Syd Thrift and drafting pitchers

In a post yesterday, I used a throwaway line, mentioning that under Syd Thrift, the Orioles drafted a string forgettable pitching prospects. I got curious later and did a bit of research on Thrift's draft history.

I'd thought Hayden Penn (traded yesterday to the Marlins, in case you forgot) was the last pitcher in the organization drafted by Thrift. Turns out, I was wrong.

Because you're the curious sort: Thrift oversaw the drafting of about 200 pitchers in his eight seasons with the Orioles. The only ones remaining with the organization today are: Jim Johnson (fifth-round pick in 2001) and Kyle Schmidt (who was selected in 29th round in '01 but didn't sign until the Orioles drafted him again in 2004 ... so I'm not sure he counts.)

The impressive list, plus a couple of cool things from the archives are below.

OK, before I get to the list of drafted pitchers, I was delving through our archives and reading up a bit on Thrift, who passed away a couple of years ago.

Thrift joined the Orioles in 1995, charged with player development and the farm system. Here's what John Steadman wrote in the Sun the day Thrift was introduced: "In Thrift, the Baltimore Orioles have made what could be one of their most significant signings in the history of the franchise. As he was introduced as the club's new director of player development, his persona suggested something akin to the second coming of Branch Rickey, who had an impact on baseball that few other executives have ever had."

In that same day's paper, Ken Rosenthal saw things differently. Here's an excerpt from his column:

The banker hired the farm director. That's what happened, and don't anyone deny it. Joe Foss, Orioles vice-chairman of business and finance, just appointed himself minister of baseball.

You should have seen Foss at yesterday's news conference, gazing at Syd Thrift as if he were Marilyn Monroe. No one in the front office wanted Thrift, but what do those silly baseball people know?

"It's our intent to make major strides in improving our farm system," Foss proclaimed, neglecting to mention that the system was progressing just fine under the evil Doug Melvin.

...The issue is not Thrift's ability -- he possesses one of the game's sharpest minds. And it's not his senior-citizen status, though the new front office motto should be, "Don't trust anyone under 55."

The issue is Thrift's train-wreck personality. Club officials know his history. They fear he'll be self-centered, egotistical, and potentially even a back-stabber.


Rosenthal's column prompted a two-page press release the next day from Peter Angelos:

The recent selection of Syd Thrift as Director of Player Development has given rise to uninformed, unfounded, and, in my judgment, malevolent speculation on the part of certain members of the press as to Mr. Thrift's role in the Orioles organization. To suggest that Mr. Thrift is going to usurp the role of the General Manager or Assistant General Manager is both irresponsible and juvenile.

...How can a responsible newspaper allow one of its so-called columnists, who is nothing more than a character assassin and name caller, to write such vitriolic nonsense, hiding behind unnamed 'club officials' for his cover.

...The brickbats thrown at [Foss] were absolutely misdirected and offensive in the extreme. Those particular comments represent the caterwaulings of an insolent twit whose journalistic fulminations vilify and randomly splatter written bile upon those with whom, in his distorted state of mind, he disagrees.

Whew. Deep breath. 

OK, here's a partial list of the pitchers the Orioles selected on Thrift's watch. (Note that my fingers got tired, so 1995-99 is abbreviated.) He was in charge of player development from 1995-1999 and was the team's GM from 1999-2002.

2002: Adam Loewen (first round), Hayden Penn (fifth), John Maine (sixth), Paul Henry (seventh), Trevor Caughey (ninth), Matthew Bolander (10th), Mark McCormick (11th), Matthew Rohr (14th), Carl Makowsky (18th), Michael Patitucci (19th), Stephen Sutton (22nd), Jason Cierlik (23rd), Melvin Spivey (30th), Justin Nash (31st), Ryan Childs (33rd), Nicholas McCurdy (35), Jordan Compton (36th), Russell Petrick (37th), Henry Lozado (39th), Steven Guerra (40th), Barry Roe (42nd), James Cooney (45th), David Mittelberger (46th), Lawrence Ponder (50th).

2001: Christopher Smith (first round), David Crouthers (third), Rommie Lewis (fourth) Jim Johnson (fifth), Joe Coppinger (seventh),  Chris Britton (eighth), Talmadge Mincey (12th), Richard Salazar (13th), Cory Morris (15th), Michael Edwards (16th), Jim Tiller (17th), Trevor Caughey (18th), Andrew Perkins (20th), Adam Larson (22nd), Josh Potter (23rd), Brent Burger (26th), Adam Dunavant (28th), Kyle Schmidt (29th), Evan Seibly (31st), Josh Wilkening (35th), Jeffrey Montani (36th), Dwayne Carter (37th), Sean Letsinger (38th), Eric Blevins (41st), Josh Palm (42nd), Doug Brubaker (44th), Tabor Wooland (45th), Jonathon Fowler (46th), Anthony Cupps (47th), Bryan Johnson (48th), Oscar Serrato (49th).

2000: Beau Hale (first round), Richard Bartlett (third), Jon Skaggs (fourth), Larry Spillers (sixth), Jayme Sperring (eighth), Casey Cahill (10th), Darren Heal (11th), Ryan Keefer (13th), Brian Forystek (14th), Sidney Jones (16th), Joel Crump (17th), Kyle Sleeth (18th), Ryan Mask (20th), Fraser Dizard (21st), Aaron Bouie (22nd), Eric Walsh (23rd), Jeff Petersen (25th), Daniel Marchetti (26th), Scott Koffman (27th), Robert Cheatwood (28th), Davie Morrow (29th), Kurt Birkins (33rd), Josh Banks (34th), Tim Stauffer (36th), Eric Fagan (42nd).

NOTE: This is the point I couldn't type any more. You get the point, though: Lots of pitchers you've either forgotten or never knew. Below or the ones who the Orioles drafted and who saw at least a bit of big-league time.

1999: Erik Bedard (sixth round), Aaron Rakers (23rd), Doug Slaten (34th).

1998: Steve Bechler (third round), Mike MacDougal, (17th), Cliff Lee (20th), Doug Slaten (29th).

1997: Sean Douglass (second round), Matt Riley (third), Rick Bauer (fifth), Jay Spurgeon (eighth), Joe Borchard (20th), D.J. Carrasco (26th).

1996: Brian Falkenborg (second round), Chad Paronto (eighth), Ryan Kohlmeier (14th), Josh Towers (15th), Gabe Molina (21st), Mike MacDougal (22nd), John Parrish (25th).

1995: Luke Hudson (fifth round), John Bale (sixth).

Photo: AP

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