Pitching, up-the-middle talent dominate Day 2 for O's

July 18th, 2022

With a team that places as much emphasis -- and following -- on the Draft as the Orioles do, storylines are naturally going to develop. After Day 2 of drafting on Monday came and went, some remained steadfast, while others were bucked.

No matter the methods, the Orioles believe they added a wave of talent to their top-rated farm system.

“As far as where we got each and every one of these guys in the rounds they were taken, we’re really excited about the fact that they were there,” said Orioles Draft director Brad Ciolek. “We're really happy about it.”

Baltimore made eight selections on Day 2 of the Draft, five coming in the form of pitchers and all hailing from the college ranks. Here are three takeaways from the O’s makeup on Day 2:

1. Who says they don’t take pitching?
Ciolek could only chuckle late Sunday night when it was brought up to him that the Orioles did not take any pitchers with their first four picks on Day 1. There were spots the O’s had circled for a pitcher, Ciolek responded, only to see him taken too quickly. It continued to be happenstance.

Monday was a different story, as they used five of their eight Day 2 picks on arms.

“I thought I would never get asked that question,” Ciolek said Monday, laughing again. “As I said yesterday, we were looking for the best player on the board regardless of position, and that just so happened to be a lot of pitchers today. Really excited about all five of them.”.

Top of the board was third-round selection (81st overall) Nolan McLean, a two-way player who was drafted as a pitcher (more on him later). That’s the highest the Orioles have selected a pitcher under the Mike Elias regime, edging out the selection of Carter Baumler, now the O’s No. 26 prospect, in the fifth round (133rd overall) in 2020. Intriguing fifth-round righty Trace Bright also headlines the bunch after sitting 96-97 mph at the College World Series for Auburn.

All five pitchers the Orioles took will be developed initially as starters, Ciolek said.

Before Elias took over, the club selected Grayson Rodriguez, now the top pitching prospect in baseball, in the first round in 2018 as part of eight of their top 10 picks on arms. The Orioles drafted just four total pitchers in the first 10 rounds under Elias before ‘22.

2. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
The Orioles’ Draft tendency has long been middle-of-the-field talent. Namely, their favorite position players are catchers, shortstops and center fielders. That’s for two reasons. One: They tend to be the best athletes on their teams, making for good organizational building blocks. And two: It’s far easier to move players to the corners of the infield or outfield than vice versa.

So it perhaps should be little surprise that of the seven position players the Orioles took through the first 10 rounds -- three on Monday -- only one is listed at a position away from the middle of the field (second-rounder Max Wagner, at third base).

Monday was headlined by two middle-of-the-field draftees out of the University of Texas. Fourth-round pick Silas Ardoin was seen as one of the better defensive catchers in the Draft, and sixth-rounder Douglas Hodo III one of the better defensive center fielders. Each hails from a strong lineage; Ardoin’s father Danny was fifth-round Draft pick in 1995 and played for the Orioles in 2006, and Hodo’s father helped the Longhorns capture the 1983 College World Series.

Even ninth-rounder Adam Crampton, a Taiwan-born Stanford product, was seen as one of the better defensive shortstops in the NCAA. The Orioles continued to love their college bats.

“It all depends on the makings of the Draft board,” Ciolek said. “Every Draft is unique in terms of the demographics and the strength of the board, and in this instance, we felt really comfortable with the college players that were available.”

3. A two-way player?!
Back to McLean. The 2022 Draft featured a small handful of two-way players. Giants first-rounder Reggie Crawford was perhaps the best of the bunch, but McLean was right up there.

It’s not hard to see why. McLean slashed .285/.397/.595 (.992 OPS) with 19 homers and 16 doubles for Oklahoma State this past season. Less encouraging was his strikeout numbers, his 107 punchouts in 290 plate appearances setting an NCAA record.

But more encouraging were the whiff numbers while he was on the mound. McLean struck out 39 batters across 25 1/3 innings as a reliever, good enough for a 35.14 percent strikeout rate.

With Baltimore, he will be developed primarily as a pitcher. But his raw power at the plate will see him get opportunities as a designated hitter, Ciolek said.

“We think that there's immense upside with him as far as his arsenal is concerned,” Ciolek said. “With that said … he does have prodigious raw power, plus raw power to all fields, so it will give him the opportunity to continue hitting.”