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Orioles Draft Report Card

By Jim Callis

Best Pro Debut: 3B Tripper Johnson (1) led Baltimore’s Rookie-level Gulf Coast League club with a .306 average and 33 RBIs.

Best Athlete: B.J. Littleton (7) is a center fielder built along the lines of Kenny Lofton. He’s a switch-hitter with speed.

Best Hitter: Johnson. He has been compared to Chipper Jones, who, by the way, batted just .229 in his professional debut in the GCL. That doesn’t mean Johnson will eclipse Jones, but he’s off to a nice start.

Best Raw Power: Johnson was one of the top high school sluggers available in the draft. For now, 1B Doug Gredvig (5) is stronger, but Johnson will catch up to him in time.

Fastest Runner: Littleton, who swiped 12 bases in 14 attempts at Rookie-level Bluefield.

Best Defensive Player: C Tommy Arko (3) has a strong arm and solid receiving skills. Baltimore also likes the defensive potential of another catcher, Mike Russell (9).

Best Fastball: RHP Beau Hale (1) spent all summer negotiating a $2.25 million bonus, so he has yet to throw a pitch in a game for the Orioles. At Texas, he consistently threw 92-95 mph.

Most Intriguing Background: 1B Andy Hargrove (31) is the son of Orioles manager Mike. Baltimore drafted two other sons of former major leaguers in RHP Jayme Sperring (8, son of Rob) and 3B Brandon Fahey (32, son of Bill). Sperring was the only one of the three to sign. 3B Shayne Ridley’s (19) twin brother Jeremy was taken 15 rounds later by the Blue Jays, who once employed their father Jim as assistant director of Canadian scouting.

Closest To The Majors: Hale’s showing in instructional league and spring training will determine where he makes his debut, but he’s on the fast track, especially if Mike Mussina departs as a free agent.

Best Late-Round Pick: The Orioles are high on two of their lower choices. Kris Wilken (12) has the versatility to play catcher, first or third base, and they like the way he swings the bat. RHP Ryan Keefer (13) didn’t get a lot of attention as a Pennsylvania high schooler, but his fastball has jumped from 87-88 to 91 mph.

The One Who Got Away: Though he was drafted 17 rounds after RHP Jon Skaggs (4), who returned for his senior season at Rice, Baltimore feels worse about not landing high school LHP Fraser Dizard (21). Dizard, who’s raw but has a 92-94 mph fastball, joins a talented Southern California pitching staff that features Mark Prior, the possible No. 1 pick in the 2001 draft.

Assessment: Baltimore signed just 19 players out of the draft and didn’t get to see its top pick take the field. There’s not a whole lot about this crop to get excited about yet.

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