O's get their men in draft

`Unique opportunity' seized, GM Wren says of top 7 selections

June 03, 1999|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

With an unprecedented seven choices among the top 50, the Orioles gleaned a mixture of talent from the 1999 summer draft of amateur baseball players yesterday.

They selected four collegians and three high school players -- four pitchers, two outfielders and a shortstop -- and expressed satisfaction that they had gotten the ones they desired.

Of the seven, only the draft's 13th pick and the Orioles' first, Clemson right-hander Mike Paradis, appears on the verge of supplying help to the major-league club in the near future.

"We were looking for baseball players, guys who couldn't do without the game," said Orioles scouting director Tony DeMacio. "We felt like we got guys run down the middle of the diamond who could help us."

"It was a very unique opportunity," said general manager Frank Wren. "If we had scripted how it turned out, we wouldn't have scripted it any better."

Paradis -- drafted three years ago by the Oakland Athletics -- was en route to College Station, Texas, for Clemson's appearance in the NCAA Division I tournament super-regional playoffs and was unavailable to comment. The junior from Auburn, Mass., is 6-1 with 84 strikeouts in 85 1/3 innings for the Tigers.

"He's a power pitcher with a sinker that fits Camden Yards," Wren said of Paradis, who broke No. 1-ranked Florida State's 21-game winning streak this season.

With the No. 18 overall pick, the Orioles took Richard Stahl, a rather unpolished 6-foot-7 left-hander who has a loose, quick arm, a fastball in the 90s and the potential to be like his idol, Randy Johnson.

Stahl has signed to attend Georgia Tech, but said he is "ready to get out there and go after it," professionally. "I'm thrilled. I really didn't know who was going to get me, but the Orioles were one who expressed interest. If this doesn't work out for one reason or another, there is Georgia Tech."

He pitched for Newton High School in Covington, Ga., going 11-0 with a 2.40 ERA and 146 strikeouts in 79 innings.

At No. 21, the Orioles opted for their first position player, outfielder Larry Bigbie of Ball State, a tall, rangy left-handed hitter who may project as a future center fielder.

Bigbie, from Hobart, Ind., batted .419 with 17 homers, 54 RBIs and 21 steals.

"I've got extensive experience at both the corners," he said. "But there has been a lot of talk about me in center field. I don't think playing out there would be a problem. I'm definitely ready to go; I've been looking forward to this all my life."

Bigbie said his idol is Paul O'Neill of the New York Yankees for "the way he plays the game," but added he didn't think his own personality was quite as volatile as O'Neill's.

At No. 23, the selection was Providence outfielder Keith Reed, who runs 6.6 seconds in the 60-yard dash and has made immense strides in his junior season.

"His bat speed and athleticism made him a very interesting player for us," said Wren. Reed had 17 homers and a school record 79 RBIs for a school that is discontinuing baseball, making it more likely that he will be signed.

He was rated as the best college athlete in the draft by Baseball America, the second-best base runner and third in arm strength.

Baseball America rated pitchers Stahl 14th and Paradis 17th among the available prospects and position players Reed and Bigbie eighth and 37th, respectively.

"I think we needed to get position players early in the draft because it wasn't a deep draft there," Wren said. "If we had waited, we probably wouldn't have gotten guys who would make a major impact."

With their sandwich picks after the first round, the Orioles dipped into the deep pool of high school left-handers and selected Josh Cenate, from Jefferson (W.Va.) High, near Charles Town, and Scott Rice, from Simi Valley, Calif.

Cenate was 13-1 with an 0.71 ERA for Jefferson and struck out a whopping 179 batters in 89 innings. Rice went 6-2 with 72 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings.

The third sandwich pick was shortstop Brian Roberts, from the University of South Carolina. Roberts, the son of former North Carolina coach Mike Roberts, batted .363 for the Gamecocks and led the NCAA with 67 steals.

In the third round (104th pick overall), the choice was another Ball State player, catcher Jonathan Kessick, considered a strong defender and a .337 hitter.

"We're hoping that Paradis can move fairly quickly," DeMacio said of the pitchers taken. "The left-handers are going to take a little time. There wasn't a lot of college pitching and position players are hard to find, so we went for high school lefties."

Wren said: "To get seven of the first 50 can put you way ahead in the organization. A good organization has more than two or three top players at every level; now we have a chance to have two more and that gives you more depth. We wanted players who would mix in more quickly.

"More strategy is involved when you're picking players this close together. Three of our top four were on our wish list and the only reason the other wasn't was we felt he'd be gone."

Six of the Orioles' top seven selections were compensation picks for the loss of Type A free agents Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar and Eric Davis.

In the 17th round, the Orioles selected South Carroll High right-hander Jason Tourangeau. The 6-4, 215-pound Tourangeau was 5-1 with five saves this season, helping the No. 2 Cavaliers win the 3A state championship.

Also in the 17th round, the Chicago White Sox picked Ryan Childs from Damascus. The right-hander, who has a scholarship to Clemson, was 3-0 this season. He and Tourangeau play for the Maryland Orioles.

Pub Date: 6/03/99

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