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Scouting Director Joe Jordan's second draft as a member of the Orioles organization was much like the first; well-received despite being without a lot of extra picks. The Orioles did receive a supplemental first round pick and a second round pick for the free agency loss of B.J. Ryan, but they also lost their second round pick to the Padres for signing Ramon Hernandez. While it takes several years to properly evaluate a draft, several selections have already made their presence known in the organization.
The following list is a ranking of 2006 debuts. It is not necessarily a ranking of the individual prospects. Players from the 2005 and 2006 draft are eligible, provided that they made their debut this season.
1) Jason Berken
Berken was a favorite of his coaches at the reknowned Clemson baseball program. So much so, in fact, that he was named team captain in 2005 despite missing the season to Tommy John Surgery. His first year back has been a smashing success, especially since he turned pro after being selected in the sixth round of the 2006 draft.
The 22 year old Berken began the season by recording four strikeouts in his first two professional innings and hasn't looked back since. He had one rough outing against Tri-City in which he allowed three homeruns, but has been a hallmark of consistency otherwise. On the season, he has 46 strikeouts, just 5 walks, a 0.98 WHIP and a 2.80 ERA.
2) Billy Rowell
Billy Rowell entered the 2006 draft's top high school bat and has done little to discourage the original prognosis. After a slow July, Rowell has absolutely caught fire. He's hitting .349/.444/.590 in the month of August and .329/.422./507 overall.
All is not perfect for the Orioles 2006 first round pick, however. He is only hitting .250/.344/.385 against his fellow southpaws, but has been able to maintain his impressive plate discipline. He also has 13 errors in his first short-season at third base. Although growing pains are to be expected as the 6'5'' 17 year old adjusts to a new position, it's looking like his bat will carry him even if he has to slide across the diamond.
3) Chris Vinyard
Vinyard was a 38th round draft pick in 2005, but signed as a draft and follow pick prior to the 2006 draft in time to debut with the short-season Aberdeen Ironbirds. He played last season at Chandler-Gilbert Community College in a wooden bat league, so perhaps that played a role in his successful transition to professional baseball. Prior to his signing, most scouts felt that Vinyard could hit for both average and power. Still, Vinyard made even the most optimistic of fans take notice when he hit .395/.465/.711 in June. After a mid-season lull, he's back at it again, hitting .313/.400/.614 in August.
The question has always been where Vinyard would fit on the field. That's still the case, as he will never be much more than adequate at any position. Despite catching in high school, Vinyard switched over to manning first base in college and has stayed there as a professional. None of that will matter, though, if he continues to hit like this.
4) Josh Faiola
Faiola may not have been a heralded prospect before getting drafted by the Orioles in the 32nd round of the 2005 draft and again in the 24th round of the 2006 draft, but he is beginning to make his presence felt. Working strictly out of the bullpen, Faiola has allowed just four earned runs in his first 34 innings, although he has allowed six unearned runs. Drafted after his senior season at Dartmouth, Faiola has a good understanding of pitching and has been able to dominate his younger competition with his guile. He has 31 strikeouts against just 8 walks and has only allowed one homerun. If he continues to have this kind of success at higher levels, Faiola could get pushed more aggressively in order for the Orioles to see exactly what they have on their hands.
5) Pedro Beato
Beato was a highly touted draft-and-follow from the Mets 2005 draft. Despite having no first round pick, and fortunately for the Orioles, the Mets decided to let Beato re-enter the draft this year.
Beato began the year coming out of Aberdeen's bullpen. His first four appearances were up and down; as accented by his final bullpen performance, in which he struck out five batters and walked three in two innings. Switched to starting on July 17th, his results have been more consistent. On the year, the 19 year old Beato has 42 strikeouts against 22 walks for a 3.72 ERA.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com