In four drafts under Mike Elias and his staff, the Orioles have not selected a pitcher among the first two rounds of the MLB Draft, and they have not signed a pitcher taken above round five.
In 2019, they did not select a pitcher before taking Griffin McLarty of College of Charleston in round eight. The next year the highest drafted pitcher was prep right-hander Carter Baumler in round five. In 2021 the top pitcher selection was in round five with Carlos Tavera.
Last year they selected Oklahoma State pitcher Nolan McLean in round three with selection No. 81 but did not sign him. They get a compensation pick at No. 100 this year for not signing McLean.
Will this be the year that Elias and company use their first-round pick or one of their first few selections on a pitcher?
“I think we always keep our mind open,” said O’s director of draft operations Brad Ciolek. “Obviously you guys (local media) kind of have a scouting report in terms of what we look for in terms of our first-round selection. But there are some pretty intriguing arms. There are a few college arms and a few high school arms that have our attention. We typically do lean to the college demographic, but we are open to all possible scenarios in this case.”
One pitcher linked to the Orioles at No. 17 in the opening round is University of Florida right-hander Hurston Waldrep, who has a fastball that can touch the high 90s. He went 10-3 with a 4.16 ERA in 19 starts for the Gators and is ranked as the No. 19 prospect for this draft by MLBPipeline.com.
Waldrep allowed just two runs in 21 innings in three NCAA tourney starts before giving up three runs over 2 1/3 as Florida lost to LSU in the College World Series best-of-three finals series.
But he moved up some draft boards it appears with his late season pitching and for the year walked 57 with 156 strikeouts in 101 2/3.
“You know, it is kind of hard to ignore when guys perform on a big national stage like at Omaha (at the World Series),” said Ciolek. “That is always in the back of your mind. I think if you look what happened last year with Cade Horton out of Oklahoma, made himself a top 10 selection, based on how he pitched down the stretch. With that said, we always try to take the entire body of work into account. Ultimately how they start, just as well as they how they finish.
“Waldrep is a unique talent, fun to watch him. He’s got four pitches. His secondaries are lethal and he’s got the split that he has remarkable feel for. Two breaking balls that he will double and triple up with and he has a fastball that sits 95 to 98. So, he is a very intriguing starting pitching prospect. We will definitely be discussing him and some other guys as well.”
I asked Jim Callis, senior writer from MLBPipeline.com and a long-time draft expert, about Waldrep.
“He’s a guy that came on in the postseason,” said Callis. “His best back-to-back starts of the year were probably in the regionals and super regionals. Helped Florida get to the College World Series. He wasn’t as sharp with his control in the finals when they lost to LSU in three games.
“He’s interesting. There are things to like and things to wonder about a little bit. He throws very hard, it’s mid 90s to upper 90s. He’s got a splitter that is a tremendous pitch and gets tons of swings and misses. Now the splitter is a chase pitch and not a pitch often thrown for strikes and so you wonder in the back of your mind will better hitters lay off it more? He’s not always consistent control and command-wise and there is some effort in the delivery. There is reliever-risk and you could probably say that about many in the draft. Maybe not Paul Skenes and Rhett Lowder.
“The Orioles look to me, it’s too early to call them a lock, but they look like a playoff team in the American League. This window of contention may be open for five or more years in the future, so they are trying to win now. It’s about winning. They are not going to just draft for need, but what do they need more than anything else? Pitching.”
MLBPipeline puts a 65 grade on Waldrep’s fastball with a 60 on the split, a 55 for his slider and a 45, which is a tick below average, on his control.
“Waldrep is a guy that, I mention reliever-risk, maybe if not a starter, he’s throwing 97 with a nasty split and that’s a closer long term. I just think he makes a lot of sense. I’ve heard that buzz. It’s the area of the draft where he fits in.
“At 17, you don’t know who might fall to them. If the draft proceeds according to chalk, which it never does, but if the guys that are (expected to be) going to go ahead of him do, I think Waldrep makes a lot of sense there,” said Callis.
A win in the Bronx: Colter Cowser's first MLB hit was an RBI single in the sixth inning last night to cut the Yankees lead over the Orioles to 2-1. Jordan Westburg followed with a go-ahead two-run triple as the O's beat New York 6-3.
The O's had five homegrown players in their starting lineup and Austin Hays, when he returns would make six. When Ryan Mountcastle rejoins the club, they could start seven homegrown Orioles.
Five of the six runs in Wednesday's win were driven in by players that started the year with Triple-A Norfolk.
The O's are now 50-35 and last year got win No. 50 on July 28 when they were 50-49.
This win means they have now gone 67 straight series without being swept.
On the farm, Heston Kjerstad had his first career four-hit game as Norfolk beat Durham 8-3. High-A Aberdeen's Jackson Holliday went 5-for-5 and scored five runs in the IronBirds' 16-14 win at Greensboro. Playing with Aberdeen on a rehab assignment, Kyle Stowers hit a pair of two-run homers.