The draft hasn’t always been kind to the Orioles. Even when the team had the best record in baseball, it didn’t have particularly strong No. 1 draft choices.
The draft was instituted in 1965, the year before the team won its first World Series. From then until 1983, their last World Series, only two outstanding players were drafted in the first round.
Bobby Grich, taken in 1967, who played seven seasons with the Orioles and his final 10 with the Angels, was a superb major leaguer, but his best years weren’t in Baltimore.
Rich Dauer, taken in 1974, was a mainstay at second base for years and selected for the Orioles Hall of Fame this year.
Eight of the top picks in the team’s glory years never played in the majors at all. Four others, Randy Stein (1971), Dave Ford (1975) Dallas Williams (1976) and Drungo Hazewood (1977), had major short careers.
Junior Kennedy (1968), Don Hood (1969) and Mike Parrott (1973) had decent, but not particularly memorable, careers.
Of course Cal Ripken was an Orioles’ draft choice, but he was the team’s fourth pick—drafted behind Robert Boyce, Larry Sheets and Eddie Hook in 1978.
Boyce, who never advanced beyond Class A, was the first rounder, Sheets and Hook compensation picks in the second round. Ripken was the 48th player in the draft. Pitcher Mike Boddicker, who had an excellent career, was chosen in the sixth round that year.
On Friday, we presented a list of five of the worst Orioles’ top draft picks. Now, let’s look at who the five best were.
1) Mike Mussina
Mussina was the 20th overall pick in the 1990 draft and was in the major leagues a year later. He divided his career between the Orioles and Yankees.
Upon his induction into the Orioles Hall of Fame, Mussina declined to say whether he’d prefer to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame as an Oriole or Yankee.
He won 270 games in the majors.
2) Greg Olson
The fourth pick in the 1988 draft, Olson pitched 16 games in the minors before joining the Orioles in September. He was dominating almost instantly and won Rookie of the Year in 1989.
Olson saved 160 games in his Orioles career, still a franchise record. Injuries harmed his career, but managed to stay in the big leagues until 2001 with eight other teams.
3) Nick Markakis
Markakis, who was chosen seventh in 2003, was the best Orioles top draft pick since Mussina. A number of the top picks between 1991-2002 never made the majors, and a few (Jay Powell, Jayson Werth, Grich) achieved stardom elsewhere.
He played for the Greek Olympic team in 2004 and reached the majors in 2006.
Markakis has been a steady and dependable presence in right field ever since. 2012 was a year of change for him. He had three surgeries, two stints on the disabled list and a move to the leadoff spots.
Sadly for Markakis, he couldn’t play in the postseason.
4) Matt Wieters
Wieters was the fifth overall pick in 2007, didn’t sign until the deadline and had a fine 2008 season in the minors. By late May 2009, he was in the majors and has proven to be one of the game’s best catchers.
A two-time All-Star, Wieters will undoubtedly move up on this and other lists as his career continues.
5) Rich Dauer
Dauer played his entire 10-year career with the Orioles. He was the starting second baseman on the 1979 pennant winners and the 1983 World Series champs.
A longtime major league coach with Milwaukee and Colorado, he interviewed for the Orioles manager’s job in 2003.
A few years from now, the Orioles hope to argue that their recent drafts which included Markakis, Wieters, Brian Matusz, Manny Machado, Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman were the strongest group in team history.