As I'm sure many of you have heard, D-Backs GM Josh Byrnes was fired yesterday along with manager AJ Hinch. I've always been a fan of Josh Byrnes. He infused his team with players from the farm system and made a great trade for Dan Haren. Not to long ago, the D-Back's system was stacked. In 2006, John Sickels rated their top five (!) prospects as A prospects with two B+ prospects following behind.
1) Carlos Quentin, OF, Grade A
Hitting .284/.413/.474 for Triple-A Tucson, underperforming compared to what he did at the same level last year. This is not uncommon, a player not hitting as well in his second Triple-A year as he did in the first. The theory is that this is due to discouragement. Quentin's status has slipped but I still think he is a good prospect.
2) Stephen Drew, SS, A-
Hitting .283/.340/.437 for Tucson, like Quentin he isn't hitting quite as well as expected. Still a top prospect.
3) Chris Young, OF, A-
Hitting .267/.346/.496 for Tucson, again less than anticipated. Is Tucson playing more like a neutral park this year?
4) Justin Upton, OF, A-
Hitting .279/.348/.405 for Class A South Bend in the Midwest League, certainly not spectacular numbers although the hitting context is not an easy one.
6) Matt Torra, RHP, B+
Rehabbing a shoulder injury.
7) Carlos Gonzalez, OF, B+
Hitting .313/.363/.540 for Lancaster in the California League, 10 homers, 10 steals. Tools hound, has knocked 28 doubles. Strike zone judgment is still an issue but he is making progress.
What's happened to these guys? Quentin was traded to the White Sox in 2008 and played like a beast before settling into mediocrity. Stephen Drew has been a solid SS. His defense has improved after a rough start and his bat is good enough for SS. Chris Young played great in 2008, but he has been relatively unremarkable since then. The Justin Upton has been great and will soon lead the troops in Afghanistan to victory. Torra is flipping hamburgers somewhere but CarGo has been a very good player. Unfortunately, it hasn't been with the D-Backs. Finally, Mark Reynolds and Miguel Montero were also decent prospects as well, but weren't blue chippers.
Why do I bring this up? I'm not sure. On one hand, I find all of this discouraging. The D-Backs, armed with a far superior farm system than the O's, have scuffled since making the playoffs in 2007. The development of the above players players have stalled while other players have left and flourished (e.g., CarGo). Like the O's, maybe the D-Backs simply lack the wherewithal to develop young players. On the other hand, perhaps neither the O's or D-Backs are incompetent at player development. Perhaps these players wouldn't have developed with any team. It should be said that the above players aren't bad by any means. Drew is solid. Young is decent. Mark Reynolds has been quite good. And Montero is certainly a viable major league catcher. But none of them are stars, the Justin Upton being the exception. And it doesn't bode well that the Quentin and CarGo have produced excellent seasons after leaving the D-Backs.
Finally, I will say that the Os need to get on Josh Byrnes. There's part of me that wants him over Andy MacPhail but his shaky player development record leaves me nervous. But I think he can be asset to the organization in some capacity. He's exactly the type of forward thinking executive that the O's desperately need. Get on it Andy.
Are there any lessons to be learned from the D-Backs that apply to the O's? Have at it.