Orioles can still find value with later picks in amateur draft

Team should exercise the best-player-available approach

  • Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette may not get a sure thing like in recent years, but that doesn't mean the Orioles won't find talented players in this year's draft.
Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette may not get a sure thing like… (Greg Fiume, Getty Images )
June 05, 2013|Peter Schmuck

Depending on whether you're a glass-half-full kind of person or a negative nellie, it's possible to look at the Orioles position in this year's amatuer draft as a blessing or a curse.

The Orioles are not picking in the top five for a change, which is both, considering it means they are now blessed with a good team that has accomplished something for the first time in forever and it also means that they are way down in the pecking order (or is that picking order) in this year's relatively soft draft.

News alert: The really good teams pick late in the draft every June and they still seem to remain competitive year after year, and I'm not just talking about the megabucks Yankees, though they are actually a pretty good example in spite of their profligate spending. They have dumped billions over the years on high-priced players, but they also have developed some terrific players while drafting in the bottom 10 just about every year.

There are better examples, however, like the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Angels. They have created solid draft strategies that aren't always position-specific. They pick players based on both need and talent, and they have been very successful doing that over a lengthy period of success.

There's no reason the Orioles can't do the same, considering they now seem to have a front office willing to play the player development and acquisition game on a lot of intelligent levels.

That's why it may be fun to speculate on what kind of player they should gamble on with their first pick Thursday night, as it is a gamble no matter how highly touted a young player may be, but it kind of misses the point.

If there is a high school catcher out there that is the best athlete available, then the Orioles have every reason to deepen themselves at that position, but it isn't necessary. Matt Wieters is going to be the starting catcher for the foreseeable future and, let's be honest, backup catchers aren't exactly difficult to find in a pinch. It's not like the Orioles are likely to move Wieters to first base any time soon.

Sure, it would be nice to have one coming up through the system who is three or four years away just in case, but because there are no sure bets, it probably makes as much sense to take the most promising player regardless of position and develop him in case you need to create a package to acquire a quality catcher if that need arises prematurely.

The Orioles have been criticized for their obsession with early-round pitchers, but there was nothing wrong with that approach. There were plenty of times when there was something wrong with the execution of it, and the Orioles' recent history is littered with promising young arms that turned out to not be so promising, but that was then. We could name a dozen or so of them here, but why ruin breakfast.

Former baseball operations chief Andy MacPhail was a big proponent of the "grow the arms, buy the bats" theory, which fell into disrepair because of some of those busts and because it took MacPhail's program longer than expected to reach fruition. But it was a logical approach under the conditions present when MacPhail took over the club.

There were some bad picks, but MacPhail had a lot to do with stocking the team that currently is so exciting and competitive. He was ripped by frustrated fans for not spending giant dollars on superstar hitters, but he "bought" several of the big bats in the current Orioles lineup. He gave up relatively little in trades that brought in Adam Jones, Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy. Guess everybody just took him too literally on the "buy" part of his approach, but Dan Duquette will be the first to pay tribute to the MacPhail era for his ability to deliver quickly on the a promise to transform the Orioles into a winning team after 14 straight losing seasons.

If the Orioles decided to stockpile another group of young arms, that would be great if they manage to pick the right ones. If they like a catcher or a think they can find the next Manny Machado with that late pick, that makes sense, too.

What the Orioles need to do is go with the basic draft approach that most good teams employ across the spectrum of professional sports: Take the best players available and make them fit into the program.

It's really not that complicated.

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here" at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog and listen when he co-hosts "The Week in Review" at noon Fridays on WBAL (1090 AM) and at wbal.com.

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