BALTIMORE -- For a rebuilding team like the Orioles, so many dreams are pinned on the MLB Draft. And so many of those dreams get tied up in team’s top picks, who historically result in disproportionate amounts of future value compared to other picks in the Draft.
In this area, like many teams, the Orioles have a checkered history. They’ve used top picks to acquire club legends like Mike Mussina, Bobby Grich and Manny Machado, but also on some enormous busts. Such is the nature of the Draft, which is notoriously unpredictable.
With that as a backdrop, here are all of the Orioles' top picks from each Rule 4 Draft held annually since 1965. (We are listing only the club’s top selection each year, not all first-round picks from those years.)
2022: Jackson Holliday, SS, Stillwater (Okla.) High School (No. 1)
Holliday, son of seven-time All-Star Matt Holliday, was signed to a record deal for a prep player -- $8.19 million -- after the Orioles took him first overall. It was the second time in four years Baltimore had the No. 1 overall pick, and Holliday was the first high schooler the organization took with the first pick under the tutelage of executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias.
2021: Colton Cowser, OF, Sam Houston State (No. 5)
A left-handed-hitting, 6-foot-3, 195-pound center fielder, Cowser hit .354 with 24 home runs and a 1.068 OPS over three seasons at Sam Houston, and he batted .374 with a conference-leading 16 home runs and a .680 slugging percentage as a junior in 2021. The reigning Southland Conference Player of the Year, Cowser was the No. 10 prospect heading into the Draft, according to MLB Pipeline.
2020: Heston Kjerstad, OF, Arkansas (No. 2)
The Orioles shocked many by swinging a $5.2 million deal with Kjerstad, who is yet to appear in a professional game due to lingering symptoms of myocarditis.
2019: Adley Rutschman, C, Oregon State (No. 1)
A switch-hitting catcher with power, College World Series MVP and Golden Spikes Award winner, Rutschman was the consensus top pick in ’19 and signed for a record $8.1 million bonus. He was the Orioles’ second 1-1 pick in franchise history.
2018: Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Central Heights (Texas) HS (No. 11)
The big righty has emerged as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, forming an elite prospect trio at Double-A Bowie in 2021 with fellow top picks Rutschman and D.L. Hall.
2017: D.L. Hall, LHP, Valdosta (Ga.) HS (No. 21)
The Orioles have high hopes for Hall, who they snagged out of the Georgia prep ranks and have watched blossom into one of baseball’s top prospects. The left-hander appeared in the 2019 Futures Game and sports a fastball that flirts with triple digits.
2016: Cody Sedlock, RHP, Illinois (No. 27)
Sedlock set the Big Ten strikeout record at Illinois, but wasn’t the same pitcher once he arrived in pro ball. Injuries stalled his development, notably thoracic outlet syndrome in 2018. He’s yet to reach the Majors.
2015: DJ Stewart, OF, Florida State (No. 25)
Stewart was the ACC Player of the Year and played for the collegiate national team during his time at FSU. He reached the Majors in 2018, spending parts of the next four seasons with the Orioles.
2014: Brian Gonzalez, LHP, Archbishop McCarthy (Fla.) HS (No. 90)
The Orioles found John Means in the 2014 Draft, but not until the 11th round. Their top pick came in the third round with Gonzalez, who reached as high as Double-A and is now pitching in the Rockies' system.
2013: Hunter Harvey, RHP, Bandys (N.C) HS (No. 22)
Years lost to injuries delayed Harvey’s debut until 2019, but now the hard-throwing righty profiles as a high-leverage reliever like his father, former All-Star closer Bryan Harvey.
2012: Kevin Gausman, RHP, Louisiana State (No. 4)
Gausman was an All-American at LSU who grew into a solid if inconsistent starter with the Orioles, going 39-51 with 4.22 ERA over six seasons in Baltimore before blossoming recently in San Francisco.
2011: Dylan Bundy, RHP, Owasso (Okla.) HS (No. 4)
Tales of Bundy’s precocious velocity and work ethic were legendary when he was coming out of the Oklahoma high school ranks. Injuries hindered his development before he reached the Majors for good in 2016, going 38-45 with 4.67 ERA over the next four seasons for the Orioles. He was traded to the Angels in December 2019.
