Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Checking in on Joe Jordan

Following the somewhat controversial (but not really) selection of Michael Hobgood in last week’s draft, defenders of the pick noted that the Orioles of recent seasons had spent money on the draft and that Joe Jordan’s track record had earned him the benefit of the doubt regarding the assessment of Hobgood's talent. Named Director of Scouting on November 16, 2004, by then-Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations (and Really Long Titles) Jim Beattie, Jordan just completed his fifth draft with the club, so it’s time to take a look back at how well he’s done infusing a formerly-barren Orioles minor league system with talent.

Pick Number - Player

2005 Draft

13 – Brandon Snyder: A high school catcher, injuries have since forced a move to first base. Given the position switch, Snyder’s value is tied directly to his bat. I’ll let Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus tell you how that value is developing: “It's officially a breakout season at this point for the 2005 first-round pick, who recorded his third straight multi-hit game on Thursday, is batting .440 this month and a whopping .355/.418/.612 overall. As a first baseman only type, he needed to prove that he could fit in the middle of a big lineup this year with more power, and for many scouts who have seen him, it's mission accomplished.” He’s still just 22-years old, and looks like he could very well be in Baltimore in the near future.

48 – Garrett Olson: Scouting reports called Olson polished, and he was expected to move quickly through the system. He did just that, reaching the big leagues in July 2007. In 33 starts for the Orioles in 2007 and 2008, he went 10-13 with a 6.87 ERA. This offseason, the Orioles traded him to the Cubs for Felix Pie, and the Cubs then shipped him to the Seattle, where he is pitching respectably as a swingman: 10 appearances, 4 starts, 4.26 ERA, 31.2 IP, 1.39 WHIP. Still, he’s yet to show anywhere near the command that drove this minor league success.

61 – Nolan Reimold: He hit in the NY-Penn League and the Carolina League during his 2005 debut. He hit some more in the Carolina League during 2006. He hit in the Eastern League in 2007. He hit in the Eastern League (again) in 2008. He hit in Norfolk in 2009. And now he’s hitting in Baltimore to the tune of .287/.356/.543 with 7 homers in his first 28 games. Looks set to be the Orioles everyday left fielder for the foreseeable future.

93 – Brandon Erbe: Before injuring his shoulder and hitting the disabled list, Erbe seemed to be poised for a breakout season. As the organization’s fourth best pitching prospect, he was 1-3 with a 0.90 ERA for Bowie, allowing just 11 hits (but 8 walks) in 20.0 IP with 19 strikeouts. As a 20-year old in the Carolina league in 2008, Erbe pitched very well: 150.2 IP, 82 hits, 50 walks, 151 strikeouts.

123 – Kieron Pope: A toolsy outfielder, he spent three seasons in short-season leagues, hasn’t hit and is currently on the minor league disabled list with Delmarva.

483 – David Hernandez: Though he doesn’t possess knock-out stuff, Hernandez has consistently posted very good strikeout rates in his minor league career. He enjoyed a great season in Bowie last year, and was off to another great start in Norfolk in 2009. He made his Major League debut on May 29, picking up the win against Detroit, but was just optioned to the minors. He’ll be back.

873 – Tanner Scheppers: What might have been… Scheppers elected not to sign and instead attended Fresno State. He suffered a stress fracture to his pitching shoulder before the 2008 draft and thus fell into the second round and again chose to not to sign. Last week, he was selected 44th overall by the Texas Rangers. Alas.

2005 Results: One everyday left fielder, a top pitching prospect, a blossoming first-baseman, one pitcher traded for a fallen star prospect, another very useful organization arm, and no major flops from the top picks. Gold stars all around!

2006 Draft

9 – Billy Rowell: After an impressive short-season debut at age 17 and a solid full season debut in 2007, Rowell has disappointed. Scouts have questioned his effort and attitude (not to mention his defense), and he’s since shifted from third base to the outfield. In his second go around at Frederick, he’s hitting just .236/.293/.391. To make matters worse, the following players we selected immediately after him: Tim Lincecum (10), Max Scherzer (11) and Travis Snider (14).

32 – Pedro Beato: Another disappointment, Beato has never posted the sort of strikeout numbers you’d expect from a pick this high. He’s just 4-5 at Frederick this year, posting a 4.57 ERA and 1.52 WHIP across 65.0 IP while striking out just 6.2 per nine.

58 – Ryan Adams: A second baseman, Adams posted good numbers at Delmarva in 2008, but at age 21 he was a bit old for the league. He’s in Frederick now, but on the disabled list.

85 – Zach Britton: Britton has improved as he’s advanced through the system, raising his strikeout rate, but his walk rate is a bit higher this year. His ERA looks pretty (1.96), but it masks 13 unearned runs allowed for the Keys. At age 21, this is an important season for Britton as a prospect.

