The Orioles had grown accustomed to having top-five overall picks in baseball's first-year player draft over the past six years, but last season's success forced the the organization to play a waiting game in the opening round Thursday.
Despite picking from an unfamiliar spot, the Orioles continued their recent trend of drafting arms in the first round, selecting North Carolina high school right-hander Hunter Harvey with the 22nd overall pick.
The Orioles' selection of Harvey marked the fifth time in six years that they spent their first pick on a pitcher — the only exception being their selection of Manny Machado, now their starting third baseman, in 2010. Harvey was the third consecutive right-handed pitcher selected by the Orioles – following in the footsteps of Dylan Bundy (2011) and Kevin Gausman (2012).
The club used its competitive-balance pick at the end of the first round (No. 37 overall) on Georgia high school center fielder Josh Hart and its second-round pick (No. 61) on California high school catcher Chance Sisco.
It marked the first time the Orioles have used their first three picks on high school players since 1998.
“It wasn’t really mapped out that way,” Orioles director of scouting Gary Rajsich said. “It’s just how the draft kind of fell. And we feel like we did get three young players that we really like and we do trust our player development people. And we went into the day with a short and long-term perspective. It just didn’t work out that way. But we do feel like we got three players that we really like.”
Rajsich said Harvey topped the Orioles' list of about five to seven players they were interested in with the 22nd pick. He also said Hart was on that list.
The 6-foot-2, 182-pound Harvey, the son of former major league reliever Bryan Harvey, was 8-0 with a 0.38 ERA with 116 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings this season at Bandys High School in Catawba, N.C. He projects to be a starting pitcher.
“We looked at the talent, first of all,” Rajsich said. “You know, he’s an advanced high school pitcher. He has a chance. He’s a projected front-of-a-rotation pitcher. We didn’t think there would be any more of those available around there. We were hoping he would get to us, but we weren’t sure. So there’s a lot of upside there, which is very appealing.
“He’s advanced, as far as his mechanics. With his dad’s experience in the major leagues, his mechanics are very good. So there are no major changes to make, just adjustments. And we think he has a chance to move very fast through our system. The fact that he was signable, it helped. But it was probably the third (factor). It was another reason to take him, but it wasn’t the main one.”
Harvey did not make a college commitment, so signability shouldn't be an issue. The slot money for the 22nd pick is $1,947,600.
“I've never been a really big school guy,” Harvey said when reached by phone. “Everything I've ever wanted to do is I've always wanted to play pro ball.
“I think it will be a very quick process,” Harvey added when discussing signing with the Orioles. “I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life and now it’s finally here. I don’t want to mess around. I think I’m ready to start playing.”
Harvey started in the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field last summer, allowing two hits and striking out three in two innings. He has a fastball that sits at 88-92 mph but has hit 97 mph, according to Baseball America. He also has a promising curveball and a changeup he said he didn’t need to use much in high school but will refine in the minors.
Baseball America's Jim Callis immediately ranked Harvey as the Orioles' fifth-best prospect, behind Bundy, Gausman and infielders Jonathan Schoop and Nick Delmonico.
Harvey said he'd like to follow Gausman's fast path to the majors.
“Hopefully in the next couple years I'll be in the big leagues in Baltimore, playing with the Orioles and playing for a World Series,” he said. “That's what I'm looking for myself, and I'm just going to work hard and bust my tail and hopefully be in the big leagues here, soon. Wanna be like ol' Gausman.”
Rajsich said Harvey would begin his pro career in the Gulf Coast League.
Harvey's father was as two-time All-Star who pitched in the majors for nine seasons and was one of the game's top closers, leading the American League with 46 saves in 1991 while with the California Angels. He now runs a baseball academy in Catawba.
Harvey's brother, Kris, older than him by 11 years, has played eight seasons in the minors but has yet to advance past Double-A and is now out of baseball and preparing for shoulder surgery.
The Orioles used the 37th pick on Hart, a speedy left-handed hitter from Parkview High School in Lilburn, Ga.
The 5-foot-11, 172-pound center fielder has signed with Georgia Tech. He was rated the fifth best center fielder prospect by Baseball America. MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo had projected Hart as a late first-round selection.
Hart batted .449/.560/.757 with 18 extra-base hits, 29 RBI, 39 runs scored and 34 steals in 36 attempts in 36 games his senior year. A Perfect Game All-American with 4.0-second speed to first base, he led his high school team to the state championship during his sophomore and junior years.
The Orioles addressed their need for catching depth with Sisco, an Oregon recruit from Santiago High School in Corona, Calif.
At 6-foot-1, 190 pound's, Cisco bats left and throws right. He was named a 2013 Rawlings third-team All-American and to the California All-Region first team.
The three-day draft resumes Friday at 1 p.m.