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MLB Draft results: Orioles complete day 2 of draft with all college players, mostly pitchers

The Orioles drafted a full outfield within three rounds, and a whole bunch of college right-handed pitchers on day 2

Baltimore Orioles v Washington Nationals
Mike Elias heard all of my jokes about how he doesn’t draft pitchers with high round picks and decided to break that streak.
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Since Mike Elias arrived as the general manager in Baltimore, there has never been a draft season where the big league team was doing spectacularly in the standings until this year. Even last year, when they went on a ten-game winning streak immediately after I got married, the Orioles still headed into the All-Star break with a .500 record at 46-46.

What that means is that the importance of the farm system takes on a new dimension. This is not just the only way for the Orioles to return to relevance. Now it needs to be a source of prospect depth that the team might be able to use to acquire proven big leaguers with two or three years of team control before free agency remaining. Drafting and developing day 2 picks that have value to other teams is going to matter to the O’s going forward.

Noteworthy about this group of players is that the Orioles, after not having drafted and signed a pitcher earlier than the fifth round in the Elias era before drafting Jackson Baumeister in the second round last night, ended up snagging three pitchers earlier than the fifth round.

Six of the nine players taken by the Orioles on day 2 were college right-handed pitchers. They also drafted an entire outfield worth of college outfielders by the end of the third round, another college outfielder in the fifth round, and one more in the tenth round.

Now that they’re less likely to trade MLB players to get other teams third-fifth round pitchers, they’ve got to draft those guys themselves, and this year they’ve done that. Current Orioles starter Kyle Bradish (fourth round) is in this group, as well as 2022 trade acquisitions Cade Povich (third round) and Chayce McDermott (fourth round). Hopefully one or more of the pitchers drafted this year can achieve that level of prospect stock and eventual MLB success.

Rounding up the Day 2 Orioles draft picks:

3rd round, #86 overall - Kiefer Lord - RHP - University of Washington

On the MLB draft broadcast, Jonathan Mayo said “it’s not often that you get a college pitcher where you talk about projection,” then went on to describe a player who was almost self-taught with what he currently knows. That was how he spent his pandemic boredom period. The 6’3” righty pitched his first two college seasons at tiny Division III Carleton College in Minnesota, after which he transferred to Washington.

In heading to a major conference for his junior year, Lord ended up with a 6.19 ERA in 15 games, which is why Mayo said it was hard to know what to make of him as a prospect if you only look at his stats. Despite that, Lord still ranked at least as a player worth being aware of in the draft class, coming in at #127 on MLB Pipeline’s ranking. About Lord, they wrote:

The work Lord put in had him firing his fastball up to 97 mph and sitting around 94, though that backed up a bit for a stretch during this season before he regained that velocity. He throws the heater a lot, more than 70 percent of the time, and it has good carry with hitters unable to touch it when he elevates it. He has shown an ability to spin a curve and a slider, with the harder low-80s slider a potential out pitch with two-plane break when he executes it. He doesn’t throw his changeup often, but it should be an effective offspeed offering when he commits to it. Long and loose, Lord repeats his full overhead delivery and big leg kick well and has a good track record of throwing strikes.

The Orioles are probably believers in what Lord showed towards the end of the season rather than what was seen when he was in his tough stretch. Or at least, believers enough to think he’s worth using a third round pick on instead of other available college pitchers like Texas’s Tanner Witt and Vanderbelt lefty Hunter Owen. Owen was drafted by the Royals in the fourth round.

Lord struck out 78 batters in 75.2 innings this season, with a K/BB ratio of 4.59. There are worse places to start from.

The Seattle Times wrote about Lord’s self-taught transformation earlier this year. This certainly seems to be an example of what Elias talks about as the “growth mindset” that can be a key characteristic for prospects.

3rd round, #100 overall - Tavian Josenberger - OF - Arkansas

This pick was compensation for the Orioles not signing their third round pick Nolan McLean in last year’s draft. McLean ended up being drafted by the Mets late in the third round in this draft class nine picks before this selection.

Again looking at MLB Pipeline’s draft rankings, the Orioles decided to choose Josenberger over a higher-ranked outfielder teammate, Jace Bohrofen (#66). That would have been a great Baltimore accent name, although Josenberger isn’t so bad.

