I was being sarcastic -- having a little fun at the theme of this fall: That the Orioles didn’t sign or retain various “fill in the blank” players who would have helped them get back to the playoffs in 2015.
Apparently, a lot of people didn’t get the joke. I guess I’m not as witty as I think.
Correa, the 21-year-old shortstop phenom for the Houston Astros, wasn’t available for the Orioles, of course. He was the top pick of the 2012 draft -- the Orioles had the fourth selection and took right-hander Kevin Gausman.
But the response I received triggered another thought: It might be interesting to revisit the top of the 2012 draft and what the Orioles were contemplating when it all unfolded.
Much of the talk heading into the draft was about Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, considered the best pitcher in the draft. The demands were rumored to be exceptionally high, and those rumors scared off plenty of teams.
So the thought was that the Astros were going to take Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton, considered the next big thing.
But the Astros threw everyone a curve, instead selecting Correa from the Puerto Rican Baseball Academy.
The grumblings were that the Astros were going cheap, eschewing Appel and Buxton for Correa, who ultimately signed for a $4.8 million bonus. Buxton, in comparison, agreed to a $6 million bonus with the Twins and Appel, predictably, did not sign. (He was drafted by the Astros in 2013 with the first overall pick.)
Shortly after the 2012 draft, I remember asking an Orioles official if he was surprised that the Astros reached on Correa. I was quickly rebuked. The official said there was no reach; Correa was the real deal. That he was not just a cheap alternative to Buxton, but was a legitimate No. 1 overall pick.
Time would prove him right.
For the record, if the Orioles had the top pick in 2012, they would have taken Buxton. But as far as they were concerned, they would have been happy with any of the top three players on their board: Buxton, Gausman or Correa -- in the order.
There was some concern in the Orioles’ draft room that all three would be taken before they had a chance to pick fourth. Other top players in the draft included University of Florida catcher Mike Zunino, and University of San Francisco pitcher Kyle Zimmer.
The Orioles were hoping that someone would take Zunino, who was considered a major league-ready catcher with significant pop. The Orioles felt they already had that in Matt Wieters and wanted a top-of-the-rotation starter if possible.
The Mariners obliged, snagging Zunino with the third pick after Buxton went second.
Early in the process, the Orioles had Gausman and Zimmer at the top of their pitching boards -- ahead of Appel, I was told back then -- but they just felt Gausman was more polished and that Zimmer might be more of a potential injury risk (he was taken by the Kansas City Royals with the fifth pick and has yet to make the majors, partially because of shoulder surgery in 2014).
The Orioles also leaned toward Gausman because they had a strong relationship with his college pitching coach at LSU, Alan Dunn, who had been the Orioles bullpen coach under Dave Trembley (and briefly under Buck Showalter). Dunn couldn’t have raved more about Gausman, and the Orioles respected his point of view as a knowledgeable baseball lifer.
Gausman, 24, hasn’t quite reached the level that he and the Orioles had hoped in 2012, but he has shown plenty of promise, going 14-19 with a 4.21 ERA in 65 big league games over parts of three seasons. The hope is that he takes the next step toward stardom in 2016, when he should be a member of the rotation for the entire year, barring injury.
All four of the top picks from 2012 are already in the majors. And, in a short sampling size, Correa so far looks like the best one -- a pretty shrewd move by the Astros, who used some of the extra money they saved on Correa to sign high school right-hander Lance McCullers in the supplemental first round. McCullers is a big part of Houston’s bright future, too.