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Thursday, December 01, 2022

How the Orioles plan to scout, recruit and develop players left out of short 2020 draft: ‘We just showed them who we are’

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Growing up in Texas, Brandon Young dreamed of pitching at Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros. So, when they were the first team to be called on with a contract offer after the Louisiana-Lafayette right-hander was undecided in the short 2020 Major League Baseball Draft, Young reminded himself that he had plans for Sunday with other clubs. There were calls.

As part of a process they did the equivalent of “a college recruit in a day”, Young’s decision came down to three teams, with the Astros leading the way several times. But getting to Minute Maid Park required reaching out to the big companies, and no organization did a better job of convincing Young to help him do it than the Orioles.

“They looked like they wanted me,” Young said, “and it appeared they knew what to do to help me improve.”

Young is one of seven players in the Orioles’ outfit even after signing as unfinished free agents after the 2020 draft, which was reduced from 40 rounds to five amid the coronavirus pandemic. This allowed players such as Young, who would likely have been selected in the top 10 rounds of a normal draft, to field offers from any major league franchise instead.

Players, who had the option of returning to school for one more season in the hope of being selected in a normal draft, could sign for no more than $20,000, the typical six paid drafts of their talent levels. -The points were far below the bonus slots. But by focusing on the growth they could offer via Zoom presentations and phone calls, the Orioles made that amount more than worthwhile for the opportunity to pursue their dreams in their top-ranked farming system .

“I really just wanted a shot, an opportunity,” said right-hander Ryan Watson. “I wasn’t a very talked-about, highly talked-about player. I had a solid college career, but I wasn’t the face of college baseball or anything like some of my teammates. I really wanted to get into pro ball and show it. I really wanted the opportunity to do what I could, and the Orioles blessed me with that opportunity, so I’m trying to make the most of it.

‘That was a piece’

Young, who was ranked by Baseball America as Baltimore’s No. 32 prospect to enter the 2022 season, wasn’t the only one to compare the post-draft experience to that of a high schooler trying to pick a college team. This provided a familiarity to the process, although it did not necessarily facilitate comparison of features or other factors that could be considered when choosing a school.

“It was like, ‘Hey, we have this. Everyone’s offering the same amount. What is it going to take?'” Young said.

However, teams like the Orioles were in largely unfamiliar territory. No-draft free-agent signings were common in previous years, but they included players who were picked in 40-plus rounds, not five. With the increase in the quality of talent, effort became far more important.

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“Boy, man, that was a grind,” Orioles director of draft operations Brad Siolek recalled. “You just work with the draft, even though it was a short one, and now all of a sudden, there’s a new pool of players, and you’re fighting more or less the same people with 29 other clubs.

“I’m glad we didn’t have to go through this again.”

However, Ciolek is pleased with the results. Collectively, pitchers in that group entered Wednesday’s minor league games this year with an ERA of 3.65, while position players have a total of .781. OPS in the last two seasons. Outfielder Dylan Harris reached Triple-A before any Orioles’ 2020 draft pick, though his aggressive struggles there prompted a return to Double-A Bowie, where three other members of the class – Young, Watson and first baseman The Jedi are assigned to Mundi. ,

First baseman TT Bowens represents the group at High-A Aberdeen, with right-handers Shane Davis and Thomas Girard at Low-A Delmarva. Watson, who started his season with 13 unscored, two-hit innings and a 3.05 ERA at the start of Thursday, is He is one of the system’s breakout pitchers this season, while Bowens has .878 OPS over the past month.

Ciolek said the Orioles’ amateur scouts and draft analysts have identified players they are interested in adding should they be sidelined in round five of the draft. That list was then shared with player development staff and coaches, both to receive their feedback and for them to add any players that would be worth watching. A brief dead period followed the draft before teams were allowed to contact players, at which point the Orioles provided them with presentations explaining how they could fit in with the organization and grow. Huh.

“When you’re a guy who, well, would be drafted without a brief draft in any normal season,” Siolek said, “you want to hear something like, ‘Hey, even if you’re drafted. was not prepared. Well, we feel really good about what you bring to the table, and here’s how we can totally arm you and ultimately lead you to the potential we think you’re capable of reaching Huh.’

“The process itself, even though it was arduous and exhausting, seems like everything went well.”

‘Play the same game’

Young recalled speaking with the Orioles’ director of pitching Chris Holt and executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias, among others. At the hitting site, the meeting was attended by player development director Matt Blood, head of strength and performance. Nick White, and Minor League Hitting Coordinator Ryan Fuller and Anthony Villa.

The aim was to promote the Orioles’ blossoming and revamped player development program, which led to better pitching across the system in 2019 and similar gains for hitters in 2020 before the pandemic struck. Staff told players not only what Baltimore loved about them, but also where they felt they could improve and how the organization, through its coaches, training staff, and technology, would help them do so. .

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“We showed them who we are,” said Blood, “and we showed them that they would be good to us.”

Overall, players said they felt what they heard from the Orioles during those pitches was living their experience as minor leaguers. Watson said he experienced “continuous growth”. Mundi said he has become more athletic and a better defender. Young has understood why he always found success with his fastball and how to bring his breaking balls on par.

“Whatever they’re promoting, it’s working,” Young said.

This is welcome news for those attending the meetings.

“We don’t want to use car salesmen, just trying to tell them all the cool stuff,” Fuller said. “We want to live it every single day.”

With his face dripping with sweat after an intense batting practice session at Aberdeen’s Ripken Stadium, Bowens said he knew what his experience with the organization would be like. As an amateur, he trained with Fuller, now one of Baltimore’s major league hitting coaches, in his native Connecticut and experienced a similar training program that the Orioles now use for hitters throughout their system. We do. When his redshirt junior season at Central Connecticut State was cut short and Fuller said the Orioles were open to signing him, Bowens decided to forgo his remaining two years of college eligibility and begin his professional career.

In doing so, Bowens eventually denied himself the opportunity to be drafted, something he and all the other players in that 2020 class worked on for the rest of their lives. bowie Manager Kyle Moore, who began his professional playing career as a free agent, said “there’s always a little chip on your shoulder” when the selection process passes without you being selected.

But the players the Orioles signed said that even though they initially had these kinds of feelings, they have mostly passed, replaced with gratitude that their careers continued despite the conditions around the world. May go, who married his draft year.

“You’ve always wanted to call your name, but I think we all get the same opportunity,” Harris said. “I attack every day as if I’m just as good as the guys who were drafted. It doesn’t really hold me back.”

After their season was cut short two years ago and going without a draft, they only wanted one chance. With Orioles, they have found it.

,You can look at it like, ‘Okay, I went without a draft, that sucks,’ or I can look at it like, ‘I have an opportunity to play pro ball and prove myself,'” Bowens said. “That was the way I took it, and that’s the way I still want to take it.

“At the end of the day, I have to go on the same ground like everyone else and play the same game. If I’m here to stay, I’m here to stay.”

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