06/04/2002 10:19 pm ET
O's 'happy' with first day
By Gary Washburn / MLB.com
BALTIMORE -- Orioles Scouting Director Tony DeMacio said Tuesday that position players were at a premium in the First-Year Player Draft, so the club attempted to fill its pressing weakness: pitching.
If the team's first 22 picks were any indication, the Orioles accomplished their pre-draft goal. Baltimore took 11 pitchers, including first-round pick Adam Loewen, a left-hander from British Columbia.
In the 11th round, they tabbed right-hander Mark McCormick, considered a top high school pitcher whose stock dropped because his representative is the hard-negotiating Scott Boras.
DeMacio and Vice President of Baseball Operations Syd Thrift sought pitching in the first 11 rounds. Six of the seven players taken in round Nos. 5-11 were pitchers, including Ball State University right-hander Paul Henry, a teammate of No. 1 draft pick Bryan Bullington.
After taking Loewen, the Orioles focused on position players. They selected Corey Shafer from Choctaw High School in Oklahoma in the second round. Shafer is 6 feet 3 and 210 pounds and has good hitting instincts and power, according to scouts. He was ranked the 34th-best high school prospect by Baseball America.
Shafer is committed to play baseball at Oklahoma but is likely to sign with the Orioles because he was picked so high. He is considered the third-best left-handed power hitter in the draft.
"I'll take him over some of the others," DeMacio said late Tuesday night. "We are happy with what we did today. [Shafer] is a kid with some power."
The club stuck with outfielders with its next two picks, taking Val Majewski from Rutgers and Timothy Gilhooley from the University of the Pacific. Majewski worked out with the Orioles last week, a personal workout because Rutgers waited for a possible NCAA Tournament invitation and Majewski could not attend a general workout for draft prospects.
DeMacio said team officials were impressed with Majewski's skills. He hit .353 for the Scarlet Knights with 11 homers and 50 RBIs.
Hayden Penn, from Santana High School in Santee, Ca., was the Orioles' fifth-round pick and second high school pitcher taken. DeMacio said the draft was heavy with high school pitchers, which represent the biggest risk because of the potential for arm troubles. Penn, though, has a tremendous upside. He does not turn 18 until October, yet he is already 6 feet 3 and will fill into his wiry frame.
After Penn, the Orioles took two more high school pitchers, right-handers Matthew Bolander from Pendelton Heights High School in Indiana and McCormick from Clear Creek High School in Texas.
McCormick may be the most intriguing of Tuesday's 22 picks. According to scouts, he has first-round potential, evidenced by his 96-mph fastball. He was ranked the sixth-best high school player in the draft by Baseball America.
But it's not certain if he will attend Baylor, where he signed a letter of intent. DeMacio expects arduous negotiations with McCormick. Several Boras clients slid in the draft because of his reputation for demanding enormous signing bonuses.
"We just decided to give it a shot, but it won't be easy," DeMacio said. "He may have the best fastball of any high school pitcher. We figured it was worth the risk."
Ten of the final 11 players selected by the Orioles on Tuesday were college players, who are more signable in the later rounds. Most notable were 13th-round pick first baseman Michael Huggins from Baylor University and Texas Tech infielder Gerardo Alvarez (16th). Both are considered standout defensive players.
The O's took local product Gregory Davies, an outfielder from Towson University, with its 21st pick. Six of the Orioles' 22 picks are from the Big 12 Conference, with two having played at the University of Texas: catcher Ryan Hebele (eighth round) and shortstop Brandon Fahey (12th round).
University of Central Florida teammates George Cox and Stephen Sutton were tabbed in the 20th and 22nd round, respectively.
"The Midwest was a very good area this year," DeMacio said. "We hope we have some big-leaguers in those final picks."
Gary Washburn covers the Orioles for MLB.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.