The attitude is the first trait that really got Anthony Servideo noticed.
Tom Eller, who would have been serving as Single-A Frederick hitting coach prior to the shutdown, got an up-close look at the Orioles’ third-round draft pick back in 2018. Eller was coaching the Maryland Redbirds in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League and Servideo had joined the team after his freshman season at the University of Mississippi.
Eller’s initial thought?
“I was watching him in the Super Regionals two or three weeks before he got to our team and I was like, ‘Man, this kid is good. I wonder why he’s playing in our league. He’s starting for Ole Miss right now,’ ” Eller said last night, chuckling at the memory.
“They got beat in the Super Regionals and I didn’t know what to expect because he was really good and I didn’t know if he was going to come in thinking he was better than people or whatever else, because he was like the best kid on our team.
“Everybody loved him. He was down to earth, very humble, always trying to get better. He was just a great kid to have on our team. Not to mention he was the best shortstop in the league. Probably one of the best players in the league.”
So Servideo managed to blend while also standing out. That isn’t an easy task.
“I loved it. I had the time of my life out there,” Servideo said yesterday in a Zoom conference call with the media.
“I had a great host family, great teammates. I was actually playing for Tom Eller at the time. I love him. He’s a great guy. He knows what he’s talking about.
“That summer I played the best baseball of my life. Hopefully, I’ll continue the success coming up.”
The games were held at Calvert Hall, with athletes from a variety of major universities honing their craft.
“It’s mostly freshmen and sophomores that were on our team, but we had guys from UNC, Clemson, Ole Miss, Tulane. Every big-time conference, we had guys on our team and they did a really good job of going out and getting these guys,” said Eller, formerly the head coach at Harford Community College.
“Every one of our guys went to the Cape the next year.”
After earning a spot on the SEC’s All-Freshman team, Servideo posted a .391 average and .517 on-base percentage with six doubles, eight triples and 29 RBIs for the Redbirds.
The Orioles selected Servideo with the 74th overall pick after he batted .390/.575/.695 in 17 games for Mississippi and led the Southeast Conference in on-base percentage. He had four home runs combined in his first two seasons, but hit five this spring before the shutdown.
“He has power,” Eller said. “When he needs to, he’ll swing like Ichiro and put the ball in play. He’s always running hard. He’s unbelievable at shortstop. I know he can also play the outfield. He’s got every tool you can think of. He’s got a good arm, he can bunt, he can run, he can do it all.”
Servideo, the grandson of former Orioles outfielder Curt Blefary, is rated as a plus defender and runner.
“We’ve kind of been following him since high school,” Brad Ciolek, the Orioles’ supervisor of domestic scouting operations, said on a recent Zoom conference call. “He really popped up on our radar this spring. He got off to a blistering start with Ole Miss and he ran into some power.
“We’re intrigued by his athleticism in the dirt and how well he moves. He has more than enough arm strength to stay at shortstop.”
The Orioles didn’t consult Eller about Servideo, but they wanted him to critique other hitters who will be joining the organization after signing their contracts. Eller offered input on University of Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad (second overall), Tulane University outfielder Hudson Haskin (39th) and Florida prep third baseman Coby Mayo (103rd).
“Just to look over their swings and make sure everything pans out, what we liked about them, strengths and weaknesses. All that kind of stuff,” Eller said.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias referred to Kjerstad as the best left-handed bat in the country. Eller’s eyes told him the same.
“No doubt about that,” Eller said.
“He’s got a really good swing. He’s a big kid. In the zone a long time. Not to mention there’s a lot of upside to him because obviously he’s going to get even stronger. He’s going to be able to learn our system and really be able to understand what he’s looking for at the plate.
“His chase rate, that’s what we’re looking to bring down a little bit. But if you can hit 35 home runs since his freshman year in the SEC, I mean, that says a lot right there. His OPS was over .900. That’s pretty impressive.”
Haskin was 22-for-66 (.333) with six doubles, one triple, one home run and 14 RBIs in 17 games before the shutdown. He receives high marks for his defense, running and hand-eye coordination. The swing is unusual, but he makes it work.
“Just a wiry, strong athlete. Can kind of do everything,” Eller said.
“I think he’s got a ton of upside. For him to be as successful as he’s been with kind of, and I know a lot of people have been talking about it, a funky swing, just shows you he’s going to have so much upside once we can polish that up a little bit.”
Note: To clear up any confusion, the Orioles have agreements in place with their two high school selections, Mayo for $1.75 million and pitcher Carter Baumler for $1.5 million. But the deals won’t become official until the players pass their physicals and sign their contracts.
That’s how it always works.
There’s a difference between agreements and signings. But it’s done in the sense that the sides reached agreement.
I heard about Mayo’s deal from someone close to him before his name was called. The Orioles weren’t going to draft prep players with big-time college commitments unless they were certain that contracts would be signed.