There was less draft enthusiasm for Baltimore Orioles fans this year than in any other in recent memory. This is the cost of signing free agents who had been given the qualifying offer, though O’s fans will say that the early returns on the Nelson Cruz signing seem very much worth this cost. The jury is still out on a final judgment relative to Ubaldo Jimenez.
The first selection for the Orioles would not come until the 90th pick overall. Like many other teams, the Birds were shopping for pitching. As with Matt Hobgood in 2009, Dylan Bundy in 2011, and Hunter Harvey in 2013, the Baltimore Orioles would select a pitcher for their first choice (this year in round three). In fact, the first five picks for the Orioles would be pitchers on this day.
Round Three – LHP – Brian Gonzalez – Archbishop McCarthy HS, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Gonzalez is 6-1, 230 and throws, at age 18, into the low 90s. He excels as a control specialist as well, being truly more pitcher than raw thrower. Gonzalez comes from an elite program, having former MLB pitcher Alex Fernandez leading the baseball program at his high school.
Though Gonzalez has a commitment to the University of Miami, it is believed he is very signable and anxious to begin his pro career.
Round Four – RHP – Pat Connaughton – Notre Dame
As a two sport athlete, Connaughton is also a big part of the basketball program at Notre Dame. A hard thrower, there are certain inconsistencies in his performance that are credited to the lack of singular focus upon baseball. He will be involved in extended baseball activities this summer, will finish one more year of basketball, and then dedicate fully to a baseball career.
Round Five – RHP – David Hess – Tennessee Tech
As a big power-throwing right-hander, Hess was 10-3 with a 3.24 ERA this year. He is a strikeout pitcher with a collection of plus pitches besides the fastball – changeup, curve, slider. Though he has another year of eligibility remaining, he will be signing with the Orioles.
Round Six – LHP – Tanner Scott – Howard College, TX
Scott stands 6-2, 220 and was 7-4 with a 2.66 ERA this season. He has committed to Texas Tech, so it is not certain he’ll sign with the Birds.
Round Seven – LHP – Max Schuh – UCLA
Schuh is a relief pitcher who stands 6-4, 210. He was a part of the UCLA football program as a quarterback, though never played in any games. Schuh posted a 1.55 ERA for the 2014 season.
Round Eight – 2B – Steve Wilkerson – Clemson
A switch-hitting infielder, Wilkerson batted .317 this year with strong power numbers that included six homers. He also possesses good speed.
Round Nine – 3B – Austin Anderson – U. of Mississippi
This left-handed batting infielder is having a great season that is still continuing with the college playoffs. He is hitting in the .330s or so with strong power numbers. He is finishing his senior season and looks ready to move on successfully.
Round Ten – OF – Jay Gonzalez – University of Mount Olive, NC
The second Gonzalez selected on the first day of the draft, this one is a different sort of player with great speed and 51 stolen bases. He also batted .425, though it should be noted that this is a Division II school. He has been drafted twice before and also played earlier at Auburn, where he was suspended.
The remaining rounds of the draft for the Baltimore Orioles were not surprisingly pitcher-dominated. Of these 30 picks, the Birds selected 18 RHPs and 4 LHPs, 2 CFs, 2 RFs, and one each of the four infield positions.
An interesting pick for the Orioles was Brandon Bonilla – the son of former MLB star Bobby Bonilla (who played more than a year for the O’s). They took him in the 25th round. He is a 6-4, 215 pound left-handed pitcher from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. A power thrower, he has hit as high as 97 mph, while also throwing a splitter and slider.
The Orioles selected a local high school right-handed pitcher in the 34th round by taking Garrett Pearson (of St. John’s College HS) who is 6-6, 215. He is from Rockville and has an over-the-top style of delivery … fastball only in the mid 80s, but he’s a big guy who can maybe develop.
Also of interest is that the Nationals selected Cal Ripken’s son Ryan in the 15th round. The left-hand first baseman had originally gone to the U. of South Carolina, but he transferred to Indian River State College where he posted a .321 average this season.