Brian Matusz still hasn't signed a contract with the O's but all indications are that it will happen by the August 15th deadline. There's none of the intrigue that was apparent with Matt Wieters last summer, but that's not a complaint because hitting refresh a million times as midnight draws closer just shows me what a crazy person I am. But now that we're a year removed from the 2007 draft signing deadline, it might be a good time to look at the 2007 draft picks and how they've done in their first year or so of pro baseball. So here is a look at the top half-dozen prospects from that draft.
Rd 1 (#5) - C Matt Wieters, Georgia Tech: There's not much doubt that this has been a slam dunk of a pick. Wieters signed late and didn't play for the Orioles last summer, but he has shown extremely advanced skills on both sides of the ball since signing last spring, hitting .347/.447/.585 between Frederick and Bowie leaving as the only question how high he will be ranked this offseason in the various prospect rankings. He would seem to be a lock for top-three status with only Tampa Bay left hander David Price and Saint Louis CF Colby Rasmus challenging him for the top spot.
Rd 5 (#129) - P Jake Arrieta, Texas Christian: Called a "first round talent" by at least one prospect guru type, Arrieta fell to the fifth round and the Orioles made an above-slot offer to get him in the fold. He's had a fine debut season at Frederick with a 2.87 ERA over 20 starts before recently leaving the team to participate in the Olympics for the United States. Arrieta has had some control issue (4.06 BB/9), but he has been dominant (120 K in 113 innings) and should crack top 100 lists this fall.
Rd 20 (#609) - RHP Sean Gleason, Saint Mary's: Gleason had a fine debut at Bluefield (2.93 ERA in 67.2 innings), good enough for the now-22 year old to skip over the New-York Penn League and go right to Delmarva where he's continued to pitch well. In 114.1 innings, he's given up just three HR on the season and his strong ground ball tendencies could bode well for the future.
Rd 7 (#219) - CF Matt Angle, Ohio State: While Ohio State isn't one of the premier collegiate programs these days, it has turned out its share of major leaguers (47 in total) including current White Sox CF Nick Swisher. Not to draw the comparison too-far, but Angle has the great plate discipline that would have made him right at home in Billy Beane's Oakland farm system (where Swisher started) . Unfortunately his lack of power (no HR in three seasons at Ohio State) makes him a much more fringy prospect, but with some solid other numbers (.291 AVG with 97 BB in 167 pro games) and his reputation, both from scouts and statheads, of being a quality defender, he's a guy to keep an eye on.
Rd 16 (#489) - 3B Tyler Kolodny, Woodland Hills, CA: Kolodny was the Orioles' 14th pick but their first dip into the high school ranks in 2007. Kolodny started out in the complex-level Gulf Coast League, ripping pitchers to the tune of a .318/.406/.530 line, good enough to at least rate a mention among the O's better prospects. Now 20 years old, Kolodny has seen his average take a dip at Aberdeen but still has some decent indicators with 17 BB and 11 XBH in 140 AB so far. He'll need to get better, and fast, to have a viable career given that he plays at a corner position, though.
Rd 43 (#1274) - LHP Cole McCurry, Tennessee Wesleyan: Guys drafted outside of the top 1,200 from obscure non-Division I schools don't tend to be great prospects. McCurry isn't great, but he's good enough to be good. Still a month shy of his 23rd birthday, the Orioles have put him on something of a fast track as he already has 13 starts at Delmarva under his belt over the last two seasons. Don't be fooled by his unsightly ERA, his peripherals are good as he's striking out nearly a batter per inning while maintaining good command. He could stand to take a few lessons from Gleason and get the ball down. His home run rates could be an indicator that he'll be exposed when he faces stiffer competition.
Preliminary Grade: A-
Wieters alone makes for a good haul as he's the type of home-grown prospect who generates enough surplus value to make the whole endeavor of scouting and drafting young talent extremely important even with the low success rate. Kudos to the Orioles for ponying up to get him and Arrieta who helps to form a top two that not many organizations can challenge from last year's draft class. The lack of depth is what prevents this draft from being a complete success as the lack of 2nd and 3rd round picks (and the abysmal season of 4th rounder Tim Bascom at Frederick) mean that even the better second-tier prospects seem unlikely to get even cups of coffee at this point.