Do the O's Minor League Awards Matter?

PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 10: U.S. Futures All-Star Manny Machado #3 of the Baltimore Orioles throws the ball during batting practice for the 2011 XM All-Star Futures Game at Chase Field on July 10, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

In their pre-game ceremony yesterday, the Orioles celebrated their minor league award winners for the 2011 season.

The Orioles today named Jonathon Schoop as the winner of the Brooks Robinson Award as their minor league Player of the Year. They named pitcher Tim Bascom the winner of the Jim Palmer Award as minor league Pitcher of the Year. [...] Lefty pitcher Cameron Roth has been named this year's recipient of the Elrod Hendricks Minor League Community Service Award. [...] Frederick Keys Manager Orlando Gomez was named winner of the Cal Ripken Sr. Player Development Award. [...] Northeast regional crosschecker Dean Albany was presented the Jim Russo Scout of the Year Award.

I'm not sure what there is for the casual to semi-hardcore fan to take away from the honors given to Gomez, Albany, or Roth. I'm glad the Orioles take the time to shine light on these guys' contributions to the franchise, but what does it all mean?

If Orlando Gomez is such a great coach from a player development point of view, is he going to be given more responsibility in the farm system, which is under some heavy scrutiny for their player development? Last year, and the year before that, Norfolk pitching coach Mike Griffin won the Cal Ripken, Sr. award. He's still in Norfolk and was one way or another passed over for the big league pitching coach position in favor of the poorly chosen Mark Connor. So excuse me if I tip my cap to Gomez and then forget who he is by tomorrow morning.

I wonder the same thing about the Jim Palmer and Brooks Robinson award winners. Tim Bascom, who was drafted a round ahead of Jake Arrieta, had a good year at AA Bowie. He pitched to a 3.11 ERA with more than three times as many strikeouts as walks. He pitched really well down the stretch as Bowie fought for a playoff spot. But I don't think you'll find anybody who thinks he's the Orioles's best pitching prospect.

You might struggle just to find Bascom listed as a legitimate prospect. He's 26 years old, and pitched for his third year at the AA level. John Sickels didn't even mention him in his pre-season farm system review. He didn't make it into Baseball America's 2011 Prospect Handbook.

Jonathon Schoop, the Brooks Robinson Award winner, on the other hand is a legitimate prospect. He's gotten pretty strong reviews and will find his way onto some top 100 prospect lists over the winter. He's just 19 years old and playing at the high A level without looking completely overmatched. But I wonder, why give Schoop the award over his teammate and fellow top prospect Manny Machado? They had very similar statistical years, playing on the same teams at the same age. Machado is widely considered one of the top 20 prospects in baseball.

Is it possible that the Orioles are using this award to celebrate the internationally signed Schoop a little bit, after a year full of crescendoing criticism of their international efforts?  Which I guess would make this whole thing little more than a PR stunt...but then what else am I really expecting here?

My intention here is not to take away from Schoop or Bascom, who both had good seasons, and both still have promise left in their careers. I hope I see both of them in Baltimore someday soon. These honors are very nice for them. But for me, the fan, I can't help but feel like these honors are weightless.

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