LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The Orioles have taken two players before in the Rule 5 draft. They topped that today, adding three selections in the major league phase. They chose three pitchers.
They selected lefty Nester Cortes from the Yankees organization. In 30 games (13 starts) this season, he went 7-4 with a 2.06 ERA. He pitched at three levels in 2017, but mostly at Double-A and Triple-A. He’s 25-14 with a 2.08 ERA in 84 career minor league games, including 40 starts, with 344 strikeouts in 324 1/3 innings.
The Baseball America scouting report on Cortes: “Cortes’ fastball, thrown typically between 87-93 mph, gets on hitters quickly and was deceptive enough to induce a 20 percent swing-and-miss rate. He varies the speed on the fastball at will, and he changes arm angles to increase deception as well. He pairs the pitch with a curveball and a changeup, and he’s performed well at every level.”
Here is O’s vice president Dan Duquette on the lefty: “Nestor Cortes is a very versatile left-handed pitcher. He’s got good breaking stuff, excellent control, very good competitor. His role model is Gio Gonzalez and he’s from South Florida, a very competitive environment.
“He did a nice job with the Yankees. He’s advanced and he pitched well at Double-A and he pitched well at Triple-A. And we think he may be able to compete for a spot as a starter with the big league club. He has good pitches and experience and has had success at every level.
“I think he can compete to be a starting pitcher. This is a guy that has very good pitching instincts. He knows how to locate his pitches. He knows how to field his position and combat the running game. He has a lot of skills, some very unique skills. Look at his record of success at every step of the way. The critics will say he doesn’t throw hard and that’s true. He is not a hard thrower. But he can do a lot of other things that count in getting a hitter out.”
The Orioles also selected right-hander Pedro Araujo, 24, from the Cubs organization. This past season, he went 6-1 with a 1.76 ERA. Over 66 2/3 innings, he walked 18 and fanned 87 with all but two of those innings coming in high Single-A ball.
From San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, Araujo has gone 26-9 with an ERA of 2.63 in his minor league career with 394 strikeouts over 342 innings.
Duquette on Araujo: “We saw him very good in the Arizona Fall League. (Scout) Dave Engle recommended him. He shows three good pitches with good control. He has also gotten very good results over his pro career and is a bullpen option.”
In the AFL, Araujo had an ERA of 1.74 over nine games with three saves. In 10 1/3 innings, he allowed five hits with two walks, 15 strikeouts and a .143 batting average against.
The O’s then selected right-hander Jose Mesa, 24, from the Yankees. He is the son of the former O’s pitcher by the same name.
Mesa went 5-1 with a 1.93 ERA at the Single-A and Double-A levels. He was 4-0 with a 0.79 ERA in eight games (five starts) after moving up to Double-A Trenton of the Eastern League, allowing only three runs in 34 1/3 innings and striking out 39 batters. He gave up 15 hits and walked 17. Mesa is 12-4 with a 2.86 ERA and 10 home runs allowed in 78 minor league games and has held opponents to a .188 average.
Baseball America on Mesa: “Mesa has solid stuff rather then sensational stuff, but Mesa does get up to 94-95 mph with his fastball. His performance was sensational, not solid.”
Duquette on Mesa: “He looks just like his daddy and has the same kind of build. Very similar delivery. It looks like a flashback to when his dad was a closer with the Indians. He’s got a good curve with good control, nice composure and a nice assortment of pitches. We like all three pitchers we took and feel like they have a legitimate shot to compete in the spring.”
The Orioles today lost six players in the minor league phase of the draft. Selected by other organizations were infielder Brallan Perez, pitchers Mitch Horacek and Brandon Barker, catcher Yermin Mercedes, infielder Angelo Mora and outfielder Jay Gonzalez.
Teams can protect 75 players in the minor league phase of the draft and these six were not protected by the Orioles today.
Duquette on losing those six players: “I think that is a good reflection on the depth of our farm system. We’ve made good strides overall in stocking the farm system and that was reflected in the number of players that were drafted off our Double-A roster. With the work that our scouts and player development people have done over the last couple of years, the Orioles have more depth, particularly with position players in the minors. Other clubs saw that depth and made selections and that is a good compliment to the work our people have been doing the last couple of years.”
The Orioles added a catcher in the minor league phase when they selected Martin Cervenka, who is from the Czech Republic, from the San Francisco organization. He is strong defensively and threw out 40 percent of base stealers last year. He hit .278/.343/.418 with eight homers and 57 RBIs for Single-A Lynchburg of the Carolina League. Cervenka is expected to play at Double-A Bowie in 2018.