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Thursday Bird Droppings: Two competing views of the Orioles farm system

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One farm system ranking says the Orioles system is better than ever. The Athletic’s Keith Law is less impressed, for now.

Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Hello, friends.

There are now 49 days remaining until the next scheduled Orioles game, which is Opening Day. That’s exactly seven weeks from today. There’s still some winter to get through between now and then, but hopefully Opening Day will be here before we know it.

I’ve got to admit I’m more excited for the general idea of returning baseball than the specific idea of returning Orioles baseball. I think that this Opening Day roster should, at least, have more young players who are getting looked at as possible pieces of the next good Orioles team on it than last year’s did. So that’s nice. But it still feels like 2021 is mostly going to be marking time until the real future arrives, whenever that may be.

The good news is that the Orioles farm system has been improving significantly since Mike Elias became the general manager of the team. Just how much depends on which ranking you happen to consult. There were two new farm system rankings unveiled yesterday, with Baseball America putting the Orioles as the #7 system in the league - the highest ranking they’ve ever given the O’s - and The Athletic’s Keith Law putting the O’s in 18th.

One of these is more exciting than the others. A top ten ranking is something where you can easily talk yourself into believing that the current inventory of the Orioles farm system can produce a consistently good run of O’s teams starting soon. It’s a bit tougher to believe that about adding players to a bad team from a middle of the pack farm system.

The BA ranking praised both improved depth and the team’s new efforts in Latin America. They also have rated five Orioles prospects in the top 63 of their league-wide ranking, with Adley Rutschman at #2, Grayson Rodriguez at #22, and DL Hall, Heston Kjerstad, and Ryan Mountcastle all from 59-63.

It’s worth noting that Law’s ranking of the Orioles as the 18th system also represents significant improvement over the past two years. Law had the Orioles as 30th out of 30 teams this time two years ago, and the team had only risen to 24th in his ranking a year ago. Law’s top 100 put Rutschman at #6, Hall at #49, Rodriguez at #55, and Kjerstad at #85, with Mountcastle unranked. I think a big chunk of the difference between the #7 system and #18 system is just the differing opinions of those five top ranked players.

Additionally, while BA praised the Latin American signings, Law notes that it’s far too early for those to have any real impact on the system. He also wrote that the team has made slower progress because “the new leadership didn’t benefit from trading major-league players for prospects.” Elias has made a few of these trades, so I guess that’s meant more as a dig at the trade return that Dan Duquette got in his July 2018 fire sale.

It’s hard to argue with that, if that’s what Law is insinuating. The Manny Machado trade may be the only one that’s not a complete bust, and even that one has still not borne any meaningful fruit at the MLB level yet. I’m looking forward to seeing Dean Kremer this year, but it’s no guarantee he turns into anything useful for the future.

Around the blogO’sphere

Putting Hernández signing in proper perspective (School of Roch)
Roch likens the signing of King Felix to when the Orioles had Johan Santana in camp in 2014, which is another way to say don’t expect much. Though in Santana’s case, it was a torn Achilles that cut his tenure off before it started.

AL East look at infield corners in ‘21 (Orioles.com)
Although I know better than to get my hopes up for the scenario of “first baseman Trey Mancini plays first base and doesn’t play in the outfield,” I’m getting my hopes up for that anyway.

Orioles, MLB subject to special rules and protocols for 2021 season (Baltimore Baseball)
One of the 2021 rules Rich Dubroff highlights is that teams will not be limited to 13 pitchers on a 26 man roster, as had been the original plan for last season. A nine man bullpen seems excessive, but nobody asked me.

How MLB’s new COVID protocols could impact the Orioles (Baltimore Sun)
Another provision new for 2021 is that teams will be able to temporarily replace COVID protocol players on the 40-man roster without permanently adding those replacements to the 40-man roster or having to remove them from the 40-man to accommodate the returning player.

Birthdays and Orioles anniversaries

Today in 1899, the original Baltimore Orioles sold several star players, including player-manager John McGraw, to the St. Louis Cardinals. The team was contracted prior to the 1900 season.

There are a few former Orioles who were born on this day. They are: 2015 two-game reliever Cesar Cabral, 2009-16 pitcher Brian Matusz, and 2012 reliever Matt Lindstrom.

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday to you! Your birthday buddies for today include: inventor Thomas Edison (1847), nuclear phycisist Leo Szilard (1898), actor Leslie Nielsen (1926), actor Burt Reynolds (1936), musician Sheryl Crow (1962), actor Jennifer Aniston (1969), and musician Brandy (1979).

On this day in history...

In 1812, Massachusetts governor Eldridge Gerry was first accused of shaping congressional districts to his advantage, in one case with a district that, on a map, looked like a salamander. The term “gerrymandering” endures, to the detriment of democracy in America today.

In 1937, General Motors recognized the United Auto Workers, ending a six-week sit-down strike that’s credited with turning UAW into a major American union.

In 1979, the Iranian Revolution, which had been ongoing for over a year, came to a formal end with the overthrow of the shah and the establishment of what became known as the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from a South African prison. He had been held for 27 years.

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And that’s the way it is in Birdland on February 11. Have a safe Thursday.