West Coast trip pays off with 2 O's draft picks They saw P Falkenborg, OF Hooper last week

June 05, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

The Orioles' five-game road trip through Seattle and Anaheim last week resulted in just two wins and few memorable moments other than Cal Ripken's offensive awakening.

In a few years though, those seven days might be looked upon fondly by Orioles fans and management alike.

The Orioles used the West Coast swing to evaluate three amateur players, then used their first two picks in yesterday's free-agent draft on two of them.

High school pitcher Brian Falkenborg was selected in the second round (51st overall) and outfielder Darren Hooper was taken in the third round (81st overall). The signing of Roberto Alomar left the Orioles without a first-round pick. The draft continues from noon until 6 p.m. today.

Orioles general manager Pat Gillick watched Falkenborg, who throws hard and stands 6 feet 6, pitch in an American Legion game near Seattle. Hooper worked out for Orioles scouts in Arizona, then Gillick observed him at a Southern California workout Saturday.

"I'm glad the Orioles took me," Falkenborg said. "That's where I saw myself getting drafted. It's kind of hard to believe it happened to me. I'm going to be playing baseball for money. I'm willing to do whatever they tell me. It should be a lot of fun."

Falkenborg, 18, will be assigned to the Orioles' Rookie-level Gulf Coast League team, where he'll have plenty of time to develop. The potential is there: The right-hander went 6-2 with a 0.75 ERA and struck out 75 in 56 innings.

"He has a scholarship to Oklahoma State, but we had a good meeting with the father and the mother," director of scouting Gary Nickels said. "Pat got to meet them last week. We feel confident we're going to get him signed in pretty short order."

Falkenborg is dwarfed by the Orioles' fourth-round pick, 6-8 right-hander Mark Seaver. Seaver's ERA at Wake Forest ballooned from 3.26 in 1995, his freshman year, to 5.97 this past season, but he can be overpowering, striking out 109 in 104 innings.

"He's inconsistent at times, as big kids are," Nickels said. "He had his ups and downs this year. He was at the Olympic Trials in Homestead [Fla.] last fall and he threw good there. We've followed him a good bit."

Hooper spent his freshman year as a fullback for the University of Arizona, but did not take the diamond for the Wildcats. He has not played organized baseball since last summer, after being drafted in the 14th round but not signing with the California Angels.

"I've matured a lot since then," Hooper said. "I've gotten a lot stronger by playing football. I realized how much I loved baseball by not playing it for a year. I really miss baseball. I'm ready to go."

Nickels likes Hooper's size and strength (6 feet 1, 230 pounds) and projects him to start his career at Single-A Bluefield.

"He has the potential to have a real big-league bat," Nickels said. "We think he'll have power."

Overall, the Orioles managed to add some depth with position players in a pitching-heavy draft. The Orioles selected seven position players with their first 18 picks, including Tim DeCinces, son of former Oriole Doug.

"The position players went very quickly," Nickels said. "I would hope negotiations go very quickly. Hopefully, by the end of the month we'll have most of them wrapped up."

O's draft picks

Round 2: Brian Falkenborg; pick 1; selection 51; RHP; Redmond, Wash.; Washington High School. Round 3: Darren Hooper; 2; 81; LF; Tucson, Ariz.; U. of Arizona. Round 4: Mark Seaver; 3; 111; RHP; Winston-Salem, N.C.; Wake Forest. Round 5: Francisco Figueroa; 4; 14; 1B; Miramar, Fla.; Florida Bible High. Round 6: Joshua McNatt; 5; 171; LHP; Tullahoma, Tenn.; Motlow State CC. Round 7: Brent Schoening; 6; 201; RHP; Columbus, Ga.; Columbus High. Round 8: Chad Paronto; 7; 231; RHP; Amherst, Mass.; UMass. Round 9: Luis Ramirez; 8; 261; RF; Arroyo, Puerto Rico; Arroyo Astros. Round 10: Luis Matos; 9; 291; CF; Toa Boja, Puerto Rico; Toa Boja Dodgers. Round 11: Bruce Stanley; 10; 321; RHP; Muncie, Ind.; Ball State. Round 12: Simieon Theodile; 11; 351; RHP; Lafayette, La.; Acadiana High. Round 13: Octavia Ojeda; 12; 381; SS; Knoxville, Tenn.; U. of Tenn. Round 14: Ryan Kohlmeier; 13; 411; RHP; El Dorado, Kan.; Butler County CC. Round 15: Joshua Towers; 14; 441; RHP; Oxnard, Calif.; Oxnard JC. Round 16: Joshua Morris; 15; 471; SS; Tullahoma, Tenn.; Motlow State CC. Round 17: Tim DeCinces; 16; 501; C; Los Angeles; UCLA. Round 18: Andrew Cheek; 17; 531; LHP; West Jefferson, N.C.; Beaver Creek High. Round 19: Gabriel Crecion; 18; 561; RHP; West Hills, Calif.; Chaminade College Prep.

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Falkenborg file

Facts and figures on Brian Falkenborg, the Orioles' top pick in the amateur draft:

Draft position: Second round, 51st overall

Throws: Right

Height: 6 feet 6

Weight: 187 pounds

Hometown: Redmond, Wash.

The skinny: Falkenborg throws hard and impressed the Orioles' brass last week in Seattle. He went 6-2 for Redmond High School, allowing 11 walks and 29 hits in 56 innings. He struck out 75.

Pub Date: 6/05/96

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