Orioles select Texas high school pitcher Grayson Rodriguez in first round


(Photo credit: FutureStarsSeries.com)

Saddled with the worst record in baseball and possessing their earliest choice in six years, the Orioles tabbed high school pitcher Grayson Rodriguez with the 11th overall pick of the 2018 draft on Monday.

The right-hander from Central Heights High School in Nacogdoches, Texas was considered a late riser in this year’s draft class, becoming the third high school pitcher to come off the board after the much-anticipated run of position players early on. Rodriguez’s 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame stands out, but a rigorous offseason conditioning program helped the 18-year-old increase his velocity from the low 90s to the mid-to-upper 90s, prompting his stock to climb rapidly.

In addition to his heavy fastball, Rodriguez sports a slider, a curveball, and a changeup with scouts preferring his low-80s slider to his slower curve, according to MLB Pipeline. He becomes the sixth pitcher to be taken with Baltimore’s last seven first-round picks, joining Dylan Bundy (2011), Kevin Gausman (2012), Hunter Harvey (2013), Cody Sedlock (2016), and DL Hall (2017).

“Grayson Rodriguez is a future power pitcher with an advanced delivery and feel for all of his pitches.” Orioles scouting director Gary Rajsich said in a statement. “He has command of four above-average pitches, can shape two distinct breaking balls, and attacks the strike zone.”

Despite Rodriguez’s climb up the draft board in recent weeks, the Orioles passed on other pitchers such as Florida’s Brady Singer and high schoolers Cole Winn and Matthew Liberatore, who were more highly regarded by many publications. Seven of the first 10 picks of the first round were position players, making it apparent that the Orioles would have their choice of several attractive pitching options.

Rodriguez committed to playing baseball at Texas A&M last fall, but he is now slotted a bonus value of just under $4.4 million and is expected to pursue professional baseball. He was ranked as the 24th-best prospect by Baseball America while ESPN’s Keith Law and MLB.com listed him 22nd overall.

With the 37th overall pick of the draft, the organization attempted to address its shortage of middle infield prospects by selecting Oregon State shortstop Cadyn Grenier. Described as one of the best defensive infielders in this year’s class, the 5-foot-11, 188-pound Grenier will need to answer questions about his bat at the professional level.

He was a three-year starter for the Beavers and is a graduate of Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, the same high school that produced Orioles outfielder Joey Rickard and Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley. According to MLB.com, his floor projects as a defensive-minded utility man with the potential to be a glove-first starting shortstop if he continues the improvement shown at the plate during his junior campaign.

Grenier has posted a .328 average with 16 doubles, two triples, five home runs, and 44 RBIs this season and also had a 27-game hitting streak. He was the third Oregon State player to be selected on the first day of the draft, joining fourth overall pick and double-play partner Nick Madrigal (Chicago White Sox) and 20th pick and outfielder Trevor Larnach (Minnesota).

Baseball America ranked him as the No. 63 prospect while MLB.com listed him as 68th overall.