Orioles ‘got a monster’ in baseball-focused first-rounder Cody Sedlock – Baltimore Sun
The book was called “How Dogs are Better than Cats.” The reasoning was sound — dogs will save you from a fire, or alert you to burglars in your home. Cats will cower under a couch.
And in the dream weeks that followed this month’s Major League Baseball draft, the author’s proud father has shown it to a few close friends as he accepted their congratulations. He flipped to the “About the Author” page.
“Cody Sedlock was 8 years old,” it reads. “When he grows up, he is going to be a baseball player.”
Sedlock, the Orioles’ 2016 first-round pick, was selected 27th overall on June 9, and signed eight days later for just over $2 million. Dreaming of a baseball life doesn’t make him unique from any of the 1,215 other players selected along with him. What does is the dexterity Sedlock showed in getting there.
Golden-armed young men that singularly focused can be headstrong to a fault. But through listening to his own gut and precociously understanding the need to change and improve when others suggested it, Sedlock sprung from a house on a dirt road in Illinois farm country to the next in a long line of heralded Orioles pitching prospects.
Formally, Sedlock has been a professional baseball player for nine days. His father, Joe, said he’s been a professional baseball player since he was 9. Sedlock’s grandmother once admonished his parents for making him play so much baseball. He should be spending his summers at the pool with his friends, she said.
Sedlock, however, longed to be at the field. He liked it better than football and basketball because you could play it every day and never get bored, and he went to the private Alleman High to play it at a higher level.
“He was almost kind of a baby giraffe, a baby calf,” said Jerry Burkhead, who coached the sophomore team at Alleman when Sedlock arrived and is now the varsity head coach. “He was really big, long, lanky. But we knew with the kind of body type he had he’d be able to develop.”
It was at Alleman where the animalistic training practices Sedlock used to strap an imposing physique onto his promising frame took hold. But it was at Illinois where he became a first-round pitcher, as opposed to just an athlete.
Sedlock went to Champaign as a two-way player, but didn’t let that last long. Two weeks into his freshman fall schedule, he told the coaching staff he’d be focusing on pitching.
“Cody looked around and thought, ‘I don’t want to be average in two areas,'” Illinois coach Dan Hartleb said. “At that point, he had a lot of arm strength but he was extremely raw on the mound. For him to have that foresight and that maturity at that time in his life was impressive.”
The right-hander pitched out of the bullpen in his first two years at Illinois, with many around him believing he had better stuff than some of the starters but not the pitchability. Hartleb and pitching coach Drew Dickinson knew they had a possible gem on their hands when Sedlock thrived in that role without complaint.
Joe and Lori Sedlock knew their son, already a gem in their eyes, was going to be one during his college summers. They drove to Waterloo, Iowa, to watch him pitch out of the rotation for the Northwoods League’s Bucks after his freshman year, and the progress was striking.
The next year, after his sophomore season pitching for Bourne in the Cape Cod League under Orioles associate scout Harvey Shapiro, Sedlock set out on the path that helped make his selection this month possible.
At that point, Sedlock was a self-assessed second-day draft pick, “probably a third- to seventh-round guy.” It didn’t look like it early on in the Cape. As Hartleb described it, “his first two weeks in the Cape were not kind to him.”
So Sedlock’s then-advisor, now-agent Jim Bullinger took video and photos of one of his outings. Bullinger, a former major league pitcher himself, and Sedlock huddled to go over them inside a Dunkin’ Donuts. He told Sedlock what he saw, and by proxy what hitters saw, and how it compared to some of the best pitchers in the majors.
“It was one of those things where I was still getting guys out, so you don’t take the time to look at it,” Sedlock said. “But there’s always stuff to work on, there’s always ways to get better, so I guess it was eye-opening for me.”
Dickinson described it as Sedlock’s front side being weak in the delivery, causing him to open up too quickly and show hitters too much of the ball.
“He never had arm problems — his arm worked, he had good velo. So you didn’t look at him and say, ‘Oh, there’s something wrong with him,'” Dickinson said. “But he was, and the athlete that he was, he was able to fix it right away.”
“He made a major adjustment with some things from a mechanical standpoint and in Cody Sedlock fashion, worked extremely, extremely hard and made a change,” Hartleb said. “All of a sudden, he put himself on the map as one of the top prospects in the country.”
Sedlock’s finish to the Cape Cod summer put him on the Orioles’ radar, and brought 30 major league teams to seemingly every one of his starts. They saw the talent, and a pair of plus breaking balls, but a fastball that was getting barreled up more often than anyone liked.
Sedlock’s four-seam fastball had a penchant for flattening out, and even the Cape tweaks didn’t change that. Instead of insisting on carrying on as he was, results be damned, and cashing a fat signing bonus check come June anyway, he heeded Dickinson’s advice.
Dickinson described a “great” but underutilized two-seam fastball that “bores so heavily down to the ground, there’s so much sink to it, that even if you miss it down the middle guys aren’t squaring it up.”
“I called him out,” Dickinson said. “I said, ‘Hey man, you’re a first-round talent with a 3.50 ERA. That’s not good enough. It’s not. You should be embarrassed and disappointed, with the stuff that you have, that you have a 3.50. You should have a 1.50 or a 2.00, with how good you are.’ After that, he just started using the two-seam fastball, and it was done. It was over with.”
The Orioles saw all of this first-hand, with a representative at nearly all of Sedlock’s starts. Scouting director Gary Rajsich said as many as eight scouts and front-office personnel saw Sedlock, and his selection was “nearly unanimous.”
Illinois delivered them a pitcher with a fastball that regularly sits at 96 mph, those plus breaking balls and a changeup that can get to that level once he re-introduces it into his repertoire.