As we continue our series of stories on the O’s minor leagues today we look at the Orioles farm through the eyes and thoughts of an insider - Someone who has managed in that farm system since 2007 - current O’s interim third base coach Gary Allenson.
Until he took that position last month, Allenson had managed at Triple-A Norfolk since 2007, seeing most of the club’s top prospects come his way at one time or another.
“I think we’ve developed some pretty good players. It’s still probably early to tell with some of the guys up here. I think overall, we’ve done a pretty good job,” Allenson said.
“When I started playing, back in 1976, we had just a manager on the (minor league) team. We didn’t have somebody coming all the time to correct this or that. We kind of had to figure it out on our own, which was good and bad.
“A lot of times in the batter’s box, you can’t think, you have to react. Some kids have a tough time separating that.
“My thought process was I’m going to show you I’m better than you right now. That’s what you’ve got to have every day when you play the game. On defense, you want the ball every time it’s pitched.
“Too many times we complicate things, not just our organization, but everywhere. Like I said, when I started there was just a manager. Now there’s a pitching coach and hitting coach and rovers (roving instructors) come in.”
Does Allenson believe that the coaches and instructors working in the O’s minors are on the same page?
“Yes, for example, we have a hitting coordinator in Denny Walling. He’s got the hitting coaches under him and they go over plans in spring training for each player, what each guy needs to work on. They go over those check points.
“Everyone won’t do well that is a prospect. First-round picks sometimes don’t make it. So much of this game is trusting your stuff as a pitcher or your ability as a hitter when you move up a level.”
Allenson believes the O’s minors are in good hands with Andy MacPhail as president of baseball operations and said that MacPhail lets the staff in the minors do what they need to do to get the job done.
“He’s doing a good job and he’s letting the people do their thing in the minor leagues down there. And I know first-hand, he trusts your opinion.
“It’s not automatic when you say somebody is ready. You don’t know, once they get here, how they will handle adversity. It’s real easy to look confident when you are going good, but when you aren’t, how is a kid handling it. Is he hanging his head? Everybody goes through struggles.
“I think Andy is doing a real good job and Joe Jordan with the draft.”
I asked Allenson about what he sees when he would get players from lower levels coming to Norfolk. Did they seem well coached and prepared?
“Sure. We had a club last year at Norfolk that started 34-15 with guys like Hernandez and Berken and Bergesen for a few starts and Wieters, Reimold and Tillman. Those guys didn’t miss a beat with going to Triple-A for the first time.
“This is the toughest level here (the big leagues). You’ll take some lumps. Tampa Bay figured it out and I think we are maybe a year or two away from doing that.
“It’s just being patient. It’s hard because of our Major League record. Guys like Arrieta, Tillman, Matusz, Berken, Hernandez, Britton, they’ll be the backbone of this organization. Good starting pitching.
“We’re just going to have to be a little more patient with it. In two to three years, they’ll be the guys that get us into the seventh inning every night.”
But is this current group of players at Triple-A and the Majors a legit group or have some overrated their abilities?
“I really believe it’s a pool of good talent. When I had them in Triple-A, Tillman would face Price and Hernandez would face Niemann or Sonnanstine, Tampa’s guys. They would get us some and we would get them some.
“Reimold got Price three times with homers, two of them that are still going. Price now has what, 10 or 11 wins. If they can do it there, they can do it here.
“You just need that attitude that you are as good as somebody else. Everybody has the ability up here, but it becomes a confidence thing. Those guys at times need that pat on the butt. They’re going to be fine and you have to make them believe that.
“I truly believe because they competed and beat those guys down there that they can beat them up here,” Allenson said.