Drafting 14th, O's to wait and hope

Today's scenario unclear since Marlins may opt to save money on No. 1


June 05, 2000|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The only consensus among scouts concerning today's amateur baseball draft is there's no consensus.

Absolutely none.

No sure-fire No. 1 pick. No obvious pattern leading to the 14th selection, which belongs to the Orioles. No way of knowing how the proceedings will unfold. It's mostly guesswork at this point.

And scouting director Tony DeMacio thought he had a challenge last season, when he held seven of the first 50 picks.

"I've talked to other scouting directors," he said. "We're choosing 14th, so we're pretty much right in the middle, and we've got guys in front of us, about five or six, who still don't know what they're going to do. That makes it more difficult for us to get a feel for what might be available to us. We don't have any idea right now."

The latest issue of Baseball America projects the Orioles taking Kissimmee, Fla., left-hander Joe Torres, who went 4-4 with a 0.38 ERA in 11 games at Gateway High School, including 22 walks, 128 strikeouts and only 13 hits allowed in 55 innings.

But the publication also mentioned the Chicago Cubs, with the third pick, as being a possibility for Torres, whose breaking ball is rated the best among high school pitchers. That's how inexact this science has become this year.

"He's a consideration if he's there. We don't know if he's going to be there," DeMacio said.

"We're going to try to take the best possible available player. If it's a pitcher, we'll take a pitcher. If it's a player, we'll take a player."

The Florida Marlins possess the first choice, one season after landing high school pitcher Josh Beckett and giving him a $7 million major-league contract.

This set a damaging precedent for the organization, which most likely will pass on right-hander Matt Harrington of Palmdale (Calif.) High School - the draft's top talent - because the Marlins aren't willing to spend so freely again.

Harrington, 10-0 with an 0.59 ERA in 59 innings, could be taken No. 2 by the Minnesota Twins after the Marlins select either catcher Scott Heard of Rancho Bernardo (Calif.) High or first baseman Adrian Gonzalez of Eastlake (Calif.) High. The Cubs, willing to take the best player on the board and not worry about cost, likely will jump at Harrington if he slips to No. 3.

Besides Torres, other possibilities for the Orioles include two more high school left-handers, Mike Stodolka of Corona, Calif., and Sean Burnett of Wellington, Fla. Among the position players that intrigue them is University of North Carolina outfielder Tyrell Godwin, a left-handed hitter who batted .363 with 10 homers, 62 RBIs and 24 stolen bases this past season.

Godwin was drafted in the first round by the New York Yankees in 1997 but turned down a $2 million bonus and didn't sign. He's rated as the fastest college base runner and the best athlete. If he's taken within the first 30 picks today, he'll become the first player since Charles Johnson and Calvin Murray to be drafted in the first round out of high school and college.

DeMacio laments a draft that's not nearly as deep as last season, when the Orioles hit the jackpot in the first and supplemental rounds.

Besides the 14th pick, they also have the 32nd as compensation for losing reliever Arthur Rhodes as a free agent. They've got the 84th and 86th selections in the third round, but none in the second after signing free-agent reliever Mike Trombley.

"This draft is wide-open," DeMacio said. "We don't feel the overall talent pool is as good. And it's been difficult because nobody has separated themselves.

"We're just hammering out guys. We've been in meetings here for four days and we've got a lot of mixed opinions."

At least everyone can agree on one point: Nobody is sure how this draft will unfold.

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