Watching the Orioles this year, you've probably gotten the inkling that they have a problem with their corner outfield spots. The shambling husks of flesh that patrol that desolate landscape have represented a collective drag on the fortunes of the team. They are not what the franchise needs them to be. One of those who started the year with the Orioles has already been left to the vultures. His bones will bleach in the sun.
As much of a downer as it has been to watch that collective unit at times, there is an even more disheartening realization. These are the players the Orioles think are the best choice to be on the big league team. If they liked any of their high minors options, perhaps they would have never felt the need to trade for Alejandro De Aza last year, or retain him into this year; they might have not had any interest in acquiring Travis Snider, either, if they felt that they already had the answer in the outfield.
Is there any kind of outfield help anywhere on the farm, be it short or long term?
For starters, there is not a single outfielder on the O's 40-man roster that's not already on the 25-man roster. So, if they were going to bring someone up, that would mean making room elsewhere.
It's felt like a few years now that the Orioles have been talking about these two guys. Both Cuban defectors who play in the outfield, who were already in their mid-20s when the Orioles signed them, they're often though of together, although they are different players with different skill-sets.
Urrutia is not even considered much of an outfielder to begin with. He is on the O's 40-man but he's listed as a designated hitter. How much of a struggle must it be for someone to be listed as a DH? The 6'3" Urrutia is a lefty batter. He got a brief taste of MLB in 2013. It's two years later and he's still hanging out in Norfolk, where, in 44 games, he's batting .271/.339/.380, which is not really enough for a man without a position.
More than any other player, it's probably the case that if they felt confident in Urrutia, they wouldn't have made the De Aza/Snider trades.
What about Alvarez? He is at least more of a credible fourth outfielder type. If he was hitting better, maybe he'd be more than that. Alvarez has played in 51 games so far this year and is batting .239/.267/.365. That's not going to get you to the show, either.
Longtime Camden Chat favorite Nolan Reimold has also been playing outfield for Norfolk. He's OPSing .751. I'll keep on dreaming for him.
As we dip down to the Baysox level we find a name that actually counts as one of the organization's top 10 prospects. Yastrzemski is ranked either ninth or tenth by the likes of Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com. Yay, prospects are exciting! Even if, realistically, no team's 9th or 10th-best prospect at any given moment is likely to have stardom in their future.
But you don't need to get a star out of a prospect to be successful. Even if Yastrzemski's ceiling is fourth outfielder, that's one less player the Orioles need to try to sign or acquire. The 5'11" righty is 24 and was drafted as a college senior, usually indicating a player's not much of a prospect. He got some attention by playing well enough last year to get promoted twice mid-season, starting off with reaching double digits in doubles, triples, and homers in 66 games for Delmarva.
Through 49 games for Bowie this year, Yastrzemski's batting .278/.351/.389. If he keeps that up, he might find himself in Norfolk before the end of the year, and into the picture for the big league roster next spring.
Davis, 23, is a personal favorite of mine because he, like me, went to CCBC-Catonsville. If he gets anywhere it'll probably be on speed and defense, although he's only been successful in 10/17 steal attempts this year, so it may be that he uses speed like David Lough uses speed. In 46 games, Davis is batting .289/.348/.390, which is decent enough and he's still young enough to be in the prospect picture.
Really only one vaguely interesting name at this level. That's Hart, the O's competitive balance draft pick (#37 overall) in the 2013 draft. He is in the toolsy outfielder mold, the kind who has yet to translate the tools into success in the box scores of professional baseball. The O's bumped him up to Frederick this year after he had a .586 OPS for Delmarva last year.
Hart missed some time early this year with a shoulder sprain after he dove for a ball. He's played in 17 games for the Keys and has a .502 OPS. Something will have to click for him to be in the picture, and he's really the only guy worth noting here.
There are guys playing outfield for the Shorebirds because that's the way the rules of baseball works, but that doesn't mean any of them are prospects. It's a bunch of guys who were drafted as college seniors. Good for any of them that move up the ranks, but their future is probably not in MLB.
There's Jay Gonzalez, who's stolen 17/20 bases but has a .680 OPS, Jamill Moquete, who has an impressive .869 OPS but is 23, and Conor Bierfeldt, the South Atlantic League RBI leader with 45. They are all outfielders in the Orioles minor league system. They are not part of the prospect depth. There's a lot of that going around.
Other than Adam Jones, there aren't any long-term answers in the outfield anywhere in the Orioles organization. If they're going to find one, it'll either be in free agency or in the draft. Even if you only look at the short term, it looks like any temporary answer is going to involve dumpster diving. Dan Duquette's been pretty good at that, although it isn't working out this year.
None of this means that the Orioles should go out of their way to grab an outfielder with any of their top picks. Get the best player they can and figure out the rest later. If the best player is an outfielder who turns into a real prospect for the franchise, well, that would be OK.