2010: Manny Machado, SS, Brito Miami Private School (Fla.) (No. 3)
What a Draft 2010 was, with Bryce Harper going 1-1 to the Nationals, Jameson Taillon second to the Pirates and Machado third to the Orioles. Machado blossomed into one of the best players of his generation, making four All-Star teams with the Orioles by age 25 and signing for $300 million with the Padres in 2019.
2009: Matt Hobgood, RHP, Norco (Calif.) HS (No. 5)
Chronic shoulder issues plagued Hobgood, who pitched as high as Double-A but never reached the Majors.
2008: Brian Matusz, LHP, University of San Diego (No. 4)
Matusz never developed into the frontline starter many expected him to be. He went 27-41 with 4.85 ERA over eight seasons with the Orioles, half of which he spent primarily as a reliever.
2007: Matt Wieters, C, Georgia Tech (No. 5)
Maybe the expectations were always unreachable for Wieters, who was seen as a generational catching prospect coming out of Georgia Tech. He made four All-Star teams and won two Gold Gloves over eight seasons with the Orioles, but was probably under-appreciated nationally.
2006: Billy Rowell, 3B, Bishop Eustace Prep (N.J.) (No. 9)
The hulking third baseman never hit for power in the Minors and became the club’s first position-player top pick not to reach the Majors since Rick Elder (drafted 1998).
2005: Brandon Snyder, C, Westfield (Va.) HS (No. 13)
Snyder had a brief big league career as a journeyman backup catcher, appearing in 122 games over six seasons with the Orioles, Rangers, Red Sox, Braves and Rays.
2004: Wade Townsend, RHP, Rice (No. 8)
The Orioles and Townsend could not agree to terms on a contract after his 2004 selection, and he re-entered the Draft in 2005 and went eighth overall to Tampa Bay. Townsend never reached the Majors.
2003: Nick Markakis, OF, Young Harris College (No. 7)
Maybe the Orioles’ best first-round pick ever, Markakis went on to hit .288/.357/.423 with 2,388 hits, 514 doubles and 189 home runs across 15 big league seasons with the Orioles and Braves. He won two Gold Gloves in Baltimore and led the O’s to playoff appearances in 2012 and ’14.
2002: Adam Loewen, LHP, Fraser Valley Christian (British Columbia) HS (No. 4)
Loewen is a unique figure in Major League history -- the only player to convert from pitcher to position player and back to pitcher over three separate big league stints. His contributions to the Orioles were minimal: 5.38 ERA in 35 games (29 starts) from 2006-08.
2001: Chris Smith, LHP, Cumberland University (No. 7)
The Orioles selected future big league infielder Mike Fontenot with one of their three first-round picks in ’01. But they spent their first on Smith, who never reached the Majors.
2000: Beau Hale, RHP, Texas (No. 14)
Besides Mike Mussina, the Orioles had little luck developing high-pick pitchers in the 1990s. Hale is an example: The big righty missed years due to injuries and plateaued at Double-A.
1999: Mike Paradis, RHP, Clemson (No. 13)
The Orioles had seven first-round picks in 1999, getting future big leaguers Brian Roberts and Larry Bigbie in the crop. But Paradis never made it, reaching only as high as Triple-A.
1998: Rick Elder, OF, Sprayberry (Ga.) HS (No. 26)
“He’s probably going to break some windows in the warehouse,” O’s assistant GM Kevin Malone told the Baltimore Sun in 1998, when the O’s selected Elder out of the Georgia high school ranks. That never happened. Six years later, Elder was in independent ball.
1997: Jayson Werth, C, Glenwood (Ill.) HS (No. 22)
Before Werth grew into a $126 million outfielder for the Nationals, he was a catcher in the O’s system. He was traded to the Blue Jays in 2000, then the Dodgers in 2004, before blossoming as a slugger for the Phillies in the late 2000s.
