O's pick power-hitting outfielder Elder 26th overall selection had 27 high school HRs

June 03, 1998|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

He is raw, unpolished and can hit the ball a mile.

The Orioles were delighted to land left-handed-hitting outfielder Rick Elder of Marietta, Ga., with the 26th selection of baseball's amateur draft yesterday.

"He's very physical, a prototypal American League player," said assistant general manager Kevin Malone. "He's probably going to break some windows in the warehouse."

With the overall No. 1 pick, the Philadelphia Phillies selected Miami third baseman Pat Burrell. J. D. Drew, the Phillies' first-round draft pick last year, who never signed and returned to the draft, was taken by the St. Louis Cardinals with the No. 5 pick.

Elder, a 6-foot-6, 225-pounder, hit 27 career home runs at Sprayberry High School and batted .516 as a senior. He was rated the third-best high school power hitter in the draft by Baseball America.

With their sandwich pick as compensation for losing Randy Myers to Toronto, the Orioles drafted outfielder Mamon Tucker from Austin, Texas, No. 39 overall. He batted .510 with a 1.010 slugging percentage for Stephen F. Austin High. He also catches.

At No. 51, a second-rounder also as compensation for Myers, they went for 6-foot-7, 210-pound right-hander Ben Knapp of Oviedo (Fla.) High.

With their own second-round pick, the Orioles chose Alex Hart, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound right-hander from nearby Marion, Pa. He was 7-0 with a 1.16 ERA for Chambersburg Area High.

Tim Raines Jr., an 18-year-old outfielder from Heathrow, Fla., was taken by the Orioles in the sixth round.

"It's exciting to see him drafted," said the older Raines. "It's the first step in what will hopefully become even bigger things."

"It is a dream come true, to become a Baltimore Oriole," said Elder, sounding as if he were ready to grab a pen and sign. "I want to get started as soon as possible."

Scouting director Gary Nickels is confident of a signing, although Elder has signed to play collegiately at Georgia Southern.

"He's one of four or five guys we had targeted for when we picked," said Nickels. "We're tickled to get him where we did. We had heard some rumors about other clubs ahead of us wanting him.

"I feel confident we can sign him."

Regarded as somewhat of an all-or-nothing gamble, Elder is compared with Atlanta's Ryan Klesko and projected eventually as a left fielder and/or first baseman.

Overall No. 1 pick Burrell, 21, had a .432 average, 17 homers and 47 RBIs in 118 at-bats this season.

Drew, seeking a $10 million contract, turned down a deal from the Phillies that would have guaranteed him $3 million and given him a chance to earn $3 million more. The former Florida State outfielder played in the independent Northern League last season rather than sign.

"Sometimes, you've got to step up and take a risk," Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said. "We're going to give it our best shot." (Draft list, 4D)

Pub Date: 6/03/98

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