It’s no secret that the Orioles’ plan for the future is to acquire young talent and develop them in the team’s farm system.
O’s fans are seeing the fruits of that labor in players like...
Nolan Reimold (2nd round in 2005)
David Hernandez (16th round in 2005)
Brad Bergesen (4th round in 2004)
Nick Markakis (1st round in 2003)
Chris Ray (3rd round in 2003)
Jim Johnson (5th round in 2001)
and Brian Roberts (Sandwich pick between 1st and 2nd rounds in 1999).
...with guys like Jake Arietta (5th round in 2007) and Brian Matusz (1st round in 2008) on the horizon and ready to help the big club in the likely near future.
And though I like Steve Melewski’s piece on the gems found in the later rounds of the draft even more than some of the names you’ll find on this list, here are the O’s last 10 first-round picks, along with info on where they are in (or out of) baseball going into this year’s draft:
2008: Brian Matusz, LHP (4th overall pick) - Currently with Single-A Frederick where he has gone 4-2 with a 2.17 ERA in 11 games.
2007: Matthew Wieters, C (5th overall pick) - Currently with the Orioles where he is hitting .143 with a double, triple, and a run scored in 8 games with the big club. That is, of course, after a stand-out career in the O’s minor leagues where he batted well over .300 at multiple levels and developed important relationships with several of the young pitchers likely to fill a majority of rotation spots for the Orioles in the years to come.
2006: William Rowell, 3B (9th overall pick) - Currently with Single-A Frederick where he is batting .244 with 7 HRs and 13 doubles in 55 games.
2005: Brandon Snyder, C (13th overall pick) - Currently with Double-A Bowie where he is batting .343 with 10 HRs, 15 doubles, and 41 RBI in 49 games.
2004: Wade Townsend, RHP (8th overall pick) - Townsend never signed with the Orioles, but his hiring an agent made him ineligible to play for Rice upon his return to college to complete his degree. Nevertheless, the Devil Rays selected him with their 8th overall pick in the following First-Year Player Draft, but the right-hander has been plagued with elbow (Tommy John surgery) and shoulder injuries for the bulk of his professional career.
2003: Nicholas Markakis, LHP (7th overall pick) - Most fans need no real explanation of Nick’s whereabouts, as he has settled into a fixture of the landscape in Birdland. Markakis has hit for a .298 career average with the O’s, including 133 doubles, 66 HRs and 301 RBI in 522 career games with the Birds. Markakis signed a six-year contract extension through 2014 with an option for 2015 during this past offseason.
2002: Adam Loewen, LHP (4th overall pick) - Hold your boos. While a lot of O’s fans harbor hard feelings toward the southpaw the Orioles drafted, developed and attempted to nurture through multiple injuries, he was once an exciting prospect for the Birds. However, after injuries forced him to transition from pitcher to position player, he was released from his contract with the O’s. Despite talk from both sides that Loewen would resign with Baltimore, he accepted a minor league contract from the Blue Jays in 2008. He is currently batting .210 with 8 doubles and a triple in 37 games for the Dunedin Blue Jays.
2001: Chris Smith, LHP (7th overall pick) - Practically before the ink dried on his contract, Smith began struggling through injuries that would plague the seasons he spent in the O’s farm system from 2001-2005. He spent time in the Gulf Coast League, Bluefield, Aberdeen and Delmarva before he was released during the summer of 2005.
2001: Michael Fontenot, 2B (19th overall pick) - Fontenot signed with the O’s and played for the Keys, Baysox, and Triple-A Ottawa Lynx before he was traded to the Chicago Cubs in February of 2005 as part of the deal that brought Sammy Sosa to Baltimore. Fontenot is still with the Cubs where he has hit for a .275 career average in 262 games.
2000: Beau Hale, RHP (14th overall pick) - Hale made his professional debut in 2001 and worked through the O’s farm system until 2007 when he made his final stop in Bowie. Persistent arm injuries eventually forced him into retirement in 2007 before he ever made the big leagues.