It’s still April here on the west coast, but happy May 1st to the east coast! In the spirit of the recent NFL Draft, I decided to check in on some of the top players drafted by the Orioles and see where they are now.
2001: Mike Fontenot – Fontenot developed a nice career for himself as a utility infielder. Now 32 and playing for the Tampa Bay Rays, the Orioles drafted Fontenot as a 2nd baseman with pick 19 of the 2001 draft. Fontenot spent four years in the Orioles farm system before being traded to the Cubs in 2005 along with Jerry Hairston and Dave Crouthers for Sammy Sosa. Fontenot guest-starred on the season 3 finale of the TBS baseball-themed comedy series My Boys.
2002: Adam Loewen – When he was drafted 4th overall by Baltimore, Loewen was the highest drafted Canadian player in the history of the draft. In 2004, Loewen was listed by Baseball America as Baltimore’s highest rated prospect, but a stress fracture in his forearm/elbow forced him from the mound, and he was converted to a 1st baseman/outfielder. He was released by the Orioles in 2008 and ended up with the Toronto Blue Jays, where in 2011, against the Orioles and Tommy Hunter, no less, he hit his first major league home run. Loewen is still with the Blue Jays, right now at their AA level.
2003: Nick Markakis – Markakis was the first “hit” so to speak, draft pick by the Orioles in many years. Other than Brian Roberts, he is the longest tenured Orioles, in the middle of his 10th year with the team. When he was drafted, Markakis clocked in at 96 MPH with his fastball, but the team grabbed him for his hitting potential. He made the Opening Day roster and has been a mainstay ever since. His timely hitting and consistent has earned him a Gold Glove as well as a massive 6 year $66.1 million dollar extension in 2009, and the admiration of many fans because he probably could have received more from another team but chose to stay with the Orioles.
2004: Wade Townsend – Drafted 8th by Baltimore in 2004, Townsend decided to return to Rice University and was drafted again the next year by Tampa Bay. A college star, he’s now 30 years old and currently a free agent.
2005: Brandon Snyder – Before Matt Wieters, there was Brandon Snyder. Drafted 13th overall as a catcher by the O’s in 2005, he spent five years in the minors before getting to the major leagues in 2010. He drifted between the minors and the majors over the next couple of years before being traded to Texas in 2012. He hit his first major league home run in May 2012 with Texas, but was released in March 2013 and currently has a minor league deal with the Boston Red Sox.
2006: William Rowell – Billy Rowell was drafted 9th overall in 2006, and spent 6 years in the Orioles minor league system. A towering 6’5″ pitcher/3rd baseman, he was tagged with a 50 game suspension in May 2012 for a 2nd violation of the major league drug program. He is currently a free agent.
2007: Matt Wieters – Then, there is Matt Wieters. Drafted 5th overall by the Orioles out of Georgia Tech, Wieters rose quickly through the minor league system and was catching consistently in the major leagues by 2009. He’s now the Orioles starting catcher and one of the “heart of the order” power hitters along with Chris Davis and Nick Markakis. Like Markakis, Wieters is a clubhouse leader, and he’s a two-time Gold Glove winner, two-time All-Star, and one of the top catchers in the game right now.
2008: Brian Matusz – Matusz is another star in the making who rose quickly through the minor leagues, making his major league debut August 4, 2009. A lanky fireballer of a pitcher, what Matusz struggled with early on was consistency and confidence. When Matusz came back to the team after a trip to the minors last year, manager Buck Showalter made the decision to move him from the rotation to the bullpen, and it looked like the lightbulb went on. Matusz finished the season on a tear, his fastball almost unhittable and pitching well against the Rangers and Yankees in the playoffs.
2009: Matthew Hobgood – Drafted 5th overall in 2009, Micah Hobgood is a name many fans probably don’t know, but may get to know over the next few years. He’s currently at A Delmarva after missing all of 2012 because of rotator cuff surgery. Right now, he’s 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA. There’s not much of a record of him, but all indications are that he’s working on making his way up the ladder.
2010: Manny Machado – The now 20 year old phenom was drafted as an 18 year old shortstop with the 3rd pick of the 2010 draft. Machado was intriguing, if a little unproven, but the Orioles promoted him to plug the hole at 3rd base on August 9th 2012. The next day, he had his first multi-homer game. Though he makes mistakes, he seems to have a sense about the ball that is well beyond his years. Often compared to Alex Rodriguez, the Orioles have a gold glover at shortstop in J.J. Hardyand a rising star at third in Machado.
2011/2012: Dylan Bundy/Kevin Gausman – Bundy, Machado, and 2012 1st round pick Kevin Gausman are prime examples of the smart drafting by GM Dan Duquette. Bundy, 20 as well, oozes with potential and talent. Because of that talent, the team is taking his development slowly and carefully. Bundy’s ability to throw a two-seam fastball, a four-seamer, a cutter, changeup, and curve is remarkably advanced for someone his age. 2012 draft pick Gausman was recently promoted to AA, and according to Orioles insiders, seems to be handling the change well.