Baltimore Orioles: The ones that got away

The 2009 draft produced six major leaguers for the Baltimore Orioles. Two half-decent relievers (Mychal Givens and Taylor Rogers), recently non-tendered outfielder Tyler Naquin, and three other guys who have combined for 0.4 WAR.

But it could have been so different. 274 WAR different.

ROUND ONE: Matt Hobgood

High school pitcher who suggested had the chance to be a front-of-the-rotation starter. However, injuries prevented Hobgood from progressing beyond a total of 9⅔ innings in Double-A. He tried to resurrect his career as a hitter, but with no success.

The next three picks in the first round after Hobgood were also pitchers: Zack Wheeler, Mike Minor and Mike Leake. How different Baltimore’s fortunes could have been. All three have accumulated more WAR than any Orioles’ pitcher this century.

Although, just imagine what The O’s would look like today had they taken Mike Trout who slipped to the Angels with the 25th pick of the first round.

ROUND TWO: Mychal Givens

This was the Orioles pick of the draft. The reliever has accumulated a little under 7 WAR in his six Major League seasons, although he is now with the Rockies.

Although his arm was always a weapon, the Orioles drafted Givens to be their shortstop of the future. He produced three years of light-hitting in the low minors before the permanent move to the mound.

After taking Givens with the fifth pick of the second round, the Orioles watched middle infielders Jason Kipnis and DJ LeMahieu go off the board, as well as pitchers Steven Matz and Patrick Corbin.

So, we know that the Orioles could have had Trout with their first pick. How awesome would their lineup be if they had backed him up with Nolan Arenado who was taken by the Rockies five picks after Givens.

ROUND THREE: Tyler Townsend

The first baseman put up video game numbers for Florida International University and posted .835 OPS in the minors until injuries forced him to retire at just 25 years old. In round three, Kansas City took Wil Myers six picks later.

ROUND FOUR: Randy Henry

The Orioles (and every other team) could have had Khris Davis more than 100 picks later. Instead, they took a relief pitcher in the fourth round. Who does that?

ROUND FIVE: Ashur Tolliver

He was a success story. Eight appearances in relief in the big leagues. Not quite the success story the San Francisco Giants had by taking Brandon Belt with the very next pick.

ROUND SIX: Justin Dalles

The Orioles drafting a catcher caused ripples of disapproval as they had already taken Matt Wieters in the first round two years earlier. Dalles made nearly 1,000 plate appearances in the minors, but only a dozen games at Double-A.

The best pick of the round was the Swiss Army knife known as Kiké, now plying his trade in Red Sox colours, Enrique Hernandez.

ROUND SEVEN: Aaron Wirsch

In High School, Wirsch made 12 starts, finished 11-0 and had a 1.54 ERA with eight complete games. He failed to progress beyond the low minors

Alternatively, the Orioles could have drafted a geeky chap with a funky delivery who would go on to win the Cy Young Award. Dallas Keuchel, slipped to the seventh round. I think the last Orioles Cy Young Award winner was Steve Stone in 1980.

ROUND EIGHT: Devin Harris

The power-hitting left fielder struck out in his solitary Triple-A plate appearance. Incidentally, future-MVP Josh Donaldson was playing left field for the opposition.

Almost unbelievably, Paul Goldschmidt slipped to the Diamondbacks in the the eighth round. Yet another “if only …”

ROUND NINE: Ryan Berry

I leant heavily on a June 2009 Bleacher Report article while researching this post. So, it was amusing to read the line “Steal. That’s all I can say about this pick. A true steal,”

Drafted one pick after his college teammate, Brock Holt, Berry was a steal who became a highly-rated prospect and was expected to be part of the Zach Britton-led rotation of the future. However, the highpoint of his career was three hitless innings in his solitary outing in Double-A

The best pick of the ninth round was Chase Anderson taken by the Diamondbacks with pick 276. But how about J.D. Martinez who went with pick 611. His power would have played well in the home run environs of Camden Yards.

ROUND TEN: Jake Cowan

The Orioles were spoilt for choice in the tenth round: Yan Gomes, Tucker Barnhart or Jake Cowan.

Fireballing closer, Cowan, threw 176 innings in Double-A but a shoulder injury prevented him from reaching his potential.

Orioles picksWARThe ones that got awayWAR
Matt Hobgood 0.0 Mike Trout74.6
Mychal Givens6.9Nolan Arenado39.1
Tyler Townsend0.0Wil Myers11.5
Randy Henry0.0Khris Davis11.1
Ashur Tolliver0.0Brandon Belt25.1
Justin Dalles0.0Enrique Hernandez10.3
Aaron Wirsch0.0Dallas Keuchel21.9
Devin Harris0.0Paul Goldschmidt45.1
Ryan Berry0.0J.D. Martinez23.6
Jake Cowan0.0Yan Gomes14.2

Plenty of other Major League stars were drafted outside of the first 10 rounds in 2009, including Matt Carpenter, Matt Adams, Dan Straily, Mike Fiers, Scooter Gennett and Trevor Rosenthal.

I guess it goes to prove that the amateur draft is a more crapshoot than crafted science. None of the 30 teams had the answer then, and none have the answer now. They all have many more swings and misses than home runs, but if the Orioles had just connected with a couple – say Keuchel and Goldschmidt – their fortunes now would be very different.

I’ll leave you with this last one. In 2016, 120 picks had been taken before the Orioles drafted Brenan Hanifee. With the greatest respect to Mr Hanifee, and I hope he has a long and distinguished MLB career, but with the very next pick the Indians took a pitcher all 30 teams had passed on several times already, Shane Bieber.

Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

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