1996: Brian Falkenborg, RHP, Redmond (Wash.) HS (No. 51)
The Orioles lost their first-round pick by signing free agent Roberto Alomar before the ’96 season. Falkenborg reached the Majors at age 21 but struggled with injuries, ultimately pitching parts of six nondescript seasons for four teams.
1995: Al Shepherd, RHP, Nebraska-Lincoln (No. 21)
Shepherd was a dominant four-year pitcher in college but struggled with injuries in pro ball. He reached Double-A in ’98 but never advanced higher than that.
1994: Tommy Davis, 1B, Southern Mississippi (No. 54)
Davis never developed into the fearsome slugger the Orioles hoped he’d be, appearing in just five big league games -- all with the Orioles in 1999.
1993: Jay Powell, RHP, Mississippi State (No. 19)
Powell struggled initially in pro ball, and the Orioles traded him to the Marlins in December ’94 for utility man Bret Barberie. He wound up pitching for 11 seasons and five big league teams, making 512 career relief appearances.
1992: Jeffrey Hammonds, OF, Stanford (No. 4)
Hammonds was a can’t-miss prospect and debuted amid high expectations in ‘93 as the first member of his Draft class to reach the Majors. But injuries limited his impact in Baltimore and elsewhere, though Hammonds did emerge as an All-Star for the Rockies in 2000.
1991: Mark Smith, OF, University of Southern California (No. 9)
Smith made little impact over parts of three seasons with the Orioles, who traded him to the Padres prior to the 1997 season. Later in his career, with the Pirates, Smith hit a walk-off, three-run homer to end the first extra-innings combined no-hitter in MLB history.
1990: Mike Mussina, RHP, Stanford (No. 20)
The Orioles’ only top pick to make the Hall of Fame, Mussina is still the club’s best homegrown pitcher in decades. Mussina went 270-153 with 3.68 ERA over his 18-year career, split with the Orioles and Yankees, and into Cooperstown with a blank cap in 2019.
1989: Ben McDonald, RHP, LSU (No. 1)
The first 1-1 pick in club history, McDonald was seen as a generational talent coming out of LSU and reached the Majors only three months after his selection. But he was also overworked heavily in Baton Rouge and slowed by arm injuries as a pro, going 78-70 with 3.91 ERA in nine big league seasons with the Orioles and Brewers. He remains employed by the O’s as a club broadcaster.
1988: Gregg Olson, RHP, Auburn (No. 4)
"The Otter” was a sensation for the 1989 “Why Not?” Orioles, claiming AL Rookie of the Year honors and 27 saves that season. He went on to record 217 saves over parts of 14 big league seasons with the Orioles and eight other clubs.
1987: Chris Myers, LHP, H.B. Plant (Fla.) HS (No. 7)
From 1980-87, the Orioles drafted six different pitchers in the first round. Four didn’t reach the Majors, including Myers.
1986: John Posey, C, Campbell University (No. 44)
The Orioles didn’t have a first-round pick in ’86 and used their first two selections on catchers: Posey and Mike Lehman. Neither reached the Majors.
1985: Brian Dubois, LHP, Reed Custer (Ill.) HS (No. 99)
The Orioles didn’t pick until the fourth round in ’85 and took Dubois, who pitched 10 seasons in the Minors but parts of just two in the Majors. The O’s got more value out of their seventh-round pick that year, Jeff Ballard, who broke out for the beloved “Why Not?” O’s of 1989.
1984: John Hoover, RHP, California State (No. 25)
Hoover was one of the most decorated amateur pitchers in the country, leading the nation in strikeouts at Fresno and pitching in the 1984 Olympics. But he made just two big league appearances, and none with the Orioles.
1983: Wayne Wilson, RHP, Redondo Beach (Calif.) HS (No. 25)
Wilson made it four straight top Orioles picks to not reach the Majors. The early ‘80s were not the club’s shining moment in this area.
1982: Joe Kucharski, RHP, South Carolina (No. 24)
The Orioles got Billy Ripken and future AL rookie of the year (with the A’s) Walt Weiss in the ’82 Draft. But less value at the top with Kucharski, who never made it past Triple-A.
