Last night's selections of Texas prep right-hander Grayson Rodriguez and Oregon State shortstop Cadyn Grenier by the Orioles came with comparatively little fanfare on the television broadcast of the draft compared to some of the other picks made, but that's not for a lack of optimism about their outlooks from the various services and analysts that know the draft well.
Rodriguez, a helium prospect whose stock really rose in the last year with a physical transformation, follows up last year's top pick, DL Hall, in the notion that there might be high school arms with higher developmental floors and less risk, but few if any with a higher ceiling among the prep pitchers. Considering how the Orioles and their fans lusted over Houston Astros pitching prospect Forrest Whitley last year during the Zach Britton saga, such comparisons should be welcome.
As for Grenier, the fact that he kept No. 5 pick Nick Madrigal off shortstop at Oregon State says most of what needs to be told of him defensively. He's not the first player with that kind of glove to have questions about the bat, but the reports indicate there's promise to be tapped into there.
Here's are some highlights of the experts' reports, with full reports available in the links.
Rodriguez has regularly been up to 97-98 mph with his fastball and sits in the mid-90s throughout his starts with remarkable ease in his delivery. In addition to the velocity that he's shown he can sustain, Rodriguez has heavy life to his fastball and spots it fairly well in the strike zone, giving the pitch the makings of a 70-grade offering — if it's not already there. In addition to the fastball, Rodriguez has a low-80s slider and a curveball that is a step ahead at 72-74 mph and occasionally slows up. He doesn't throw it often, but he mixes in an occasional changeup to show it's in the repertoire as well. Rodriguez has a very poised approach on the mound and rarely shows any emotion as he cuts through opposing lineups in front of deep crowds of scouts and high-level decision makers.
Like Forrest Whitley two years ago, Rodriguez is a Texas prep right-hander who could land in the first round after improving his physical conditioning and seeing his stuff and stock take a significant step forward. He led Central Heights (Nacogdoches) to the Texas state 3A title as a two-way star in 2017, then consistently worked in the low 90s on the showcase circuit. This spring, he repeatedly had topped out at 97 or 98 mph. Rodriguez's fastball sits at 92-94 mph with heavy life that should turn wood bats into kindling. He has an array of promising secondary pitches, with most scouts preferring his low-80s slider to his mid-70s curveball, though the latter has nice shape. He hasn't had much need for a changeup but shows the potential to have an average one.
Like Astros prospect Forrest Whitley did a few years ago, Rodriguez looked solid during summer showcases, then remade his body and saw his stuff explode the following spring. After touching 92 last summer, he's been up to 97 this spring and sitting 92-94. Rodriguez generates this kind of velo with little effort, his pitches come in at a tough angle and he has great feel for a breaking ball. He's less polished than the prep arms ahead of him on this list but has similar pure stuff and could be off the board in the 10-15 range.
Rodriguez possesses a plus fastball that sat at a heavy 92-to-94 mph for four innings in his most recent outing, and peaked at 96 mph. His velocity dipped to 90-to-92 mph in the fifth, but it was an unusual outing with abundant time between trips to the mound that may have contributed to the decline. Rodriguez has two breaking ball offerings: a curveball that was 77-to-80 mph with 11-to-4 shape, and an 83-to-84 mph slider with cutting movement, the latter pitch he only showed in warmups. He also displayed a changeup in warmups but did not offer it in the game. Rodriguez has pitchability with the fastball, and the feel to spin the curveball. While he only showed two offerings, he projects to have four usable pitches as he continues to develop.
Rodriguez has some of the best pure stuff in the draft class and is one of the very few pitchers you might project as a potential No. 2 starter or better.
Rodriguez's stuff took off over the past year as he got in better shape, and his stock improved accordingly. His best pitch is a heavy 92-94 mph fastball that will break bats, and both his slider and curveball are solid options.
Grenier took over at shortstop during his sophomore season, pushing Madrigal to second base, and he has exciting tools and athleticism. His range, footwork and above-average arm and speed should allow him to stay at shortstop in the long run. Questions persist about how much he’ll hit and his strikeout rate. Still, his defense and athleticism are good enough that a team will take him early in the draft and give him the chance to put it all together.
As a three-year starter with the Beavers, Grenier has established himself as one of the best defensive shortstops in the college game. There is no doubt he can stay at the premium position long-term, with an outstanding clock, good hands, above-average speed to give him excellent range and more than enough arm to make throws from anywhere on the infield. The biggest question is about his offensive game. He's been putting up better numbers in his junior season, but without a ton of hard contact. He does have bat speed and a little pop to his pull side, but he tends to be off-balance often when he swings. At worst, Grenier has a career as a defensive-minded utilityman ahead of him, with the upside of being a glove-first regular at shortstop.
Best college shortstop in the class as he's a viable defender with a plus arm. Has power but probably needs a swing tweak to get to it in pro ball.
Both SS Cadyn Grenier (Orioles) and RHP Griffin Roberts (Cardinals) made our list of the draft's best tools, Grenier as the top defender and Roberts as best slider.
Position: Right-handed pitcher
Draft: First round, 11th overall (2018)
Approximate slot value: $4.4 million
Prospect rank: No. 22 (MLB.com), No. 24 (Baseball America)
Birthdate: Nov. 16, 1999
School: Central Heights High School (Texas)
Height, weight: 6-5, 220 pounds
Miscellaneous: 2018 Rawlings-Perfect Game senior preseason first-team All-American and Texas All-Region first team; as a junior, helped lead Central Heights (Nacogdoches) to the Texas 3A state title by going 14-1 with a 0.38 ERA and 178 strikeouts; Texas Sports Writer’s Association Player of the Year in 2017; Rawlings-Perfect Game preseason underclass All-American in and 2016 and 2017; as a sophomore, was a first-team pitcher on the TSWA All-State Team.
Draft: Competitive Balance Round A, 37th overall (2018)
Approximate slot value: $1.9 million
Prospect rank: No. 68 (MLB.com), No. 63 (Baseball America)
Birthdate: Oct. 31, 1996
School: Oregon State
Height, weight: 5-11, 188 pounds
Miscellaneous: Hit .328/.415/.478 (76-for-232) with 16 doubles, two triples, five home runs, 60 runs and 44 RBIs this season (as of June 3); 2018 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year; All-Pac-12 Conference first team, All-Pac-12 Defensive first team in 2018; 2018 Preseason All-American (Baseball America); as a sophomore, was All-Pac-12 first team and Pac-12 All-Academic second team; in 2017, started all 62 games for Oregon State, batting .275/.393/.435 (55-for-200) with five doubles, six triples, five home runs, 34 runs and 37 RBIs; in 2016, played in 52 games for Oregon State, starting 49, batting .240/.342/.311 (40-for-167) with six doubles, three triples, 32 runs and 18 RBIs; Nevada Gatorade Player of the Year in 2015 as a senior at Bishop Gorman High; Rawlings-Perfect Game senior preseason first-team All-American and West All-Region First Team in 2015; selected by St. Louis Cardinals in 21st round of 2015 draft; second Oregon State player drafted by the Orioles. Infielder Curt Daniels (1971) was the first.