As the draft approaches in early June (the real draft, not whatever was going on this weekend), we here at Camden Chat have decided to take a stroll through the past few drafts of our favorite team. The Orioles don't have a pick in the 2014 draft until the third round, so there won't be a whole lot for us to preview this year. Instead of draft picks in the first couple of rounds, the Orioles have Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz. Let's consider them the Orioles first two picks this year.
We're going to start our tour down memory lane with the 2009 draft. This draft is the one that will always be remembered for the Orioles taking Matt Hobgood 5th overall. I remember watching this draft on mlb.com (this was before the draft was on MLB Network) and hoping the Orioles would take Zack Wheeler. It's not that I had ever seen him pitch personally or anything. I just liked the clips I had seen of him and the scouting reports seemed promising. Oh well, it didn't happen that way. Instead of going through each of the club's 50 picks, I'm going to talk about the first five and then any others that I think you'll find interesting. That's enough with this intro, let's move on to the draft picks.
Matt Hobgood - Round 1, 5th Overall - Norco HS (Norco, CA) - RHP
Matt Hobgood was a two way player in high school and won the 2008-09 Gatorade National Player or the Year Award. Upon being drafted, he was moved to the mound by the Orioles. After not having much success during his first three seasons as a starter, he tore his rotator cuff prior to the 2012 season and was forced to sit out the season. Upon returning to the mound in 2013, he was shifted to the bullpen where he was able to find a modicum of success posting a 3.71 ERA in the Sally League before being promoted to Frederick.
He began the 2014 season in Frederick showing the best velocity of his pro career sitting 93-96 with a hard slider at 84-85. Those two pitches are probably enough to give him a future in a major league bullpen, which is a pretty major disappointment for a first round pick. Stalling his progress, Hobgood was pulled from his outing on May 8th after showing reduced velocity and complaining of shoulder tightness. We'll see how he recovers from this latest setback, but this was a major miss by the Orioles.
Mychal Givens - Round 2 - H.B. Plant HS (Tampa, FL) - SS
Givens was drafted out of high school as a shortstop. However, after a line of .247/.331/.311 over about 1,000 plate appearances, the decision was made to shift him to the mound heading into 2013. After not making it out of Low A ball as a hitter, Givens has progressed to High A ball in Frederick in his second full season on the mound. After putting up a 4.22 ERA in 2013, he is currently pitching to a 5.40 ERA this season. He is at least missing a few bats in Frederick, putting up an 8.1 K/9 rate.
Givens has a funky low three quarters arm slot from the mound. Stemming from his lack of experience on the mound, he has trouble repeating his delivery which leads to control problems. When I saw him pitch a couple weeks ago, he was incredibly wild while walking a couple guys and uncorking a wild pitch. Givens would have to improve substantially in order to have a career as a reliever in the majors. I wouldn't expect it to happen.
Tyler Townsend - Round 3 - Florida International University (Miami, FL) - 1B
Townsend played for four years in the Orioles minor league system before retiring at the beginning of the 2013 season. He struggled with injuries throughout his minor league career to his hamstring and to his wrist and hip. He was a decent hitter in the minors and even compiled a .941 OPS for the Frederick Keys in 2011. However, as a 23 year old in A ball he was old for his level. As a first baseman, he would've really had to hit to have a major league career. In the end, the injuries took away any real shot he had.
Randy Henry - Round 4 - South Mountain Community College (Phoenix, AZ) - RHP
Henry has been a reliever throughout his minor league career outside of 11 starts he made for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in 2012. His greatest contribution to the Orioles was being part of the haul sent to the Texas Rangers for Taylor Teagarden. If that was valuable or not, I'll let you decide.
He's had some success during his career as a reliever including a 1.07 ERA and .77 WHIP in 2013 for AA Frisco. He doesn't throw incredibly hard, but possesses both a sinker and cutter which he uses to manipulate both sides of the plate. He doesn't throw anything straight and since he's currently in AAA, there's a chance that he carves out a career as a middle reliever for the Rangers.