1981: Jeff Lackie, LHP, McKinney (Texas) HS (No. 76)
None of the Orioles' top six picks in 1981 reached the Majors, including third-rounder Lackie.
1980: Jeff Williams, OF, Princeton (Ohio) HS (No. 26)
1980 was a tough Draft for the Orioles with few success stories. Williams was the bust at the very top. He never reached the Majors.
1979: Tim Maples, RHP, Pinecrest (N.C.) HS (No. 45)
The Orioles got Bob Melvin and Storm Davis in the ’79 Draft, but all after Maples, a second-rounder who didn't reach The Show.
1978: Robert Boyce, 3B, Deer Park (Ohio) HS (No. 22)
The Orioles passed on Cal Ripken Jr. to draft Boyce in the first round (they’d take Ripken in the second round). Boyce never made the Majors. It worked out, anyway.
1977: Drungo Hazewood, C, Sacramento (Calif.) HS (No. 19)
Hazewood debuted as a September callup in 1980, but appeared in just six big league games before retiring in 1983 to care for his ill mother.
1976: Dallas Williams, OF, Abraham Lincoln (N.Y.) HS (No. 20)
Williams appeared in just 20 big league games, two with the Orioles in 1981.
1975: Dave Ford, RHP, Lincoln West (Ohio) HS (No. 23)
Ford pitched well under a heavy workload in the Minors, but the results never translated. He appeared in just 51 games from ’78-81 with the Orioles, his only four seasons in the Majors.
1974: Rich Dauer, SS, University of Southern California (No. 24)
A slick-fielding second baseman, Dauer spent his entire 10-year big league playing career with the Orioles. He won a World Series ring in 1983 and was elected to the team’s Hall of Fame in 2012.
1973: Mike Parrott, RHP, Adolfo Camarillo (Calif.) HS (No. 15)
The Orioles waited until the third round in ’73 to draft Eddie Murray. In the first round they chose Parrott, who reached the Majors in 1977 and appeared in three games for the Orioles. They traded him that winter to the Mariners, where Parrott went 19-39 with 4.90 ERA over parts of the next four seasons. He then spent more than three decades coaching in the Minor Leagues.
1972: Ken Thomas, C, Clear Fork (Ohio) HS (No. 24)
Five times have the Orioles drafted high school catchers with their top first-round picks. None made an impact with the Orioles. Thomas was one of two to never make the Majors.
1971: Randy Stein, RHP, Ganesha (Calif.) HS (No. 23)
Stein toiled in the Minors for six seasons before the Orioles traded him to the Yankees in 1977. He eventually made 65 appearances in the big leagues for three teams, almost exclusively as a reliever.
1970: James West, C, Vashon (Mo.) HS (No. 24)
West was a true bust, a high school catcher who never advanced past Class A ball.
1969: Don Hood, LHP, Southside (S.C.) HS (No. 17)
Hood never became a star but pitched 10 seasons in the big leagues, for the Orioles, Indians, Yankees, Cardinals and Royals. The Orioles sent him to Cleveland as part of the Boog Powell trade in ’75.
1968: Junior Kennedy, SS, Arvin (Calif.) HS (No. 10)
Five years after drafting Kennedy, the Orioles traded the light-hitting shortstop to the Reds as part of a package for right-hander Ross Grimsley. Grimsley was a rotation stalwart from ’74-’77, while Kennedy played parts of seven seasons with the Reds and Cubs.
1967: Bobby Grich, SS, Woodrow Wilson (Calif.) HS (No. 19)
The underrated Grich was one of baseball’s best all-around players during his seven years with the Orioles, earning three All-Star nods between 1972-76. He ranks first among franchise second basemen in Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball Reference, and is a member of the Orioles Hall of Fame.
1966: Ted Parks, SS, Cal Berkeley (No. 16)
Parks was the first position player the Orioles ever took with a top pick. He was also the first to never make the Majors.
1965: Scott McDonald, RHP, Marquette (Wash.) HS
Neither of the Orioles’ first two top picks reached the Majors, beginning with McDonald, who they drafted as a pitcher but converted to first base after two seasons. McDonald reached Double-A before his career ended in 1970.