With their first three picks in Thursday’s Major League Baseball draft, the Orioles followed through on their pledge to add to their young pitching inventory.
The team selected right-hander Cody Sedlock with the 27th overall pick in the first round, then added Western Michigan left-hander Keegan Akin and junior college right-hander Matthias Dietz in the second round.
"We did target some good arms, and and we feel very fortunate that we were able to get them," Orioles scouting director Gary Rajsich said on a conference call early Friday morning. "We did have some position players that we liked, and they were kind of safety valves for us if they worked out that way, but we were very pleased to get the arms that we got."
Sedlock earned Big Ten Pitcher of the Year honors at Illinois this season, striking out 116 batters in 101 1/3 innings while going 5-3 with a 2.49 ERA in 14 starts. The Orioles began following him last summer in the Cape Cod League, and Rajsich they had a representative at nearly every one of his starts this season.
"Cody is a durable college starting pitcher with a good arm," Rajsich said. "He has a good fastball, good breaking pitches, good feel for a change and good control."
"I just want to thank the Orioles organization for giving me this opportunity," Sedlock said. "This is the greatest day of my life. I’m so excited to be part of this organization."
In adding him to their base of young talent, the Orioles were executing a plan to target pitching in this years draft. Executive vice president Dan Duquette said they would likely end up with a pitching-heavy draft. College pitchers, he said, have shorter paths through the minor leagues.
Sedlock fits both bills. The 6-foot-4 right-hander worked his first two years at Illinois as a reliever, but moved to the rotation this season without missing a beat, working a low-90s fastball in with both a slider and a curveball, plus a changeup.
He has a 2.96 ERA in 164 1/3 innings in three seasons at Illinois, though his workload increased dramatically this season. Sedlock's 101 1/3 innings this season come a year after he pitched 31 1/3 innings for Illinois, then 29 innings for Bourne of the Cape Cod League. He twice pitched into the 10th inning this season.
“The Orioles are getting an outstanding young man in Cody Sedlock,” Illinois coach Dan Hartleb said in a statement. “Cody’s work, on and off the field, have made him deserving a first-round pick. It has been impressive to watch his development on the mound and in the weight room over the past three years; he’s a great competitor. I really respect him as a person and for what he did for our program.”
Sedlock was ranked 26th in the MLB.com pre-draft rankings, and 37th by Baseball America. ESPN’s Keith Law had him ranked 17th on his final big board. Baseball America named him a first-team All-American in 2016.
When the Orioles first saw Sedlock, he was playing in the Cape Cod Baseball League, the top summer league for college players alongside Akin.
Akin, who was selected 54th overall, was a three-year weekend starter who shot up draft boards this year after struggling with injury as a sophomore in 2015. This year, as a junior, he went 7-4 with a 1.82 ERA, 133 strikeouts and 30 walks in 109 innings over 17 starts.
He pitched his best at the end of the season, winning two games in the MAC tournament and carrying a streak of 30 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run between the end of the regular season and the conference tournament.
"Keegan’s a great kid," Sedlock said. "We played all summer in the Cape, and he has an electric, electric left arm, and one of the heaviest fastballs I’ve ever seen."
Dietz, a 6-foot-5, hard-throwing right-hander, was considered the top junior college pitcher in the country after two seasons at John A. Logan College in Illinois. As a sophomore, he struck out 117 batters with a 12-1 record and a 1.22 ERA in 13 starts.
That all three came from the Midwest, where scouting is made difficult by the weather, was no issue for Rajsich.
"We tracked these guys early," Rajsich said. "We traveled with them when they went south. I actually saw Cody’s first start this year, and we just stayed with him. ... It wasn’t a concern. You’ve got to go where the arms are. You’ve got to scout the pitchers in the areas where you think you have the highest chance of success, and that’s kind of the way we approach it. We’re always looking for athletic throwers with plus arms, and it doesn’t really matter where they come from."
Sedlock was the first of three selections the Orioles had on the draft’s first day, which comprised two rounds plus sets of competitive-balance picks after each round. There was a time early in the offseason when the Orioles' first-day haul could have been twice as large.
The Orioles had the potential to make seven selections on the first night of the draft — their own two picks, a compensation pick for not signing 2015 second-round pick Jonathan Hughes, their competitive-balance pick and as many as three compensatory picks if first baseman Chris Davis, catcher Matt Wieters and pitcher Wei-Yin Chen declined their qualifying offers and signed elsewhere in free agency.
Wieters accepted the qualifying offer, Davis re-signed with the team and the Orioles forfeited the 14th pick to sign right-hander Yovani Gallardo. Then they traded their compensatory pick, the 76th overall pick, to the Atlanta Braves along with left-hander Brian Matusz for a pair of minor league pitchers last month.
As a result, the Orioles have $6.706 million to spend on signing bonuses for their 11 picks in the first 10 rounds, with $100,000 allotted for each pick after the 10th round. The signing bonus slot for the 27th overall pick is $2.097 million, with $1.177 million added to their bonus pool for the 54th pick, and $934,400 for the 69th pick. All picks must be signed by July 15.
Sedlock joins a list of recent Orioles first-round picks that features both successes and disappointments. The first player selected under the current regime of Duquette and Rajsich, pitcher Kevin Gausman, shot to the majors within a year of being the fourth overall pick in 2012. He has made 51 starts over four years, in addition to pitching in relief in 2013 and 2015, with a career 4.10 ERA.
The next year, high school pitcher Hunter Harvey was selected 22nd overall and lit up the low minors at age 19 before a variety of injuries stalled his career. He has dealt with arm issues the last two years, and is currently rehabilitating from sports hernia surgery.
The Orioles didn’t have a first- or second-round pick in 2014 because they forfeited the picks to sign slugging outfielder Nelson Cruz and erratic starter Ubaldo Jimenez. Last year’s first-round picks, outfielder DJ Stewart and shortstop Ryan Mountcastle, are getting their feet wet with Low-A Delmarva.
Stewart, a Florida State product, is batting .232/.376/.362 with four home runs entering Thursday’s game, while Mountcastle is hitting .267/.341/.388 with two home runs.
This year’s draft was unsettled at the top of the first round, with the Philadelphia Phillies considering several different players as recently as this week. They settled on California high school outfielder Mickey Moniak, though the first round had more of a Northeastern slant than it usually does.
The Atlanta Braves selected New York high school right-hander Ian Anderson, the Boston Red Sox selected left-hander Jason Groome out of New Jersey at No. 12, and Pennsylvania prep outfielder Alex Kirilloff went 15th overall to the Minnesota Twins.
Florida outfielder Buddy Reed, who grew up in Finksburg, was drafted in the second round by the San Diego Padres.