Scouting boss Nickels bemoans the draft picks who got away


MILWAUKEE -- Little more than three months after the 1995 baseball draft, scouting director Gary Nickels doesn't have a true read on how the Orioles fared. He probably won't for a few years yet, when the players he picked succeed and fail.

He's pleased with his first selection, pitcher Alvie Shepherd, who showed in a minicamp that he might be a little better athlete than anyone thought. But Nickels regrets those players who got away: The Orioles failed to sign their fifth-, sixth- and seventh-round selections.

"We've had a pretty good track record in the higher rounds, 1 through 15," he said. "We signed 12, and that's pretty good. Still, you don't like to miss the ones up there. . . . We're disappointed, obviously."

Their fifth-round pick, Luke Hudson, a right-handed pitcher from Fountain Valley High in California, actually agreed on the signing bonus, Nickels said.

"We felt we had him, and even his family felt he was going to sign," Nickels said. "But he called us and told us he wanted to go to college [University of Tennessee]. There's nothing you can do at that point except wish them luck."

Nickels wouldn't elaborate on the specifics of the Orioles' offer to Hudson, but it was probably in the neighborhood of $75,000, with a guarantee of a paid college education. However, Nickels thinks Hudson decided he wanted to go to college immediately.

No. 6 pick John Bale, a right-handed pitcher from the University of Southern Mississippi, likely was offered something between $60,000 and $100,000. Bale asked for much more money, Nickels said. "We thought his demands were way out of line for a sixth-round pick."

Bale returned to Southern Mississippi for his fourth year. No. 7 pick Kevin Miller, a shortstop from Ballard, Wash., enrolled at the University of Washington, turning down the Orioles' offer. "We would've had to blow him out of the water [financially] to keep him from going to school," Nickels said.

Shepherd signed in August, and he'll report to spring training next year to begin his Orioles career; he'll play in Hawaii this winter. Shepherd is regarded as such a good athlete that Alaska summer league coaches voted him the best prospect -- as a hitter.

No. 2 pick Charles Alley, a prep catcher when drafted, played 12 games for the Orioles' rookie league team in Florida, and had nine hits in 30 at-bats.

No. 3 pick Darrell Dent, an outfielder, batted .280 in 36 games for the same team.

Two picks, No. 10 David Delluci, a left-handed-hitting outfielder, and No. 17, outfielder Jason Le- Cronier, advanced to Single-A Frederick by season's end.

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