On the draft broadcast, MLB’s Jim Callis said that Josenberger has “plus speed, average arm, fringy power,” and described him as “a table-setting type who can steal some bases and maybe give you 12-15 homers per year.” Callis noted that Josenberger, who’s listed at 6’0”, is similar to Lord in that he transferred for his junior year; Josenberger had been at Kansas, where he was playing second base in 2022, though he moved to center field with Arkansas for his draft year.

The switch-hitting Josenberger checks in as the #156 prospect in the draft class. As with last year’s draft, the Orioles ended up drafting an entire outfield worth of players just within the first few rounds of the draft. (Last year, it took until the sixth round.) Pipeline’s report on Josenberger:

A switch-hitter with a controlled stroke, Josenberger does more damage from the left side of the plate. He’s more of a tablesetter than a slugger, though he has gotten stronger and been more aggressive this spring. ... Josenberger possesses plus speed, and while he’s a threat to steal, his quickness is most apparent in center field. His keen instincts enhance his range in center and his average arm is better than most at his position. He plays with constant energy and could be a super-utilityman if he doesn’t hit enough to be a regular.

As a junior with Arkansas, Josenberger hit ten homers and stole 13 bases. That’s still more dingers than the O’s first rounder, Enrique Bradfield Jr., hit as an SEC junior.

Josenberger showing off some range:

4th round, #118 overall - Levi Wells - RHP - Texas State

Callis reacted to the pick by saying “Wells is a guy with a good arm, who was projected as a potential second round pick.” He may have dropped from that because he lost 1-2mph of fastball velocity this year compared to past years. Callis summed up Wells by saying, “It comes down to consistency for him.” As it does for most of us.

Wells spent his freshman year at Texas Tech before transferring to State for his sophomore season. The 6’2”, 215 lb. righty struck out 98 batters in 80.2 innings in his draft year, with a K/BB ratio of 3.27. He rated above Lord on the Pipeline draft rankings, coming in at #96 with a scouting capsule that included this:

(Even with less velocity, Wells is) still getting (the fastball) past hitters with high spin rates and carry at the letters or downhill plane lower in the zone. He also generates good spin on a pair of breaking pitches, with his 78-82 mph downer curveball grading better than his 84-89 mph slider/cutter with tighter break. He doesn’t use his changeup very often and it gets too firm at times, though it does have some bat-missing fade. ... Projected as a reliever when he was a prepster, he now looks like a possible four-pitch starter with a bulldog attitude.

High spin rates? It is not much of a leap to imagine that the Orioles noticed and that’s why they used a relatively high round pick on Wells. At the risk of getting carried away, it would be fun to have Wells and Wells in the same starting rotation. There is no relation that I know of.

Wells in action from earlier this season:

Two previous Orioles pitchers who were Texas State products: Donnie Hart (2016-18) and Louis Head (2022).

5th round, #154 overall - Jake Cunningham - OF - UNC-Charlotte

Four outfielders in five rounds? Yeah, sure. Callis said on the telecast, “This guy is off the charts in terms of athleticism and metrics compared to most of the college class ... when he’s fully healthy, he’s above average speed, well above average raw power ... a chance to be a plus center fielder, average arm strength.” The question about Cunningham is whether he will be able to hit regularly, Callis said.

Also on the draft telecast, Melanie Newman, familiar in Birdland for Orioles broadcasts, noted that Cunningham, a 6’4” 205 lb. player who Callis said may even have room to add strength, was in the 95th percentile for exit velocity. Hit the ball hard and figure out the rest later - there are worse things to hang the hat on for a fifth round pick.

Cunningham rated #147 on MLB Pipeline’s prospect ranking for the class, so right about a fifth round talent:

When fully healthy, he’s a basestealing threat who provides plus defense and average arm strength in center. His combination of strength, bat speed, loft in his right-handed swing and leverage in his 6-foot-4 frame produces well-above-average raw power. Cunningham’s stroke gets long and uphill as he looks to launch balls to his pull side, so there are concerns about his ability to handle quality pitching.

