2023 MLB draft, Day 2 tracker: Orioles continue run on college players, select six more pitchers

13 July 2023

After drafting Vanderbilt outfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr. in the first round of the MLB draft Sunday night, Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias detailed the confidence he has in the organization’s scouting of college players.

“We pour a ton of data analysis resources into college statistics and college data,” Elias said, “so anytime we can take an elite college player, we feel good about the work that’s gone into that.”

But Bradfield was just the beginning of the Orioles’ run on college players. Each of Baltimore’s first 12 selections were college players, including North Carolina outfielder-third baseman Mac Horvath and Florida State right-hander Jackson Baumeister on Day 1 and nine more on Day 2.

“I think the one thing that I can kind of hang my hat on is obviously the data that’s available,” Orioles director of draft operations Brad Ciolek said Monday after drafting ended on Day 2. “That kind of helps us add to our conviction that our scouts see in the field. It just so happened as far as how the board was constructed that we ended up with a lot of college players thus far in the 2023 class, but we do keep an open mind.”

Baumeister’s selection was somewhat of a surprise considering the Elias regime’s preference to pick position players early in drafts. At No. 63 overall, Baumeister became the first pitcher Baltimore has drafted before the third round since Elias took over in November 2018. The Orioles drafted six more college pitchers on Day 2 — the largest pitching investment Baltimore has made in the draft during the Elias era.

“I think what we’re going to walk away with today is guys that have some ability right now as far as their pitches that we really like, whether it’s the metrics, the velocity, the breaking balls,” Ciolek said. “But also the ability to add or refine some of these guys’ deliveries to maximize their arsenals.”

With the three college players on Day 1, Ciolek said he was “ecstatic” about how the beginning of the draft went, and he was similarly upbeat Monday.

“Pretty excited about the group that we’ve got here,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to getting them going down in Florida.”

Here’s a breakdown of Baltimore’s selections from the second day of the MLB draft, with input from Ciolek on several of the players.

Round 3 (86th overall): Washington right-hander Kiefer Lord

Skinny: A little more than a year ago, Lord was a Division III pitcher for Carleton College in Minnesota. He transferred to Division I Washington for his junior season, earning a reputation as a hard-throwing righty with upside. With the Huskies, Lord, 21, went 6-5 with a 6.19 ERA and 1.316 WHIP, but he struck out 78 batters in 75 2/3 innings versus just 17 walks. Baseball America ranked Lord as the 97th-best prospect in the draft pool.

Ciolek’s take: “Obviously, it’s a tremendous story, the fact that he is pretty much self-made as far as developing his velocity. A lot of these guys have, I’d want to say four of the guys we drafted today, we met with at the [MLB draft combine], and it allowed us to kind of get an opportunity to talk with them, see the work that they’ve put in on their own and also things that they needed to continue to work on. He’s one of them obviously, the fact that he was able to build the velocity like he did. Threw his fastball I’d want to say over 70% of the time this year at the University of Washington, so a big focal point for us with him is going to continue to work on implementing his slider more often but also let him use his curveball and changeup increasingly with every outing he’s going to get with us.”

Recommended bonus slot: $808,200

Round 3 (100th overall): Arkansas outfielder Tavian Josenberger

Skinny: When the Orioles drafted pitcher Nolan McLean in the fourth round of the 2022 draft, that was the highest Elias had selected a pitcher. However, Baltimore and McLean couldn’t come to an agreement after the draft, and the compensatory pick the Orioles received as a result was used to draft Josenberger. The 21-year-old played his first two college seasons at Kansas before transferring to Arkansas for the 2023 campaign. While he had success with the Jayhawks, Josenberger, who played both outfield and second base in his college career, had his best season with the Razorbacks, slashing .287/.414/.490 — good for a .904 OPS. He becomes the second Arkansas player to be drafted by the Orioles in the past four years, joining 2020′s No. 2 overall pick Heston Kjerstad, who has zoomed through the minors over the past year and is now in Triple-A. Baseball America ranked Josenberger as the 246th-best prospect in the draft pool.

Ciolek’s take: “Tavian’s also very interesting, a versatile defender. At Arkansas, he played primarily center field but also played second base at Kansas, so the arrow’s pointing up on a lot of these guys, and we can’t wait to get ‘em into our system to work out our [professional development] folks.”

Recommended bonus slot: $671,800

Round 4 (118th overall): Texas State right-hander Levi Wells

Skinny: As a freshman at Texas Tech, Wells walked 23 batters in 17 2/3 innings as a reliever. The 6-foot-2 righty transferred to Texas State and instantly found his command as a starter, lowering his walk rate from 25% in 2021 to 8.4% between in 2022 and 2023. After posting a 3.07 ERA as a sophomore, he recorded a 5.02 mark this spring, but he improved his strikeout rate, punching out 98 batters in 80 2/3 innings. Wells, 21, was ranked by Baseball America as the 111th-best prospect in the draft pool.

Ciolek’s take: “A lot of these guys, depending on what school they play at, they may not have the level of instruction or the regimen that a lot of these other big schools do, like the SEC, ACC. But there’s also outlets for these guys to go whether it’s training facilities that will teach them those skills needed. … These are guys that we vetted. We did a lot of work on with our player development, our pitching coaches, and they all seem to think the upside for all these guys is extremely encouraging.”