Ashur Tolliver - Round 5 - Oklahoma City University (Oklahoma City, OK) - LHP
Tolliver is a left handed reliever currently pitching for AA Bowie. He's had a slow trek through the Orioles minor league system and is pitching this season at 26 years old. He possesses a low nineties fastball and a plus change up. After holding lefties to a .452 OPS without an extra base hit in 59 plate appearances last season, it's possible that he still carves out a career as a LOOGY.
Michael Ohlman - Round 11 - Lakewood Ranch HS (Bradenton, FL) - C
The next interesting Orioles draft pick wasn't until the 11th round when they popped Michael Ohlman. Signed to an over slot contract of $995,000, Ohlman's raw power has been his calling card. While he always possessed a strong batting eye at the plate, the power finally started to come to fruition in 2013. He really started to get people excited when he put together a .313/.410/.524 line in AA Bowie last season with 13 home runs.
Once considered extremely raw behind the plate, he has improved behind the plate to the point where he's just below average. While still unlikely, there's a chance that he sticks behind the plate where he could carve out a career as a back up catcher. If he can't stick behind the plate, he'll have to move to 1B or DH where he plays sporadically now. His bat will really have to take another step forward in order to make it work at either spot. We're most likely looking at a role player as an offensive minded backup. Ohlman was added to the Orioles 40 man roster in the offseason.
Potential picks not taken: no one. Aaron Baker did get taken the pick before him.
Brenden Webb - Round 30 - Palomar College (San Marcos, CA) - CF
After hitting .201 in High A Frederick in 2013, Webb has returned to Frederick for the third consecutive season. He signed with the Orioles for an overslot bonus of $250,000 to persuade him away from his college commitment to the University of Southern California. He has hit for a low batting average during his minor league career, putting together a career average of only .229. Thanks to a strong batting eye, he has been able to post a strong on base percentage of .358 over his six minor league seasons.
While he was drafted as a center fielder, he's played much more in the corners in pro ball. He's a solid average defender with a plus throwing arm leading to a right field profile. He's going to need to add some power to his on base skills if he hopes to carve out a career as a reserve outfielder. That's probably his ceiling at this point, though even that is not all that likely considering he's now 24 years old and hasn't made it out of A ball yet.
Potential picks not taken: no one
Michael Flacco - Round 31 - Community College of Baltimore County (Catonsville, MD) - 3B
Joe Flacco's younger brother was never much of a prospect. He was first base only defensively and wasn't a very good hitter. The Baltimore connection to the Ravens quarterback was always an interesting story but it was never likely to work out for him in an Orioles uniform. After the 2012 season, he decided to retire from baseball in order to give football a shot. He was eligible to be taken in the 2014 NFL Draft, but wasn't drafted. He was signed as an un-drafted free agent by the San Diego Chargers. I wish him luck with football.
Potential picks not taken: no one
Tyler Naquin - Round 33 - Klein Collins HS (Spring, TX) - CF (UNSIGNED)
The Orioles weren't able to sign Naquin out of high school but it was reported that he at least considered signing. Even though he didn't sign, this was a really good choice by the Orioles. After college at Texas A&M, he was chosen 15th overall in the 2012 draft by the Cleveland Indians. He profiles as a 4th outfielder but still has a chance to be a second division regular in the majors. That would have been a coup had the Orioles convinced him to sign as a 33rd round draft pick.
Potential picks not taken: no one. Naquin was the best pick of this round.
Tim Berry - Round 50 - San Marcos HS (San Marcos, CA) - LHP
For the Orioles to get a player that's playing baseball still is a plus in the 50th round. To get a player that's a legitimate prospect is a fantastic job by the Orioles scouting department. Berry throws in the low 90's and also has an average change up and curveball. He hasn't had a ton of success in the minors with a career 4.45 ERA. But he's currently striking out 20.7% of batters in AA, so there's still some potential here.
The upside is probably that of a back end starter, but if the command takes a step forward there could be mid-rotation potential. The backup plan is always the bullpen as we've seen the Orioles do frequently with other left handed starting pitching prospects that didn't work out. Either way, he likely has a major league future which is a phenomenal outcome in the 50th round.
Potential picks not taken: no one. Berry was the best pick of this round.
Note: the potential picks listed were limited to players drafted after the Orioles picked in that round of the draft.