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Orioles follow through on plan to restock arms

Twenty of 27 pitchers club selects in Draft come from collegiate ranks

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles went into this year's First-Year Player Draft with a clear plan. The strength of this class was college pitching, and that just so happened to match up with the O's biggest need.

It was a perfect match.

"We feel very good about the Draft," said Gary Rajsich, Baltimore's director of scouting. "We went in with a good plan, and based on our situation this year, we drafted into the strength of the Draft, we picked our picks and we were real happy with what we came away with."

Baltimore spent its first five picks on pitchers -- four of which played in college. On Day 3, the O's started the final day by choosing three straight college arms.

In all, the Orioles drafted 20 college hurlers and 27 pitchers overall.

"There were a lot of them out there this year," Rajsich said. "It was the strength of the Draft, so we picked into it."

The college pitchers fit with a bigger theme of, simply, college players. Seven of the eight players Baltimore drafted on Day 2 were college athletes -- including two who played multiple sports during their time in college.

Pat Connaughton, Baltimore's fourth-round pick and its only pick ranked in's Top 200 Draft prospects, was drafted as a right-handed pitcher out of Notre Dame, but he is perhaps better known as a guard/forward on the basketball team.

Seventh-round selection Max Schuh was drafted as a left-handed pitcher out of UCLA, playing only baseball for his final two seasons at the school. Schuh had previously played quarterback for the football team before being cut after his sophomore year and walking on to the baseball team.

Neither put up eye-popping numbers -- Connaughton logged a 3.92 ERA in 10 starts and Schuh pitched just 31 1/3 innings out of the bullpen in two seasons -- but both are 6 feet 4 inches or taller and ooze with potential.

"I'm still trying to figure myself out as a pitcher," Schuh admitted a day after being selected with the 211th overall pick.

One of the few exceptions to this college theme happened to be the first player the O's drafted.

Brian Gonzalez, a left-handed pitcher from Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy High School in Southwest Ranches, Fla., was the 90th overall selection in the Draft and the only high school player chosen among the Orioles' first 12 selections.

"He's a command-and-control big left-handed pitcher that knows how to pitch," Rajsich said of the 6-foot-1, 230-pounder. "He's been a winner his whole high school career and we look for good things about him. His upside's tremendous."

Gonzalez's fastball has been clocked at 91 mph, but his secondary pitches are what make him intriguing to Baltimore.

Gonzalez is committed to pitch and play first base at University of Miami (Fla.), but he told the O's that he would be willing to sign and forgo his collegiate eligibility.

"That's why we went ahead with the pick," Rajsich said.

The pitcher wasn't ranked among the Top 200 Draft prospects, but Rajsich was still surprised to see him available by the time the Orioles' first pick came around at No. 90.

Baltimore didn't pick at all during the first day -- it gave its first two picks as compensation for signing outfielder Nelson Cruz and starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez -- so in the next few rounds it had to make up for lost time.

"We were able to follow that up with a couple of college picks that we really like -- athletic, hard-throwing strike-throwers with tremendous upside," Rajsich said. "I couldn't have expected more coming away from this Draft."

Most important, the O's landed players who ranked highly on their own Draft board.

After snagging Gonzalez , the Orioles kept landing players they were surprised to see still on the board when their turn came around.

With a major haul of promising pitchers -- and ones that are more frequently in their early 20s than late teens -- the O's attacked their most glaring weakness with a bunch that could make its way to the Majors faster than the average Draft class.

"We didn't count on getting the four or five first guys that we got," Rajsich said. "We thought we'd get maybe one or two, so we're extremely satisfied with what we were able to get."

David Wilson is an associate reporter for
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