Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias’ pursuit of talent continued Tuesday with the second day of the 2019 Major League Baseball draft, with an apparent focus on up-the-middle ability.
After selecting Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman, Alabama prep infielder Gunnar Henderson and Stanford outfielder Kyle Stowers on the draft’s first day, Elias and the Orioles selected first in rounds 3-10 on Tuesday, adding six position players — all of whom played catcher, shortstop or center field as amateurs — and two right-handed college pitchers.
Through 10 rounds, the Orioles’ 11 picks are three catchers, three shortstops, three center fielders and the two pitchers. All but two selections were college players.
Third round, 79th overall: LSU outfielder Zach Watson
Watson, the Tigers’ center fielder, has hit better than .300 in all three of his seasons in Baton Rouge. He’s gone 37-for-47 on stolen base attempts. Watson, who the Boston Red Sox drafted in the 40th round of last year’s draft as an eligible sophomore, hit five home runs in 12 postseason games as a freshman to help LSU make the College World Series finals. Baseball America rated Watson’s glove as the second best among collegiate outfielders.
Fourth round, 108th overall: New Mexico State shortstop Joey Ortiz
By selecting Ortiz, the Orioles started out five-for-five in picking up-the-middle position players. This is one seems capable of sticking at shortstop, as Ortiz has received praise for his defensive work. His junior campaign for the Aggies was a great one; he hit .422 with a 1.171 OPS and had an eight-RBI game in which he hit for the cycle against Northern Colorado in April. But the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Ortiz figures to be more renown for his glove and contact skills professionally.
Fifth round, 138th overall: Americas (Texas) High School shortstop Darell Hernaiz
Hernaiz, a 17-year-old Texas Tech commit, made it six straight up-the-middle prospects to start the draft. MLB Pipeline analyst Jim Callis referred to Hernaiz as a “shortstop starter kit” on MLB.com’s draft broadcast, noting his ability to stick at the position. Others think his arm might play better at second base, but that could change as he gets older. The bat, too, has room to grow, but the overall athleticism is what’s to like with Hernaiz.
Sixth round, 168th overall: Stanford catcher Maverick Handley
The Orioles’ first seven picks were seven position players and included two catchers and two Stanford products. Handley is a strong defensive player with a knack for getting on base. He has thrown out 13 of 19 would-be base stealers this season while stealing 12 of 16 bases and posting a .399 on-base percentage. He has drawn 33 walks to 35 strikeouts.
Seventh round, 198th overall: TCU outfielder Johnny Rizer
The first college senior the Orioles drafted, Rizer kept the up-the-middle train rolling. The Horned Frogs’ center fielder, Rizer slashed .315/.383/.535 with 11 homers and eight stolen bases. He’s also a solid defender, robbing a home run against Texas.
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Eighth round, 228th overall: College of Charleston right-hander Griffin McLarty
McLarty, the first pitcher the Orioles drafted, was dominant throughout his junior season for the College of Charleston. In 101 innings, he posted a 1.87 ERA, with 116 strikeouts to 20 walks. In his final three starts, he allowed one earned run in 21 1/3 innings, striking out 27. McLarty, who turns 21 in August, also played in the 2011 Little League World Series for a team from La Grange, Ky.
Ninth round, 258th overall: VCU right-hander Connor Gillispie
After their long run of position players, the Orioles drafted consecutive college right-handers. In Gillispie, they selected VCU’s first pitcher with 100 strikeouts since 2006. He finished with 118 in 86 1/3 innings to go with a 2.50 ERA. At 5-foot-11 and with a high-spin slider, Gillispie is a potential reliever.
10th round, 288th overall: Sam Houston State catcher Jordan Cannon
The Orioles ended their second day of the draft with a fitting name for another catcher. A senior, Cannon could offer the Orioles the chance to save some of their bonus pool and use it toward other picks. He caught four of 14 potential base stealers behind the plate, but he could also play third base or in the outfield. He hit .372 with a .521 slugging percentage and 14 steals.
The draft wraps up with rounds 11-40 beginning at noon Wednesday. The Orioles will have the first pick in each round.