Round 5 pick showed big tools, plus All-Star, first-half notes and quotes

Orioles director of draft operations Brad Ciolek was excited to nab each of the 12 picks the club has made during the first two days of the MLB Draft. The Orioles selected seven pitchers and five outfielders through 10 rounds.

But one player that showed the club especially loud tools and did so in a pre-draft workout at Camden Yards was round five selection, UNC-Charlotte outfielder Jake Cunningham. The right-handed batter and thrower hit .267/.359/.519 this past season with 14 doubles, 11 homers and 41 RBIs. Ranked as the No. 140 draft prospect by Baseball America and No. 147 by, he has hit 29 homers in 146 career college games.

"I think the one name that we were excited about getting him where we did - we're actually ecstatic about all these guys - is Jake Cunningham," said Ciolek. "He was on our radar last year at UNC-Charlotte. He is a tool shed. He has double plus raw power in BP. He is a plus runner and one of those guys that has instincts for center field.

"In a workout at Camden Yards leading up to the draft, he was up to 111 (exit velocity mph) with wood. So, we are very excited to get all these guys, but to get Jake where we got him, coming into the year he did battle some injuries, but we were excited to get Jake where we did."

You can take a look at this story posted yesterday for write ups on all the draft picks from Day 2 with a few more Ciolek quotes there as well.

The O's have taken 12 of 12 college players and indeed seven are pitchers. The Orioles drafted just nine pitchers in the first 10 rounds of the previous four drafts under Mike Elias, taking two in 2019, one each in 2020 (a five-round draft) and 2021 and five last year. So this year was the most they've selected through the first 10 rounds.

The Orioles started the run on pitchers taking Florida State right-hander Jackson Baumeister No. 63 overall in Competitive Balance Round B, the highest by pick selection and round they have ever taken a pitcher under Elias. Then yesterday added Kiefer Lord from the University of Washington in round three, Levi Wells from Texas State in round five, Jacob Cravey of Samford in round six, Teddy Sharkey of Coastal Carolina in round seven, Braxton Bragg of Dallas Baptist in round eight and Troy's Zach Fruit in round nine. 

Quite the run on college pitching.

“I think what we were able to walk away with are guys that have some ability right now as far their pitches that we really like – whether it’s the metrics, the velocity, the breaking balls. But also the ability to add, or potentially refine some of their deliveries to maximize their arsenals.

“A big effort as far as getting our player development staff involved has increased year in and year out here. And as far as being overly thorough with this draft class, not only the pitchers but the position players as well, I think we’ve done a really good job of taking a deep dive. Not only at the top of the draft but also players that we liked on day two and also for (day three today). Pretty excited about the group that we got here," said Ciolek.

Ciolek said Sharkey, a reliever in college, may get more extended innings with the Orioles although he would not commit to him as a starting pitcher. But said the club was bullish on his delivery and he has three quality pitches.

The draft ends today with rounds 11-20 at 2 p.m. ET. Teams have until July 26 to sign the players. 

Four O's represent the club tonight in Seattle: Austin Hays returned to the Orioles lineup over the weekend in Minnesota and his hip looked just fine. He went 3-for-8 in the last two games against the Twins and will start for the American League tonight in the All-Star game.

It’s a deserved reward for a player who has hit .314 with an OPS of .853. Yep, strong first half and the considerable talent he has was on display. He blasted a 434-foot homer Sunday – the third longest of his career.

Hays said he loves the mix in the O’s clubhouse right now of some long-time vets like Kyle Gibson and Adam Frazier, some younger vets like himself and Cedric Mullins and the influx of the young players, most recently and notably Jordan Westburg and Colton Cowser. He said the young players fit in well from the start.

“Yeah they are comfortable with one another and play with a lot of confidence,” he said. “Definitely that moves through the clubhouse. To see young guys come up and play their first couple of innings of defense at Yankee Stadium and be relaxed and confident with guys they have played with in the past in the minors, just shows you, lot of good relationships here. And it’s come up into the big leagues.”

As for tonight, Hays will rub elbows with the best in MLB.

“I think just being around all the guys on the other teams that I never really get to share a clubhouse with (will be special),” he said. “You see them on the other side. You greet each other, acknowledge each other but you never actually get to share a clubhouse. So I think actually getting to do that for the first time will be a lot of fun for me.”

Closer Félix Bautista, who will rep the O’s after a first half that produced a 1.07 ERA, 23 saves and an 18.0 K rate, was asked which player or players he most looked forward to being with in Seattle.

“Being a Latin player I know there will be a big group of us,” said Bautista. “We’re all just going to get together so I’m looking forward to spending time with that group. Also looking forward to seeing some others. But being a Latin player, it is difficult to ignore that and there will be a good group of us.”

Hays and Bautista along with reliever Yennier Cano and catcher Adley Rutschman will represent the club tonight in Seattle. 

After he produced his 12th career multi-homer game Sunday, with homers in two straight innings, Anthony Santander talked about the five-game win streak capping a solid first half of baseball for the Orioles.

“Great first half for everybody as a team. I think there is good momentum for the second half. Playoffs, that is what we want, that’s our mentality. Being here a long time and having the success we are having right now is really fun,” said Santander.

Orioles complete 2023 draft with 20 college player...
Does Bautista get chance to close tonight?

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