The good, the bad and the ugly in Orioles' draft history -

2020 MLB Draft

The good, the bad and the ugly in Orioles’ draft history

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

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



  1. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    May 26, 2020 at 8:51 am

    One of their biggest mistakes was drafting Jeffrey Hammonds (4th) over Derek Jeter (6th) in the 92 draft. The Orioles scouting did a poor job in evaluating talent for quite a while.

    • Bancells Moustache

      May 26, 2020 at 11:37 am

      To be fair, all of this stuff is low hanging fruit, as guessing the future is never easy. I remember the buzz around Hammonds being the second coming of Lou Brock and it was considered a shock that he fell to the Orioles at 4th overall. As was the case with the other mega hyped draft pick of that era, the injury bug slowed Hammonds more than anything.

  2. CalsPals

    May 26, 2020 at 9:03 am

    Agree, but be careful, we can’t say anything negative or our scouting friend will go commando…go O’s…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      May 26, 2020 at 2:37 pm

      My what-would-have-been HOF career was derailed when my knees didn’t hold up, so I was forced to reinvent my baseball career in the form of a being a top tiered scout. It was unfortunate that the brass chose Ben McDonald over my advised pick of Frank Thomas back in the day and …..oh what’s that? You weren’t referring to me?

    • OriolesNumber1Fan

      May 26, 2020 at 7:43 pm

      Drafts back then were more about the scouts and their various opinions on players that were given to their GM’s that they evaluated in their own territories. The GM’s after collaboration with all their scouts had to some what all agree more or less on their picks. But now with more data and video on players than ever before, it’s a little harder to hide how good or bad a player skill sets are. Scouts in general also now seem to be more in agreement some what on their evaluations on the potential of say the first 50 -75 players because of this information. All of this is helpful when GM’s go and make their picks. And GM’s can also trust their own eyes from the videos on these players if the choice comes down to deciding on 2 or 3 players. So, hopefully, after reviewing all the videos and scouting evaluations, Mike Elias can now more or less pick his own players since he has the last word after doing his due diligence. It’s still not an easy job though with signability, injuries and high school players and their commitments to colleges and such all in the mix.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        May 27, 2020 at 7:40 am

        Nicely stated ON1F!

      • Baltimore Castaway

        May 27, 2020 at 8:11 am

        Well stated..

        Believe that the “bad old days” of consistently whiffing on top draft picks is going to be a thing of the past.

        Not looking too promising on having Baseball in 2020…

        • OriolesNumber1Fan

          May 27, 2020 at 10:56 am

          Thanks BRR. Orioles heart/middle of the lineup in 1969 thru 1971 was the best in the business!

        • OriolesNumber1Fan

          May 27, 2020 at 11:10 am

          Thanks Balt Castaway. Here’s hoping MLB and union settle on their differences. I’m hoping Orioles really do well in this draft. They could really turn things around in a couple more years of rebuilding this team. I really like who Mike Elias has assembled as front office staff, coaches (major and minor leagues) and scouts (stateside and overseas). He’s done a lot in time he’s been with the Orioles.

  3. DevoTion

    May 26, 2020 at 9:13 am

    It’s obvious that over the past 30 years the O’s have been minimally successful in the draft. Which team over roughly the same time period has been successful in this category?

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 26, 2020 at 7:47 pm

      After a quick look, I would say the Red Sox, Dodgers, Astros and Nationals.

  4. Bancells Moustache

    May 26, 2020 at 9:28 am

    Taking Matt Hobgood when Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, James Paxton, Jason Kipnis, DJ LeMahieu, Brian Dozier and Dallas Keuchel were there for the taking. Also some kid from Jersey named Tuna or Trout or something like that.


    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      May 26, 2020 at 2:42 pm

      Where’s the tallest bridge in Baltimore?

    • Raymo

      May 28, 2020 at 9:09 pm

      Boog, you crack me up every time. Keep ‘em coming.

  5. NormOs

    May 26, 2020 at 1:17 pm

    And still no mention of Ryan Mountcastle or does Genius1 believe that he wasn’t good enough to play on The O’s minor/ major league team. C’mon O’s, I ain’t gettin’ any younger!

  6. CalsPals

    May 26, 2020 at 1:19 pm

    Imagine w/only 5 Rds the possible players available for a 20,000 bonus after those 5 rds are completed, I think that’s were you’ll find some gems…go O’s…

  7. ToddInVA

    May 26, 2020 at 2:54 pm

    This article doesn’t mention Zack Britton, Brian Matusz or Jake Arrieta.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 26, 2020 at 3:30 pm

      I didn’t have space to mention everyone over 55 years worth of drafts, Todd.

  8. The Nuke

    May 26, 2020 at 3:23 pm

    The first amateur draft in June, 1965 is the worst for the O’s. In round one the Orioles select 18 year old pitcher Scott McDonald, who is converted to first base and released after six years in the minors. Cincinnati, with the very next pick, selects OF Bernie Carbo who plays 1,010 major league games.
    It gets worse. With the second pick the O’s select catcher Richard Horton from Dartmouth. After hitting .184 in 3 minor league seasons he is let go. On the very next pick, Cincinnati selects future HOF catcher Johnny Bench.

    • Bancells Moustache

      May 26, 2020 at 4:23 pm

      I wanna agree with you, as missing out on Johnny Bench is a pretty big whiff. But that was 1965. The next year marked the beginning of arguably the greatest era ever for a Major League Baseball franchise that didn’t play in the Bronx. Not having Bench and Bernie Carbo was a drag, but Frank Robinson, Andy Etchebarren and Rick Dempsey appear to have gotten the job done

    • CalsPals

      May 26, 2020 at 5:46 pm

      I believe they traded for Frank Robinson…go O’s…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      May 26, 2020 at 7:45 pm

      We’re crying about not drafting Bernie Carbo?

    • CalsPals

      May 26, 2020 at 8:58 pm

      He’s a Red Sox, totally get Johnny Bench, another Red, but gotta agree w/BRR…go O’s…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        May 27, 2020 at 1:35 pm

        Bernie was a platoon player. I watched him on many nights. And talk about a god-awful perm sticking out from his cap! Arrrrng!

    • ClayDal

      May 27, 2020 at 1:55 pm

      Bernie Carbo hit one of the most forgotten home runs in World Series history. 3 run homer in the bottom of the 8th in the 1975 World Series. Without that homer, never would have been Carleton Fisk’s HR in the 12th that won the game and set up game 7. As for Bernie’s hair, the 70’s were full of bad haircuts and awful clothes. I miss those days

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        May 27, 2020 at 2:18 pm

        Frankly Clay … it’s one of my most memorable. Inside out swing to right field. And Bernie will live in perpetuity forever in Massachusetts because of it.

        Watched it with 3 friends … all home grown Sox Fans as they screamed and jumped up and down on my mother’s beloved couch, in a rambler located on Quinapoxet St. in Holden Massachusetts. I miss those days too. (but not the perms)

  9. BirdsCaps

    May 27, 2020 at 2:40 pm

    Very good history of drafts.I would probably throw DJ Stewart in the list of draft busts as well. Its a little too early to see, but were depending on him being a very good dh/maybe 1b and his bat has flashes of brilliance, but doesn’t look worthy of a 1st rounder. Furthermore, Matusz, a top five pick was also a bust even though he made it to the show. If he was anywhere near as good as his hype the short competitive window the orioles had would have likely been more fruitful.

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