No guarantees for the Orioles with the fourth pick

As I wrote last night, if the top three picks in the First-Year Player Draft tonight are Mark Appel, Byron Buxton and Mike Zunino, the Orioles appear to have zoned in on a group of four from which to make the fourth overall selection.

In alphabetical order they are: Puerto Rican high school shortstop Carlos Correa, high school lefty pitcher Max Fried, LSU right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman and University of San Francisco right-handed pitcher Kyle Zimmer.

In their latest mock draft out today, Baseball America still projects that the Orioles will take Gausman tonight.

The Orioles’ last three top picks have been high school players in Matt Hobgood (2009), Manny Machado (2010) and Dylan Bundy (2011). The last time the Orioles drafted a college pitcher first was in 2008 when they took Brian Matusz No. 4 overall out of the University of San Diego.

The Orioles’ last three No. 4 overall selections were Adam Loewen in 2002, Matusz in 2008 and Bundy last year. The Orioles seem likely to go three-for-three with that group in making the majors. But even a pick as high as No. 4 is no sure thing.

Here are the last 10 No. 4 picks from round one:

*2002 - Orioles take LHP Adam Loewen from Fraser Valley High School (Canada)
*2003 - San Diego takes RHP Tim Stauffer from University of Richmond
*2004 - Tampa Bay takes RHP Jeff Niemann of Rice
*2005 - Washington takes 3B Ryan Zimmerman from University of Virginia
*2006 - Pittsburgh takes RHP Brad Lincoln from University of Houston
*2007 - Pittsburgh takes LHP Daniel Moskos from Clemson
*2008 - Orioles take LHP Brian Matusz from University of San Diego
*2009 - Pittsburgh takes C Tony Sanchez from Boston College
*2010 - Kansas City takes SS Christian Colon from Cal State-Fullerton
*2011 - Orioles take RHP Dylan Bundy from Owasso (Okla.) high school

That is not a star-studded list and the Orioles have probably done as well as anyone with their No. 4 picks. If Bundy proves to be one day be the Orioles’ No. 1 starter, they will have done considerably better than most with that pick over the years.

You could do a quick Google search of any team’s first-round picks and see several misses. To me, the draft is one of the most misunderstood aspects of baseball by some fans. They believe you should add a series of All-Stars when you draft as high as the Orioles have over recent years and they have picked fifth or higher now every year since 2007.

You could certainly make the argument that their track record should be better but missing on some high picks makes the Orioles no different than a lot of teams. That is just the nature of the draft.

The large, large majority of players drafted the next three days will never see the major leagues. That is just the math of the game. Recent O’s top picks like Machado and Bundy are right now considered among the best prospects in the game, but even that is no guarantee of future major league success for that duo.

In interviewing Baseball America’s Jim Callis over the years, we have discussed this topic. In an interview last June, he told me that perhaps less than 50 players that get drafted will have better-than-average big league careers. Keep in mind, more than 1,500 players will be taken in the draft.

Here is what Callis said on that topic:

“Even with college players, you are projecting two or three years into the future. That’s tough. In an average draft there is maybe six or eight true stars. Guys that will make a bunch of All-Star teams. There might be eight in a draft.

“If you are talking about guys that will have a good career, play five or more years and maybe make an All-Star team, there might be another two or three dozen of those guys.

“So a typical draft has 36 to 45 or so truly useful players. Everyone else is a kind of a complementary, spare part. If you get two of those good players, you are doing better than most of the teams in the draft. I think some fans think a team with all the extra picks will get six studs, but it just doesn’t work out what way.”

I have seen fans remark this week if the Orioles get Gausman, the LSU pitcher, tonight that it would mean they have a No. 2 starter for the future to go with Bundy. First of all, even though Gausman is considered a top talent in this draft, there is no guarantee that he’ll ever pitch in the majors, much less be a No. 2 starter.

For Gausman and most of the top picks, he could have some minor league struggles or deal with inconsistency or injuries. He could make the majors later than his drafting team thought he would and never be more than just a bullpen pitcher or someone with marginal big league success.

Orioles fans have seen their team draft Billy Rowell, who looks like he’ll never even play as high as Triple-A, and Bundy, who some feel is good enough to pitch in the majors this year. What will tonight bring the Orioles? We’ll know in a few hours.

Day long coverage: Check back here throughout the day and follow me on Twitter for any draft day updates and news today.

Click here to see a listing of every Orioles first-round pick through the years.

Click here for my recent interview with Orioles scouting director Gary Rajsich.

Click here for my interview with Orioles vice president Dan Duquette about the draft.

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