Here at Orioles Hangout, we pride ourselves in offering a ton of draft coverage. That can be found here, the 2018 Orioles Draft Tracker. There are individual threads about each of the 40 players selected and a running tally of who has signed and for how much. I also have a mini-write-up on each of the top 12 selections on each player’s thread (Luke’s Take), I’ll eventually have something for all 40 players. So do check it out, it’s a great resource. This won’t be a repeat of the info in the Draft Tracker, it’ll focus more on the overall themes of the draft and highlight a few interesting selections. I will post the draft results in case anyone reading this hasn’t been following along.
2018 Orioles Draft Results
1. – (11. $4,375,100) Grayson Rodriguez– RHP – Central Heights HS TX
1A.- (37. $1,923,500) Cadyn Grenier – SS – Oregon State
3. – (87. $663,200) Blaine Knight – RHP-Arkansas
4. – (115. $483,300) Drew Rom – LHP – Highlands HS (KY)
5. – (145. $361,000) Robert Neustrom – RF- Iowa
6. – (175. $273,400) Yeankarlos Lleras – RHP -Leadership Christian Academy (HS)
7. – (205. $213,700) J.J. Montgomery – RHP – Central Florida (FL)
8. – (235. $170,700) Ryan Conroy – RHP – Elon U (NC)
9. – (265. $149,900) Kevin Magee– LHP – St Johns U
10. – (295. $140,600) Dallas Litscher – RHP – St. Katherines
11. – (325) Cody Roberts – C – North Carolina
12. – (355) Clay Fisher – SS – UC Santa Barbara (CA)
13. – (385) Andrew Fregia – SS – Sam Houston St
14. – (415) Doran Turchin – OF – U Illinois Champaign
15. – (445) Cody Hacker – LHP – Wentzville Holt HS
16. – (475) Parker McFadden – RHP – Washington State (WA)
17. – (505) Trevor Putzig – 3B – Tennessee Tech
18. – (535) Jake Zebron – RHP – Colonel Richardson HS
19. – (565) Andrew Jayne – CF – Terry Sanford HS
20. – (595) Caleb Kilian – RHP – Texas Tech (TX)
21. – (625) Nick or (Lance) Meservey – LHP – Seattle University (WA)
22. – (655) Garrett Martin – 3B – Standley Lake HS
23. – (685) Bradley Brehmer – RHP – Decatur Central HS
24. – (715) Herbert Iser – C – San Jacinto Col North
25. – (745) Nick Horvath – CF – Florida
26. – (775) Ian Evans – 2B – Grand Canyon University (AZ)
27. – (805) Jason Montville – LHP – St Katherine Col
28. – (835) Trey Whitley – CF – North Johnston HS
29. – (365) Jared Denning – C – Solano JC
30. – (895) Tyler Joyner – RHS – University of North Alabama
31. – (925) John Ham – SS – Tennessee Tech U
32. – (955) Jayvien Sandridge – LHS – Mercersburg Academy
33. – (985) Zachary Mcleod – SS- Colorado Mesa U
34. – (1015) Trey Truitt – CF – Mercer (GA)
35. – (1045) Conor Grammes – RHP – Xavier U
36. – (1075) Matt Beaird – C – Coastal Carolina U C
37. – (1105) Andrew Ciolli – RHP – Mercyhurst Col
38. – (1135) Slade Cecconi – RHP – Trinity Prep School (FL)
39. – (1165) Ted Stuka – RHS – UC San Diego
40. – (1195) Sam Grace – RHP – Francis Howell North HS
Athletic hitters with swing flaws
The Orioles selected four college hitters who haven’t performed as well at the plate as their tools should allow. Cadyn Grenier, Robert Neustrom, Cody Roberts, and Clay Fisher (the first four position players selected by the team) all fit this description. Grenier and Roberts are both strong, physical guys who don’t hit for the power they are capable of because they have swings that fail to utilize their lower body effectively. Neustrom lowers his hands significantly before loading as a part of his timing mechanism. This leads to inconsistent hand position to start his swing. Fisher loads for his swing with his bat straight up and down which creates a downward, slapping bat path leading to weak contact.
