The Orioles selected University of Virginia right-handed pitcher Branden Kline in round two of the draft, making him the 65th pick overall. His head coach for the past three years believes the Orioles got a good player and person.
Kline went 7-3 with a 3.56 ERA this season with 94 strikeouts in 93 2/3 innings and a .241 batting average against. He was rated by Baseball Ameria as the draft’s 87th-best prospect.
At UVa he was a top closer last season and was moved to the rotation this year. Virginia coach Brian O’Connor told me why he used Kline in those different roles over the past two seasons.
“That has more to do with what the makeup of our team is,” O’Connor said. “We had some real high quality starters on our team last year and it was in our team’s best interest to have him pitch at the end the game. It was what we needed to do for our team to have success and he’s always been unselfish and has done what is in the best interest of the team. It was just the right move for that year.
“He pitched at the front end of our rotation (this season). There was a period of the year where he was really dominant and had some outstanding outings back-to-back. Then, when he didn’t have his best stuff, he grinded through it. I think this kid’s best days are ahead of him.”
Kline is a local Maryland product, from Thomas Johnson High in Frederick. He just finished his junior season with the Cavaliers after going 4-1 with an ERA of 1.88 and 18 saves last year, when he was first-team all ACC.
“He’s a tall, lanky pitcher that is a real good athlete,” O’Connor said. “He pitches anywhere from 89 to 93 mph consistently, but he can get it up there to 94, 95, 96. He’s got a really good slider. He’s got a changeup. He’s just a tough kid.
“He was considered the best closer in the country last year and his makeup is just off the charts. When he gets to pro ball and, at the lower levels throws more fastballs, I think his fastball will continue to develop. I just love the kid and think the world of him.
“I think his best out pitch has been his slider here for us. But as he continues to develop I think his fastball will be his best pitch, as he gets more consistent with it. He has always had a very good slider and command of it.
“The kid must have been brought up the right way. He loves competition and loves to have the ball in his hand at the most important time. He’s always been able to make big, clutch pitches for us. He’s an extremely diligent worker and very coachable. He’s pretty special.”
O’Connor saw Kline not long after he found out he had been drafted by the Orioles.
“He was in our clubhouse and he was just ecstatic. A hometown kid drafted by the Orioles, he was really, really happy,” O’Connor said. “The exciting thing about moving through the Orioles system is you get a chance to pitch fairly close to your home. He’s excited about that opportunity.”