Baltimore Orioles 2018 Draft: High-Profile Picks in Review
The Baltimore Orioles 2018 draft class is heavy on pitching, reflecting one way in which the club sought to bolster several weak areas in its organization.
That the Orioles have struggled over the years to develop pitchers is an established fact. The first round of the draft has been one way in recent years for the club to try to remedy this issue, as the Orioles have now chosen a pitcher with their first pick in three consecutive drafts.
The latest selection in that group is Grayson Rodriguez, a right-hander drafted 11th overall by the Orioles on Monday. Owed largely to better conditioning habits, Rodriguez broke through in his senior season at Central Heights High School (Texas). Rodriguez’s fastball has topped out in the high-90’s, with his curveball and slider offering potential. He also has a changeup in his repertoire, but most reports indicate that that pitch still requires considerable development.
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With this pick, the Orioles seem to be banking on Rodriguez’s improved condition habits allowing him to maintain his durability and continue improving his performance level. His upside is high, though several of the pitchers the Orioles passed on in favor of Rodriguez—including Cole Winn and Brady Singer—are regarded as more advanced. Rodriguez is expected to sign and, once he does, could pitch at the short-season levels this year before making the leap to Low-A Delmarva in 2019.
In a similar vein, the Orioles like the upside of their third-round pick—Arkansas’s Blaine Knight. The right-hander’s stock has risen over the last two years, and he has the potential to represent good value for a third-round selection. That said, his 6’3”, 165 lb. frame prompts concerns about his durability. If he does sign with the Orioles, Knight could be positioned to move through the system as a faster rate than Rodriguez, and perhaps even begin the 2019 season at High-A Frederick.
When it comes to position players, two players to watch from this draft class are Oregon State shortstop Cadyn Grenier and Iowa outfielder Robert Neustrom. The consensus on Grenier is that his glove will make him a major league shortstop, but his bat leaves some questions. Regardless, his addition to the system would give a slight to boost to what is otherwise extremely limited middle infield depth. Up the middle positions are spots that the Orioles need to strengthen as they rebuild, so it seems likely that second base and shortstop will be positions that they try to address going forward.
Neustrom, meanwhile, could easily become one of the best power hitters in the system, especially among left-handed hitters. As far as his position goes, his arm may make him profile as a left fielder at the professional level.
Those four picks, to a certain extent, reflect what seemed to be the overriding strategy of this year’s draft. In Rodriguez and Knight, the Orioles selected two pitchers with potentially high upside, but come with some risk. Grenier and Neustrom are two college hitters with solid skill sets that add some depth to the system. For a closer look at the draft class, here is a brief overview of the other selections taken within the first 10 rounds
4.) Drew Rom, LHP, Highlands High School (Kentucky)
Rom’s fastball-slider pairing intrigues most observers, with his 6’2”, 177 lb. frame leaving room to grow and add velocity to his fastball. Most reports suggest that developing and strengthening his overall repertoire will be crucial to him remaining a starter.
6.) Yeancarlos Lleras, RHP, Leadership Christian Academy (Puerto Rico)
MLB.com compares Lleras’ routine to that of Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, and notes that he offers a fastball velocity range in the mid-90’s. The Orioles will have to work him away from his commitment to Florida International in order to sign him.
7.) J.J. Montgomery, RHP, Central Florida
Montgomery arrived at Central Florida this spring after transferring from Northwest Florida State. He has experience as both a starter and a reliever in college, and his ability to generate swings and misses could make him an intriguing prospect.
8.) Ryan Conroy, RHP, Elon
Conroy managed to boost his draft stock by making strides during his junior season, with an improved slider being credited with his rising performance. He is also noted as a ground ball pitcher in some reports.
9.) Kevin Magee, LHP, St. John’s
Magee is coming off of a strong senior season at St. John’s, where all but one of his 15 appearances came as a starter. Some reports note his changeup as a solid pitch.
10.) Dallas Litscher, RHP, University of St. Katherine
Another senior, Litscher is listed at 6’8” 250lbs and is coming off of a season in which he struck out 105 batters over 73.2 innings. He did, however, walk 53 batters over that same span.