The Orioles’ third-round draft pick, University of Mississippi shortstop Anthony Servideo, has ties to the organization. His grandfather on his mother’s side is Curt Blefary, the 1965 American League Rookie of the Year for the Orioles.
But beyond the family connection, no doubt the organization took note of Servideo’s huge improvement at the bat from 2019 to 2020. It was a small sample size, but the stats took a big leap. In 2019 for Ole Miss, the lefty hitter batted .287/.429/.388 in 66 games. Then, in the Cape Cod League in the summer, he hit just .149 for Hyannis. But before baseball was shut down this year in March, over 17 games, he batted .390/.575/.695 with three doubles, five homers, 24 runs, nine steals and 17 RBIs. He led the Southeast Conference in on-base percentage and walks and was second in runs and steals when play was halted.
“My confidence for sure grew a ton and that helped me have success and perform,” Servideo said yesterday of his 2020 season during a Zoom video press conference. “I changed some small things with my swing, which allowed me to keep the same approach throughout the 17 games that we played. Just continued to have aggressiveness at the plate. That was a big thing for me coming off last year. Being able to stay aggressive, no matter what the count is or who is pitching. You know, don’t miss my pitch, and I feel like it helped a lot for sure this year.
“Super excited to become an Oriole. The draft process was crazy for me. I dealt with it a little bit in high school, but this year was serious. I felt like I put myself in a pretty good spot and I’m lucky to have the opportunity to play at the next level. All my coaches, teammates, players, everyone that had something to do with this, I’m super thankful for them. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to continue my career and put on the Orioles jersey and follow in grandfather’s footsteps.”
Servideo was selected in round three with pick No. 74. In pre-draft ratings, he was listed No. 55 by FanGraphs.com, No. 91 via Baseball America, No. 110 by MLBPipeline.com and No. 131 by ESPN.
Among the stats he improved on this year was the five homers he hit. That was in just 17 games after he hit four in first two years in college in over 100 games. But Servideo, at 5-foot-10 and 175 lbs., is very aware that speed is very likely to be a bigger element of his game than power in the pro ranks. MLBPipeline.com grades him a 60 runner. This year, he stole nine bases in 10 tries, and for his career at Ole Miss, he went 34-for-38, an 89.5 percent success rate).
“That’s huge for me,” he said. “Especially being my size and being left-handed. I can get out of the box quick. A big thing for me is getting on base. Once I can do that, I can create havoc on the base path and score a lot of runs. I have to use that to my advantage. I’m not as strong as the other guys, but they’re not as quick as me. I have that advantage over them. I think now, in today’s game, there are guys with speed, but not a ton of guys. Stolen bases aren’t a huge stat in the majors, but for me that’s a big stat and it plays well in my game.”
From Jupiter, Fla., Servideo played summer ball in the Baltimore area after his freshman year of college. He played in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League for the Baltimore Redbirds and hit .391 in 33 games.
“I loved it. I had the time of my life out there,” he said. “I had a great host family and great teammates. I was actually playing for Tom Eller (current O’s minor league hitting coach) at the time. I love him, he’s a great guy and knows what he is talking about. That summer, I played the best baseball of my life. I felt pretty good playing out there.”
Not only does he already have some knowledge of Baltimore, but also of three of his fellow draft picks with the Orioles. He played in the SEC against the top pick, Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad and the club’s second pick, Mississippi State shortstop Jordan Westburg. And he has the same representation as the club’s second-rounder, Tulane outfielder Hudson Haskin, and they work out together in Florida.
“Super excited. Played against them (in the SEC) for three years. I became pretty good friends with Westburg,” Servideo said. “I played with him in the summer. We’ve been in contact ever since. Heston is a great guy. I’m excited he’s going to be on my team and he’s not going to be hitting home runs against me. He’ll be hitting them for me. He’s a great guy, I’m excited to play with him. I’m from the same area as Hudson Haskin as well. So I’m pretty good friends with him. We work out, go to the field, all that kind of stuff, almost every day. Super excited about this group and ready to get to work with them.”
Now, like his grandfather in 1966, he’d like to play on an Orioles World Series winner. His grandfather passed away when he was just a baby in 2001, but Servideo is very up to speed on the four seasons he spent with the club.
“I was too young to know him. I was about two years old when he passed,” Servideo said. “My mom and my uncle and grandmom all told me stories. I would ask about him almost every time I saw them. It’s cool, we have a lot of pictures of him and memorabilia. Growing up, he has been my idol. I want to follow in his footsteps. Hopefully be a better player than he was. It’s been super cool. You know, super thankful to be able to look up to him and hopefully follow in his footsteps.”
In the baseball talks: Should we even call them talks at this point? Last night on ESPN, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said the sides have not talked in person via Zoom in eight days. Eight days! Only written communication and barbs since. Is it any wonder this has spiraled out of control. Manfred once said he was “100 percent” certain there would be a 2020 baseball season. Now he has backed away from that statement.
No matter which side you favor here (if you favor either), this has gotten ridiculous. There are strong opinions among the negotiators, but also among the fans. Does anyone actually have the fans’ interest at heart here? Doesn’t seem like it. Feel free to share your thoughts and comments today.
On the international front: According to Baseball America, the beginning of the signing period to add international amateur talent is going to be Jan. 15, 2021 and the period will run through Dec. 15, 2021. This was expected. The date is usually July 2, but the March 26 agreement between players and owners had this date as a possibility.
Recently, I wrote this with Baseball America’s Ben Badler on some agreements the Orioles have with international players as the publication has reported.