O's could aid expansion pitch for youth O'Donoghue, Yaughn may go in hectic day

November 17, 1992|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

Both of the new National League franchises, the Colorado Rockies and the Florida Marlins, are expected to take youth over experience in today's expansion draft.

With that in mind, the players from the Orioles' organization who appear to be most vulnerable are minor-league pitching prospects John O'Donoghue, Kip Yaughn and Mike Oquist. Of those who were in the big leagues last year, catcher Jeff Tackett and left-handed reliever Jim Poole appear the most susceptible.

First basemen Glenn Davis and Randy Milligan, second basemen Bill Ripken and Mark McLemore, starter Bob Milacki and reliever Mark Williamson are the biggest names the Orioles have left exposed.

However, all except Davis are eligible for arbitration and close to free-agent status -- two factors expected to deter the Rockies and Marlins.

Davis has one year, at more than $3 million, left on his contract and is believed to be a low risk. Milligan made $1,050,000, Williamson $900,000, and Ripken $685,000 in 1992 and their salaries cannot, by baseball law, be cut more than 20 percent unless they are granted free agency. McLemore made $250,000 last year, but that figure most likely would at least double in arbitration. Because of his salary ($1,150,000), Milacki would be a questionable gamble.

Colorado and Florida have expressed a desire to build through their farm systems, and are said to be geared for a first-year payroll in the vicinity of $12 million. That would indicate neither will gamble on any of the high-priced players available -- unless they have pre-arranged trades.

The possibility of some fast-paced wheeling and dealing as soon as the expansion draft concludes tonight has added much intrigue to the proceedings, which will be televised to conclusion by ESPN, beginning at 2 p.m. and running as late as 9 p.m.

Marlins general manager Dave Dombrowski said yesterday that he already had two trades set to announce after the draft, and that he was continuing "serious trade talks" with 17 other general managers.

Rockies general manager Bob Gebhard said he also had some deals set, although he did not say how many. He said he hoped to have "eight to 10" trades in place before the draft begins.

No trades can be announced until after the three-round draft.

The Rockies kicked off the dealing by signing free-agent first baseman Andres Galarraga yesterday. Galarraga, 31, batted .243 with 10 home runs and 39 RBI in 95 games for St. Louis.

"Observing him last year with the Cardinals, I know he's a good hitter and he stabilizes first base for us right away," said Rockies manager Don Baylor.

Colorado won last week's coin toss, and will pick first in the opening round. The Rockies are expected to pick Atlanta pitcher David Nied, 23, who was 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA for Atlanta this season.

4 Nied's agent, Steve Pierce, said he wasn't sure.

"I've heard so much speculation," Pierce said. "I think there's going to be the biggest mass movement in the history of baseball."

The Marlins are expected to make Toronto outfield prospect Nigel Wilson the second pick of the draft.

The 26 existing teams protected only 33 catchers -- four by Toronto -- and that position is certain to gain a lot of attention by the new clubs. Tackett, an excellent defensive performer, is 27, has a strong minor-league background and has five more years before he is eligible to be a free agent.

But it is O'Donoghue who has stirred the most intrigue lately. Since signing as an undrafted player out of Louisiana State in 1990, the left-hander has moved rapidly through the Orioles' system. Despite his size (6 feet 6) he does not throw hard, but has a very good curve and changeup.

After going a combined 12-8 at Double-A Hagerstown and Triple-A Rochester this past season, O'Donoghue, 23, has been impressive in the Arizona Fall League. His performance there, where 25 players were among those protected from the expansion draft, makes O'Donoghue a good possibility to be the first player taken from the Orioles.

Yaughn, a right-hander, could be the sleeper among the players eligible to be selected from the Orioles. An elbow spur shut him down last year, when he was 7-8 with a 3.48 ERA at Hagerstown. But he, like O'Donoghue, is only 23, has averaged close to a strikeout per inning (308 in 339 innings) and all three of his minor-league options are still available.

Oquist, who was impressive last spring in the Orioles' training camp, could be of special interest to the Rockies because he is a native of Colorado.

Poole missed most of last year because of a shoulder injury, but pitched well for the Orioles in 1991 and in six brief appearances at the end of last season. He is 26 and has less than two years of major-league service.

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