Five years after a particular draft is when you can start to make some definitive pronouncements about whether a team succeeded or failed. For the most part, everybody who is going to make it to the big leagues has done so or is very close to doing so, and for some, you even have multiple seasons of MLB data to get a sense of whether they have been or can be successful at that level.
The 2012 draft was an interesting for the Orioles for a couple of reasons. This was the first draft with MLB’s current rules on draft pick signing bonus pools. For the O’s specifically, it represents the first draft where Dan Duquette and his team were in charge.
It’s also the first year the Orioles had a good team at the MLB level, but they still got to draft like the bad team they were in 2011, picking fourth in each round. So, were the Orioles able to do anything with those high picks? Well...
1st round, 4th overall - Kevin Gausman - RHP - LSU
I think we all felt better about this pick one year ago, and while Gausman’s disastrous 2017 up to this point is discouraging, it can’t take away from his having been successful in 2014 and 2016, two seasons where Gausman was good and the Orioles made the playoffs. That’s good! Just don’t look at or think about his current 6.65 ERA and 1.859 WHIP.
At the time, according to MASN’s Steve Melewski, the Orioles were rumored to be considering another college righty, Kyle Zimmer, as well as a high school lefty, Max Fried. Zimmer went #5 to the Royals and Fried went #7 to the Padres. Neither has made the majors yet, and they possibly never will, so out of those choices, the O’s made the right one.
Other, later picks in the first round have exceeded Gausman’s output so far. Maybe the Orioles would have been better off picking one of them instead, but it’s not like they reached picking Gausman. He was rated high on every draft list, including #5 on that year’s Baseball America 500.
Some of those coulda-been picks include Addison Russell (#11, Athletics), Corey Seager (#18, Dodgers), and Marcus Stroman (#22, Blue Jays). Time will tell whether Gausman can rebound to get more on par with some of these other guys. He’s already proven he’s better than he is right now. When (or if) he will get back to that level is the question.
2nd round, 65th overall - Branden Kline - RHP - Virginia
Although this draft used the new bonus pool rules, it also used the old free agent compensation pick rules - so as a result, the O’s had no compensation picks because they had no good players in 2011 who became free agents. Their early second round pick here is the equivalent of a late second round pick in this year’s draft.
I mention this because Kline, a Frederick product who went to college in next door Virginia, is hardly alone among second round picks not to have found big league success. He hasn’t pitched since 2015, when he had Tommy John surgery, interrupting what was his best professional season to date. Kline is still in the system although he hasn’t pitched for an affiliate yet this season.
As for the rest of Kline’s second round companions, while ten of them have appeared in some MLB action, only two, Paco Rodriguez and Alex Wood, have posted a positive big league WAR to date. The second round of this draft, and most drafts, is already a crapshoot.
3rd round, 99th overall - Adrian Marin - SS - Gulliver Prep (FL)
As a high school pick from this 2012 draft, Marin was actually Rule 5 Draft eligible this past offseason. That the Orioles declined to protect him from the draft and no other team selected him says a lot about how he was viewed - and why would he have been in demand after posting a .232/.284/.308 batting line for Bowie last season?
Two things have happened for Marin this year as he repeats Bowie. First, they have shifted him over to second base. Second, he’s actually hitting better through 32 games, with a .288/.331/.376 batting line that, if you squint, might make him appear to be a possible heir to Ryan Flaherty as the utility infielder, if the Orioles ever give up on the actual Flaherty.
This would also require Marin to be good enough in the field, which it’s fair to question after he shifted to second base this year. He had a lot of errors in the past there, including 18 in 112 starts last year.
Marin may have been a bit of a draft reach at #99, at least as far as Baseball America was concerned - he rated as the #192 prospect in that draft class.
Some picks from later in this round have gotten into some MLB games to date, but the only one who’s appeared there this year is Andrew Toles (#119, Rays) who’s out for the year due to an ACL tear and subsequent surgery. The Rays actually released Toles at the end of spring in 2015. The Dodgers picked him up at the end of that year.
The Orioles finally cut ties with Christian Walker (fourth round) this past offseason after he was passed on the already-crowded first base depth chart by Trey Mancini. Walker passed from the O’s to the Braves to the Reds to the Diamondbacks on waivers since February and the Diamondbacks finally outrighted him to Triple-A - bad luck for him, as Arizona’s first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is pretty good.
Walker is blasting off in the Pacific Coast League for a .994 OPS to date. Will he make the O’s regret not keeping him?
One who’s definitely on the regret pile is Maryland-born lefty Josh Hader (19th round) who looked a bit like a lottery ticket when the Orioles included him in the Bud Norris trade in July 2013. Hader was since traded from the Astros to the Brewers, where he rated as high as the #17 prospect in all of MLB by Baseball Prospectus before this season.
However, a lack of command (4.9 BB/9) is hurting Hader at Triple-A so far, where he has a 4.97 ERA - possibly inflated by the same PCL effect that’s benefited Walker. It’s been four years since that trade and it could still end up haunting the Orioles worse than it has to date.
In the 20th round, the Orioles selected Ryan Ripken, who did not sign. You may have heard of his Uncle Billy.
When you pick #4 overall, that’s a pick high enough where it feels like it has to be a success or the draft is a disaster. Picking that high was not enough to save the Orioles in some of the Andy MacPhail draft years, like when they picked Brian Matusz in 2008, or worse, Matt Hobgood in 2009.
By having multiple successful big league seasons, Gausman already can’t be a bust in the way that either of those guys was a bust, but it’s still going to be disappointing if he doesn’t turn things around. What’s more, since Gausman is essentially the only remaining hope for this draft class for the Orioles, the Duquette regime’s first draft rides entirely on his shoulders.