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Orioles Draft Preview
By Will Lingo
Scouting Director: Tony DeMacio (first draft: 1999).
2000 Draft (First five rounds, picking 14th)
2001 Draft (First five rounds, picking seventh)
2002 Draft (First five rounds, picking fourth)
(* Did not sign)
Loewen was the fourth overall pick last year, and the Orioles were delighted to pick him there. Then their signing budget ended up smaller than expected, so they have been unable to come close to signing Loewen. Most reports have the Orioles' offers in the $2.5 million range, with Loewen asking for a bonus around $4 million.
Loewen went to Chipola (Fla.) JC as negotiations bogged down, the highest unsigned draft pick ever to go to junior college. The move allows him to negotiate with the Orioles until midnight May 26, the beginning of the closed period, and to go back into this year's draft if the Orioles can't sign him.
Reports about the Orioles' progress in signing Loewen have directly conflicted, with rumors that he has already signed coming in right after sources say there's no way he will sign. As with most of these kinds of negotiations, expect it to go to the very last minute.
If the Orioles can sign him, it would be a boost to a system that needs one. Loewen, a big lefty who throws in the mid-90s, would immediately become the best prospect in the organization. His signing would also allow the Orioles to focus on a bat with their first pick this year, the seventh overall.
Tony DeMacio has leaned slightly toward high school players in the first 10 rounds of his drafts, filling in with college and junior college selections in the later rounds. He has an affinity for athleticism and live arms, a carry-over from his days with the Braves, where he started his scouting career in 1983. And if two pitchers have similar stuff, he'll go with the lefthander.
If he already has Loewen in the bag going into the draft, though, he'll have the best lefthander available and can look to a player like Tulane's Michael Aubrey, a power bat who should move quickly through the system. If Loewen doesn't sign, look for the Orioles to take a college pitcher. Richmond's Tim Stauffer would be a definite possibility if he falls that far, and Mississippi State lefty Paul Maholm might be their fallback choice.