The Orioles’ top two draft picks are at Camden Yards today. They’ve already been officially signed and have already spent a few days working out in Sarasota, Fla. And this afternoon, outfielder Colton Cowser, the No. 5 overall pick in round one from Sam Houston State, and infielder Connor Norby, taken No. 41 overall in round two from East Carolina, were presented jerseys in a brief on-field ceremony with O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias.
Their families joined them in Baltimore and the players took batting practice with the big club on the field at Oriole Park.
The players are both expected to eventually be added for a few days to play in the Florida Complex League before joining low Single-A Delmarva.
Cowser talked about his first few days officially as an Oriole.
“Just the resources that are down there,” he said when asked what he observed so far in the organization. “You know, great facilities. Great complex. The coordinators down there, they are looking to put us in a great position to succeed. That is something that is really awesome to be a part of. The organization is in a great spot right now to do that.”
It was about a week ago the Orioles signed Cowser to a bonus of $4.9 million, under the slot value for that pick of $6,180,700.
The Southland Conference Player of the Year, he batted .374/.490/.680/1.170 in 55 games this season with 10 doubles, two triples, 16 homers, 52 runs, 17 steals and 52 RBIs. He had more walks than strikeouts, 42 to 32, and gets plus scouting grades for his bat, running speed and arm.
He said being a well-rounded player is important to him.
“It’s just kind of how I was raised to play the game,” he said. “Kind of an old-school player, you know, be able to contribute on both sides of the ball. You know, say you are not having a great day at the plate, but you go out on the field and take away some outs. There are always ways to contribute in the game of baseball.”
Cowser was ranked as the No. 7 player for this draft by FanGraphs.com, No. 10 by ESPN and MLB.com and No. 11 by Baseball America. He was asked if that ranking would have been even better had he played for a bigger school.
“The way it kind of worked out for me, I think maybe if I did go to one of those bigger schools, I think maybe I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity right away to play and contribute,” he said. “Be recognized and get the opportunity to play for Team USA after my freshman year. I think that the route that I took ended up putting me into the greatest place to succeed.”
Norby led the nation in hits with 102 and batted .415/.484/.659 with 15 doubles, 15 homers, 18 steals, 64 runs and 51 RBIs. For a player that finished eighth in the nation in average and produced a special number there, he is clearly not overly impressed with his batting average stat.
“I never really look at batting average, in a sense,” he said during an interview with media in the Orioles dugout. “I think it’s evil because it doesn’t dictate you as a hitter, in a sense. Just trying to have as many quality at-bats and hit as many balls as hard as I could. Batting average is just the side effect of doing those two things.”
Norby was the first O’s draft pick to sign, beating Cowser by one day. He got a bonus of $1.7 million, which was a bit under the slot amount of $1,813,500.
“I mean, it’s a lot of excitement (today),” he said. “It’s kind of been hectic. Just the last few weeks, for sure, going down to Sarasota and getting settled and coming back. I mean, it’s an honor to be here, and me and Colton are really excited to come back.
“I was told by my agent, probably an hour before day two started, that he had spoken with Baltimore. But we just didn’t know what would happen. Then he called me and said ‘Baltimore.’ I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
Norby, the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year, hopes to bring a lot to the table for his new team.
“I just bring a lot of fire, like I play hard all the time. I can do everything,” he said. “I consider myself like a jack of all trades, in a sense. I can do everything and I want to be good at everything. There is a lot of improvement in my game I want to work on. That is what I’m looking forward to most.”
Norby said he already rubbed elbows with a few big leaguers earlier this week in Sarasota.
“The first few days we were in quarantine, mandatory MLB rules. But we got started, our first day was on Wednesday, I believe. Did a little walk-through and kind of got on the field with some of the big leaguers. (Shortstop Freddy) Galvis was down there. Richie (Martin) was down there. Got to hit with those guys, which was awesome, and yesterday was kind of our first real day of like, ‘OK, we kind of know what to do a little bit.’ They let us hit, throw, everything. It’s a blast, I love it.”
More signings: The Orioles today announced the signings of 13 more draft picks. They are outfielder Reed Trimble (Competitive Balance round B), right-hander Carlos Tavera (round 5), catcher Creed Willems (8), infielder Ryan Higgins (9), outfielder Billy Cook (10), right-hander Dylan Heid (11), right-hander Justin Armbruester (12), infielder Jacob Teter (13), right-hander Keagan Gillies (15), right-hander Peter Van Loon (16), right-hander Ryan Long (17), right-hander Conor Grady (18), and right-hander Alex Pham (19).
The Orioles have now signed 16 of their 21 selections from the 2021 First-Year Player Draft.