O’s make progress on draft signings and Rajsich on day two

The implementation of the slot bonus amounts, that began in the First-Year Player Draft a few years ago as part of a new collective bargaining agreement, means that teams can reach agreements very quickly with draft picks. The Orioles have done just that.

The Orioles are very close to signing multiple draft picks they have selected in the first two days of the draft including their top pick, prep right-hander Grayson Rodriguez from Nacagdoches, Texas. The listed slot for the No. 11 pick is $4,375,100 and Rodriguez is expected to agree to an amount slightly under that slot total.

The Orioles are also closing in on an agreement with their second pick, Oregon State shortstop Cadyn Grenier. The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year was taken with the No. 37 pick in competitive balance round A. The listed slot amount for that pick is $1,923,500 and he also could get just under that amount.

rajsich sidebar.jpgThe Orioles may be close to signing as many as nine of their top 10 round picks. They need to reach final agreements, submit paperwork and then the players must pass physicals before any signings will be announced. But that process is already well under way.

The Orioles got a nice surprise early yesterday when the draft resumed with the third round. They did not expect University of Arkansas right-hander Blaine Knight to be around when they picked. He was, and they jumped on the junior who went 11-0 with an ERA of 2.74 for the Razorbacks. The 21-year-old Knight features a fastball that sits between 90 and 94, and touched 97 with a breaking ball that has one of the best spin rates in the country, according to Baseball America.

“We never though Blaine Knight would be there,” scouting director Gary Rajsich said. “That is someone we talked about (taking) on day one. Very dynamic starter and we think he could be a quick mover through the organization. Undefeated in the SEC this year. He beat six guys this year that were drafted higher than he was, including (Casey) Mize, (Brady) Singer, all those guys.”

In 10 SEC only starts, Knight, the Baseball America second team All-American went 6-0 with a 3.70 ERA. Over 58 1/3 he walked 14 and fanned 61.

“He is a fierce competitor with a great delivery,” Rajsich said. “He has timing and balance which is rare for college pitchers to have in their delivery. That makes it easier for him to use his body to get the most out of his arm. He commands four average to plus pitches and is a bulldog on the mound that doesn’t like to lose.”

Will Knight be tough to sign?

“He could be,” Rajsich said. “We’ll see. We’ll be negotiating with him over the next several weeks.”

In the fourth round the O’s selected prep lefty Drew Rom from Highlands (Ky) High School, where he went 8-6 with a 2.42 ERA. Rom has a college commitment to Michigan.

“A very promising young left-hander,” said Rajsich. “He’s had a tick up with his stuff lately. We’ve liked him since we saw him on the showcase circuits last summer and we were trying to keep quiet on that one. We didn’t want to expose our interest in him. We could have taken him higher. We took some risk waiting until the fourth round but we’re very happy to get him. He throws a fastball, changeup and slurvy-type breaking ball with a great arm action and a good delivery.”

In the fifth round the Orioles selected University of Iowa outfielder Robert Neustrom, who hit .311/.386/.538 with 11 homers and 36 RBIs. Last summer he was an All-Star in the Cape Cod League.

“He is close to a five-tool athlete,” Rajsich added. “He can play the corner spots and even fill-in in center. He’s got a good arm. He runs well and he has power to all fields. We like his swing and think he will be pretty versatile in the outfield.”

Of their first 10 picks, the Orioles took eight pitchers, seven from the college ranks.

“I didn’t plan it that way,” said Rajsich. “But position players are a little scarce, like we said before the draft. We will try and add some more on Wednesday, but we can’t make any promises.”

Of the pitchers the Orioles have selected thus far, all are expected to begin their pro careers trying to make it as starting pitchers.

The draft resumes today at Noon ET with rounds 11 through 40.

“Maybe we can go after some guys that were unsignable on days one and two that we like. Maybe their figures change and we can go after some of those guys. Then around the 20th pick we could look to fill some needs that we have in the organization. We want players with tools that have a chance to advance.”

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