Orioles go for shortstops, arms in draft

Orioles go for shortstops, arms in draft

BALTIMORE -- The first day of the First-Year Player Draft ended Tuesday with some interesting trends for the Orioles, who selected four shortstops in their first nine picks and nine pitchers overall. Baltimore wound up with two players in Baseball America's top 20 prospects -- prep infielder Billy Rowell and right-handed pitcher Pedro Beato.

"There were a lot of good athletes, I thought, today," said Mike Flanagan, Baltimore's executive vice president of baseball operations. "There were four or five potential shortstops. There's college arms [and] there's high school arms in it. We took some some high school players early and later in the first round, some college pitchers.

"We really thought it was a balanced draft. ... The board went as expected."

Rowell, a power-hitting infielder, was Baltimore's first pick, the ninth overall in the first round. Beato came in the compensatory round and is expected to add to the pitching depth in the lower levels of the organization. Beato was a 17th-round choice in the last draft and never came to terms with the team that owned his rights, but Baltimore's director of scouting Joe Jordan doesn't anticipate a problem.

"We liked him out of high school, so we knew a lot about his background before this past year. I think that factored in as much as anything," said Jordan. "[He had] Tommy John [surgery] 24 months ago, so we've got that behind him. ... He's a very strong kid, [and] he's going to be an innings-eater.

"We've seen him at 95-96 this year with both a breaking ball and changeup."

With Beato in the fold, Baltimore went back to stocking shortstops. Three of the next four picks were spent on middle infielders, with prep picks Ryan Adams and Tyler Henson flanking Cal-State Fullerton's Blake Davis.

"The idea, certainly early on in the draft, was to get the best athletes up the middle," said Flanagan, "And try to find a big bat in there somewhere. We thought we did that with Rowell."

Jordan said that Davis may have been the best defender in the country, and he also said he'll be the best in the organization as soon as he signs. Davis came off the board in the fourth round, and Jordan said he was surprised he lasted that long.

"We had some middle infielders who we liked and the board came off good for us there," he said. "It's something we were trying to do. We set it up hoping we could get some of them and we did, so we're happy about that."

The Orioles returned to the major college ranks in the late rounds, with eight of their final 11 picks coming from four-year universities. Most of the players were picked for now, with only a few falling into the draft-and-follow category.

"Just a couple -- maybe two or three," Jordan said. "We have a couple summer follows, guys who we would hope we could sign this summer. We'll wait and see how things come off as far as if we're able to get the guys we intend to sign for budget -- and if we have any money left. It's a little bit of a mix, but just a couple DNFs on Day 1. A couple more tomorrow."

The late rounds brought some interesting picks, with a potential head-scratcher coming in the 14th round. Baltimore selected Brent Allar out of Texas Christian University, a player picked for his potential more than his production.

"We saw a really good arm early in the year, a fastball up to 95," Jordan said. "His command wasn't that good, but down at that point in the draft, I asked my guys to look at the board and [determine] who has the best tools on the board. Who has a chance to really impact the game, whether it's an offensive player or an arm.

"And he had the best fastball on the board. ... You're in the 16th round, you're reaching, obviously. We were chasing some tools there. I've been known to do that.

One round later, the Orioles took Anthony Watson, a left-handed pitcher out of Nebraska.

"He's actually a kid we had slotted in the first five rounds, but we ran into the signability question, so we let him slide," said Jordan. "We just felt like it was an opportunity. He was one of the summer follows. We'll see him this summer, and if we see what we want to see, we'll try to get something done."

Here's a round-by-round list of Tuesday's selections after Rowell and Beato:

Round 2: Ryan Adams, SS, Jesuit HS (LA)
Adams is currently listed as a shortstop but may project as an offensive second baseman in the future. He's had consistent hamstring problems and may attend noted college powerhouse Louisiana State if he doesn't sign a pro deal.

Round 3: Zachary Britton, LHP, Weatherford HS (TX)
Britton throws in the low 90's and should add velocity as he fills out. The southpaw's changeup and curveball need work, but he will have plenty of time to refine both pitches in the lower levels of the Minor Leagues.

Round 4: Blake Davis, SS, Cal-State Fullerton
Davis was a three-year starter at shortstop for the Titans and led his team in batting average (.363) and runs scored (56) this season. The left-handed hitter never batted lower than .295 during his tenure at Cal-State Fullerton.

Round 5: Bobby Henson, SS, Tuttle HS (OK)
Yet another shortstop. Henson was a three-sport star in Oklahoma and a player Jordan's been watching a long time. Jordan said his bat is further away than his glove, and that "he'll look good in a suit when he runs out there."

Round 6: Jason Berken, RHP, Clemson
Berken missed the entire 2005 season while recuperating from an elbow operation but came back strong in 2006. Berken went 9-3 with a 2.72 ERA for Clemson in 2006, holding his opponents to four home runs and a .258 batting average.

Round 7: Joshua Tamba, RHP, Cypress College
Tamba was named All-State and finished his season with a 12-3 record and a 2.07 ERA -- both team-best marks.

Round 8: Jedidiah Stephen, SS, Ohio State
Stephen was a four-year starter at Ohio State, but two of those years were spent at third base. He batted .300 or better in each of his last three seasons and finished with a high-water mark (.343) in '06.

Round 9: Brett Bordes, LHP, Arizona State
Bordes became the first relief pitcher to be named MVP of an Arizona State team, and only two other pitchers had won it before. Bordes set the program's alltime record for appearances (109) and led the team in wins (7) this season.

Round 10: Emeel Salem, CF, University of Alabama
Salem made the Southeastern Conference's Academic Honor Roll twice in each of his first two years with the Crimson Tide, and came back as a junior to lead the team in batting average (.364) and stolen bases (36).

Round 11: Anthony Martinez, 1B, Louisburg College
Martinez hit .331 for Louisburg and led his team in home runs (13). He also drove in 56 runs.

Round 12: Brandon Tripp, OF, Cal-State Fullerton
Tripp hit .354 as a part-time starter for the Titans in 2005 and came back to lead his team in slugging (.536) as a junior, punching eight home runs and 15 other extra-base hits. Tripp hit .313 and drove in 37 runs in 56 games.

Round 13: Ryan Ouellette, RHP, Indian River CC
Ouellette posted a 5.00 ERA and struck out 22 batters in 27 innings, and was likely taken as a draft-and-follow.

Round 14: Brent Allar, RHP, Texas Christian
Allar was drafted a little higher in 2005 but didn't sign. He notched a 12.51 ERA with the Horned Frogs in 2006.

Round 15: Dustin Black, C, Cleveland State Community College
Black hit .251 with team-high totals in home runs (13), slugging percentage (.615) and RBIs (58) this season.

Round 16: Justin Johnson, C, University of Illinois-Chicago
Johnson batted .395 with 11 homers and 57 RBIs in '06 and has no more eligibility left.

Round 17: Anthony Watson, LHP, University of Nebraska
Watson, a 2005 Collegiate Baseball freshman All-American, notched a 10-2 record and a 2.78 record in 2006.

Round 18: Nathan Nery, LHP, Stetson
Nery notched a 7-5 record and a 4.53 ERA for the Hatters.

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.