both average and power as a pro. 

Fun Fact: Higgins also played football at Saint Francis High School in Mountain View, Calif., helping the program to the 2017 CIF Division II California state championship. He also won a state championship in baseball as a high schooler.

Quotable: “He had a really, really good year,” Draft reporter Jonathan Mayo said. “Kind of an under-the-radar college guy that not a lot of teams were on. Obviously, the Orioles were.”

Round 10, 287th overall: Billy Cook, 3B, Pepperdine

Notable Skill: Power, too. Cook hit 26 home runs in four seasons at Pepperdine, leading the West Coast Conference with 17 homers this spring. He has a right-handed swing that can get a little long, as evidenced by Cook’s 43 strikeouts in 33 games in 2021. But he’s a decent athlete, runs well and shows at least average arm strength in the outfield. Overall, it’s a tools profile with some pop.

Fun Fact: Cook comes from a long line of athletes. His father, Chuck, played baseball at the Air Force Academy. His mother, Julie, played volleyball and basketball also at Air Force. His grandfather, Dan Adair, played baseball at Wyoming and an uncle, Marc Adair, played football at BYU and Utah.