« Revisiting Jeffrey Maier: Forgive that swine? | Main | Lackawanna: go there? »

Let the draft roll in

Today the Orioles will gather their best scouts and prepare for what has become known as baseball's annual crapshoot, the First-Year Player Draft. Some quick facts:

  • By virtue of their lousy 74-88 finish last year, the Birds will pick ninth in every round except the second — they lost that pick (53rd overall) to the San Diego Padres for signing free agent Ramón Hernández last winter.
  • As compensation for losing B.J. Ryan to free agency last offseason, the O's received the second pick in the supplemental first round (32nd overall) plus the Toronto Blue Jays' fourteenth pick in the second round (58th overall).
  • The full 2006 draft order is at MLB.com's Draft Central, which will provide real-time updates throughout the draft.
  • MLB Radio will broadcast live Internet audio of the proceedings starting around 12 p.m. Eastern today for rounds 1-18 and Wednesday for rounds 19-50.
  • For the bandwidth-stingy, Baseball America's web site has a summary list of Oriole draftees.

The Birds' new world

The first day of the amateur draft has become perhaps the most crucial day of the year for the Orioles, primarily because of the new economic reality they now face with the Washington Nationals in the region. No longer do the O's have one of the nation's largest audiences for baseball all to themselves. Now they must face the long-term possibility of becoming a mid-market team with a diminished fan base and a concomitant loss of revenue. The last two winters have shown that Baltimore no longer spends as liberally on free agents as it once did, as the club's white-collar leadership has increasingly turned its focus towards scouting and player development. That new focus is personified in Joe Jordan, hired as director of amateur scouting in fall 2004, who had by all accounts a superb first draft in 2005.

Roundup of media coverage

Some articles related to the Orioles and this year's draft:

  • Hoping for draft repeat,” by Jeff Zrebiec in today's Sun, recaps the encouraging early results from last year's top draftees and previews the strategy Baltimore will take this year.

    As the Orioles prepare for this year's draft, which starts today, they will adhere in the early rounds to the same game plan from last year. Regardless of need or position, the club will select the player who it feels has the most ability.

    “Best player available” is always a sensible draft method, but especially so this year because many scouts and analysts have described this June's draft-eligible crop as one of the weakest and thinnest ever. (Scouts and analysts aren't always right, of course, but when they agree so uniformly, they're usually in the ballpark.) Apparently, the pool of position players is particularly shallow.

    Regarding whom the Orioles will select in the first round, Jordan says that if the “right position player is there, you probably have to go try and get it and then get pitching later.” But doesn't that go against the logic of selecting the best player available? Seems to me that if pitching is the strength of the draft, you should aim for that strength if you want to maximize your chances of getting a quality player. But I'm thinking in general terms. Perhaps there may be scenarios in which a position player is indeed the best player available, and so taking him would be the right thing to do.

    Follow-up: A recap of the first day, “Slugging 3rd baseman tops O's draftees,” appeared in Wednesday's paper.

  • In “Tuesday Morning Mock Draft,” editor Jim Callis of Baseball America predicts that Baltimore will take Bill Rowell, a New Jersey prep third baseman, with the ninth pick of the first round. That's if Clayton Kershaw, a high-school left-hander out of Dallas, is no longer on the board. He also suggests three collegians as possibilities: University of Texas outfielder Drew Stubbs and right-handed pitchers Tim Lincecum from the University of Washington and Daniel Bard from the University of North Carolina.

  • Orioles scouts ready for draft day,” a May 31 article by Spencer Fordin of MLB.com, summarizes Baltimore's draft strategy like this: “[The Orioles] pick for best player available early and draft for need late, and they don't value college players more than prep prospects.” The story contains telling quotes from Jordan about the Orioles' draft philosophy:

    He [Jordan] didn't give any indication as to which way he's leaning with his top pick, but said it would be hard to take a defensive stalwart that high. If he does, they'll likely have some offensive potential.

    “Higher in the draft, the bat has to be there. They can be a plus-plus defensive player, but if they don't have the bat, they won't be able to play in today's game,” he said. “The draft dictates when you start drafting for need. Last year, we didn't start thinking about need until the second half of the first day.

    “This year, the draft isn't as deep, so it might be a little earlier.”

    Follow-up: a story about the Orioles' first day of the draft appeared late Tuesday along with a rundown on the team's first pick, Billy Rowell. The Orioles also issued a press release about Rowell and the rest of their first-day picks.

  • The Examiner, a free newspaper printed in tabloid size, recently began distribution in the Baltimore market. “Jordan calls the shots on draft day for the Orioles” and “Pitching likely to dominate draft” are their stories previewing the Orioles' draft. They followed with two reports on the Orioles' top draftees, “From Jersey to Camden?” and “Pitcher beats injury, improves draft status.”

