The Orioles have sacrificed two top draft picks in this June's draft to sign Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz. They traded away another last July when they acquired Bud Norris. In the future, that could create some difficulty in having a farm system stocked with impact prospects and depth. For now, they are in good shape. According to Baseball Prospectus, the O's system ranks as 12th-best in baseball, with an expectation that five of the top six prospects may soon be graduating to the major leagues.
This is in stark contrast to a Baseball America valuation from November that ranked the O's as 29th in terms of potential short-term impact. That methodology somehow left out both Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy, so I think I know which one I'll put more stock in, thanks.
One encouraging sign is that this system has improved since last year, with the team moving from 20th to 12th in the BP ranking. That's a sign of both adding intriguing talent in the draft as well as prospects breaking out into a higher tier. In the last year, the O's managed to do both. BP liked the addition of Hunter Harvey and Josh Hart in the draft and the development of existing players in Eduardo Rodriguez and Mike Wright. With Gausman and Bundy poised to jump up into MLB soon if all goes well, things are not in bad shape.
Some more good news for the Orioles is that they're ranked ahead of three of their four division rivals. Boston sits fourth, powered by one of the top prospects in baseball, Xander Bogaerts. Winning the World Series and still having a top farm system? We can only dream. But they're ahead of the Blue Jays (13th), Yankees (23rd), and Rays (26th). For a team that's made its hay in player development, it's surprising to see the Rays so low.
This time next year, the team may well find themselves down where the Yankees and Rays are now. Players will be going up to MLB and there's not as many draft picks to replenish the system. Maybe BP's choices for potential breakouts - Chance Sisco and Stephen Tarpley - will do so and strengthen the system again.
If the O's are lucky, someone unexpected will take a big step forward, or maybe the O's will unearth a later-round talent who quickly establishes himself as better than his draft slot, as happened just last year with Tarpley, a third-round pick. That's going to be their highest draft pick in June (unless they sign someone else!), so they'll need to make the most of it with a shrewd pick.
Still, things are good on the farm now, and the outlook for the major league team for the 2014 season isn't too shabby either. In Birdland, we should enjoy today and worry about tomorrow when it comes.