• Mar
    17

    Kerry Liebowitz: The Orioles and the Draft 1995-2002 (and beyond)


    by Kerry Leibowitz

    The Orioles and the Draft, 1995-2002 (and beyond)

     

    As we saw in the last installment, the amateur draft’s third decade—1985-1994—was the strongest segment in the Orioles’ history.  Some of that success—though by no means all of it—can be attributed to the club’s highest slotting in the draft’s first 30 years.  The next time period—the eight years from 1995 through 2002, the focus of this article—also included some better draft picks, but what about the level of draft success?

     

    Let’s look at the numbers:

     

    Year

    N

    0

    1

    2

    3

    4

    1st Pick

    Non BL

    BL%

    Adj. Cont. %

    1995

    49

    43

    3

    1

    2*

    0

    21

    87.8%

    12.2%

    2.1%

    1996

    46

    36

    2

    7

    1*

    0

    51

    78.3%

    21.7%

    0.0%

    1997

    43

    34

    2

    5

    2

    0

    22

    79.4%

    20.6%

    4.7%

    1998

    52

    45

    4

    1

    1*

    1*

    26

    86.5%

    13.5%

    0.0%

    1999

    53

    44

    3

    4

    1

    1

    13

    83.0%

    17.0%

    3.8%

    2000

    43

    38

    2

    3

    0

    0

    14

    88.4%

    11.6%

    0.0%

    2001

    50

    43

    2

    4

    1

    0

    7

    86.0%

    14.0%

    2.0%

    2002

    50

    44

    4

    2

    0

    0

    4

    88.0%

    12.0%

    0.0%

    Tot

    386

    328

    22

    27

    8

    2

    158

    85.0%

    15.0%

    2.3%

    Adj

           

    5

    1

    19.75

       

    1.6%

     

    *--indicates a classification including one player who was drafted by the Orioles but did not sign with the team

    **--indicates a classification including two players who were drafted by the Orioles but did not sign with the team

    The “1st Pick” column shows the slot of the first Orioles draft choice for that year.

    Note the “Adj” row at the bottom of the table.  Off and on through the team’s history, the Orioles drafted players who went on to “contributing” (or better) big league careers but did not sign with the club after being selected.  All of these players re-entered the draft and typically (but not always) substantially improved their drafting slots in later years.  A few of these players, as we’ll see, eventually were drafted by the Orioles a second time and did sign.  Regardless, selections who didn’t sign with the Orioles are not counted towards the team’s success rate.  For each table, I’ll indicate the names and draft years of such players. 

    In the case of the 1995-2002 period, four players who went on to become contributing major leaguers were drafted at one point or another by the Orioles but didn’t sign with the team:

    • Jerry Hairston, drafted in 1995 with the 1142nd pick in the 42nd round; ultimately signed with the Orioles after being re-drafted in the 11th round in 1997.  (I don’t credit a team with making two contributing-caliber selections when it drafts the same player twice.  It’s only credited with such a selection when it drafts and signs a player.)

     

    • Mike MacDougal, drafted in 1996 with the 651st pick in the 22nd round; ultimately signed with the Royals after being selected with the 25th overall pick in 1999.

     

    • Mike MacDougal, drafted in 1998 with the 519th pick in the 17th round; ultimately signed with the Royals after being selected with the 25th overall pick in 1999.  {You’re not experiencing déjà vu; the Orioles did select MacDougal twice and failed to sign him each time.)

     

    • Cliff Lee, drafted in 1998 with the 609th overall pick in the 20th round; ultimately signed with the Expos after being selected in the 4th round in 2000.

     

    After adjusting for the non-signees (and the repeat draftees), this eight-year segment looks a lot more like the awful stretch from 1975-84 than it does the fruitful period of 1984-95.  Only five players of consequence were drafted and signed in eight years (1.6%), approximately half the rate of the previous period.  The Orioles lacked a first round selection in 1996, but they had a top five choice and also the seventh pick in the draft.  (Recall how high the success level is for players selected with one of the top four picks in the draft.)  It didn’t work out very well for the Orioles when they chose Adam Loewen with the fourth selection in 2002; nor did that seventh overall selection in 2001 (Chris Smith) bare fruit.  On balance, the average first choice (around the 20th slot), was the highest during any of the four periods we’ve looked at.  Omitting the missing first rounder in 1996, the average true first round selection during this stretch of time was 15th.

