No Money Pick

Orioles say taking Hobgood wasn't based on signability

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BALTIMORE—Orioles scouting director Joe Jordan narrowed his choices to two prep pitchers. It wasn't until late afternoon on the day of the draft that he decided upon Matt Hobgood, a righthander from Norco (Calif.) High.
Teams told us we were light on RHP Matt Hobgood in our rankings, but I'm not sure many clubs had him at No. 5, where the Orioles took him. He was our seventh-rated high school pitcher and went before all the others, so signability had to have played a part. Teams were split on where to use RHP/SS Mychal Givens, and Baltimore plans to develop him as an everyday player (though he was announced as a pitcher).

The Orioles used the fifth-overall pick on Hobgood, the 2008-09 Gatorade player of the year, after giving strong consideration to righthander Zack Wheeler of East Paulding High in Dallas, Ga.

This is the third time in his five drafts that Jordan has taken a high school player with the first pick. He chose catcher-turned-first baseman Brandon Snyder in 2005 and third baseman-turned-right fielder Billy Rowell in 2006.

"As always, every year we've got a group of two or three names we were wrestling on," Jordan said. "I just got a gut feeling on this one, separated it with more intangible stuff than anything. He's 6-(foot)-4 and has power stuff. A high school kid that throws up to 95 or 96 (mph). He'll attack hitters with his sinker, his two-seamer at 92, 93. He throws a breaking ball for a strike and has a feel for a changeup. He's ready physically."

Jordan said signability wasn't a factor in choosing Hobgood, who went 11-1, 0.92 with 101 strikeouts in 68 innings, and also batted .475 with 21 home runs and 55 RBIs in 30 games.

"This is not a money saver," Jordan said. "I knew I would be asked that because this wasn't a name guy that people kept seeing every day in the paper. We scouted this guy all year long. I saw him the first time early in February and saw him a few times after that. It had nothing to do with money. Look at what we've done lately. This isn't about money. It's who I want and who our staff wants.

"We had both kids in the stadium. They came in and threw for us. I got to interact with them. The staff did. It was a tough one. There was something that told me to do this. I really liked the other player, but I settled on the one that, I guess, I liked a little bit more."

Jordan compares Hobgood to Kevin Millwood and believes that he'll be pitching "early in the summer," which would allow the Orioles to start him one level higher than usual for a high school selection.

"This is a guy that if we're right, we can stack some innings on this guy. I think he'll be physical enough to handle it. I'll take that," Jordan said.

"He's got a curveball, slider and changeup. Like most high school guys, he doesn't use his changeup enough. That's something that will have to be developed. But he's got quality to all of them. I would never take a guy at No. 5 that was a big project or anything. This guy knows what he is doing. He'll be fine. He's going to really do well versus wood bats."