After another year of loading up on college hitters at the expensive of pitching in the first two days of the 2021 Major League Baseball draft, Orioles domestic scouting supervisor Brad Ciolek expected that to change on the event’s final day Tuesday.
With eight college pitchers taken out of their 10 picks Tuesday, that premonition came true.
“We’re just looking for guys who throw strikes, throw a lot of strikes, get more strikeouts than walks, and also guys that have some secondary weapons that we might be able to hone in on in terms of an arsenal,” Ciolek said. “A lot of these guys check those boxes and we’re really happy with the group of arms that we’ve gotten today.”
The Orioles’ draft began Sunday with Sam Houston outfielder Colton Cowser at No. 5 overall and continued with eight college hitters, one college pitcher and a high school catcher on the second day.
With the influx of pitchers Tuesday, the class ended up mostly balanced, beginning with 11th-round right-hander Dylan Heid out of Division II Pitt-Johnstown.
Heid was in the rotation for the Mountain Cats for all four seasons and struck out 14.45 batters per nine innings in his career, with a 3.29 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 180 ⅔ career innings. He also pitched with Trenton in the new MLB Draft League.
“The one thing that really stands out obviously is how good his fastball is,” Ciolek said. “He’s basically been up to 94 [mph] and has big hop on the fastball, gets a lot of swing and miss, and we’re really excited to get him in the 11th round.”
This marks the second full draft out of three under executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias in which the Orioles have waited to draft pitchers. In 2019, the first one wasn’t taken until the eighth round, but they loaded up on the third day.
Their efforts to target pitching late in the draft that year paid off, as they sought certain traits in terms of velocity and breaking ball spin and ended up with a diverse class that’s proven short on star power but deep in potential impact over the low minors in 2021.
Ciolek said that success emboldened them some to double back on that plan this year.
“We spend a lot of time on looking at these college pitching prospects, and I know a lot of people say, ‘You kind of wait a little bit to take them,’ but that’s just because of all the research that we do,” Ciolek said. “We ultimately do the best job possible in order to slot them in order to where we think we can get them. Very confident in that strategy so far. Knock on wood, it’s boded well.”
Great pitchers can be had late in the draft, as the Orioles know. John Means, their home-grown All-Star starting pitcher, was an 11th-round pick in 2014. According to MLB.com, seven All-Stars in Tuesday night’s game were drafted between the 11th and 20th rounds.
The two position players were 13th-round first baseman Jacob Teter of Florida Southern and 20th-round junior college outfielder Trendon Craig. Craig, who like Orioles All-Star outfielder Cedric Mullins started his career at Louisburg College, impressed at a Camden Yards workout and could command an above-slot bonus.
Ciolek said the team expects to use “a very large percentage” of its signing bonus pool of $11,829,300 with several players, including the draft-eligible sophomores, who could return to school instead of singing potentially commanding above-slot bonuses.
Here’s a breakdown on each of the Orioles’ Day 3 draft picks:
Round 11 (No. 317 overall): Dylan Heid, RHP, Pitt-Johnstown
Skinny: Heid continued a strong career with a dominant senior year, pitching six complete games, including four shutouts. He recorded a 0.67 WHIP and struck out 15.93 batters per nine innings in nine starts with a 1.37 ERA.
Round 12 (No. 347 overall): Justin Armbruester, RHP, New Mexico
Skinny: Armbruester had a solid junior season with a 5-2 record and a 3.45 ERA to go with 93 strikeouts. The 6-foot-4 right-hander recorded 10 or more strikeouts in three games, including a shutout performance against Fresno State, in which he allowed two hits while striking out 17.
Round 13 (No. 377 overall): Jacob Teter, 1B, Florida Southern
Skinny: Teter started in 17 games in 2021, recording a .377 batting average with seven home runs and 15 RBIs. Teter was named to the 2021 NCAA Division II All-Region Second Team by the American Baseball Coaches Association.
Round 14 (No. 407 overall): Daniel Lloyd, RHP, South Carolina
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Skinny: Lloyd made 23 relief appearances for South Carolina during his junior season, registering a 3.04 ERA with 42 strikeouts and holding opponents to a .206 batting average in 41 innings.
Round 15 (No. 437 overall): Keagan Gillies, RHP, Tulane
Skinny: Gillies was a force on the mound for Tulane, supporting a team-best 0.96 ERA during the 2021 season. Gillies recorded 44 strikeouts and allowed three earned runs in 19 appearances.
Round 16 (No. 467 overall): Peter Van Loon, RHP, University of California-Irvine
Skinny: Loon made 14 starts, recording a 4.42 ERA with 87 strikeouts and 20 walks. He tallied a season-best 10 strikeouts in seven innings against UC-Riverside in May. Loon made four starts in 2020, posting a 2.78 ERA and 23 strikeouts.
Round 17 (No. 497 overall): Ryan Long, RHP, Pomona-Pitzer College
Skinny: During Long’s stint with the Division III school, he had a 8-2 record with a 3.61 ERA, 59 strikeouts, 19 walks, 101 hits allowed and 37 earned runs in 92 ⅓ innings.
Round 18 (No. 527 overall): Conor Grady, RHP, Florida State
Skinny: Grady started in 15 games (16 appearances) in 2021. The redshirt junior compiled a 5-2 record with a 4.05 ERA and 99 strikeouts in 73 ⅓ innings.
Round 19 (No. 557 overall): Alex Pham, RHP, University of San Francisco
Skinny: Even though Pham had a 4.39 ERA this past season, he still managed to hold opponents to a .238 batting average in 22 games.
Round 20 (No. 587 overall): Trendon Craig, OF, Louisburg College
Skinny: Craig played in 41 games for Louisburg College, posting an impressive .420 batting average with 14 home runs, 55 RBIs and 28 stolen bases.