     

    Let’s take a look at the players of substance—it’s a short list—and then we’ll take a look at the first round picture for this time period, because it speaks volumes about where the franchise was headed.

     

    The contributing players:

     

    1995

    David Dellucci, with the 276th overall selection (10th round)

     

    1997

    Jayson Werth, with the 22nd overall selection

    Jerry Hairston, Jr. with the 345th overall selection (11th round)

     

    1999

    Brian Roberts, a supplemental choice, with the 50th overall selection

    Erik Bedard, with the 187th overall selection (6th round)

     

    2001

    Jim Johnson, with the 143rd overall selection (5th round)

     

    A couple of things:  first, note that in half of the years during this stretch of time the Orioles drafted and signed no one of consequence.  Second, notice the truly poor performance in the first round.  Only one of the team’s true first round draft picks amounted to anything (Werth) and he didn’t reach that status until he was 29 years old, three organizations and eight years after the Orioles gave up on him.  (To refresh your memory, Werth never appeared in a big league game for the Orioles and was dealt after the 2000 season to Toronto for John Bale, straight up.)  Even including Jayson Werth, the Orioles should have had at least one (and, given draft slots, arguably two) more contributing level players out of the first round alone, just to meet the historical draft average.

     

    In fact, things are actually worse than they appear because of the truckload of supplemental picks that the Orioles accrued during this period of time.  Here’s a full list of the team’s selections slotted in the top 50 draft spots (1995-2002).  All but one of these players is a first round or supplemental pick.  (The only exception is Cory Schafer, chosen with the 45th choice in 2002; he was a second round pick, but in most recent seasons, the 45th selection is a supplemental first rounder, so I included him here.)

     

     

    1

    Rnd

    OvPck

     

    1995

    1

    21

    Alvie Shepherd 

    1997

    1

    22

    Jayson Werth 

    1997

    1

    26

    Darnell McDonald 

    1997

    1s

    36

    Ntema Ndungidi 

    1998

    1

    26

    Rick Elder 

    1998

    1s

    39

    Mamon Tucker 

    1999

    1

    13

    Mike Paradis 

    1999

    1

    18

    Rich Stahl 

    1999

    1

    21

    Larry Bigbie 

    1999

    1

    23

    Keith Reed 

    1999

    1s

    34

    Josh Cenate 

    1999

    1s

    44

    Scott Rice 

    1999

    1s

    50

    Brian Roberts 

    2000

    1

    14

    Beau Hale 

    2000

    1s

    32

    Tripper Johnson 

    2001

    1

    7

    Chris Smith 

    2001

    1

    19

    Mike Fontenot 

    2001

    1s

    31

    Bryan Bass 

    2002

    1

    4

    Adam Loewen 

    2002

    2

    45

    Corey Shafer 

     

    That’s 20 first(ish) round selections in eight years, with an average overall draft slot of 26.  From a historical drafting perspective, we’d anticipate about a quarter (five) of these players to end up with contributing (or better) careers.  In fact, two of them reached that designation (Werth and Roberts) and, as mentioned above, one of them never played a game for the team and was traded for a bag of bolts…or in this case, a single bolt.  We’d also expect about half of these players to reach the major leagues.  Instead, only seven (35%) did so.

     

    Pulling four players out of the later rounds in eight years is more or less in line with historical expectations, but it’s probably worth noting that two of these “contributing level” players are pretty marginal examples of the typology.  David Dellucci only qualified for the batting title once in his 13-year big league career and only reached 450 plate appearances one other time.  He really only cleared the typology hurdle due to longevity and, in any event, he appeared in only 17 games for the Orioles and was lost in the 1997 expansion draft.  Hairston is a similar case, having only qualified for the batting title once in 15 years and really has turned himself into a jack-of-all-trades with nearly 5000 career plate appearances.

     

    In any case, given the opportunities, this was a poor draft performance, bordering on the level of failure that we saw with the 1975-84 period.  The near total shutout of first round pick performance (in practical terms, it was a full blown shutout given the particulars of the Werth case) is essentially the explanation for the overall classification, and that’s compounded by the lack of success with the plethora of supplemental choices (Brian Roberts excepted).  It was this draft failure that laid the groundwork for the franchise’s decent in the late 1990s and continued the trend deep into the following decade.

     

    Next:  An anecdotal look at the Orioles drafts since 2002  


    Comments/Questions?
    Visit the Orioles Hangout Message Board