Why This Orioles’ Draft Pick Could Set MLB Record Before He Even Throws A Pitch
Saint Leo University

Jared Beck may not make it to The Show, but if the Baltimore Orioles 13th-round draft pick ever takes the mound in a big league game, he’ll set a record before he evn throws a pitch.

Beck is 7 feet tall, which would make him the tallest player in Major League Baseball history. Two former pitchers, Sean Hjelle and Jon Rauch, checked in at 6-feet, 11-inches, and of course Hall of Famer Randy Johnson was 6-feet, 10-inches tall. But Beck is no mere novelty, with a fastball clocked at 95 miles per hour.

“Jared’s a really interesting case,” Baltimore draft director Brad Ciolek told The Associated Press.

Beck pitched for Saint Leo University in Florida, where in the season that just ended he struck out 105 batters in 68 1/3 innings with a middling 3.95 ERA. Hitters batted a mere .217 off of the lefty, but at times he struggled with control. Since finishing school, he has pitched for the Savannah Bananas, a Georgia-based independent team made up of college players that is akin to baseball’s answer to the Harlem Globetrotters. He was the 377th overall pick in the recently concluded draft.

Height is seen as a major advantage for pitchers for several reasons. Long arms can result in higher velocity, and the closer the point at which the pitcher releases the ball is to the batter, the tougher it is for a hitter to react. But extremely tall pitchers often have trouble refining the smooth movements needed to excel.

Johnson, nicknamed “The Big Unit,” was 26 years old before he began to realize his potential, and even then led the American League in walks for the next three years. But once the left-hander harnessed his talent, he became a dominant pitcher, winning five Cy Young awards, 303 games and ending up second only to Nolan Ryan in career strikeouts, with 4,875.

“Obviously, he’s a little bit of a bigger guy, and that might take a little bit more, I guess, in terms of delivery, refining his mechanics,” Ciolek acknowledged. “But we have faith in our player-development staff, our pitching coaches, that they’ll be able to get the most out of his ability.”

Rauch had a solid, 11-year career as a right-handed reliever before retiring in 2013. Hjelle, 25, is in his rookie year with the San Francisco Giants.

There have been at least two minor league baseball players taller than Beck. Dutch pitcher Loek van Mil played 10 seasons in the minor leagues and Ryan Doherty pitched parts of three. Both were 7-feet, one-inch tall.

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