CLOSE

Now Commenting On:

Draft Preview: O's to take best available

Orioles to draft best available player

BALTIMORE -- It's only taken a few years for Baltimore to turn its farm system around, and it's only taken a few high caliber prospects to change people's perception of the Orioles. Baltimore did well in the Erik Bedard trade and has further enhanced its farm system by drafting well in recent years, a process aided by a perennially high draft position.

This year, there doesn't appear to be a consensus player for the Orioles to pick. Baltimore's organizational strength tilts heavily to the pitching side of the equation, partly due to the team's philosophy. Andy MacPhail, Baltimore's president of baseball operations, has consistently said that he'd like to "grow the arms and buy the bats."

And in this Draft, the Orioles have a crop of players who perfectly fit into their strategy. This Draft appears to be rich in pitching, and Baltimore will have a chance to nab one of the elite arms with the fifth overall selection.

MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft on June 9-11. MLB Network will broadcast the first round at 6 p.m. ET on June 9 from its Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J., and those 32 selections also will be simulcast live on MLB.com.

Beginning with the 33rd pick, up-to-the-minute on-air coverage from the remaining rounds will shift exclusively to MLB.com/Live, where host Vinny Micucci will be joined by MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo and Major League Scouting Bureau director Frank Marcos.

Once the first night is done, the Draft will continue with rounds 4-30, via conference call from MLB headquarters in New York, at noon on June 10. Rounds 31-50 will be on June 11, starting at 11:30 a.m.

Here's a glance at what the Orioles have in store as the First-Year Player Draft approaches:

In about 50 words
The Orioles have rebuilt their system on the strength of college players over the last few seasons and may be prepared to take a chance on a prep player with a higher upside in this year's Draft.

The scoop
"I don't know that it's an outstanding year once you get past a certain guy, but it's solid. I'm not sure that there's huge upside with any of those guys, but you try to evaluate them and compare them to what you've seen in the past. You never know what's going to happen in front of you. We've got a pretty good feeling on how we think the country lines up, but we're going to take the best available player." -- Joe Jordan, Baltimore's director of scouting

First-round buzz
The Draft's top two consensus players -- Stephen Strasburg and Dustin Ackley -- will almost assuredly be gone when the Orioles pick. That will likely leave Baltimore to shortstop Grant Green, or to cast about for the best available pitcher. The Orioles liked Aaron Crow last season and could decide to pick him this time around.

Shopping list
The Orioles have spent the past few Drafts stockpiling pitching, a path they'll likely continue. Baltimore is all but bereft of power bats in the lower levels of the organization and doesn't have many high-caliber infield prospects. But as Jordan said, you take the best available talent high and then worry about patching the rest of your needs.

Trend watch
The Orioles have gone heavy on college pitching in recent seasons and may be ready to take a chance on some young prep arms. Baltimore's current policy is to "add to the inventory" of pitching prospects within the organization and then let them sort themselves out through injuries, attrition, trades and positive progress. This Draft is deep in arms, leading many to speculate that the Orioles will continue their recent trajectory.

Recent top picks
2008: Brian Matusz -- Matusz is 4-2 with a 2.37 ERA in his first 10 professional starts and will likely move up to Double-A Bowie soon. The Orioles want to take it slow with the southpaw, but Matusz is regarded as a potential fast-riser.
2007: Matt Wieters -- Wieters hasn't just lived up to his lofty Draft status, he's established himself as one of the very best prospects in baseball. Wieters made his big league debut last week and appears to be in the Majors to stay.
2006: Billy Rowell -- Rowell, who was drafted as a shortstop, initially moved to third base and is playing the outfield this season. Rowell has yet to turn 21 years old, but he has a long way to go to establish himself as part of the Orioles' future.

Rising fast
Jake Arrieta was taken in the fifth round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, and he's done nothing but thrive since signing with the Orioles. The right-hander went 6-5 with a 2.87 ERA for Class A Frederick last year and is 4-3 with a 2.98 mark for Double-A Bowie this year, perhaps setting himself up for a second-half promotion.

Cinderella story
David Hernandez, originally a 16th-round draftee, has made progress that belies his modest entry into professional baseball. The right-hander led the Double-A Eastern League in strikeouts last season and ranked second in the Triple-A International League before the Orioles called him up to fill in for the injured Koji Uehara.

In The Show
Wieters, the crown jewel of the organization, has already settled in as the team's catcher of the present and future. Outfielder Nolan Reimold is making his case for a starting job, and Jason Berken has pitched well in his brief big league audition. More importantly, the Orioles have several prospects hot on their heels.

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

{}
{}