Cunningham is fast, in video form:

He did not come off the board within the top 100 as the tweeter suggested. Maybe 154 is ~100 enough. The last UNC-Charlotte Oriole was John Maine.

6th round, #181 overall - Jacob Cravey - RHP - Samford

One pick before this, the Giants selected University of Maryland catcher Luke Shliger. Four picks later, the Cardinals took Maryland righty Jason Savacool. Sorry to all the Terps fans out there who want to see the Orioles get one of their players one of these days.

Cravey was the Southern Conference Pitcher of the Year. “Throws a lot of strikes,” said Callis, “really average pitches at best but he throws a lot of strikes. ... More of a floor over a ceiling guy.” This is the first player drafted by the Orioles this year who did not crack the 250 ranked players by MLB Pipeline.

The 6’6” righty was a workhorse for the Alabama university in his junior year, tossing 104.2 innings across 17 games this season. That’s as many innings as Tyler Wells has thrown for the big league team in 18 games. Cravey struck out 126 batters in that time, with a K/BB ratio of 3.14. Some scout-ish thoughts on Cravey’s arsenal:

I read a lot about baseball prospects and I will admit to you that I have no idea what “mids in bag” means in this context.

7th round, #211 overall - Teddy Sharkey - RHP - Coastal Carolina

Noting his size (listed 6’0” that may be generously rounded up,) Callis on the draft broadcast said Sharkey is a reliever in his future. He’s been a reliever in his present and past as well, spending almost his whole college career in the bullpen. This season, the righty struck out 74 batters in 49.2 innings with a 4.11 K/BB ratio.

Sharkey compared to the other NCAA pitchers:

That’s a lot of red, with the obvious caveat that this performance is against college hitters in the Sun Belt Conference and everyone’s going to be tougher in the pros.

8th round, #241 overall - Braxton Bragg - RHP - Dallas Baptist

This prospect is going to have a tough time being the top search engine result for his name. If he can achieve that from being a baseball player, well, he will have had a good career. He is a senior, the first college player from that class drafted in this year by the O’s. That’s a possible indication to me of the Orioles looking to get something like $150,000 of draft pool money to use for another pick somewhere, potentially a day 3 selection.

As for the present-day Bragg himself, he spent his first three seasons at Nebraska before transferring to Dallas Baptist. For his senior season, he started 16 games, striking out 92 batters in 86 innings. A little bit of Bragg in action:

Bragg was apparently roommates with current O’s prospect Povich at Nebraska. They overlapped there in the 2020 and 2021 seasons before Povich was drafted by the Twins in 2021.

9th round, #271 overall - Zach Fruit - RHP - Troy

Callis on Fruit on the draft broadcast: “Up to 98 ... the slider kind of comes and goes, 92 strikeouts in 69.2 innings.” He noted that Fruit is a graduate student (already 23 years old) and thus probably a money-saver - as with the eighth rounder, Bragg, the O’s could grab about $150,000 worth of pool space to dangle at a day 3 pick.

Fruit is another Sun Belt Conference pitcher taken here. The scout for that area is certainly having his effort pay off. He walked 45 batters this year in 22 games. Callis said Fruit should exclusively be a reliever as a professional, so maybe once he’s unleashed in that role - which he wasn’t in his college career - he will fare better. This is a tall guy, listed at 6’4”.

Fruit in action a bit earlier this year:

10th round, #301 overall - Matthew Etzel - OF - Southern Mississippi

With their final pick of the day, the Orioles slipped in one more guy on Pipeline’s ranking of 250 prospects in grabbing the 6’2” Etzel, who came in at 229th on that ranking:

A left-handed hitter, Etzel employs a contact-oriented approach and rarely swings and misses against fastballs. He understands that his best tool is his well-above-average speed and concentrates on getting on base so he can use it. He looked like a slap hitter in the first three months of this season but began incorporating his legs better in his swing afterward and showed enough pop to produce 10-12 homers per year. Etzel is an aggressive basestealer who has swiped 84 bases in 92 tries in three college seasons plus the Draft League.

Until this year, Etzel had been playing in the junior college ranks. That seems to be a common trend among the O’s picks this year.

The Orioles will finish off their draft class with rounds 11-20 on Tuesday afternoon.