Orioles Notebook: Returns from '07 draft picking up

As players develop, they could be O's best class in a decade or more

September 22, 2010|By Dan Connolly and Jeff Zrebiec | The Baltimore Sun

One day before the amateur signing deadline in August 2007, the Orioles' draft of that season looked to be a disaster.

The club had already forfeited its second- and third-round picks to sign relievers Danys Baez and Chad Bradford the previous offseason. And the club's first- and fifth-round selections, Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters and Texas Christian pitcher Jake Arrieta, were unsigned heading into the final day.

But the Orioles gave Wieters a record $6 million bonus and went well above slot to sign Arrieta for $1.1 million. And now, in retrospect, that 2007 draft may be the Orioles' best in a decade or more, given that Wieters and Arrieta are considered future building blocks and several more players from that draft are making noise in the minors.

Joe Mahoney, the Orioles' sixth-rounder in 2007, was named the organization's top hitter for 2010. Seventh-rounder Matt Angle could have received a September call-up if he hadn't injured his hand at the end of Triple-A Norfolk's season.

Fourth-rounder Tim Bascom struggled mightily in his first look at Norfolk this year, but the organization hasn't given up on the possibility of him making the majors. And Brandon Cooney, a 30th-rounder, has become one of the organization's top late-inning relievers in the minors.

The Orioles have a chance to put their five top picks from that draft into the majors, impressive especially considering they had no second- or third-rounder. In comparison, the Orioles' 2006 draft has yielded just one major leaguer, sixth-rounder Jason Berken, though third-rounder Zach Britton is the Orioles' reigning Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

Joe Jordan, the Orioles' director of amateur scouting, said he remembers the 2007 draft for two things in particular.

It was the first time the organization had really gone above slot under Jordan, and because Wieters and Arrieta immediately did well, it fostered the willingness to continue to do that.

"It kind of changed the rules for me in the draft room and the bonus structure. If you look at that, from that point on, we have really increased our draft budget, and those two guys probably played a huge role in that," Jordan said. "In '08 we did a little bit more of it, and '09 we did again and our draft budget has just gotten higher and higher. And those two guys have done very well, and there are more major league players coming out of that draft, and that was probably as significant as anything."

Also, Jordan said the 2007 draft will always stand out for the argument officials had over the seventh-round pick. Some of those in the room wanted Angle, a spark plug center fielder from Ohio State. Others wanted Brandon Waring, a power-hitting corner infielder from Wofford in South Carolina.

"We probably had as heated of a discussion in the seventh round that year as any round [ever]," Jordan said.

Ultimately, Jordan chose Angle because Waring was similar to Mahoney, who the Orioles had selected in the previous round; the Cincinnati Reds grabbed Waring 10 picks later. In retrospect, it didn't matter, since the Orioles received Waring as part of the December 2008 trade with the Reds for Ramon Hernandez. Waring was the Orioles' 2009 Minor League Player of the Year.

Showalter and Pie talk

Orioles manager Buck Showalter had a brief conversation with outfielder Felix Pie following Tuesday's game after the outfielder didn't run an infield pop-up out. The ball, which was dropped by Red Sox second baseman Marco Scutaro, scored Adam Jones all the way from first base to tie the game at 1 in the sixth inning. However, Pie didn't make it past first on the play.

"We talked about it," Showalter said. "Looking back at the tape, I'm not sure he wouldn't have been out at second if he would have gone anyway. You have to keep in mind that Adam was running on the pitch, 3-2. He was pretty much around second base when the ball got up to its apex. But as good as the play was with Jonesy, there's always something that we could have maybe done a little bit better. The biggest thing was I'd like to see if there was a way he could keep from popping it up."

Tillman to start Friday

Struggling right-hander Chris Tillman, who has walked six batters in each of his past two starts, will get the ball Friday for the series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays. Jeremy Guthrie will start Saturday, and the club still hasn't decided on a starter for Sunday's series finale. The three choices are Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen and Rick VandenHurk.

Showalter said the team is juggling numerous factors, including holding certain guys back so they could pitch in the next series against a Rays team that is battling the New York Yankees for the American League East title.

"That's part of it," Showalter said. "I'm keeping an eye on what's going on in [the New York-Tampa series]. We think all of our guys present a competitive situation, but it is something you do look at from a competitive integrity part of it."

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