With the publication of John Sickels' top 20 Orioles prospects for 2014 list, a couple things stood out to me: first, that the overwhelming number of the team's prospects have been acquired in the past two drafts, since Dan Duquette and Gary Rajsich took over for Andy MacPhail and Joe Jordan - 13 of 21. The second thing I noticed was that with the emergence of Michael Ohlman and Tim Berry as quality prospects, the much maligned 2009 Orioles' draft was finally showing some dividends.
This made me think that perhaps the time has come when we can look back at the MacPhail/Jordan drafts with the quality of knowing more about how things have turned out. For all the credit that Duquette has received for turning around what had been a perennial losing franchise, nearly all of the major league talent that Duquette has had to work with came from players acquired by MacPhail and Jordan. In hindsight, how do their draft classes look?
The 2007 draft class was selected before MacPhail was hired, but he was brought on board and had a role in signing the draftees. Matt Wieters was clearly the headliner. The Orioles had no second or third round pick due to free agent compensation. The only other player from this draft class to receive either significant attention as a prospect or significant time in the majors was fifth round pick Jake Arrieta, who left the Orioles last season in the Scott Feldman trade. Among the players who MacPhail failed to sign from this class were 24th round pick Dan Klein, who would be redrafted by the Orioles out of college in the second round, and 41st rounder Russell Wilson, who I hear will be doing something on television this Sunday.
The 2008 draft class, the first which MacPhail was in place to run, was headlined by Brian Matusz. Second rounder Xavier Avery and third round pick L.J. Hoes both went on to multiple listings among the Orioles' top 20 prospects but never made an appearance on a top 100 prospects list. Both were traded during the 2013 season. 7th round selection Caleb Joseph, 8th rounder Bobby Bundy, and 43rd round pick Oliver Drake each have appeared on lists of the Orioles' top prospects but have lost their shine. Joseph, Bundy, Drake and 21st round pick Eddie Gamboa are all still in the organization and it is possible they could see the majors at some point, though none project to be better than replacement level. Notable unsigned players from this class include 10th rounder Chris Herrmann, who made an appearance on the Twins top 20 prospect list but never was ranked league-wide, and who made the majors last season but played dismally. 32nd round pick Brandon Loy was selected in the fifth round by the Tigers out of college and did well in rookie ball, leading to his placement on the Tigers top 20 prospects list but followed that up with a dismal 2013 in A ball and is unlikely to be listed this year.
The 2009 draft class is remembered primarily for the disaster of the Matt Hobgood selection, exacerbated by the excellence of the higher ranked prep righties who the Orioles passed on to select him, including Shelby Miller, Zach Wheeler and Jacob Turner. 2nd rounder Mychal Givens made a couple top 20 Orioles' prospects lists, but based on pedigree rather than play due to injuries and has since been converted to a pitcher with middling results. Third rounder Tyler Townsend also made the O's top 20 a couple times before injuries drove him to retire. The disasters at the top of this draft class now appear somewhat lessened by the emergence of 11th rounder Ohlman and 50th rounder Berry. The one significant unsigned draftee from this class is 33rd round pick Tyler Naquin, who went on to be a first round selection of the Indians in 2012.
The 2010 draft class was headlined by Manny Machado, who makes Orioles' fans everywhere smile. The Orioles again lacked a 2nd round pick due to free agent compensation. 3rd rounder Dan Klein made the O's top 20, but was quickly undone by injuries and is out of baseball. 4th rounder Trent Mummey showed promise but likewise seems to have been undone by injuries. 9th rounder Parker Bridwell is currently the Orioles' 11th best prospect, according to Sickels. 18th rounder Sebastian Vader is not among the O's top 20, but is still an interesting prospect in the system whose chances of being one in the future are respectable. The notable unsigned player from this class was 11th rounder Alex Gonzalez, who was selected in the first round of the 2013 draft by the Rangers, one pick after the Orioles selected Hunter Harvey.
The 2011 draft class was the final class of the MacPhail/Jordan era. First round pick Dylan Bundy, despite Tommy John surgery, is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. Second round pick Jason Esposito made the Orioles' top 20 of his college pedigree but has shown neither the offense or defense in the pros that he did in college. Third round pick Mike Wright is ranked by Sickels as the Orioles' #8 prospect. Fourth round pick Kyle Simon appeared at the back end of the top 20 before being dealt to Philadelphia. Sixth round pick Nick Delmonico made the list each year before being dealt to the Brewers in 2013. 10th round pick Tyler Wilson ranks 19th on Sickels' current list. 26th round pick Zach Davies ranks 12th on the current list. While some of the unsigned prep draftees from this class could still emerge as college juniors in 2014, to date the most significant unsigned player from the class is 30th round pick Mikey Reynolds, who was selected in the fifth round by the Braves in the 2013 draft.
Looked at this way, several trends appear to emerge. During the MacPhail/Jordan era, the Orioles never picked later than fifth overall, and never picked higher than third overall. With the glaring exception of the Hobgood pick, they did very well in the first round, with each player becoming a top 20 prospect in all of baseball, with All Stars in Wieters and Machado. They did quite poorly in the other early rounds, selecting quite a few players who never justified their draft position and many of those who did were undone by injuries. However, over the course of their tenure, the Orioles found increasing amounts of talent in the later rounds, and the appearance of seven 2013 draftees in the current team's top 21 can be seen as an extension of that trend. Indeed, while it has been mentioned that the Orioles have at times had fewer scouts than many other teams (including by me), there seems to be a trend towards better amateur scouting by the Orioles that was well underway by the end of the MacPhail/Jordan era.