  • Another free tabloid-format newspaper started up this spring: Press Box, a weekly publication covering sports in the Baltimore area. Their Orioles Draft Report appeared on the web site on June 7.

O's: “I'd like to buy a...”

Update (1:30 p.m.): The Birds indeed took Rowell (who goes by both Billy and Bill, and whose last name rhymes with "vowel") with the ninth overall pick. The first high school position player selected, Rowell played shortstop at Bishop Eustace Prep but is projected as a third baseman or outfielder in the pros due to his size (6-5, 215 lbs.) and concerns about his range.

Like Brandon Snyder last year, though, it's Rowell's potent bat that is his best asset. He has what people call "light-tower" power, and since he bats left-handed, he could be launching balls onto Eutaw Street in years to come. Recent articles about Rowell in the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Gloucester County Times describe his power-hitting exploits in mythical fashion. He has frequently been compared to a young Troy Glaus.

But Rowell is also a well-rounded athlete who hit over .500 in his prep career; who has the hands, range, and arm to have played shortstop for a championship-winning high school team; who owns enough speed and instincts to have swiped over twenty bases his senior year; and who has the hitting smarts to take walks and hit the outside pitch to the opposite field when opponents pitch around him.

Rowell sounds like he is mentally well equipped, too. He is a disciplined worker who lifted weights six days a week in preparation for this season. He is highly motivated, having set goals for himself such as winning the state baseball championship (which his team accomplished in 2004, and might again this year), becoming a first-round draft pick (done), and becoming a Hall of Fame player (to be determined). He is extremely confident in his playing abilities. And he is mentally resilient, being able to put previous at-bats behind him and start anew.

Rowell was pleased to be drafted by the Orioles because Baltimore and its farm teams are close to his home; he hails from Sewell, New Jersey, which is a few miles south of Camden and Philadelphia. Although he was offered a scholarship to play for the University of Alabama, he sounds like he wants to begin his pro career as soon as possible.

The rest

In other first-round news, one of the interesting names to be drafted was Evan Longoria, the third baseman from Cal State-Long Beach taken third overall by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Apparently he's not related to Eva (of "Desperate Housewives" fame). I wonder if there was a Terry Hatcher in the draft pool, or for that matter a Marc Cross, a Felix Huffman, or a Nicholas Sheridan.

The O's took Pedro Beato (beh-AH-toh), a hard-throwing right-hander from St. Petersburg Junior College, with their selection in the supplemental first round. Last year the Mets selected him in the 17th round out of high school, but he didn't sign despite garnering recent interest as a draft-and-follow prospect. Callis wrote about him in the May 25th edition of Ask BA.

In the second round, the Orioles went for Ryan Adams (no, not the singer), another high school shortstop who may move to third base in the pros. Three more shortstops followed in the fourth, fifth, and eighth rounds.

As in past years, the last thirty-odd rounds were aimed at stocking the lower-level affiliates and taking draft-and-follow candidates. On Wednesday, Baltimore selected David Cash III in the 40th round out of the University of Florida. He's the son of Dave Cash, the Orioles' now former first-base coach, who earlier Wednesday was reassigned to an as-yet-undetermined coaching slot at one of the organization's minor league affiliates. Two other second-day picks of note: 39th-rounder Neal Davis, the Catonsville High School left-handed pitcher who was the only Marylander selected by the O's in this year's draft; and in the 45th round, Isaiah Stanback, the University of Washington starting quarterback who hasn't played organized baseball since high school. The ultra-athletic Stanback will likely be coveted by the NFL, but if his football options don't pan out, Baltimore will be waiting for him to give baseball another try.

Slicing through the draft

Update (June 8): The final breakdown of the Orioles' 51 picks:

  • Educational attainment:

    • 21 players from four-year colleges
    • 10 from two-year colleges
    • 20 from high schools
  • By position:

    • 22 position players:

      • 7 outfielders
      • 6 catchers
      • 6 shortstops
      • 1 first baseman
      • 1 second baseman
      • 1 third baseman
    • 29 pitchers:

      • 19 right-handed
      • 10 left-handed

So in a nutshell, the Orioles' 2006 draft class is balanced in age, slightly biased towards pitchers and heavily represented by catchers and shortstops, two areas of organizational need. And the number of shortstops could have been one more if Rowell, who played shortstop in high school, had not been listed as a third baseman by the O's.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 6, 2006 11:33 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Revisiting Jeffrey Maier: Forgive that swine?.

The next post in this blog is Lackawanna: go there?.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.33