Jordan Westburg is just one of the newest faces of the Orioles’ rebuild. But he’s already got a leg up on his future teammates.
Selected 30th overall by the Orioles on Wednesday night, he’s already encountered the most notable face of the rebuild — Adley Rutschman.
Westburg’s Mississippi State team lost to Rutschman’s Oregon State team in the 2018 College World Series. But it wasn’t for Westburg’s lack of production.
He is a prototype shortstop with a .285 batting average and developing power, which was enough for the Orioles to take him 30th overall.
“I’m still just high on life right now with this opportunity,” Westburg said on a conference call with reporters Thursday. “Whenever baseball starts back up, I can’t wait to get it going.”
Westburg posted career on-base and slugging percentages of .385 and .446, respectively, while in the SEC. And while he hit just eight home runs in his first two seasons, the power was coming around.
He hit six homers in 2019 with 21 doubles and in the 16 games before the ongoing coronavirus pandemic shut down his final season at Mississippi State he already had two home runs and six doubles.
Orioles general manager Mike Elias said that his scouting staff liked Westburg’s ability at shortstop. In most cases at the amateur level, a team’s best player usually plays that spot. Westburg would like to stick at short, but if Baltimore wants to move him around the infield he can do that, too.
“He’s a guy who’s got power, he’s got above-average speed, he can throw, so there’s a lot to like here, and we think he can stay at shortstop,” Elias said. “He’s somebody that I think could’ve gone a couple picks earlier, in the first round, had things shaken out a different way.”
With Westburg’s ability to play multiple positions, his athleticism at 6-foot-3 and 203-pounds jumped out to the Orioles.
“I think probably the best part of my game is my athleticism, and the athleticism allows me to be versatile on the field," Westburg said. "I think it allows me to play an explosive type of baseball, and I think that explosive ability is what’s going to get me to the big leagues.”
Right up until the draft, however, Westburg didn’t envision himself in the Orioles’ organization. He said Baltimore was one of the last teams he spoke with over Zoom, which made it all that much more special when it selected him at the end of the draft’s first night.
“It was kind of weird," Westburg said. "The Orioles were one of the last teams I heard from. I heard from them the Friday before the week of the draft. To have them be the last team that I talked to and then to have the opportunity to be drafted by them just made it special. It made it feel like they were thinking of me that whole entire week leading up to the draft.”
After Heston Kjerstad’s selection at No. 2 overall, Baltimore doubled up on SEC bats with Westburg and continued the trend of adding college bats early in the draft.
Westburg has seen a lot of Kjerstad in recent years and gave a succinct, deadpan scouting report on how to slow down the former Arkansas Razorbacks outfielder.
“Yeah, don’t throw him anything in the zone,” Westburg said.
With plans still unknown for how the Orioles will approach his development, it’s impossible to say what the next step for Westburg is.
What both he, Kjerstad and the rest of the Orioles’ draft picks have in common, though, is they’re set to join an organization building from the ground floor. In that regard, he’ll have as good a chance as any draft pick to make his mark fast.
“It makes you feel like you’ve got a chance to be part of something special," Westburg said. "I know that Heston was drafted before me and then Adley last year. Just being able to have my name up with those two guys and have the chance to kind of rise through this organization and try to make an impact is something special.”
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