Pat Connaughton breaks Orioles' top 30 prospect list

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

Gone but not forgotten.

Former Notre Dame two-sport standout Pat Connaughton has been adamant about keeping both sport options open as a professional, even as he worked his way through his NBA rookie season with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Though he has exclusively chased his NBA dream for much of the last year since graduating Notre Dame, Connaughton has long insisted baseball is never far from his mind.

Maybe one day….

"I firmly believe that I will pitch in the big leagues one day," Connaughton told the Tribune on a February trip back to campus. "It's just a matter of staying true to doing what you need to do for yourself. I'll keep my arm in shape and make sure I do things just to never burn that (baseball) bridge.

"I'll play it by ear as things progress."

In mlb.com's latest rankings of the top 30 prospects in the farm system of the Baltimore Orioles, Connaughton checks in at No. 30 (see box). Connaughton was not ranked for much of the winter and early spring.

Of the top 30, 12 are, like Connaughton, right-handed pitchers. That includes Hunter Harvey, considered the team’s No. 1 prospect. A fourth-round pick of the Orioles in June 2014, Connaughton has not played organized baseball since the summer before his senior year in college when he spent a month with the Orioles’ low-Class A team in Aberdeen, Md.

Connaughton is listed as being a member of the Frederick (Md.) Keys in the Class A advanced league.

Connaughton’s former college teammate, first baseman Trey Mancini, is ranked the organization’s No. 5 prospect.

A second-round NBA draft pick last June, Connaughton signed a three-year contract last summer with Portland. The first two years are guaranteed with the Blazers holding a third year option. Portland general manager Neal Olshey said when Connaughton signed that playing two sports was not an option for the foreseeable future.

But maybe one day....

Following is the scouting report of former Notre Dame two-sport standout and current NBA guard Pat Connaughton from mlb.com, where Connaughton is ranked the No. 30 prospect of the Baltimore Orioles:

Connaughton immediately became one of the most promising pitching prospects in the Orioles system when he signed as a fourth-round pick out of Notre Dame in 2014, but he has worked just 14 2/3 pro innings since signing. He returned to the Fighting Irish for his senior season of college basketball, leading them to the Elite Eight in 2015. The Brooklyn Nets took him in the second round of the 2015 NBA draft and traded him to the Portland Trail Blazers, who signed him to a three-year contract that prohibits him from playing baseball for two years.

Connaughton, who averaged 1.1 points and 4.2 minutes in 34 games as a rookie shooting guard with the Blazers, may have a brighter future in baseball. He can run his fastball into the mid-90s with heavy sink, using his 6-foot-5 frame to leverage it down in the strike zone. But he's far from a finished product on the mound and needs innings to develop.

While he shows some feel for a changeup, Connaughton has yet to display much aptitude for spinning a breaking ball. He lacks fastball command and still needs to learn the subtleties of pitching. The Orioles chose not to seek repayment of his $428,100 bonus in hopes that he'll return to baseball and take off like former Notre Dame two-sport star Jeff Samardzija did once he focused on the diamond.