• Mar
    12

    Kerry Leibowitz - The Orioles and the Draft: 1985-94


    by Kerry Leibowitz

    The Orioles and the Draft:  1985-94

     

    If you read the previous installment in this series, you’ll recall that the Orioles had a lengthy drafting fallow period that began in earnest in 1980 and extended all the way through 1986.  During this seven-year stretch, the player that the Orioles drafted and signed who had the best career was John Habyan.  No one else during that stretch could even reasonably be said to have experienced a career performance that could be classified as being of “contributor” caliber.  If you think that this had something to do with the generally poor clubs that the Orioles put on the field from 1986 through 1991, you’re not alone.

     

    But what of the next decade?  We already know that the first two years (1985-86) netted nothing of consequence.  Here’s the year-by-year table:

     

    Year

    N

    0

    1

    2

    3

    4

    1st Pick

    Non BL

    BL%

    Adj. Cont. %

    1985

    34

    30

    1

    3

    0

    0

    99

    88.2%

    11.8%

    0.0%

    1986

    48

    45

    3

    0

    0

    0

    44

    93.8%

    6.3%

    0.0%

    1987

    53

    44

    3

    2

    2

    2*

    7

    83.0%

    17.0%

    5.8%

    1988

    46

    38

    2

    1

    4*

    1

    4

    82.6%

    17.4%

    8.9%

    1989

    47

    36

    5

    3

    3*

    0

    1

    76.6%

    23.4%

    4.3%

    1990

    45

    36

    3

    5

    0

    1

    20

    80.0%

    20.0%

    2.2%

    1991

    48

    41

    1

    5

    1

    0

    9

    85.4%

    14.6%

    2.1%

    1992

    50

    40

    3

    6

    1

    0

    4

    80.0%

    20.0%

    2.0%

    1993

    44

    37

    3

    3

    1

    0

    19

    84.1%

    15.9%

    2.3%

    1994

    43

    39

    3

    0

    0

    1*

    54

    90.7%

    9.3%

    0.0%

    Tot

    458

    386

    27

    28

    12

    5

    261

    84.3%

    15.7%

    2.8%

    Adj

           

    10

    3

    26.1

       

    2.9%

     

    *--indicates a classification including one player who was drafted by the Orioles but did not sign with the team

    **--indicates a classification including two players who were drafted by the Orioles but did not sign with the team

    The “1st Pick” column shows the slot of the first Orioles draft choice for that year.

    Note the “Adj” row at the bottom of the table.  Off and on through the team’s history, the club drafted players who went on to “contributing” (or better) big league careers but did not sign with the Orioles after being selected.  All of these players re-entered the draft and typically (but not always) substantially improved their drafting slots in later years.  A few of these players, as we’ll see, eventually were drafted by the Orioles a second time and did sign.  Regardless, selections who didn’t sign with the Orioles are not counted towards the team’s success rate.  For each table, I’ll indicate the names and draft years of such players. 

    In the case of the 1985-94 period, four players who went on to become contributing major leaguers were drafted at one point or another by the Orioles but didn’t sign with the team:

    • Mike Mussina, drafted in 1987 with the 287th pick in the 11th round; ultimately signed with the Orioles after being re-drafted with the 20th overall pick in 1990.  (I don’t credit a player with making two star-caliber selections when they draft the same player twice.  They’re only credited with such a selection when they draft and sign a player.)

     

    • Joey Hamilton, drafted in 1988 with the 711th pick in the 28th round; ultimately signed with the Padres after being drafted with the 8th overall pick in 1991.

     

    • Mike Lansing, drafted in 1989 with the 219th pick in the 9th round; ultimately signed with the Marlins after being drafted in the 6th round in 1990.

     

    • Michael Young, drafted in 1994 with the 699th pick in the 25th round; ultimately signed with the Blue Jays after being drafted in the 5th round in 1997.

     

    Despite the players the Orioles didn’t sign, they did awfully well with the ones they did.  This was, without question, the best stretch for the club in the 30-year history of the draft to that point.  The average first drafting slot—roughly 26th—wasn’t much better than that of the previous decade (30th), but that’s more than a bit misleading.  It’s significantly impacted by the complete absence of a first round selection in three of the period’s ten years (and a lack of a second round pick to boot in 1985).  Of the seven years where the team did have a first round choice, the average slot was the ninth.  It’s undeniable; the worse a team plays, the better its draft should be, simply because of the dramatically improved opportunities presented by a higher slot. 

     

    Remember that the Orioles never had a pick higher than number 10 in the first two decades of the draft, a function of the consistent contending performance the team put forth on the field.  Being god-awful has its privileges, however.  The Orioles bettered that #10 draft slot five times during this decade and had three picks in the top four (recall how much better, historically, the first four selections have been than first rounders beginning with the fifth selection), culminating with the team’s only #1 draft pick in its history (through the 2013 draft) in 1989.  Without question, the higher draft slotting during this period of time had an impact on the team’s overall draft success relative to the prior two decades.

     

    During the 1985-94 period, the Orioles selected and signed 13 players who went on to become major league contributors or better, with three going on to become stars.  This is a larger number of contributors than the first two decades combined (seven in the first decade; four in the second).

     

    The contributing players:

     

    1987

    Pete Harnisch, a supplemental pick, chosen with the 27th overall selection

    Steve Finley, with the 325th overall selection (13th round)

    David Segui, with the 455th overall selection (18th round)

     

    1988

    Gregg Olson, 4th overall selection

    Ricky Gutierrez, a supplemental pick with the 28th overall selection

    Arthur Rhodes, with the 34th overall selection (2nd round)

    Tom Martin, with the 139th overall selection (6th round)

     

    1989

    Ben McDonald, 1st overall selection

    Gregg Zaun, with the 427th selection, (17th round)

     

    1990

    Mike Mussina, 20th overall selection

     

    1991

    Jimmy Haynes, with the 186th overall selection (7th round)

     

    1992

    Jeffrey Hammonds, 4th overall selection

     

    1993

    Jay Powell, 19th overall selection

     

    Some of these players barely qualify for the “contributor” typology (Martin and Haynes in particular), but that’s neither here nor there.  Counting supplemental picks as first round choices (as MLB does), the Orioles had nine first rounders during this stretch and seven of them reached contributor status—that’s far above the historical average, even accounting for slotting.  Keep in mind that roughly 2/3 of #1 overall picks have reached contributor status or better, historically speaking.  Including supplemental choices, the Orioles’ first rounders during the period 1985-94 averaged around the 13th or 14th slot; the historical contributor status percentage for that slot is about 1 in 4.

     

    Additionally, the Orioles got six contributing level players from higher rounds over the span of six years—a rate of success that’s simply off the charts.  To pluck three players of the caliber of Finley (especially), Segui and Zaun out of the 13th, 18th and 17th rounds respectively in the span of three years is almost preposterously improbable.  It may be better to be lucky than good, but it’s even better to be both and that’s what the Orioles’ drafting was, particularly during the 1987-89 time frame.

     

    So things went well over this decade and, not surprisingly, the team’s fortunes on the field improved dramatically as well.  In an ominous sign, however, only three players from the 1994 draft so much as made the big leagues, none for more than a cup of coffee. 

     

    Next:  1995-2002


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