O's have plenty of draft options

June 05, 2008|By ROCH KUBATKO

The Orioles hold the fourth pick in today's amateur baseball draft. Here are five players who rate highly on most draft boards:

Tim Beckham, shortstop, Griffin (Ga.) High School: Regarded as the nation's top high school position player in the draft. Often compared to B.J. and Justin Upton, but with more aptitude in the field. A legitimate five-tool talent who could go No. 1 to the Tampa Bay Rays. Also draws high marks for his makeup. Hit .500 in 78 at-bats. If somehow drops to fourth, will be difficult for the Orioles to pass up.

Brian Matusz, left-hander, San Diego: Most likely choice for Orioles if Beckham is gone, and still a possibility if shortstop remains on the board. Was 10-2 with 2.05 ERA in the first 13 games, with 20 walks and 122 strikeouts in 88 innings. Chosen in fourth round by Los Angeles Angels in 2005 but didn't sign. Starred with Team USA last summer. Baseball America profiles him as middle-of-the-rotation starter at worst, with ceiling high enough to be staff ace.

Justin Smoak, first baseman, South Carolina: Switch-hitter with power would fill glaring hole in organization. Started all 63 games as junior, batting .383 with 23 homers and 72 RBIs. Frequently compared to Mount St. Joseph grad Mark Teixeira. Played for Team USA last summer. In draft deep in first basemen, widely regarded as the best.

Pedro Alvarez, third baseman, Vanderbilt: Missed the first half of season with wrist injury but considered top talent in draft. Not expected to fall to fourth, though having Scott Boras as adviser complicates any projections. Had 22 homers and 64 RBIs as Vanderbilt freshman, and named first-team All-American as sophomore after hitting .386 with 18 homers. Has impressive raw power and hitting acumen. Some question whether he can play third base as pro.

Aaron Crow, right-hander, Missouri: If the Orioles go for pitching, they're expected to take Matusz, but Crow is a top-five talent and the best right-hander in draft. Baseball America rates Crow's "fastball package" as best - combining mid-90s velocity that peaks at 98 with outstanding sink and command.

Roch Kubatko

AT A GLANCE

What: Major League Baseball's first-year player draft

When: Today, 2-9 p.m.; Tomorrow, 11:30 a.m. to completion (50 rounds)

Where: Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

TV: ESPN2 will have live coverage of the first round and supplemental first round.

First pick: The Tampa Bay Rays will have the first overall pick, the second straight season they've had the No. 1 selection.

Orioles: They have the fourth overall selection and will pick again at No. 50 in the second round.

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