The Orioles farm system is not very good. Just about everyone who isn’t in some way employed by the Orioles agrees with that assessment. The latest example of that comes from the midseason update to MLB.com’s top 100 prospects list, in which the Orioles are completely shut out.
The list reflects how the 2016 draft and the first half of the season’s development (or lack thereof) has changed the stock of various prospects.
While this is just one prospect list and prospect lists are an inherently subjective enterprise, it really says something about the O’s system when they are unable to slip a couple of guys even into the bottom of the list.
Other evaluators might put catcher Chance Sisco in there, but even if they did, one guy in the top 100 isn’t so much better for the system. Division rivals have many more. There are five Yankees prospects and five Red Sox prospects on the top 100. The Rays have four, while the Blue Jays have only two.
The way things stand right now, the Orioles don’t have impact prospects lined up to help the big league team in the future, nor do they have much in the way of depth to help the team right now if needed.
It’s a tough thing for an organization to do to build for the future at the same time they’re trying to build up the present. So the fact that the Orioles have ended up in this situation isn’t so surprising, nor is it as concerning as it might be, as long as the MLB team keeps winning with some regularity.
One reason the farm system is weak right now is that the Orioles didn’t get to pick until the third round of the 2014 draft due to signing Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz as well as trading a pick - and Josh Hader, now the #45 prospect in baseball - to get Bud Norris.
Jimenez is a complicated topic, but there’s no doubt that Cruz and Norris were a big part of why the 2014 team was able to do what they did. It’s much better to have had a division champion banner hanging up for the last two years than it is to have a good farm system right now.
There are other reasons too, of course. Some of those are questionable moves made to shore up the team, like last year’s trades for Travis Snider and Gerardo Parra, and this year’s signing of Yovani Gallardo. Moves that hurt the farm without helping the MLB team are a problem.
Others are just head-scratchers, like why the Orioles keep dumping competitive balance draft picks in stupid salary relief trades, and why they eschew trying to sign top international amateurs.
So that’s why things are the way they are. Whether it’s good or bad is something we can and surely will debate as the next couple of Orioles seasons roll along. With that in mind, here are the new top 10 Orioles prospects from MLB Pipeline.
Top Ten Orioles Prospects
- Cody Sedlock - RHP
- Chance Sisco - C
- Hunter Harvey - RHP
- Jomar Reyes - 3B
- Trey Mancini - 1B
- Ryan Mountcastle - SS
- Matthias Dietz - RHP
- Keegan Akin - LHP
- Chris Lee - LHP
- Tanner Scott - LHP
Someone who is either an optimist by nature or an Orioles employee by paycheck might spin it as a positive that the O’s top draft pick is immediately their top prospect. While that might be true if the O’s had picked, say, in the top 10 of the draft, Sedlock was the 27th pick. He might be better than the existing guys, but that doesn’t say anything good about the O’s system.
Not even the #1 overall pick, Mickey Moniak, became the best prospect in the Phillies system. Nor did Red Sox first rounder Jason Groome, considered a top five prospect in the draft, become the #1 Sox prospect. Groome is only fourth best in that system. A good or even decent farm system would already have a couple of players more advanced than a late-20s pick.
The presence of Dietz and Akin on the back end of the top ten says something similar about the system. When you have two second rounders from the current year who’ve already passed your first rounder from the previous year (D.J. Stewart, now #12 in the system) that doesn’t speak very well of the prior top draft choice.
If you’ve read this far into an article about Orioles prospects, you probably already know about and have opinions of the holdovers from the top ten. Harvey is out for at least a year after Tommy John surgery. Lee hasn’t pitched since May 23 due to a lat strain. Scott has thrown 101 in relief and may not be able to throw strikes.
Three other 2016 draft picks are among the top 30, making a total of six players drafted this year on the O’s list. The others are third rounder Austin Hays (15), fourth rounder Brenan Hanifee (19) and seventh rounder Preston Palmeiro (21). I don’t know why Palmeiro is ranked that high. Lists get weird sometimes.
Putting six draftees right in the top 30 is probably another sign of a system that had been weak. Even the Phillies, picking at the top of every round, only added four players to their top 30 from this year’s draft. That’s also true for the Reds, who picked second. The Braves, who had three of the top 44 picks, added only those three players to their top 30.
At the very bottom of the list is a newcomer who wasn’t drafted this year. Alex Wells, a 19-year-old lefty signed out of Australia last year, has made his US debut for Aberdeen this year and has done nicely through seven starts. That’s enough to get him in there at #30 on the O’s rankings.
It doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot what some people put on prospect lists. What really matters is how these guys develop and perform, and whether some of them can turn into big leaguers.
Hopefully with hard work and good health, many of them can prove that their talent is better than these experts believe. The Orioles of the future could use the help. The Orioles of the present could use the trade bait.