Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Where Are They Now?: The 2001 Oriole Draftees

“Where have you gone Joe Dimaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.” - Simon and Garfunkel

Where have you gone Christopher Smith? O’s nation trains its weary eyes on you.

Orioles fans love to vilify Peter Angelos for various reasons. I love to vilify Peter Angelos for continuing to ignore player development as part of the O’s plan for success. To be fair, the decline of the Baltimore farm system started many years before he took over but he has done nothing during this time to reverse the decay of what once was one of the premier minor league systems in baseball.

GM’s come and GMs go but Mr. Angelos remains. I’m going to shine a spotlight on various amateur drafts during the past 10 years or so to highlight the Orioles futility in replenishing their young talent. Young talent means cheap young talent. If you have a couple homegrown guys who can fill out your roster at $350,000 a year, leaves you a lot more money to chase the premier free agents, right?

Now, I know the draft is a crapshoot, you never know exactly how young players will develop (if they develop at all). For as much a disappointment as Jeffery Hammonds was, he was a success story given the long odds of even drafting a first rounder who will have a meaningful career. While Hammonds never developed into the star he was hailed as at draft time, he did play in the majors for 12 years, even if much of that was in a platoon capacity. (Cases like Hammonds BTW are a perfect example of why I never get too excited about the draft. I’d rather see a player’s progression through the minor leagues before I get my hopes up.)

I’m going to present the top ten draft picks of each year and see where they are now, try to assess what value they added to the organization and scan the rest of their draft to see if the O’s have any skill finding that diamond in the rough.

With that, I present the O’s 2001 Amateur Player Draft:

Christopher Smith – LHP – 1st Round
Yeah, I don’t remember this guy either. Drafted out of Cumberland University, he was often injured and over the course of 5 minor league seasons only pitched in 24 games. He rose as high as Class A Delmarva in 2005 and is now out of baseball.

Mike Fontenot – 2B – 1st Round
Drafted out of LSU, Mike was able to rise through the system, reaching AAA Ottawa in his third season. With Brian Roberts in his way, I guess the O’s thought he was expendable. They traded him with Jerry Hairston and Dave Crouthers to the Cubs before the 2005 season for one year of diminished Sammy Sosa. Had a cup of coffee with the Cubs in 2005. At age 26, hit .296-8-34 for AAA Iowa in 2006.

Bryan Bass – SS – 1st Round
Drafted out of high school as a shortstop, now moved over to third base. In his sixth season, he finally made it to AA Bowie last year. Hit .220-6-44 between Frederick and Bowie. He must be a hell of a fielder since he has only hit .228 with little power over his minor league career.

Dave Crouthers – RHP – 3rd Round
Traded for Sosa before the 2005 season. Went 30-25 with a 4.07 ERA over four seasons rising as high as AA Bowie in 2004. Out of baseball.

Rommie Lewis – LHP – 4th Round
After 5 seasons only has risen to high A ball in Frederick. Working in relief in 2006 he went 5-3 with a 2.09 ERA and 36 Ks in 51.2 innings .

Jamie Johnson – RHP – 5th Round
Drafted out of high school, Johnson spent the entire year in Bowie last year going 13-6 with a 4.44 ERA and 124 Ks in 156 innings.

Eli Whiteside – C – 6th Round
Rose to AAA Ottawa in 2005 and also had a call-up to Baltimore. Hit .241-11-47 for Ottawa in 2006.

Joe Coppinger – RHP – 7th Round
Went 2-3 with a 5.47 ERA over 9 starts for Delmarva in 2005. 18-20 with a 4.59 ERA fro his minor league career. Out of baseball.

Chris Britton – RHP – 8th Round
Pitched in Baltimore in 2006. The rookie went 0-2 with a 3.35 ERA in 52 appearances. 41 Ks in 53.2 innings. Traded to the Yankees in the off-season for Jaret Wright and cash.

Dustin Yount – 1B – 9th Round
Rose to AA Bowie last year after a nice start in Frederick. Hit .228-5-20 in 54 games for the Baysox.

Top Ten Draft Picks Stats

Number that are regular contributors for the Orioles: 0
Number still in the organization: 5
Number traded for regular contributors: 1
Number out of baseball: 3
Diamonds in the rough: 0


Fontenot and Crouthers were shipped to Chicago but I won’t count the lousy season from Sosa as getting production back for them. Britton would’ve been a regular contributor and if Jaret Wright is a quality middle of the rotation guy, you can call that pick a success as the organization got a good return on their investment. Almost six years later, none of the other prospects appear poised to take even a small role for the big club next year. Judge for yourself.

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