Orioles Farm: Good, Bad, or Ugly?
Before I release my top 10 Orioles prospects for 2018, I wanted to take a look at the Orioles farm system as a whole. More specifically, what national publications think of the system. It’s easy to read what I’m writing and shrug it off as “another homer O’s fan overrates the team’s prospects”. That’s true, I am a life-long Orioles fan. It’s also true that I try to divorce myself completely from that fandom when assessing prospects. Still, I can see why someone would want an outside perspective.
First, let’s talk about Top 100 lists. The pinnacle of prospecting. The highlight of Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and other publication’s off-season content. I’ll start with my take. I haven’t watched every prospect that is listed in the various top 100s, but I’ve seen enough of the other guys that I’m comfortable slotting the Orioles guys into certain ranges. I have Austin Hays around #40 and Chance Sisco/Ryan Mountcastle in the #70-80 area. Hunter Harvey is just outside of the top 100 (he’s got the stuff to be much higher, but needs to show it holds up under a larger workload). DL Hall inside the top 150, and Cedric Mullins/Keegan Akin/DJ Stewart/Alex Wells/Tanner Scott all having a top 200 case. That is a deep system in my estimation. So let’s see where national publications stand. I linked the respective articles so please check them out, lots of good prospect analysis out there.
Next 25: Hunter Harvey, Tanner Scott
Made at least one top 150 list (of the 5 used to create their Top 100): Alex Wells, Cedric Mullins, Cody Sedlock, DJ Stewart, DL Hall, Jomar Reyes
Just Missed (13 other players): None
Top 100: Austin Hays(90)
Others receiving consideration(38 more names): Chance Sisco
Other lower-ranked guys they like (77 more names): DL Hall, Hunter Harvey, Tanner Scott
So, what did we learn? We learned it depends on who you ask. Baseball America is quite high on the Orioles farm system, in fact, more so than I am. Fangraphs not so much. All these lists are well thought out and well put together, they all have value. Their differences point to an important takeaway, prospect evaluation isn’t an exact science. Different sources, different scouts, different looks, lead to different rankings.
Another takeaway is that whatever you think about the Orioles farm system, they should be more involved in the international amateur market. Depending on the list, between 6 and 8 of the top 10 prospects in baseball were acquired though that market.
If you read my posts on the message boards you’ll know the one thing I like the most about the current state of the Orioles farm system is it’s depth. In the recent past, even in good years, the Orioles system has been top heavy. A Machado, Gausman, or Bundy and not much behind them. Reading those old prospect lists, once you get out of the top 5-8 guys you have major long shots, utility players, and middle relievers. This year is different, there are easily 15+ names with legit potential. Don’t believe me? Well, let me make my case.
First you have the 11 names in the segment above.
Then you can add Brenan Hanifee, Cameron Bishop, and Keegan Akin #6, #7, and #9 respectively on the Keith Law’s Orioles list. They are ranked ahead of Scott on that list, who appears in Baseball America’s Top 125.
Then you can add Michael Baumann who appears at #6 on John Sickel’s Orioles list and is given a grade equal to Harvey and DL Hall.
That’s 15 guys that at least one major publication thinks highly of and we haven’t even talked about Anthony Santander, Zac Lowther (who was a Top 100 guy by the KATOH projection system), or Adam Hall (the Orioles 2017 2nd round pick). So 18 deep without getting into fringe prospects, that’s the best depth the Orioles have had in my memory.
The Good: Deepest system in years, plenty of potential major league contributors with some upside
The Bad: No real consensus impact prospects outside of Austin Hays
The Ugly: Not using all avenues of talent acquisition properly (international market)
Your thoughts are welcome, discuss here.