Orioles select outfielder DJ Stewart in first round (final update)

The Orioles used the 25th overall pick in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft tonight on Florida State left-handed hitting outfielder DJ Stewart.

Stewart is the first outfielder taken by the Orioles in the first round since Nick Markakis in 2003.

dj-stewart-fsu-running-sidebar.jpgStewart batted .318 with 15 home runs, 59 RBIs, a .500 on-base percentage and 69 walks as a junior. He led the nation in walks.

Stewart was named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Player of the Year as a sophomore after batting .351/.472/.557.

Baseball America rated Stewart as the 30th-best player in the draft this year. Here’s their scouting report:

The Yankees drafted Stewart in the 28th round in 2012 out of Jacksonville’s Bolles School, where he had won five state championships (three in football, two in baseball). He chose not to sign and went on to Florida State, where he has built a strong track record of success. He was the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year as a sophomore and led the league in all three triple-slash categories with a line of .351/.472/.557, and in 2015 he was leading the nation with 62 walks and ranked third with a .525 OBP as the season neared its close. Stewart has a quick swing, good plate discipline and the strength to drive the ball, and he’d set a new career high with 12 home runs. He has managed to make his unorthodox stance work in college, but scouts aren’t sold that it will work at the next level. He crouches very low at the plate, which can make it tougher for him to unleash his raw power. Many scouts believe that if he just stands up a little taller, he’ll be able to turn on inside pitches with more consistency and tap into more of his power. Stewart is listed at 6-feet, 230 pounds, but has more athleticism than his frame suggests. He was a running back in high school and his fringe-average speed allows him to cover ground well in the outfield. His below-average arm strength likely limits him to left field, but his powerful bat fits that profile.

Stewart is being advised by agent Scott Boras.

Stewart is an accomplished college hitter whose power should play well in our park at Camden Yards. We are excited to have him,” said director of scouting Gary Rajsich.

The Orioles didn’t pick until the third round last year after signing pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez and outfielder Nelson Cruz as free agents. They chose left-hander Brian Gonzalez out of Archbishop McCarthy (Fla.) High School, and he’s currently 3-4 with a 5.20 ERA in 11 starts with Single-A Delmarva.

The Orioles took pitcher Hunter Harvey in the first round in 2013, pitcher Kevin Gausman in 2012, pitcher Dylan Bundy in 2011, infielder Manny Machado in 2010, pitcher Matt Hobgood in 2009 and pitcher Brian Matusz in 2008. They grabbed catcher Matt Wieters in 2007 - their last collegiate position player before Stewart.

Is it too soon to mention third baseman Billy Rowell, selected in the first round in 2006?

Shortstops were chosen with the first three picks tonight including Vanderbilt’s Dansby Swanson No. 1 overall by the Diamondbacks. Six shortstops were drafted among the first 20 picks.

Update: Here’s a quote from Florida State coach Mike Martin.

“There have been a number of outstanding young men to come through our program, but none better than DJ Stewart in the way that he displayed leadership both on and off the field,” Florida State head coach Mike Martin said. “A two-time Academic All-American with a 3.35 GPA in his last semester at Florida State, knowing that he had a good chance to be a first round pick is a clear indication of his leadership and commitment to Florida State baseball.

“DJ represented his family, his university and himself in a first class manner throughout his career at Florida State. We are extremely proud of DJ and congratulate him on being drafted by the Orioles.”

Update II: With the 36th overall pick, the Orioles took shortstop Ryan Mountcastle out of Hagerty (Fla.) High School.

Mountcastle has committed to Central Florida, where he’ll play if the Orioles fail to sign him.

Baseball America rated Mountcastle as the 122nd-best player in the draft. He’s not expected to remain at shortstop.

Here’s the Baseball America scouting report on Mountcastle, the Orioles’ compensation pick for losing Nelson Cruz to free agency:

Scouts coming into the Orlando area to see Brendan Rodgers don’t have to travel far to see another top high school infielder on the same trip. Mountcastle plays about 20 miles away from Rodgers and, while he doesn’t have the massive upside of the class’ top player, he is a solid prospect in his own right. Mountcastle stands out most for his hitting ability. He has tremendous bat speed leads to elite exit velocity when he squares balls up, giving him above-average power. He has a loose swing and does a good job of making adjustments to make consistent contact. Defensively, Mountcastle isn’t as advanced. He plays shortstop in high school, but won’t stay there at the next level, whether that’s the minor leagues or Central Florida, where he’s committed for college. He’s played some third base in the past, but his below-average arm strength makes left field a more likely landing spot.

Update III: With the No. 68 pick (second round), the Orioles selected right-hander Jonathan Hughes from Flowery Branch (Ga.) High School.

Here’s the Baseball America report:

Hughes spent last summer pitching to catchers Tyler Stephenson and Joey Bart, who rank Nos. 15 and 183 on the BA 500, on the East Cobb Yankees and, like his summer teammates, is committed to Georgia Tech. Hughes is listed at 6-foot-2, 185, and can run his fastball up to 95 mph. He more typically pitches with a bit less velocity, but gets good life on the pitch when he keeps it down in the zone. He throws two breaking balls, with his slider slightly ahead of his curveball, and occasionally mixes in a changeup. Hughes earns praise for his athleticism and competitiveness.

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