For a while in the dark days of the Orioles, the draft was an annual excuse to imagine a better future for a couple of days at least. By virtue of being bad every year, they picked high up in the draft every year.
The 2012 draft was the first time that this escapism was not needed. The Orioles were six games over .500 at 30-24 and they were only a game out of first place in the division when the draft began. Dreams of a bright future are no substitute for a sunny present day.
Still, owing to their 69-93 record in the 2011 season, the Orioles had a high draft spot in the 2012 draft - their first pick coming at 4th overall. It was also noteworthy as the first draft under the Dan Duquette regime, with Gary Rajsich as the new scouting director. For MLB, it represented the first draft using the current pool system to limit draft spending.
Four years down the road, how are these picks looking?
First round, 4th overall: Kevin Gausman - RHP - LSU
Finally, Gausman seems to be in the Orioles starting rotation for good! No more riding the Norfolk-Baltimore shuttle. No more jerking him from the bullpen to the rotation. Not to pin too much on six starts, but he's starting to look like the guy who led Baseball Prospectus to proclaim him "a beast, with a near-elite fastball, a plus-plus changeup, and the makings of a plus slider."
Prior to that draft, other players the Orioles were believed to be considering, according to MASN's Steve Melewski, were college righty Kyle Zimmer and high school lefty Max Fried. Zimmer was drafted by the Royals immediately after Gausman. Fried was picked at #7 by the Padres.
A few of Gausman's fellow first rounders have exceeded his bWAR early in their careers. These include players like Corey Seager of the Dodgers, Michael Wacha of the Cardinals, and Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays.
Some others remain on top prospect lists, having yet to get serious big league time. Lucas Giolito (16th overall) is MLB.com's #1 prospect right now. There's Rangers power prospect Joey Gallo (39th overall) ranked at #7, and Minnesota pitching prospect Jose Berrios (32nd overall) checking in at #15. Plus Zimmer is ranked at 60, though he has yet to crack Double-A.
Maybe those guys will go on to have good careers, or even better careers than Gausman. But he doesn't seem like a high draft pick the Orioles are going to regret, unlike a recently-traded reliever who shall remain nameless for now.
Second round, 65th overall: Branden Kline - RHP - Virginia
Kline is interesting because he was born in Frederick and went to high school there, then went to school at the University of Virginia. He's been in Birdland his whole life, eschewing signing with the Red Sox after being drafted in the sixth round of the 2009 draft. That worked out for him as he moved up to the second round in 2012.
Unfortunately for Kline, the best season of his minor league career to date was interrupted when he suffered an injury that ultimately required Tommy John surgery when rest and rehab didn't solve the problem. He will miss the 2016 season as a result and will be 25 when he next takes the mound, old for a prospect.
That doesn't mean he's finished, but it does mean that the odds are against him. That was always true of any second round pick. Kline was rated as the 87th best prospect of that draft by Baseball America. A bit of a reach at #65, perhaps, but it's not like there were stars drafted all around him and the Orioles managed to miss them.
Success stories from this round have been Dodgers starter Alex Wood (drafted by the Braves at #85) and Dodgers reliever Paco Rodriguez, their own pick at #82. There's also Cubs pitching prospect Duane Underwood (#67 overall) who is 72nd on MLB.com's current top 100.
Third round, 99th overall: Adrian Marin - SS - Gulliver Prep (Miami)
Under ordinary circumstances, there won't be high expectations for a third round pick. Again, the odds are always against such a player. If everyone knew he would be good, he wouldn't be a third round pick.
Marin is 22, still young for Double-A, where he's playing this year, but the Orioles moved him up even though he never really hit at High-A - a .630 OPS in his second full year there. So far at Bowie he's batting .233/.298/.292.
Even supposing he was enough of a versatile defensive whiz to, say, replace Ryan Flaherty as utility infielder, would he be able to hit enough to have you want him in that role? Marin will be Rule 5 eligible after this season, but that's probably not much of a worry. The Orioles seem like the only team who'd take a player like him and he's already here.
Were there any big misses the O's might have taken from this round? The Blue Jays rolled the dice on two-sport player Anthony Alford (#112 overall), who spent several seasons mostly playing college football before dedicating full-time to baseball. He's now the #37 prospect in the game and still just 21.
Tim Cooney (#117) started six games for the Cardinals last year. Jake Barrett (#120) is a rookie enjoying some success in the Diamondbacks bullpen.
Christian Walker (fourth round) has always had his contingent of fans on this website. The scouting-industrial complex questioned whether he'd have enough power - so he hit 26 homers between Bowie and Norfolk in 2014. The O's have him in the outfield since first base is blocked by Davis, but he's going to need to hit better than a .755 OPS to get the call.
Colin Poche (fifth round) went unsigned. So did Ryan Ripken (20th round) - you've probably heard of his uncle.
Also picked by the Orioles in this draft was Josh Hader (19th round), who was sent to the Astros in the Bud Norris trade. The Astros since traded Hader to the Brewers in the Carlos Gomez trade. MLB.com now rates Hader as the #56 prospect in baseball. Don't look at his Double-A stat line this year. Seriously, don't look at it.
When you pick at #4 overall, the success or failure of the draft is going to heavily depend on the success or failure of that particular player. The Orioles have had some lamentable whiffs with picks in the top five, including Brian Matusz and Matt Hobgood. Gausman, knock on wood, doesn't look to be such a whiff.
Finding any value at all out of later-round picks is a success as well. Hope is not yet dead for some of these guys to contribute in some way. Walker's already beaten the odds by getting even a handful of big league games. He may have more to come.
Hader helped bring the O's a key piece of the 2014 division-winning rotation. That's worth something, though it would have been worth more if Norris hadn't been bad last year.
The real test of the O's scouting and development staff will be what they can polish out of players who aren't consensus top 5 prospects - which as we'll see starting tomorrow with a look at the 2013 draft, the Orioles no longer get to draft. Hopefully they are never in a position to draft one of those guys again.