05/28/2004 8:00 AM ET
Orioles draft preview
Eighth pick should help a rebuilding farm system
By Gary Washburn / MLB.com
BALTIMORE -- The Orioles have the money to pursue premium free agents and improve their team
immediately. Yet, the First-Year Player Draft is an important part of the organization's
|Adam Loewen was Baltimore's first overall pick in 2002. (Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
The Orioles have the eighth pick in the June 7 draft and have rebuilt their farm system
since the Jim Beattie-Mike Flanagan era with fruitful drafts the past two years. Players
such as Nick Markakis, Val Majewski and Adam Loewen are flourishing in the O's system and
could be key parts of the team's future.
This is not considered a particularly deep draft, and Beattie said the club could land
just as talented a player with the eighth pick as perhaps the third or fourth.
"It sounds like a cliché but we'll take the best player available," Beattie said. "We're
looking for a player with the highest ceiling. It's a very expensive pick. You want to be
very careful how you spend the money. We're open to anything."
The club's past two picks, Loewen and Markakis, have been players with one year of junior
college experience, which has helped their maturity. Beattie said the team is not against
drafting a high school player -- which has been a growing debate the past few years -- but
are projected to take Old Dominion pitcher Justin Verlander with their pick.
Verlander, a right-hander, is 6-foot-4, 190 pounds and is 6-5 with a 3.33 ERA for the
Monarchs. He is considered a hard thrower who has trouble with command.
Since the organization is run by two former pitchers, the Orioles have emphasized pitching
in their past few drafts. And the lower levels are stocked with good arms. What the club
lacks is a legitimate power hitter. Beattie, however, said the team will not particularly
An intriguing pick could be Miami (Ohio) first baseman Mike Ferris, who has 22
| Past five No. 1 picks|
|| Nicholas Markakis, LHP
|| Adam Loewen, LHP
|| Chris Smith, LHP
|| Michael Fontenot, 2B
|| Beau Hale, RHP
Perhaps the first-round pick is even more significant because the Orioles do not have a
second-rounder because of the signing of Miguel Tejada. A primary reason the Orioles' farm
system declined in the late 1990s was that the club lost several picks by signing free
Beattie said the club wants to be careful of not becoming too reliant on free agency,
especially since it can hurt farm system development. The Orioles do not view themselves as
a team with the luxury of signing free agents to fill all necessary needs. Flanagan believes
in the "Oriole way" that was so prevalent during his playing days in the 1970s, when the
organization developed players such as Eddie Murray, Flanagan, Cal Ripken and Mike Mussina.
The organization wants to maintain that tradition but also be one of the premiere
attractions for premium free agents.
"For longer term success the draft is important," Beattie said. "A good organization is
going to develop their own players. It's just another way of bringing in players. It is very
important to us."
Gary Washburn is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.