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The Choices of a New Millennium…

Posted By Ron Burr On Jun 7 2010 @ 4:21 pm In Baltimore Orioles | No Comments

While going out to get lunch today I had 105.7 The Fan [1], specifically the Bruce Cunningham Show [2].  Mark Zinno was talking about the Orioles and their recent draft picks, specifically the last 10 (since they had 2 1st round picks in 2001 it only goes back 9 years).  Here is the list…

  • 2009 – Matt Hobgood – RHP – Norco HS
  • 2008 – Brian Matusz – LHP – Univ. of San Diego
  • 2007 – Matt Wieters – C – Georgia Tech
  • 2006 – William Rowell – 3B – Bishop Eustace Prep HS
  • 2005 – Brandon Snyder – C – Westfield HS
  • 2004 – Wade Townsend – Rice University
  • 2003 – Nick Markakis – LHP – Young Harris JC
  • 2002 – Adam Loewen – LHP – Surrey, BC (Canadian HS)
  • 2001 – Mike Fontenot – 2B – Louisiana State Univ.
  • 2001 – Chris Smith – LHP – Cumberland Univ.

And there you have a major reason why this team is currently floundering, further back in the loss column then they have total wins (16 wins, 21 GB).  That is no easy feat to accomplish.

By the way, Markakis WAS drafted as a pitcher, officially.  Kind of like how many teams were looking at Cal Ripken Jr. as a pitcher more than a 3B, but the Orioles took him to play in the field, many teams looked at Markakis as a pitcher, but the Orioles didn’t.  This is probably one of the reasons why he didn’t sign with the Cincinnati Reds when they drafted him in 2001 and again in 2002.

Zinno’s reason for bringing this up is tonight’s draft, and the fact that almost everybody has us picking either SS Manny Machado or RHP Jameson Taillon (better known as “whichever one the Pirates don’t take w/the 2nd pick, although there are some rumors that the Pirates might not take either of them, giving the O’s their choice).  Zinno’s problem is that they are both HS players, and the Orioles have not had good success in recent years when drafting HS players in the 1st round.  There is some logic to that, since the last 3 college players picked that signed w/the team (Matusz, Wieters, and Markakis) are already in the majors, and doing fairly well if not better (Townsend didn’t sign and went back into the draft, was picked by the Tampa Bay Rays the following year, fought through some injuries, was released by the Rays and signed to a minor league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays, where he is floating around their farm system.  It is a classic case of “money well NOT spent for the Orioles), while the last high school players picked before Hobgood (you can’t judge a HS player after less than half of a season in pro ball as a failure because he isn’t in the majors) are William (Billy) Rowell and Brandon Snyder.  Snyder has already had a position switch (from C to 1B) and is currently hitting under .240 at AAA Norfolk, and Rowell is still at A Fredrick.

So Zinno has a valid point.  But there is one major difference, and that is who on the team is running the draft.  Andy MacPhail’s first draft for the Orioles was 2008.  Wieters was drafted before MacPhail came in.  Of course, he was the one who negotiated his original contract, and since Wieters was the first Scott Boras client that the team had drafted in a long time (possibly ever) I have always held the notion that MacPhail was instrumental in Wieters being picked, making Angelos show his commitment to putting real money into the farm system a contingency on his taking the job.  Since MacPhail took over, the team has focused on “best player available” (sound familiar, Baltimore sports fans?), and drafting possible signability issue players in later rounds (willing to give out the bigger bonuses but not wasting a high pick on them if they don’t sign).  And in all fairness, while the current Orioles farm system is not exactly producing bumper crops of talent, it no longer looks like salted and scorched earth.  And it will take time to get this system to a Minnesota Twins / Oakland Athletics / Tampa Bay Rays level of talent, if they can ever get to that level (it isn’t a given, no matter how many times you have a top pick – see Pirates, Pittsburgh).

If there was a college player with the same skill set and upside as Machado or Taillon, I would think that the Orioles would jump at the chance to draft him and add someone who would be that much closer to  being major league ready.  I just don’t think there is anyone at that level, and I would rather the Orioles emulate the Ravens draft strategy than the Buffalo Bills.

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[1] 105.7 The Fan: http://1057thefan.cbslocal.com/

[2] Bruce Cunningham Show: http://1057thefan.cbslocal.com/shows/bruce-cunningham/

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