Matthew Etzel Blazes Trail For Late-Round Orioles Picks


The Orioles’ recent player development success has been defined by the aptitude of their high draft picks.

Outfielder Matthew Etzel might end up blazing the trail for later picks making an impact.

The Orioles drafted him in the 10th round last year out of Southern Mississippi. He has done nothing but hit since signing.

Through 40 games this season, Etzel hit .298/.389/.461 with four home runs and 23 stolen bases for High-A Aberdeen.

“The hit tool itself is really elite,” Aberdeen hitting coach Zach Cole said. “He’s just really good at finding the barrel on any pitch types.” 

Whether taken early in the draft or on the later side, Etzel has many of the traits the Orioles favor in their hitting prospects: athleticism, bat-to-ball ability and a knack for finding the barrel.

Part of his developmental plan to further harness that is relatively common for players who can get to pitches all over the zone, with a focus on not swinging at pitches he can’t drive.  

“That will come with making better swing decisions in time as well—not to say his are poor,” Cole said. “But at times he can get exploited because he knows he has that good hit tool where he can just pepper one over there.

“But as pitching continues to level up, as he grows levels, they’re going to be able to exploit that a little more and he might have to refine that.”

High-A has typically been a place where that growth is solidified in the Orioles’ system in recent years. A challenging diet of pregame work focusing on different pitch shapes and movement profiles helps hitters develop plans on how to hit offerings of a quality level they may not see until the high minors.

The success stories from that developmental track aren’t lost on anyone, from Gunnar Henderson and Colton Cowser to Coby Mayo.

“We use a ton of examples from the past,” Cole said. “You’ve seen guys like Coby Mayo need to make some better decisions at the plate, just continuing to attack that.”

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