Part of the beauty of sports drafts is that if you’re not performing so well on the field, there’s hope in the future.
And for the second year in a row, the Orioles found optimism in an early Draft pick. After selecting catcher Adley Rutschman No. 1 overall in 2019, Baltimore scored outfielder Heston Kjerstad at No. 2 this year.
Like many organizations in the shortened Draft, the Orioles went college-heavy on the first four picks, then added two prep players to round out the class. In terms of positions, the club did not have one area of focus, selecting two outfielders, two shortstops, a third baseman and a pitcher.
“We lined up our board and took the best player that was on our board at that given time,” Brad Ciolek, the Orioles’ supervisor of domestic scouting, told reporters after Day 2 of the Draft. “We had pitchers up and down our board that we thought we had in good spots, for whatever reason we liked the position player in that point in time better, or the pitcher went right before our next selection. That’s sometimes how the Draft works and that’s ultimately what ended up happening here.”
First round: OF Heston Kjerstad (No. 2 overall)
Going into Draft Day, Kjerstad was a solid early- to mid-first-round selection. All but knowing Spencer Torkelson would be the only player off the board when it was time for them to pick, the Orioles had a lot to think about. But in the end, they went with what made the most sense to them, surprising many.
“When you’re picking that high you don’t want to feel like you’re not taking the guy you want who is the right guy for you and your Draft,” Baltimore general manager Mike Elias told reporters that night. “We could’ve gone in a few directions. ... I’ve been a part of a lot of tough decisions and this was right up there.”
The Orioles had been keeping an eye on Kjerstad since he was in high school and were particularly impressed by his bat. While the Mariners took him in the 36th round of the 2017 Draft, the Amarillo, Texas, native ended up going to the University of Arkansas instead. He quickly made an impact as the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year, following in the footsteps of fellow Razorback Andrew Benintendi.
At Arkansas, Kjerstad showcased his plus-bat by hitting .345/.425/.587 with 35 homers and 124 RBIs in 145 games. With a solid arm, the 21-year-old is primarily a right fielder.
“We felt like he was the best left-handed hitter in the country this year,” Elias said. “The thing we like about him the most, besides the bat and the makeup and who he is and where he comes from, is that his power is truly foul pole-to-foul pole, all fields, all types of pitches. He’s a monster.”
On Tuesday, Kjerstad officially signed for $5.20 million, $2.59 million below slot value.
Competitive Balance A: SS Jordan Westburg (No. 30)
Westburg was not drafted out of high school, but certainly made scouts take notice in college. The Mississippi State junior became one of the best middle infielders in the SEC while developing consistency at the plate. At 6-foot-3 and 203 pounds, Westburg has an aggressive bat. While there wasn’t a lot of power in college, scouts feel like he has the tools to bash 20 homers in the bigs.
Perhaps Westburg’s most noteworthy moment with the Bulldogs came when he plated seven runs against North Carolina in 2018 to tie a College World Series single-game record.
“You look at the history of the Draft, and middle infielders, especially shortstops from big conference schools, every round, they are the smartest picks you can make,” Elias said on the call. “You should really take as many as you can. And we really like Westburg.”
Westburg signed with the Orioles at slot for $2.37 million.
Second round: OF Hudson Haskin (No. 39)
Haskin grabbed the spotlight in high school when he broke the Avon Old Farms stolen-base record previously held by George Springer. After being selected by the A's in the 39th round of the 2018 Draft, he chose to leave Connecticut for a different green-and-white team: Tulane. For the Green Wave, the speedy outfielder was able to stretch his legs in center, not making an error in 73 games.
With a propensity for solid contact, Haskin batted .363/.457/.612 with 11 homers and 66 RBIs in 273 at-bats. The 21-year-old signed on the same day as Westburg, inking a $1.91-million bonus at slot value.
“The first thing that stands out is the overall athleticism he has,” Ciolek said in a call after Day 2 of the Draft. “He’s a double-plus runner who we believe will end up in center field. He also has a knack for barreling up the ball consistently and sneaky power.”
Third round: SS Anthony Servideo (No. 74)
The selection of Servideo by the Orioles marks a family reunion of sorts as the Ole Miss product’s grandfather, Curt Blefary, was a part of the 1966 World Series-champion Baltimore team. He also won the Rookie of the Year in 1965.
While Servideo did not have a strong showing to start his time with the Rebels nor in the Cape Cod League last summer, the left-handed batter hit his stride this year as a junior. Servideo batted .390/.440/.427 with a career-high five homers and nine stolen bases in 17 games before the 2020 campaign was called. He also displayed great patience with 24 walks to place second in the country.
“He got off to a blistering start and ran into some power. We were intrigued by his athleticism in the dirt, how well he moved laterally and how well the hands worked,” Ciolek said on the call. “We are not overly concerned as far as his body of work. We’re taking what he’s done most recently, and we like his chances of continuing to add to the power department and the on-base skills moving forward.”
Servideo has not signed yet.
Fourth round: 3B Coby Mayo (No. 103)
Mayo was the Orioles’ first prep pick of the year and he sports plus-power and a plus-plus-arm. Out of Stoneman Douglas High School, which produced Jesus Luzardo and Colton Welker in recent years, the Florida native has worked the hot corner, though some scouts say his level of agility might be better suited for left field or first.
Mayo has a commitment to the University of Florida and has not officially signed with the Orioles yet, but reports expect him to get above slot ($565,600) after a physical.
“Extremely interesting. He is a strong, athletic 6-foot-4 kid with a double-plus arm at third base,” Ciolek said on the call. “He moves well for a bigger guy and shows 70 raw power in [batting practice]. We think he’ll be able to tap into that down the road. He has an extremely high ceiling."
Mayo survived the deadliest high-school shooting in American history in 2018. It understandably had a deep-seated effect on him as a player and a member of the community.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to be a Major League baseball player,” he said on a call after the Draft. “Those people had dreams too. I want to fulfill their dreams by fulfilling mine. The whole community needed something really big to come out of it. That’s what I wanted to do, and that’s what happened when the Orioles selected me.”
Fifth round: RHP Carter Baumler (No. 133)
In 2019, the Orioles did not select a pitcher until their ninth pick (Griffin McLarty out of the College of Charleston). This year, they took Baumler from a high school in Iowa. The 18-year-old features two plus pitches -- a fastball and a curve -- and doesn’t rely on his changeup often. Baumler has a commitment to Texas Christian University, which scouts think he will honor.
"Excellent athlete with a quick arm. His velo in the summer was 90-92 and now it’s ticked up to 92-94,” Ciolek said on the call. “He has a curveball that has 11-5 shape and we think it’ll profile as a plus offering for him. His changeup has made tremendous strides as well.”
While Ryan Mountcastle and Austin Hays are getting closer to Major League readiness, the Orioles system is still relatively young and in rebuilding mode. This year’s crop of college talent could be right behind Rutschman and right-hander Grayson Rodriguez as the next exciting flock to hit Baltimore.
“Every one of these guys we selected, it was a balance of scouting and analytics,” Ciolek said on the call. “We think we got a really good blend of guys who can move quickly through the Minor League system and also some high-ceiling high-school guys with our last selections.”
In terms of 2020, the Orioles left many spots open on their 60-man player pool, leaving fans hopeful of getting a taste of the future.
Kelsie Heneghan is a writer for MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan.