Another look at day two of draft and O's move to select more pitchers

In his first three draft as Orioles executive vice president and general manager, Mike Elias selected just four pitchers in the first 10 rounds of those drafts. Of course the 2020 draft was just five rounds, but just four pitchers were taken over three drafts through that round.

In 2019, the O’s first eight picks were position players until they selected pitchers Griffin McLarty in round eight and Connor Gillispie in round nine. In the shortened 2020 draft, their first five of six picks were position players until they drafted high school right-hander Carter Baumler in round five. Last year, among the first 10 rounds, the only pitcher selected by the O's was right-hander Carlos Tavera in round five. That was after five position players.

But this draft was very different.

After taking a position player with the first four picks Sunday night, the Orioles started the second day of the MLB Draft picking Oklahoma State right-hander Nolan McLean in round three yesterday with the No. 81 overall pick. They added pitchers Trace Bright of Auburn in round five, Preston Johnson of Mississippi State in round seven, right-hander Cameron Weston of Michigan in round eight and Juco pitcher Wyatt Cheney of McLennan (Tex.) Community College in round 10.

Of the 12 players they have drafted so far, there are 11 college players, five pitchers and seven position players.

“As I said (Sunday), we were looking for the best player on the board regardless of position and that just so happened to be a lot of pitchers (yesterday),” said Orioles director of draft operations Brad Ciolek during a post draft day two Zoom interview. “We ended up taking five. And really excited about all five of them. As I said earlier, we did have pitchers up and down our board (Sunday) night and obviously today. So, the ball bounced our direction this time as far as taking pitching.”

He added that all five pitchers will be developed as starters. And said third rounder McLean will be developed as a pitcher that has “immense upside” but also will be allowed to DH in pro ball. Do the O’s have a two-way player here?

"We will give him the opportunity to continue hitting, but the primary focus will be developing him as a pitcher," said Ciolek.

Ciolek talked more specifically about Johnson, who went 3-4 with a 5.47 ERA at Mississippi State.

“Preston is really interesting,” he said. “First of all, a big, strong kid (6-foot-4, 250-lb.) that is obviously an SEC power arm that we do like, 92 to 95 with his fastball and has elite hop on it. We think we can help him be more efficient with his delivery and he also has a full arsenal. We do like guys that have a full arsenal, four pitches. We think that we can continue to build upon the success he’s had with his breaking balls and also refine his changeup a little bit. He’s very similar to a lot of the arms that we took today. We think there is high upside with all those guys and we’ll look to ultimately maximize their arsenals to full potential.”

Ciolek also had some interesting thoughts on Cheney, the round 10 Juco pitcher.

“Wyatt Cheney is a projection right-handed starter. The one thing we really like about Wyatt is we had the ability to scout him in person, but also, we were able to tap into some of our analytics as far as the TrackMan data and he has the unique fastball profile that we look for. Has elite hop on his fastball with a pair of breaking balls that play immensely well.

"So, really excited about getting him and honing in on his arsenal. We think the fastball-breaking ball combo will be effective as far as changing the eye sight of hitters and we are also going to continue to work on a changeup with him. So, it was kind of a mixed bag with the work that went in regarding Wyatt. On the scouting side with Dan Drullinger doing a fantastic job on him and also our scout analyst team taking a look under the hood,” he said.

The draft resumes at 2 p.m. ET today with rounds 11 through 20 and the Orioles have one pick in each round meaning in the end they will make 22 selections in this draft.

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