Boras might hear name called when O's draft 5th

Agent represents several potential picks in today's 1st round

June 07, 2007|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,Sun reporter

No matter which names appear on the Orioles' draft board as they prepare to make today's selections, none is bigger than agent Scott Boras, who represents some of the top-rated prospects in amateur baseball.

That includes Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters, who is believed to sit atop the list of potential picks for the Orioles at No. 5. He'll be given serious consideration if he's available, according to multiple sources, even with Boras in the mix.

ESPN.com's Keith Law projected earlier this week that Wieters could slip to 18th as baseball's version of former Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn because teams fear the money the switch-hitter will command under Boras. Baseball America also has Wieters going 18th to the St. Louis Cardinals despite being "the best position player in the draft."

An Orioles official joked that the dollar figures make him uneasy as well, but Wieters remains a favorite within the front office. The official said he would expect the Washington Nationals to grab Wieters with the sixth pick if the Orioles pass on him.

"The draft is a little harder to predict this year than most, because MLB is determined to keep bonuses down, but most of the top players are looking to exceed MLB recommendations," said Jim Callis, Baseball America executive editor. "If the Orioles aren't worried about price tag, I think they take Wieters. He'd be a nice value for the No. 5 pick, but he's also represented by Boras, so he won't come cheap."

Good luck avoiding Boras, who also represents right-hander Rick Porcello, widely regarded as the top prep pitcher in the draft, high school shortstop-third baseman Mike Moustakas, North Carolina State pitcher Andrew Brackman, high school pitcher Matt Harvey, Tennessee outfielder Julio Borbon and Florida first baseman Matt LaPorta - all potential top 20 selections.

"He's a major factor in this draft," Orioles vice president Jim Duquette said.

As for the cost of signing Wieters, one official said the team still was trying to determine which past selections Boras deems comparable to the catcher. The Orioles hoped to have a better understanding by last night.

Wieters and Canadian right-hander Phillippe Aumont appear to be the top names on the Orioles' board, though they'll also strongly consider Missouri State left-hander Ross Detwiler, who could be taken by the Kansas City Royals with the second pick.

"You can never have enough left-handed pitching," Orioles scouting director Joe Jordan said.

Third baseman Josh Vitters of Cypress (Calif.) High, Most Valuable Player in the Cape Cod Classic, also is expected to be gone when the Orioles pick.

Part of Wieters' appeal is how quickly he could reach the majors, with Law projecting two years. He hits for average and has tremendous power from the left side, and his laser arm behind the plate has drawn comparisons to that of former Oriole Charles Johnson. Wieters also is Georgia Tech's closer, with a mid-90s fastball.

Duquette indicated this week that the Orioles would prefer taking a college player who could join them "in a couple years."

"If everything's equal, we'll take a position player," he said, "but we'll take the best available."

Aumont worked out for the Orioles last week, and his Canadian roots and 6-foot-7 frame bring natural comparisons to Adam Loewen. He's physically imposing, with a fastball that reaches 96 mph and has good sink, but he's also raw and considered more of a project.

"If they're going to take a guy who fits their bonus slot, I think it's either Detwiler or Aumont," Callis said. "Both have live arms and projectable bodies and would be legitimate No. 5 picks."

The closest thing to a certainty appears to be the Tampa Bay Devil Rays selecting Vanderbilt left-hander David Price with the first pick. Though stocked with quality position prospects, the Devil Rays are woefully short on pitching and require immediate help.

"We all need a guy like him," Jordan said.

Tampa Bay, Kansas City, the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates choose before the Orioles.

"Probably right now we've got a couple college players and maybe one high school player, and I think it'll come down to the end. It'll probably depend on who gets to us," Jordan said.

"We really have no idea what will happen after Price. There are three teams ahead of us, and they're all shuffling the same names. ... I think we'll be able to do what we want to do."

Even if it means negotiating with Boras.

"It would be unrealistic to say we're not aware of him," Jordan said, "but we haven't been told we can't do it."

roch.kubatko@baltsun.com

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