HHP: Orioles Infielder Development

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by gfrank
What really encourages me about the Tim Beckham trade, even more so than this nice 4-game stretch, is the fact that the Orioles do actually have a really strong recent track record of developing or getting the most out of their infielders. I think you could pretty easily argue that Hardy, Machado, Schoop, and Davis have all been better than advertised since coming here, particularly with the glove.

Hardy had some success before he came here, but that wasn’t exactly some slam dunk trade when we got him. He was coming off two particularly underwhelming years with the Twins and Brewers, which is why we only had to trade two inconsequential relief prospects to get him. It’s actually really surprising how similar his stats his last year in Minnesota were compared to Beckham’s stats this year with Tampa Bay. It was pretty underwhelming stuff, and that was a trade MacPhail made hoping for a bounce back to prior for, which is exactly what happened, and there was a stretch with the Orioles where there wasn’t really a better shortstop in baseball than Hardy.

Davis too, I’d argue has been way more impressive than he should have been. I remember they were even slightly uneasy about playing him too much at first base in his first year or two here, playing him a lot in the outfield or DH, but he’s really come into his own as a pretty solid defensive first baseman. I’d argue that there are a lot of throws our infielders make that would be errors with most first basemen. The league seems to agree with the improved defense of Davis too, given that he was up for a gold glove last year. I still think he deserves to win one, the guy has gotten really good at this, enough to make me forgive those prolonged offensive slumps he’s prone to. He still contributes to the team even on days when he’s doing little at the plate besides watching those third strikes go by.

And then Machado and Schoop. I don’t remember hearing that they were supposed to be this good when they were coming up, but maybe my memory is failing me. Regardless, these are two guys we developed from their teens into two of the best infielders on the planet. At some point, you should probably give this organization some credit for helping them reach their ceiling.

Am I speaking outlandishly when I say that the Orioles might just be particularly good at developing infielders? We’ve gotten some justified press for our complete inability to develop starting pitching talent, particularly when you see so many of our pitchers go elsewhere and succeed, but couldn’t the opposite be said for our ability to foster the development of infielders? We got these four guys in our infield, two drafted, two picked up in trades, and all developed into all-stars with superior defensive ability. This all might just be some uniquely good fortune that hit the Orioles all at once, but it does make me encouraged. We’ve got this guy Beckham who has first overall draft pick talent but hasn’t quite put it all together, going to a team who has helped four similarly talented players put it all together. There’s a best case scenario lurking under the surface there, and it makes you not particularly care how good Tobias Myers ends up.

If nothing else, I think Beckham might be some ultimate barometer for how good the Orioles are at developing infielders. If Beckham doesn’t really pan out or fails to reach the next level, you could chalk Hardy/Davis/Machado/Schoop up to good fortune. But if history repeats and we have a guy reach his potential here, you might be able to actually say that this team does something well that other teams do not. This organization is absolutely guilty of its share of screw-ups, but screwing up infielders hasn’t been our thing for a long time. Curious to see if that trend continues.