Orioles scouts ready for draft day
... then they'll get started on 2007 First-Year Player Draft
BALTIMORE -- After months on the road, slogging through airport after airport, scouting director Joe Jordan finally made the trek to Baltimore over the weekend. With the draft just one week away, Jordan's ready to go over his findings with the rest of the organization, and he's excited to do so.
"I'm on a flight to Baltimore, and it's my favorite flight of the year," he said recently. "Once you get in the draft room, that's our reward, and it's a culmination of 12 months of hard work. The next seven or eight days should be a lot of fun. Everything you do leading up to that is a lot of work."
Jordan and his staff -- numbering almost 20 full-time scouts and six-to-eight part-timers -- have been beating the bushes for months. Jordan estimates that he's read reports on 150-170 players, and he said he's seen around 250 potential draftees. The former catcher, scout and cross-checker believes in doing things hands-on, but he trusts his staff to steer him.
"My management philosophy is to let a lot of things go through our supervisors," he said. "What I need to be involved in, they get me involved in."
The Orioles don't have any abiding philosopy regarding what kind of players they'll pick. They pick for best player available early and draft for need late, and they don't value college players more than prep prospects. Jordan said he prefers to take every pick as its own individual animal, but also said that scouts have more history to go on with college players.
"You're naturally going to get more looks over three years in college," he said. "There's less unknown. There's less risk, but there's risk involved in all of them."
Baltimore, which picks ninth overall, will be looking to replenish several areas of the organization. Jordan said the Orioles need more left-handed pitching -- both in starting and relief -- and also corner bats and middle infielders.
He didn't give any indication as to which way he's leaning with his top pick, but he said it would be hard to take a defensive stalwart that high. If he does, they'll likely have some offensive potential.
"Higher in the draft, the bat has to be there. They can be a plus-plus defensive player, but if they don't have the bat, they won't be able to play in today's game," he said. "The draft dictates when you start drafting for need. Last year, we didn't start thinking about need until the second half of the first day.
"This year, the draft isn't as deep, so it might be a little earlier."
Whatever the case, Jordan's looking forward to the next few weeks, which are among his most peaceful of the season. Sure, there's a lot of chaos in the draft room and a lot of work lining up the players the team wants to pick, but for at least a little while, there's no more airports and no more hotels in tiny towns.
"We start working on next year's draft within a week of the draft being over," he said. "We spend all summer evaluating kids, and the fall is the same. The winter is filled with in-home visits and gathering medical information. We're hitting it every day for four months."
2005 -- No. 13 -- Brandon Snyder: Snyder was among the riskiest draft picks imaginable -- a high-school catcher. He held his own in two short-season leagues last year, hitting for both Bluefield in the Appalachian League and Aberdeen in the New York-Penn League. This year, he got promoted to the full-season South Atlantic League, where he's run into some adversity. The 19-year-old is hitting .221 with three home runs, but he won't turn 20 until November.
2004 -- No. 8 -- Wade Townsend: Townsend never signed with the Orioles and re-enrolled at Rice University, and he was drafted ninth overall by the Devil Rays the next season. Townsend pitched in the Arizona Fall League in 2005 and injured his elbow, necessitating surgery. Beyond the AFL experience, he's yet to pitch profesionally. He's currently stationed with Tampa Bay's affiliate in the short-season New York-Penn League, the Hudson Valley Renegades.
2003 -- No. 7 -- Nick Markakis: Markakis, who was scouted by several teams as a pitcher, shot through Baltimore's organization and is currently entrenched as one of the parent club's outfielders. The outfielder put together a .301 average and a .380 on-base mark in three seasons of Minor League ball, but he only had 33 games of Double-A experience before he got promoted to the O's. Markakis may need more seasoning, but he's arguably the best prospect in the organization.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.