So depending on how much you trust the Orioles developmental staff, this could be a good or bad thing. If the Orioles can fix these mechanical defects, then perhaps these guys will vastly exceed expectations. The Orioles changed Austin Hays’ swing after he was drafted, which transformed him from a guy scouts thought lacked the pop for a corner outfield spot to a guy who hit 32 HR in his first full minor league season. If the Orioles developmental staff can’t correct these flaws, they could all struggle with pro pitching.
Polished college defenders
The Orioles grabbed four excellent college defenders who play premium positions. They grabbed Cadyn Grenier who is one of the best defensive shortstops in the college ranks. Then they added Cody Roberts, a strong catch and throw guy at catcher. Next was Clay Fisher, who is a glove first shortstop and likely to stick at the position (very few college SS stick there in pro ball). Finally they popped Nick Horvath, who they might decide to use as a LH reliever, but also plays an above-average centerfield.
Depth up the middle
In addition to Grenier, Fisher, Roberts, and Horvath the Orioles continued to load up on up the middle types late into the draft. This is a glaring need from an organizational point of view even if these players aren’t likely to become legit prospects. They drafted 3 more catchers, 3 more centerfielders, and 2 more shortstops, along with a utility type who has played all three of those positions in Andrew Fregia.
Pitchers are athletes too
If you are looking for something in common among most of the pitchers selected by the Orioles, it would be athleticism. They weren’t chasing big velocity, a wipeout breaking ball, or outstanding command. They grabbed players with athletic deliveries. The first four pitchers selected fit that definition (Grayson Rodriguez, Blaine Knight, Drew Rom, and Yeankarlos Lleras). They also grabbed Cody Hacker in the 15th round, who is an undersized lefty with an athletic, repeatable delivery. I like this focus, these guys are going to be able to field their position well, make mechanic adjustments when necessary, and improve their command.
Dancing to their own tune
Similar to recent drafts where the O’s grabbed players much higher than they were ranked by publicly available sources, 2018 was no different. This leads to the whining and gnashing of teeth among Orioles fans every year, but it’s important to remember that the Orioles like every other MLB team have a robust amateur scouting department and they have their own private rankings of players. So I don’t call something a “reach” just because the player is getting drafted higher than their Baseball America ranking. Players in recent drafts who are examples of this for the O’s include Ryan Mountcastle, Chance Sisco, Zac Lowther, and Brenan Hanifee.
This year the Orioles appeared to be locked in on Grayson Rodriguez as one of their top targets for the 11th overall pick even though he was in the 20-30th range on public draft rankings. At #37, the Orioles grabbed Cadyn Grenier who was ranked more in the 2nd/3rd round range publicly. They grabbed HS pitchers Drew Rom and Yeankarlos Lleras at 115 and 175 respectively, with Rom ranked 187 in BA’s Top 500 and not in the Top 200 by MLB Pipeline and Lleras not ranked by either service.
Players of Interest
Grayson Rodriguez – RHP
Rodriguez is a talent you can dream on. He’s been up to 98mph with his fastball and sits 92-95. The pitch is released from a high 3/4 delivery and has heavy downward plane. He has developed two separate breaking balls, with the better of the two being the slider, which has plus potential and bat-missing horizontal run. His curveball has potential too, with good shape, but he has a slightly different release on it that hitters may pick up. According to draft analysts, he has the feel for a changeup as well, but like many HS pitchers, he doesn’t throw it much. I’m not sure how far along it is because it was barely thrown in available video.
Rodriguez has a typical innings-eater body, 6′ 5″ and well put together. He remade his body last winter, working with a trainer and gaining muscle while getting leaner. He has a long, slow arm action in the back, with quick acceleration through release. He’s also shown the ability to shorten and quicken that arm action at times to add deception. It’s impressive that he’s able to change mechanics like that and still throw strikes, it speaks to his athleticism on the mound. If everything goes well, Rodriguez has a #2 starter ceiling.
The SEC Ace
Blaine Knight – RHP
Blaine Knight doesn’t have the best stuff of all the pitchers in the SEC nor did he have the best peripheral stats (strikeout, walk, HR rates). What he did have though was an 11-0 record and a 2.74 ERA in the toughest conference in the country. He out-dueled a number of 1st round draft picks including #1 overall Casey Mize.
