A few years back, we lamented the “what could have been” of some missed Orioles and Ravens draft picks throughout the years by suggesting a few “do-overs” the teams might want to have. Wanting to be fair, just last year we recognized that some picks could have been MUCH worse, as we examined the Ravens’ draft “bullseyes.” We owe it to the Orioles to do the exact same.

Before the Birds make what they hope will be another “bullseye” pick with the No. 1 overall selection July 17, let’s revisit some of the best picks they’ve ever made and how they could have been worse. Here are The 15 “Orioles Draft Bullseyes.”

Quick notes: This list only considers players selected in the annual amateur draft, which began in 1965. It is also only comprised of Hall of Famers and modern picks — 1988 and beyond. Unfortunately, record-keeping is not ideal for drafts in earlier years. The list also doesn’t include players whose success came after they left the Orioles like Jake Arrieta, Jayson Werth and Kevin Gausman.

In chronological order.

1973: Round 3, Pick 63
Pick: Eddie Murray
Could Have Been: Russ Noah (59), Paul Husband (60), Howard Shoff (61), Gary Nevinger (62), Earl Chew (64), Charles Meyers (65)

This is the absolute definition of “bullseye.” Six of the seven players selected between picks 59 and 65 never made the major leagues. The seventh is one of only seven players in MLB history with 500 home runs and 3,000 hits.

1978: Round 2, Pick 48
Pick: Cal Ripken Jr.
Could Have Been: Buck Belue (44), Brad Palmer (45), Amos Lewis (46), Clay Smith (47), Anthony McGill (49), Cecil Whitehead (50)

How did the Orioles build the 1983 World Series championship roster? Five years after Murray, they found another future baseball icon amid a seven-player stretch in which the six other players failed to reach the bigs.

1988: Round 1, Pick 4
Pick: Gregg Olson
Could Have Been: Bill Bene (5)
The ’88 draft was actually quite fruitful, with fellow future All-Stars like Andy Benes, Steve Avery, Robin Ventura, Tino Martinez, Royce Clayton and Charles Nagy all joining Olson in the top 20. The very next selection never made the bigs however, but Bene did make headlines … for pleading guilty to operating a counterfeit karaoke machine business in 2012.

1990: Round 1, Pick 20
Pick: Mike Mussina
Could Have Been: Thomas Nevers (21)

This is another definitive “bullseye” selection, as the former Stanford hurler became the second-best pitcher in Orioles history while the very next choice hit .259 in 13 seasons … all of which came in the minors.

1999: Round 1 (Supplemental), Pick 50
Pick: Brian Roberts
Could Have Been: Nick Trzesniak (51)

One became a two-time All-Star who twice led the league in doubles (and once in stolen bases) while the other … received four career major league spring training invites!

1999: Round 6, Pick 187
Pick: Erik Bedard
Could Have Been: Ronald Leflore (188)

I know we don’t like talking about him, but Bedard’s 8.74 strikeouts per nine innings pitched is the second most in franchise history, there aren’t many Orioles pitchers who have finished in the top five of Cy Young Award voting in this millennium AND he allowed the Orioles to acquire Adam Jones. He qualifies as a bullseye. And the sixth round was actually pretty decent in ’99, also producing quality MLB players like J.J. Putz, Shane Victorino and Aaron Harang. But the immediate pick after Bedard was out of baseball altogether after just 38 minor league games.

2001: Round 5, Pick 143
Pick: Jim Johnson
Could Have Been: Travis Chapman (144), Chamar McDonald (145)

In addition to producing the man who posted back-to-back 50-save seasons (cue “The Pretender”) in Baltimore, this round also produced Phillies legend Ryan Howard. Things didn’t work out quite as well for the selections after Johnson, as both were out of the minors by 2005.

2003: Round 1, Pick 7
Pick: Nick Markakis
Could Have Been: Paul Maholm (8), John Danks (9), Ian Stewart (10), Michael Aubrey (11), Lastings Milledge (12)

Markakis was unquestionably the best player selected in the first round of the 2003 draft (where future Orioles folk hero Delmon Young went No. 1 overall). The next five picks all reached the bigs and had varying amounts of success. Danks, in particular, was a solid pitcher for the better part of a decade. And I guarantee you don’t remember that Aubrey ended up in Baltimore in 2009 because, seriously, why would you?

2006: Round 3, Pick 85
Pick: Zack Britton
Could Have Been: Dallas Buck (86), Kevin Hankerd (87), Chad Tracy (88), Clayton Tanner (89), Torre Langley (90), Stephen King (91)

Sure, Britton converted 60 consecutive save opportunities and anchored the bullpen for two playoff teams but Buck pitched to a 4.48 ERA AND hit .244 across five seasons in the minor leagues, so you can argue that he really paved the way for Shohei Ohtani. And Hankerd went by Cyle, so now you probably remember his legendary 2013 season when he hit .322 and slugged 22 home runs for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. Who could forget?

2007: Round 1, Pick 5
Pick: Matt Wieters
Could Have Been: Josh Vitters (3), Daniel Moskos (4)
As the internet might say, “debate with your momma.” The man was a four-time All-Star and a critical part of three Orioles playoff teams. He was an indisputable bullseye. And the two players selected directly before him combined to play 67 total MLB games. We can hope Adley Rutschman proves to be even better, but we can’t diminish Wieters’ greatness.

2010: Round 1, Pick 3
Pick: Manny Machado
Could Have Been: Christian Colón (4)

The No. 3 pick was so good during his Orioles career that he commanded a $300 million contract. The No. 4 pick retired from baseball with Spotrac estimating that he had made a total of $4.4 million for his career. Which, you know, is still very good work if you can find it but not quite the same.

2013: Round 8, Pick 249
Pick: Trey Mancini
Could Have Been: Pat Valaika (259)

To be clear, I’m not picking on Valaika. He has been more successful than the nine players selected ahead of him. I just got a chuckle when I saw his name on the list. The other players between Mancini and Valaika were Evan Van Hoosier, Tyler Marincov, Tyler Horan, Kyle Wren, Brandon Thomas, Scott Brattvet, David Napoli, Brian Holberton and Charcer Burks, officially marking the first time you’ve ever read their names for any reason ever.

2014: Round 11, Pick 331
Pick: John Means
Could Have Been: Does it matter? It was the 11th round!

For the record, the next pick was Matt Borens. And oddly, Means isn’t even the best pitcher to have come out of the 11th round of the 2014 draft! The Brewers took Brandon Woodruff with the 326th pick that year. What are the odds? (I ask, thinking at least somewhat seriously about whether FanDuel will let me drop a couple of bucks on whether there will be multiple All-Star pitchers selected in the 11th round this year.)

2015: Round 1 (Compensatory), Pick 35
Pick: Ryan Mountcastle
Could Have Been: Daz Cameron (36), Tyler Nevin (37)

If you think it’s too early to declare Mountcastle a “bullseye,” I understand. But there’s a lot to like! And the player selected directly after him is a career sub-.200 hitter. We hope the selection after Cameron proves to be at least as good as Mountcastle in the coming years.

2015: Round 13, Pick 403
Pick: Cedric Mullins
Could Have Been: Anyone at all, it was the 13th round!

Ironically, the very next pick (Max Schrock) is one of the few other players from that round who has gone on to reach the bigs. The only player selected later in that draft who has made an All-Star Game is the Angels’ Jared Walsh, who actually went in the 39th (!) round.

Photo Credits: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles and Kenya Allen/PressBox

Issue 275: June/July 2022

Glenn Clark

See all posts by Glenn Clark. Follow Glenn Clark on Twitter at @glennclarkradio