Even with the Orioles on a west coast road trip, the Warehouse at Camden Yards has been a buzz of activity as Joe Jordan and his staff go through the final preparations for the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. This will be Jordan's fifth draft as the Orioles director of scouting.
In a third floor conference room, reports on hundreds and hundreds of players fill the large table. A draft board goes through updates and changes. Empty food containers fill waste baskets. And the scouts on Jordan's staff begin their individual sales pitches, hoping to move a player under consideration up the draft board.
Jordan explains that a good scout is also a good salesman. And in the final days leading up to the draft, what they look for are separators.
Jordan likes big players, strong athletes with strong tools and physical abilities. But moving away from tools sometimes is the determining factor in why a player is selected. What's a player's makeup. How did a hitter do in a summer league using wooden bats. How mature is a pitcher and how does he handle adversity during a game. All these factors matter.
The draft is the lifeblood of every Major League organization. It brings the players who will fill minor league rosters and begin the process of trying to be one of the select few to play in the big leagues. The more prospects you have, the more likely you'll have one that will play in the majors someday.
The Orioles' minor league system is healthy. And it's already having an effect on the major league roster. Eight of the current players on the 25 man roster were drafted and developed by the Orioles.
Brian Roberts: 1999
Jim Johnson: 2001
Nick Markakis: 2003
Brad Bergesen: 2004
Nolan Reimold: 2005
David Hernandez: 2005
Jason Berken: 2006
Matt Wieters: 2007
Felix Pie was acquired in a trade for Garrett Olson who was also drafted by the O's in 2005. And Gregg Zaun, who came back to the Orioles as a free agent, was originally drafted by the O's in 1989. These are all signs that the Orioles, as an organization, are making positive strides. Players are arriving in Baltimore and more are on the way.
The Orioles have the 5th pick in this year's draft and will come away with one of the most talented players in the nation. Right now that player hasn't been decided upon.
Jordan says by draft day, the Orioles draft board will have their top five rated players regardless of position. The top player still available of those top five players when it's the Orioles turn to pick will become their first-round choice.
But keep an eye on the later rounds. Jordan says those are the rounds that make your draft. David Hernandez for instance was a 16th round pick in 2005. There were 482 players selected ahead of Hernandez. Yet the Orioles scouts saw something in Hernandez, took him in a later round, and now he's in the Orioles rotation.
Joe Jordan and his staff do an exceptional job--they work hard and they never let up. And each year the staff is challenged to find a good prospect in the later rounds. There is always opportunity in later rounds for those who have done their work. And Jordan and his staff do their work.
The number one pick this year will get most of the publicity. But in three or four years, we might be talking about a 10th round pick in the 2009 draft making his debut with the Orioles.
Unlike the NFL or NBA where players have an immediate impact, baseball prospects take time to develop, and they all develop at their own pace. There is no exact formula. Jordan reminds us fans to be patient and allow the process to take place.