Orioles likely to take a pitcher with 19th pick in today's draft

June 03, 1993|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

If the basketball and football drafts are the filet mignon of the player selection field, then today's baseball amateur draft must be the flank steak.

There will be no 6 1/2 -hour televised extravaganza on ESPN, no smiling commissioner enthusiastically pumping the hand of the draftee, and there certainly won't be any talk of lotteries and pingpong balls today when baseball's 28 teams select from the pool of high school seniors, junior-college players or college juniors and seniors.

In its own way, though, the baseball draft does what its basketball and football cousins do, but with a lot less fanfare.

And in recent years, the draft has done quite well for the Orioles, who have taken pitching mainstays Gregg Olson, Ben McDonald and Mike Mussina as well as outfielders Mark Smith and Jeffrey Hammonds, both in Triple-A, with their past five first-round selections.

"The Orioles have been very fortunate recently that the first round in the selection process has produced players that have made an impact fairly immediately," said Gary Nickels, the team's director of scouting.

In four of the past five years, the Orioles' first pick was among the first 10, and McDonald was the first player chosen in the 1989 draft.

This year the Orioles will select 19th in the first round, which would indicate that the top prizes will be long gone.

The Seattle Mariners, picking first, are expected to take Alex Rodriguez, 17, a shortstop from Miami.

But Nickels is convinced that there will be sufficient talent available when the Orioles make their choice.

The Orioles seem primed to take a pitcher, given that Nickels said there's a "dearth" of college position players available in the draft and their last two selections, Smith and Hammonds, are position players.

In fact, eight of the 10 players ranked from 16 to 25 by Baseball America in its survey of the top 100 draft prospects are pitchers.

The leaders in that group are Daron Kirkreit, a 6-foot-6, 225-pound right-hander from Cal-Riverside, and left-hander Scott Christman, a 6-3, 190-pounder from Oregon State.

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