115 – Blake Davis: A shortstop drafted out of national powerhouse Cal State Fullerton, Davis spent the 2008 season in Bowie where he posted a .284/.324/.389 line. Because of injury he’s yet to play for the Tides this season, but does not project as an everyday Major Leaguer.

175 – Jason Berken: Aside from perhaps Britton, it’s up to Berken to redeem the 2006 draft for the Orioles. He was part of that excellent 2008 Baysox rotation, and posted solid numbers this season before being called-up to the big club. He’s getting an extended audition, but considering the rest of the talent behind him, he’s unlikely to play a major role for very long. Still, he is a quality organizational arm and could definitely have value out of the bullpen or as a swingman.

2006 Results: The exact opposite of the 2005 draft. Rowell and Beato haven't developed, the position prospects have almost no chance to make an impact in Baltimore, and one organization-type arm is all the Orioles have to show for their troubles.

2007 Draft

5 – Matt Wieters: I think we know all about this guy.

129 – Tim Bascom: A right-hander out of Central Florida, Bascom just reached Bowie at age 24. After a poor 2008 season at Frederick, he posted only slightly better numbers in the Carolina League this year before his promotion. He’s walking just 2.2 per nine this year, but also only striking out 5.8.

159 – Jake Arrieta: After falling thanks to a mediocre junior season at TCU and questions regarding his bonus demands, Arrieta has validated the Orioles decision to go over slot and meet his asking price. There is no hint of social promotion here, as Arrieta dominated the Carolina League in 2008 and the Eastern League in 2009 to earn his recent call-up to Norfolk. His walks (4.1 per nine) were a bit worrisome in ’08, but he’s greatly improved this year (3.2 per nine), and his strikeout rate is a very attractive 10.5 per nine this year. He and Chris Tillman are on the verge of being the first of the elite arms to reach Baltimore.

189 – Joseph Mahoney: Only the Orioles fourth pick in the top 200 (Danys Baez, Chad Bradford and Jamie Walker: the gifts that keep on giving!), the big first baseman from the University of Richmond is repeating at Delmarva this season, showing none of the power (one home run in 182 at-bats) the Orioles hoped to see. But he is the biggest base stealer in baseball.

2007 Results: While Wieters has struggled in his Major League debut, he has all the makings of a future star; Arrieta also looks to be a future potential stalwart. Perhaps having just four top 200 picks was a hidden benefit as it allowed the Orioles the budget flexibility to sign Wieters and Arrieta.

2008 Draft

4 – Brian Matusz: While many fans preferred a bit bat like Justin Smoak with last season’s first round pick, Matusz has been as good as advertised. After a bit of a slow start, he’s making his case for a promotion to Bowie; he’s 2-1 with 1.13 ERA (39.2 IP, 5 ER) and 43 strikeouts over his last six starts. Andy MacPhail has stated that Matusz is on the “Wieters Plan,” so expect to see him in Bowie shortly and in Baltimore by the middle of next year. UPDATE: I wrote this yesterday, but just got around to posting today; Matusz was promoted to Bowie yesterday.

50 – Xavier Avery: A speedster who turned down a scholarship to play running back at the University of Georgia, Avery is raw and toolsy. His introduction to full season baseball has gone relatively well, especially after a horrific April, and he’s hitting .294/.335/.398 with 2 home runs and 16 steals in 24 attempts at Delmarva. He’s a long way from the big leagues, but he’s the kind of athlete scouts drool over.

81 – L.J. Hoes: Hoes is another high-upside high school draftee playing with the Shorebirds. He’s hitting .242/.280/.298 this year after posting a .308/.416/.390 line in the Gulf Coast league in his introduction to pro ball.

116 – Kyle Hudson: A speedy outfielder drafted out of the University of Illinois-Champaign, his .272/.342/.300 line at Delmarva fails to impress.

2008 Results: Matusz is on the fast track, but it's tough not to be just a bit jealous of the Rangers, who had Justin Smoak fall into their laps. Avery looks to be making real progress on turning his tools into skills, and Hoes has impact talent as well.

The verdict: The Orioles went above slot to draft top prospects Wieters, Matusz and Arrieta. Jordan's first round selections have been successful (to date, of course), at an 75% success rate, but after the 2005 draft, Jordan’s later round record is much more mixed; Jordan and his staff do earn bonus points, however, for the choosing the pieces returned in the Bedard and Tejada trades (Tillman, Patton, Albers, Sherrill, Jones, etc). Considering the success the Orioles have had in paying to meet the demands of the best available prospects, it’s a bit surprising they didn’t reach for a higher priced pitcher. Still, Hobgood rated very highly on most draft boards and was certainly not a laughable reach. If the Orioles can spend the money saved on a Latin prospect or two, as was rumored last week, then the club could net two top prospects for the price of one. On balance, Jordan and his staff have done an excellent job restocking the Orioles system.

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