Recommended bonus slot: $563,600

Round 5 (154th overall): UNC Charlotte outfielder Jake Cunningham

Skinny: After struggling as an 18-year-old freshman in 2021, Cunningham emerged as one of Conference USA’s top sluggers the past two seasons. In 2022, the center fielder hit 16 home runs, stole 16 bases and posted a whopping 1.005 OPS. Cunningham, who turned 21 last week, hit 11 long balls with an .878 OPS as a junior in 2023. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound outfielder was ranked by Baseball America as the 140th-best prospect in the draft pool.

Ciolek’s take: “I think the one name that we were excited about getting him where we did … is Jake Cunningham. Jake was on our radar last year from UNC Charlotte. He is a toolshed. He has double-plus raw power in [batting practice]. He’s a plus runner, and he’s one of those guys that has instincts for center field. We actually had Jake out here at a workout at Camden Yards a few weeks back leading up to the draft, and he was up to 111 [mph exit velocity] with wood, so we are very excited obviously to get all these guys, but … we’re very excited that we ultimately ended up getting Jake where we did.”

Recommended bonus slot: $396,700

Round 6 (181st overall): Samford right-hander Jacob Cravey

Skinny: Cravey was one of 12 Division I pitchers to throw more than 100 innings this spring, and the 6-foot-6 righty struck out more batters than all but eight pitchers. In 104 2/3 innings, Cravey struck out 126 batters while walking 40 and posting a 3.10 ERA and a 9-2 record. Baseball America ranked the 21-year-old as the 321st-best prospect in the draft pool.

Recommended bonus slot: $312,300

Round 7 (211th overall): Coastal Carolina right-hander Teddy Sharkey

Skinny: His unique name isn’t what intrigued the Orioles, but instead his plus stuff out of the bullpen. With a fastball that touches 98 mph, Sharkey was a dominant reliever for the Chanticleers this spring. In 49 2/3 innings across 27 appearances, the 6-foot righty went 7-2 with 11 saves and a 2.90 ERA. Sharkey, 21, bounced back from a poor 2022 to strike out 35.7% of the batters he faced. Baseball America ranked Sharkey as the 395th-best prospect in the draft pool.

Ciolek’s take: “We had our pitching coaches take a look at him, and they’re very bullish on his delivery. It’s a high-energy delivery, he repeats it well, he already has three pitches that he throws for strikes. He’s aggressive, he goes right at guys. Ideally, in Teddy’s situation we would like to hopefully extend him and let him go a couple of innings. Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that the idea would be to develop him long-term as a starting pitcher, but that is something that we’d like to strive for with Teddy.”

Recommended bonus slot: $244,400

Round 8 (241st overall): Dallas Baptist right-hander Braxton Bragg

Skinny: Bragg largely struggled during his three seasons as a reliever at Nebraska, where he was teammates with Orioles farmhand Cade Povich, but he broke out in 2023 as a starter after transferring to Dallas Baptist. The 6-foot-2 righty went 9-2 for the Conference USA school with a 4.19 ERA. In 86 innings, Bragg struck out 92 batters and walked just 17. He was unranked on Baseball America’s draft prospect list.

Recommended bonus slot: $197,800

Round 9 (271st overall): Troy right-hander Zach Fruit

Skinny: A little more than three years ago, Fruit was pitching for Lansing Community College. After transferring twice, first to Eastern Michigan for two seasons and then to Troy for his senior campaign in 2023, Fruit became the seventh pitcher the Orioles drafted in the first 10 rounds of the draft. For the first time through 12 picks under Elias, the Orioles have taken more pitchers than position players. The 6-foot-4 23-year-old went 6-1 for Troy this spring with a 6.46 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 69 2/3 innings. He was unranked on Baseball America’s draft prospect list.

Recommended bonus slot: $177,100

Round 10 (301st overall): Southern Mississippi outfielder Matthew Etzel

Skinny: Etzel is also a former community college player, with his 2023 season with the Golden Eagles as his first in Division I baseball. Etzel played two years at Panola Community College in Texas before transferring to Southern Mississippi, where he hit .371 with 17 doubles, seven homers and 23 stolen bases. While a few of the outfielders the Orioles drafted can also play infield, Etzel’s selection made it that all five of Baltimore’s position player draftees were designated as outfielders. Etzel, 21, was ranked by Baseball America as the 257th-best prospect in the draft pool.

Ciolek’s take: “I think if there is one theme here it is the fact that these [outfielders] are all very skilled defenders in center field. They have plus speed. They can run extremely well. They have the instincts to play center field. I think every single one of those guys that we selected we have plus run times on from our scout side of things. … They are very skilled defenders. That’s a big thing for us. We want these guys to be able to track down the ball quickly in gaps and get the ball back in the infield as quickly as possible. Very excited as far as the upside is concerned with these guys in the outfield.”

Recommended bonus slot: $167,000

Other notable selections

Maryland star Matt Shaw was drafted in the first round Sunday, but two other Terps were selected on Day 2.

Catcher Luke Shliger was selected No. 180 overall in the sixth round by the San Francisco Giants. In each of the past two seasons, Shliger hit over .333 with an OPS above 1.000. Right-hander Jason Savacool, one of the Terps’ top starting pitchers the past three years, was taken five picks later by the St. Louis Cardinals after going 24-11 with a 4.20 ERA in 278 2/3 career innings at Maryland. Terps third baseman Nick Lorusso, who in 2023 hit .379 with 26 home runs and became the first Division I player since 2003 to reach 100 RBIs in a season, was picked 276th overall by the New York Mets.

However, Maryland wasn’t the only local college with a player drafted on Day 2. Towson right-hander Ethan Pecko was drafted No. 194 overall with the final pick of the sixth round by the Houston Astros. Pecko posted a 3.21 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 42 innings with the Tigers this spring.


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