The Major League Baseball Draft kicks off tomorrow with the Orioles having the fourth pick overall. If there is a bright side to sucking for the past 10 years, it is that they have had plenty of early draft picks.
Last season, the team turned out what appears to be a gem. Matt Wieters, catcher, was selected third overall. He is currently playing in Frederick and through 50 games is hitting .337, with 12 home runs and 33 runs batted in.
Can team officials make this kind of magic happen in 2008?
From 1997 to 2004, they really only drafted one, solid major-league player, Nick Markakis. Do not even get me started on some of the players they passed on. No, I will not even comment on that.
In 2005 and 2006, respectively, the Orioles picked up Brandon Snyder and Billy Rowell. Both are playing well in the minor leagues. Then in 2007, it was the $12 million man, Matt Wieters.
So what do the Orioles do in 2008? Pitching? Another fielder?
Andy MacPhail has made it clear he feels you can never have enough pitching. In the Tejada and Bedard trades he demonstrated that philosophy. But he also added depth to a power-depleted lineup that includes Aubrey Huff and Kevin Millar switching off at cleanup.
If all works out as planned, and we know how often that happens, the Orioles in 2009 or 2010 could have a lineup like this:
1. Roberts 2B
2. Jones CF
3. Markakis LF
4. Wieters C
5. Some old guy DH
6. Snyder 1B
7. Rowell 3B
8. Scott RF
9. Bynum SS
Again, this is if things go according to plan. But injuries, developmental brick walls, etc, have a way of messing plans up. Manager Dave Trembley would probably love to have the problem of shuffling that lineup around.
Honestly, I do not like Snyder at first. I like Texeira at first base, and I pray the team goes after him this offseason. But that is a whole other story; we are talking about the draft. These are the cards currently in the deck, and these are the cards I must play with.
Bynum? Is he a major league shortstop? Or is he simply a major league utility player? I take the latter. He is ok on defense, and slightly below average on offense. In the lineup above, he is the weak link. So, based on need, maybe the team should take a peak at the available shortstops. Like Tim Beckham from GA.
Pitching? Can never have enough remember? There are plenty available. Like San Diego left-hander Brian Matusz, or Missouri right-hander Aaron Crow, or even Eastern Kentucky left-hander Christian Friedrich.
First base? I already said I do not want Snyder there. I almost envision Snyder being traded, or even turned into a DH. So if not Snyder, who?
I already said Texeira. But what if they cannot, or do not land him. This draft is very deep at first base. Players like South Carolina's Justin Smoak, University of Miami's Yonder Alonso, Eric Hosmer of American Heritage (Fla.) High, Arizona State's Ike Davis, California's David Cooper, and Wake Forest's Allan Dykstra.
To me the biggest need right now is power. The most important area to me is always pitching, but I think they have made enough ground there through last offseason's trades. Now bring some solid power to the lineup to protect Markakis.
No matter what player they choose, rest assured, that for the first time in a long time, the one steering the ship in Baltimore knows his way around the Chesapeake Bay. Andy MacPhail has been here before, and King Peter I appears to be allowing him to do it.