When draft time rolled around during the 2012 season, it marked the first time in a long time where the excitement of picking high in the draft was not something that Orioles fans needed to cling to because things were so dire for the team on the field. On June 4, the first day of the draft, the Orioles had a 30-24 record and were only one game behind first place in the American League East. On the last day of the draft, the Orioles beat the Red Sox and had a half-game lead in the division. We had no idea how good things were going to get.
This draft was noteworthy for the Orioles as it was the first draft under the charge of Dan Duquette and his scouting director, Gary Rajsich. It was also the first draft under MLB's new bonus pool system and the first draft with only 40 rounds, rather than the 50 rounds that it had been previously.
As a result of their 69-93 record the year before, the Orioles were picking fourth overall in the draft, behind only the Astros, Twins, and Mariners. They would have needed to lose 14 more games than they did in order to have the #1 pick in the draft. Sheesh.
The 2011 Orioles were not a good baseball team and they had no free agents that they might want to keep under the new system. They also did not sign anyone who would cost them a draft pick. They had a bonus pool to spend of $6,826,900.
1st Round, 4th Overall - Kevin Gausman - Louisiana State University - RHP
Before 2014, the last season where Gausman was eligible for prospect lists, he was ranked as high as the #10 prospect in baseball by Baseball Prospectus, who proclaimed that Gausman is "a beast, with a near-elite fastball, a plus-plus changeup, and the makings of a plus slider." Somehow the Orioles have yet to find a way to get that guy into the big league starting rotation, although in fairness, Gausman hasn't exactly been that guy in bullpen action either.
Other than Gausman, players the Orioles were believed to be considering were USF righty Kyle Zimmer (the #5 pick) and high school lefty Max Fried (#7 pick). They ultimately tabbed Gausman for $4.32 million, about $120,000 above the slot value for that pick. Gausman blew through the minors, as you'd expect for a college pitcher who was polished.
At this moment, Gausman is on the disabled list due to right shoulder tendinitis. There was talk that the Orioles might have him in the Norfolk rotation once he's healthy again in order to start building up his innings; Buck Showalter wants Gausman to be able to pitch without an innings limit in 2016. That would be nice. Nicer still if he earned a place in the 2015 rotation somehow, but, one thing at a time.
Other possible picks: Michael Wacha (#19 overall); Lucas Giolito (#17; BP's 2015 #6 prospect); Mark Appel (#8; did not sign, 2013 #1; BP #35)
2nd Round, 65th Overall - Branden Kline - University of Virginia - RHP
The Orioles grabbed a Virginia starting pitcher with one of their picks for the second straight year, following Tyler Wilson in the 10th round in 2011. As a bonus, Kline is from Frederick, so he's been a Maryland local for his whole life. Kline has never quite had the success in the system that Wilson has had. Though Kline hasn't overwhelmed at any one level the Orioles have nonetheless kept bumping him up, a level each year, and now he pitches for Bowie, where he sports a career-best 3.82 ERA through seven starts.
As a pitcher who isn't heavy on the strikeouts, one reason why Kline might be more well-regarded than his stat line suggests is that the team knows that minor league defenses, especially lower in the minors, aren't representative of what he would get at higher levels. In his minor league career he has a GO/AO of nearly 1, so maybe with better players behind him he'd keep looking better.
Kline isn't on anybody's top prospect list for the franchise, but he hasn't flamed out yet, either. He still has time to get into the picture.
Other possible picks: Alex Wood (#85), Paco Rodriguez (#82)
3rd Round, 99th Overall - Adrian Marin - Gulliver Prep (Miami, FL) - SS
After batting only .232/.271/.341 at Frederick last year, the Orioles have him repeating a level for the first time in his career. Things aren't going much better for him at the plate this season. Through 35 games, he's batting only a little better with a .252/.305/.328 slash line. Even for a guy who always had defense as his strength more than his bat, that's going to be a tough sell. This is only High-A pitching. That's a long way away from the big leagues.
Marin is still a young player, having only turned 21 years old back in March. Had he gone to college, he would only be eligible to be drafted this year. It's too early to give up on him, but it's been long enough that on his current trajectory, he doesn't look like he will be a factor for the big league team at any point. Hopefully he can turn things around.
Other possible picks: Three pitchers in this round have gotten cups of coffee but weren't very good. If anyone else is going to develop prospect heat, they haven't really done so yet.
4th Round, 132nd Overall - Christian Walker - University of South Carolina - 1B
With Walker having already gotten a little big league time, he's ahead of the curve for fourth round picks no matter what else he does in his MLB career. It's tough to imagine that the Orioles will spend big on the first base position in the offseason after Chris Davis and Steve Pearce become free agents. That means Walker will likely get every chance to earn himself the job, though he'll probably be up against some standard Duquettian competition.
The big question for Walker as a prospect was whether he would be able to hit for enough power to really profile as a first baseman at the MLB level, which is the only place he can hang defensively. Last season was the first one where that power really started to manifest, as he hit 26 home runs in 139 games between Bowie and Norfolk.
The start to this season has not been quite so glorious. He's only hit one home run in 37 games and is batting .257/.308/.340 for Norfolk. That's not exactly forcing a call-up, but at the same time, BP put him as the #4 prospect in the system before the season for a reason. We likely haven't seen the last of him in an Orioles uniform.
Other possible picks: Drew VerHagen (#154) is the only one with MLB time so far. Brandon Brennan (#141) has an alliterative name that was made for baseball.
5th Round, 162nd Overall - Colin Poche - Marcus HS (Flower Mound, TX) - LHP, UNSIGNED
In last year's version of this article, I wrote the following paragraph about Poche, all of which still applies:
The O's drafted Poche but were unable to pry him loose from a commitment to the University of Arkansas, although on draft night he sent out the standard tweet about officially being an Oriole, and also being #blessed. That's life. He has since branched out from #blessed to #shoplifting, as he and a teammate were arrested in January 2013 for stealing two cases of beer and deli sandwiches from a Walmart. I think that might be what they call makeup issues. Maybe he's nice and got caught doing something dumb. I don't know the guy. I hope it was good beer.
Poche will be draft eligible again this year. It'll be interesting to see when some team decides to grab him.
Other possible picks: Max Muncy (#169) is on the Athletics roster right now; Rob Refsnyder (#187) will probably hit his way onto the Yankees eventually.
Torsten Boss (8th round - to Cleveland for Preston Guilmet in 2014)
Josh Hader (19th round - to Houston for Bud Norris in 2013)
Much like the 2011 draft, the success of it is going to weigh heavily on how the top draft pick, in this case Gausman, ends up performing. If for whatever reason he only ends up being a bullpen arm, that will probably be a disappointing outcome, especially as other players the Orioles might have taken blossom into good or great players. If Gausman ends up being the good or great starter that the prospect-industrial complex foresaw, all will be well.
Unlike the 2011 draft, there is not a lot going on among players from the later rounds. As things stand right now, there's a pretty good chance Gausman and Walker are all the big leaguers they'll get out of this draft. Norris was a year-long part of a division-winning Orioles team and pitched well in a postseason series-clinching game, so that's another asset they got in part because of the 2012 draft.
Check back tomorrow for a look at the 2013 draft, the first one in a long time where the Orioles were not picking near the top of every round.