That’s not to say Knight doesn’t have good stuff, he does. His fastball touches 97mph and he has 3 other solid pitches in his slider, curveball, and changeup. The slider is the best of the offspeed pitches and could be an out pitch. Knight also has an athletic delivery that he repeats well and should have good control and solid command eventually. The main concern is that Knight’s stuff is very inconsistent from game to game and even within games. That leads to him getting his pitches barreled more often than they should. If he can add good weight to his very thin frame and hold his stuff better, then there is significant upside here.
Yeankarlos Lleras – RHP
Lleras was admittedly off my radar pre-draft, I hadn’t heard much about this year’s draft eligible prep players from Puerto Rico. Lleras is only 6′ 165lbs, but is strong and athletic. The arm is electric, free and easy, touching 96mph with a promising slider. I don’t love the very low 3/4 arm slot, but to find this type of arm speed this far from the top of the draft is a big win. He’s only 17 years old and he needs to clean some things up mechanically, so be patient with this one, it might take him a few years to make it out of the low minors.
Cadyn Grenier – SS
Please note, I don’t consider this a reach because of Grenier’s rankings by national draft outlets. I consider this a reach because of comments about drafting for middle infield needs before and after he was picked. From my assessment, he was more of a 3rd round talent and I don’t think anyone has more than a 2nd round grade on him. 37th overall is way too early to draft for need in my opinion and there were really interesting players still on the board.
Now, not to say Grenier isn’t a good player. He is, he has polished, near MLB ready defense at SS. He’s potentially an above average defender there, with plenty of arm, reliable hands, and enough quickness. At the plate is where he lags behind. He’s a strong guy, well put together with some physicality although you wouldn’t know it by how he swings the bat. He doesn’t create any lag between his lower half and his hands, so it’s an arm/wrist powered swing without much torque. He also has a downward bat path and his hands drag when loading pre-swing. He’s going to struggle to even find gaps in pro ball with the swing, it needs to be rebuilt. He could be really good if it can be fixed, the physical tools are there, but it’s too much risk for me this early in the draft.
Late Round Sleepers
Doran Turchin – OF
Turchin was a top 100 Prep prospect out of HS in 2015, running plus 60 yard dash times, and throwing 94 mph from the outfield. He went to school and after a rough Freshman season became a stalwart in the Illinois line-up. He’s a great value at this point in the draft, he’s actually quite comparable to the Orioles 5th round pick Robert Neustrom. Other than Turchin batting right-handed, they put up similar numbers in the Big 10, they’ve both shown power with wood bats, and they are both athletic corner OFs. Turchin has a little more swing and miss in his game but is faster and might be able to handle centerfield in a pinch. Neustrom was a solid value in the 5th, Turchin is a potential steal in the 14th.
Trey Truitt – OF
Rarely will you find a college Senior or college player in general this late in the draft who is anything more than organizational filler. Truitt looks like an exception to that rule. He has an interesting story, after a dominant Soph. season for Mercer, he took a pitch to the head and was concussed. He proceeded to go from one of the best hitters in the country to a mediocre one in his draft eligible Junior season. It turned out that the concussion had caused depth perception problems. He did vision therapy over this past offseason and has been back to his old self in 2018, hitting .373/.457/.627. He’s not just a performance guy either, he may have five average tools. Anyone picked this late is obviously a long-shot, but Truitt has the upside of being an average regular, a steal this late in the draft.
The Overslot Guy
Caleb Kilian – RHP
Nabbed in the 20th round, the Texas Tech product is a draft eligible Sophomore. He’s up to 96mph with the fastball and has a changeup that flashes plus. His curveball and slider have potential but lag behind. He has a prototypical pitcher’s frame with room for some projection. His command is currently lacking and he’s a fringe athlete on the mound with a stiff delivery. Regardless, this is a great get this late in the draft if he’s signable. It’ll likely take a significant overslot expenditure, probably 400K or more since he’ll be eligible again next year and he could be a top 3 round pick if things go well.