In the condensed Major League Baseball draft on June 10 and 11, the Orioles, who have the second overall selection, will get to add six players.
Since the draft began in 1965, it’s given the Orioles some outstanding players, and ones they’d rather forget.
Drafts to Remember: The Orioles had excellent teams from 1966-1983, winning three World Series, and had 14 90-win seasons.
Strong draft picks were the common thread. In 1967, the year after the Orioles won their first World Series, their first two selections were infielder Bobby Grich and outfielder Don Baylor.
Grich and Baylor had superlative major league careers, and helped sustain the Orioles’ success into the 1970s.
So did outfielders Al Bumbry and Rich Coggins, who were taken in the 11th and 21st round of the 1968 draft, and two picks in the 1973 draft, Eddie Murray (third round) and Mike Flanagan (seventh), allowed the Orioles to extend their winning ways into the 1980s. Murray and Flanagan were key parts of the 1983 World Series championship team.
What was so impressive about these drafts were that the Orioles never had a high pick, and that several players were taken in the later rounds.
In 1978, Cal Ripken Jr. was the fourth player selected by the Orioles. He was taken in the second round behind infielder Robert Boyce, their first pick, outfielder Larry Sheets and right-handed pitcher Eddie Hook, both compensatory selections. Boyce and Hook never played in the majors.
Besides Ripken and Sheets, that draft produced right-handed pitcher Mike Boddicker in the sixth round.
Drafts to forget: The productive drafts in the 1960s and 1970s allowed the Orioles to extend their streak of contention into the 1980s, but many of their drafts of that decade had few memorable pieces.
Take 1983, the year the Orioles last won the World Series. In that June’s draft, not a single one of the 29 players selected played even a game in the major leagues.
From 1980’s draft, only right-hander Ken Dixon (third round), who went 26-28 with a 4.66 ERA in 105 games from 1984-1987, was any help, and in 1981, reliever Tony Arnold (10th), who pitched in 38 games with a 5.06 ERA, was the sole Orioles product.
The 1982 draft produced six Orioles, but only Billy Ripken, drafted in the 11th round, had a substantial big league career
Right-hander John Habyan (third), outfielder Ken Gerhart (fifth), right-hander Eric Bell (ninth), first baseman Jim Traber (21st) and infielder Jeff McKnight (28th) each made the majors but didn’t help the Orioles for any length of time.
The Orioles’ 1986 draft was nearly as bad as their 1983 one. Only one player, left-handed pitcher Gordon Dillard, played for the big club, but he only pitched in seven games.
While many of the major components of the 1983 World Series team were aging, the Orioles failed to find suitable replacements in the draft. As a result, the team bottomed in 1988, the season they began with 21 straight losses and finished 54-107.
Coming back in the late ’80s: As the team got worse, the drafts got better. In 1987, the Orioles drafted two players, right-hander Pete Harnisch (supplemental first round) and outfielder Steve Finley (13th), who would enjoy lengthy big league careers, but not in Baltimore.
Harnisch and Finley as well as Curt Schilling were sent to Houston in 1991 for first baseman Glenn Davis, a deal viewed as arguably the worst in club history.
David Segui, a first baseman, was also taken in the 1987 draft, in the 18th round.
The next year’s draft was fruitful. The Orioles’ poor play allowed them to take reliever Gregg Olson with the fourth overall pick and Arthur Rhodes, who enjoyed a 20-year career in the majors in the second round.
The 54-107 record gave the Orioles the first overall pick in 1989, and they selected right-hander Ben McDonald.
First-round follies: The Orioles have had some exceptional first-round picks — Grich, Rich Dauer (1974), Olson and Mike Mussina (1990).
But they’ve had long stretches of wasted top picks. From 1978-1983, they had four first-round selections, but Boyce (1978), outfielder Jeff Williams (1980), and right-handers Joe Kucharski (1982) and Wayne Wilson (1983) all failed to reach the majors.
From 1999-2003, the Orioles had 15 picks in the first round, including supplemental ones, and only Brian Roberts had a memorable Orioles career.
Some of those taken were right-hander Mike Paradis (13th pick in 1999), left-hander Rich Stahl (18th pick in ’99), right-hander Beau Hale (14th in 2000) and third baseman Tripper Johnson (32nd in 2000).
None of those made the majors, and it’s an important reason the Orioles suffered through 14 straight losing seasons.
The drafts improved after 2003, yielding Nick Markakis in that year, Matt Wieters in 2007 and Manny Machado in 2010, but had the Orioles avoided third baseman Billy Rowell (ninth overall in 2006) and right-hander Matt Hobgood (fifth overall in 2009), they could have had more sustained success.
What’s ahead? Mike Elias inherited some promising minor leaguers when he took over as executive vice president/general manager in 2018. The draft of 2017 featured some players who could be making their major league debuts in the next few years.
The Orioles’ first four picks — left-hander DL Hall, infielder Adam Hall, left-hander Zac Lowther and right-hander Michael Baumann — are considered top prospects. If they all become useful Orioles, the 2017 draft could be one of the best in recent times.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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