Did you watch the Orioles fall short in 2013 with hopes that a loaded farm system might soon be helping to improve the big league club? Baseball America says you'd better keep those hopes saved for at least another year. A couple of weeks ago, the publication ranked the Orioles 28th out of 30 teams in MLB for having quality prospects who can make a short-term impact. As hot stove season heats up, it's a reminder that the Orioles will have to get better mostly from outside the organization.
All hope is not lost, because found in the fine print is the note that the ranking methodology was done in such a way that neither Dylan Bundy nor Kevin Gausman were counted, with the Orioles having a "middle of the pack" system when factoring those pitchers into the equation.
Baseball America arrived at their rankings using a composite of players who were ranked in their series of Top 20 prospects in each minor league. The Orioles only had four players rank in the top 20 of their respective leagues, which is one reason why they rank so low. The top-ranked Red Sox had ten players in the top 20 for their leagues, including World Series contributors Xander Bogaerts and Brandon Workman.
The four players who were among the top 20 in their leagues were: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (9th, Eastern), 2B/SS Jonathan Schoop (14th, International), C Michael Ohlman (18th, Carolina), and LHP Steven Brault (16th, New York-Penn).
Ohlman is a 2009 11th-round draftee who may have finally started putting things together as a 22-year-old. If you squint and hope, you might see him as the next starting catcher after Matt Wieters. Brault was an 11th-round pick in 2013 out of Regis University in Denver and had a solid professional debut in short-season-A.
Because of the way the Orioles used Hunter Harvey, he did not have enough innings to qualify in either league for the prospect rankings. This is also why Gausman is absent. He never spent enough time at either Bowie or Norfolk. Still, Harvey wouldn't move the needle much, being as he is a long way from the big leagues.
The methodology for the rankings includes points for being at a level closer to the big leagues, differing points based on BA's judgment of league quality, descending points for how they ranked within their specific league, and points depending on position. You can see the full methodology for yourself at the above link.
Beyond the Red Sox, the top five is filled out by the Astros, Padres, Rangers, and Cubs/Royals. High rankings are indicative of multiple players high in the minor leagues ranking in the top 20. Houston had ten top 20 players, including four in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. The Cardinals (eighth) are not far behind, with three players who were so good in the PCL that they played in the World Series. These were Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, and Kolten Wong.
The BA method left the Orioles with so few points that you could triple their score and they still would not crack the top seven teams for possible help in the immediate future.
Other AL East divisional opponents came in at 11th (Toronto), 15th (Tampa Bay), and 16th (New York). The Rays have already gotten their boost. Wil Myers, the American League Rookie of the Year, was their second-ranked player by this method, and the third-place finisher, Chris Archer, was their top player. The Yankees top player is High-A catcher Gary Sanchez. The Blue Jays list is headlined by Marcus Stroman, a righty who was pitching in the Double-A Eastern League.
These rankings only are meant to represent short-term impact and don't reflect the overall strength of the system. The Orioles don't figure to be up at the top, but they should at least have a better accounting when their three best pitching prospects are considered.
The O's aren't bereft of good prospects in their stable. Most, if not all, other teams would probably like to get their hands on Gausman, Bundy, Schoop, Rodriguez, and Harvey, if not more. If the Orioles are going to get back into the playoffs in 2014, though, they've got more holes to fill than their farm system might provide in the short-term. Only Gausman and Schoop have a chance of being on the MLB roster all season. Bundy and Rodriguez could appear later if all goes well for them.
If the team is going to get better in the short-term, it'll have to either upgrade from outside the organization or have players already on the club improve on their 2013 performance.
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