Baltimore Orioles Throw a Curve, Go With High Schooler

Drew BonifantAnalyst IIJune 9, 2009

The Baltimore Orioles' selection in the fifth overall slot of the 2009 MLB draft promised a fair degree of surprise.

On Tuesday, they delivered just that.

The O's selected pitcher Matthew Hobgood, out of California's Norco High School, with their first-round draft pick.

The approach was different for Andy MacPhail and Co. this year. In 2007, the O's selected Matt Wieters at No. 5, the consensus top pick if he weren't being represented by every GM's nightmare, Scott Boras.

In 2008 they picked Brian Matusz, widely considered the best pitcher available, at No. 4.

But this year, there wasn't an automatic way to go. The locks were Stephen Strasburg of San Diego State and Dustin Ackley of North Carolina. That's it.

By the time the Orioles were on the clock, they were picking from a deep pool of talent, but not a deep pool of don't-even-think-about-missing-out-on-these-guys talent. Ever the one to keep matters close to the chest, MacPhail dished out the "best player available" cliche.

So what did the Orioles do? They threw a curveball.

Baltimore's made no secret about its preference of more mature, polished college talent, and even less secret about its "grow arms, buy bats" approach.

But with college/independent league pitchers like Aaron Crow, Michael Minor, and Michael Leake still available, the Orioles switched their focus to the prep ranks, and nabbed Hobgood.

The pick was also a puzzling one (albeit not to some) because Hobgood wasn't considered the best high schooler available. Zachary Wheeler, taken immediately after at No. 6 by San Francisco, came with higher regard, as did Tyler Matzek.

Nevertheless, it's Hobgood, a hefty 6'4", 245-pound righty, who is joining Matusz, Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, and David Hernandez in the corps hoping to take Camden Yards by storm in a matter of years.

The pick isn't necessarily a bad one. Hobgood brings the heat, touching 95 mph, and compliments it with a standout curveball. His mechanics are supposedly sound, and his best attribute might be a warrior's mentality on the mound. Hobgood challenges each and every hitter in the lineup.

But the pick is a questionable one. Hobgood could become a lethal pitcher for Baltimore soon, but regardless of whether or not he does, the Orioles broke the mold to get him.


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