The Baltimore Orioles today selected four pitchers, two outfielders and a shortstop in the first 50 picks of Major League Baseball's first-year amateur draft. It was the first time in the 25-year history of the draft that one team had seven picks in the top 50.
"No question it is a unique opportunity when you can get seven premier players and insert them into your organization," Orioles General Manager Frank Wren said. "It puts you way ahead. In normal times, you may get one-and-a-half picks in the top 50."
With the first of their four first-round picks, No. 13 overall, the Orioles selected Clemson junior right-hander Mike Paradis. At No. 18, the Orioles took 6-foot-6 left-hander Richard Stahl of Newton High School in Covington, Ga; at No. 21, outfielder Larry Bigbie of Ball State; and at No. 23, outfielder Keith Reed of Providence College.
Josh Hamilton, a senior at Athens Drive High School in Raleigh, N.C., was taken first overall by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Twenty-two rounds were completed today; the draft will be completed Thursday.
Locally, the first high school player selected was All-Met Player of the Year Jeff Baker of Gar-Field, who was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the fourth round. West Springfield senior pitcher Joe Saunders, a two-time All-Met left-hander, was taken in the fifth round by the Philadelphia Phillies. Potomac (Va.) All-Mets Danny Lopaze, a pitcher, and second baseman Jose Pabon were taken in the 16th round by Tampa Bay and the 19th round by the New York Mets, respectively. Damascus All-Met pitcher Ryan Childs was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 17th round and Riverdale Baptist shortstop Ryan Dorsey was taken in the 18th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Among college players, former Herndon High All-Met right-hander Blair DeHart, a junior at James Madison, was taken in the sixth round by the San Diego Padres. Maryland first baseman Craig Munroe was taken by the Pirates in the 11th round and teammate Thomas Curtiss, a left-hander, was taken by Atlanta in the 18th round. Pitcher Craig Helmandollar (Stafford) from Potomac State College was selected by Seattle in the 21st round.
For the Orioles, the first draft under the direction of Wren and scouting director Tony DeMacio represented an opportunity to build depth in their depleted farm system.
With their "sandwich" picks between the first and second rounds, awarded for the loss of premier free agents last offseason, the Orioles selected two left-handed pitchers, Josh Cenate of Jefferson High in Charles Town, W.Va., and Scott Rice of Royal High in Simi Valley, Calif., and shortstop Brian Roberts of the University of South Carolina.
Paradis, a native of Auburn, Mass., was drafted in the seventh round of the 1996 draft by the Oakland Athletics. However, instead of signing, he chose to go to Clemson, where he was 11-3 with a 5.49 earned run average in his college career.
Wren and DeMacio said they were attracted to Paradis because he has a good sinker, making him well-suited to pitch at Camden Yards.
"We're hoping Paradis can move fairly quickly through the organization," DeMacio said. "He has good stuff. The lefties are going to take some time, naturally. That's okay. . . . We wanted a college pitcher to start with. He fits what we need here."
The Orioles' next selection was Ball State catcher Jonathan Kessick in the third round.
Meanwhile, Baker became the highest local high school player drafted since Chancellor's Chris Stowe was taken 37th overall by the Montreal Expos in 1997. Baker thinks his intention to go to Clemson on a baseball scholarship hurt his draft position. He said he received calls during the first and second rounds from two teams inquiring about his position -- whether he will attend Clemson or sign a professional contract. "I've been leaning toward Clemson for a while," he said.
Saunders has signed a letter-of-intent to accept a baseball scholarship to Virginia Tech. But he said he will wait until after graduation to decide on his future.
"I don't graduate until [June] 21st, so I'm going to put it off a bit," said Saunders, 17. "I got a call from the Cubs before the Phillies called, asking me if I'd be willing to sign and I said I would be. Right now I'm just real excited and happy."