Carroll County Times

Commentary: MLB Draft is a crapshoot, and the O's know it

Funny juxtaposition this week as fans in this area reacted with bemused amazement that ex-Maryland underachiever Alex Len was a top-five pick in the NBA draft on Thursday, two days after many of those same fans cheered for the Orioles' two first-round draft picks who were signed and then trotted out Tuesday in Baltimore.
Even if Len is a bust he will almost certainly spend several years in the NBA, probably at least contributing to the Suns.
There's a decent chance first-rounders Hunter Harvey and Josh Hart made both their first and last in-uniform appearance at Camden Yards this week.
The MLB draft is, at best, a crapshoot. And the Orioles have been, well, as crappy at it as any team.
Those 14 straight losing seasons from 1998-2011? Attribute them, in large part, to the fact that every top pick they made from 1993 through 2006 - with the exception of Nick Markakis in 2003 - was an unmitigated bust.
Even after having a little better draft success recently, only four players on the Orioles' postseason roster last fall were homegrown. Even the Yankees, known for signing free agents, had seven. The Giants had eight. (And those numbers don't even include foreign-born players like Robinson Cano and World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval, who weren't eligible for the draft.)
In many of those lean years, the Orioles had multiple first-round picks as compensation for losing free agents. Even with numerous extra chances, the only other first-rounder from 1993-2006 to make a significant impact was Brian Roberts - and Roberts was actually the team's seventh pick in 1999, coming after they largely whiffed on six of the first 44 overall selections.
Their record has clearly improved since, with Matt Wieters (2007), Brian Matusz (2008) and Manny Machado (2010) each playing an important role in the team's resurgence.
But there clearly is worry that 2011 first-rounder Dylan Bundy, the team's No. 1-rated prospect by Baseball America who had Tommy John surgery last week, will be the latest high-round selection to see his career derailed.
The Orioles have chosen a pitcher first 12 times since 1993, but they still haven't developed an ace since Mike Mussina.
Names like Alvie Shepherd (1995), Beau Hale (2000), Chris Smith (2001), Adam Loewen (2002), Wade Townshend (2004) and, so far, Matt Hobgood (2009) haunt Orioles fans.
But no more so than Billy Rowell, a career minor leaguer taken one spot ahead of two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum in 2006.
Lincecum was one of four San Francisco Giants top picks, along with Matt Cain (2002), Madison Bumgarner (2007) and Buster Posey (2008) who played major roles on two World Series champion teams.
Make no mistake, the draft is all about the first round.
There were 57 players in last year's All-Star Game who had been drafted (with 17 others signed as foreign free agents). Of those, 30 were first-round picks.
After that, the drop is precipitous. Six were second-rounders four were third-rounders, three fourth-rounders, two fifth-rounders, two sixth-rounders, one seventh-rounder and one ninth-rounder. Out of a total of 74 All-Stars, only eight were taken in the 10th round or later.
Of course, let's not dismiss the player who is probably the most important draft pick made by Baltimore in 20 years, a crucial key to the team's turnaround.
Erik Bedard.
No, the sixth-round pick from the 1999 draft hasn't thrown a pitch for the Orioles since 2007. But trading him netted the Orioles, among others, All-Star center fielder Adam Jones and Chris Tillman, easily their winningest pitcher over the last calendar year.
While the Orioles haven't been nearly as effective in drafting talent as other successful teams - and they don't believe in signing high-caliber free agents - just try to find a team that's been better at ripping off other organizations.
In addition to Jones and Tillman, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Jason Hammel, Troy Patton, and Tommy Hunter, among others, were all acquired via lopsided deals.
So even if poor drafting means help isn't likely to be coming from within this season, fans can always hope they'll fleece some unsuspecting team before the trading deadline.