The Orioles picked Florida State outfielder DJ Stewart with the 25th pick in the first round of Monday’s First Year Draft.
Stewart, a 6-foot-230 pound left-handed hitter, batted .318 this year with 15 home runs and 59 RBIs in 64 games. He walked 69 times and had an on-base percentage of .500. He also stole 12 bases in 15 attempts.
The junior from Yulee, Fla., batted .344 in his three years at Florida State.
The Orioles hadn’t selected a position player in the first round since Manny Machado in 2010, and he’s the first outfielder taken with their top pick since Nick Markakis in 2003.
“We’re looking forward to watching him play, and I’m sure our fans are going to like watching him play, too,” Orioles scouting director Gary Rajsich said in a conference call early Tuesday morning.
“He’s strong. That’s what we like about him. He’s durable. He should hold up well to the rigors of a major league season.”
Rajsich was concerned for a time that Stewart would be there for the Orioles when it was their time to choose.
“Beginning about seven or eight picks before DJ, we were getting a little nervous because some names were coming off the board,” Rajsich said.
Stewart has a pronounced crouch. That doesn’t bother the Orioles.
“We’ll send him out the way he is. That’s fine with us,” Rajsich said.
The 21-year-old outfielder started using it as a high school freshman.
“The crouch allows me to see the strike zone very well,” Stewart said. “I can concentrate on getting good pitches that I can hit.”
Stewart will most likely start his professional career at short-season Aberdeen. He projects as a corner outfielder, but has no player that he's tried to pattern himself after.
“There’s not really a certain player I try to be like,” Stewart said.
Stewart came in for high praise by his college coach.
“There have been a number of outstanding young men to come through our program, but none better than DJ Stewart in the way that he displayed leadership both on and off the field,” Florida State head coach Mike Martin said. “A two-time Academic All-American with a 3.35 GPA in his last semester at Florida State, knowing that he had a good chance to be a first round pick is a clear indication of his leadership and commitment to Florida State baseball.
“DJ represented his family, his university and himself in a first class manner throughout his career at Florida State. We are extremely proud of DJ and congratulate him on being drafted by the Orioles.”
The Orioles selected Oviedo, Fla. high school shortstop Ryan Mountcastle with the 36th pick in the first round. He was compensation for losing Nelson Cruz as a free agent.
Jonathan Hughes, a right-handed high school pitcher from Flowery Branch, Georgia was the team’s second round pick.