One of the biggest decisions teams make for their minor leaguers is when to promote players to higher levels.
When is the time right? What if the player doesn’t succeed at that level? How fast should prospects move through the system?
O’s president Andy MacPhail worked with David Stockstill when he headed up the O’s farm system and now works with his brother, John, who is the current director of player development.
The O’s may be going through some subtle changes in philosophy in how fast they promote players on the farm.
“Yeah, I think John is probably a little more aggressive than Dave was. But at the end of the day, it’s an individual thing,” MacPhail said.
“You need to look at the entire package. What their amateur career was. What level they’ve played at, how they’ve progressed. A judgement as to whether they can handle the next level and is there a need at the next level? Or are they going to move up so they can let someone else play that is a prospect where they were. There are a lot of variables.”
Do the O’s have to now look to promote minor league players faster because of the losing at the Major League level?
“No. Those decisions should be independent of that. For example, last year there was a period where maybe Brandon Waring could have played at Double-A, but Josh Bell was there. The most important thing is to get the repetitions and it’s less important whether that’s at Frederick or Bowie. And then when Bell moves on, Waring moves up.
“John is a believer where, if he feels like a player is going to play at the next level the next year and play the majority of the year there, he likes to expose some players to that level a little bit the year before.
“I think Dave was more, let them have a full year under their belt and amass some numbers. I’m not sure either one of those is wrong. I don’t know if I agree or disagree with either one. There is merit to both ways.”
There are examples of some players moving more quickly from level to level on the farm this year. Consider, outfielder Matt Angle.
A seventh-round pick out of Ohio State in 2007, Angle played 123 games at Frederick last year and played eight games late in the season at Bowie.
He suffered a broken hamate bone in his right hand late in Major League spring training this March and began the regular season injured, but then joined Bowie on May 13th. After hitting .383 in just 14 games with the Baysox, he was promoted to Triple-A on May 29.
“Matt (Angle) was executing the fundamentals, moving runners over, he could pinch run, pinch hit, play defense in the outfield. He doesn’t need to be at the Double-A level. He did everything he needed to do; now he’s going to get pushed at the Triple-A level,” John Stockstill said.
“We saw him in spring training. You start with what you already know about the player. He was already doing some things that you have to do to play in the big leagues during Major League spring training.
“It’s not about hitting .300. He could execute the fundamentals at the level where he is, so we challenge him and move him on up. A lot of guys can hit .360, but they can’t bunt or hit and run and steal and do things the Major League club needs them to.
“So they need to stay where they are until they learn to take pitches, put the bat on the ball. Game execution is primary to movement.
“Every level brings a different level of competition. When you go to Triple-A you can have a group of 34-year-old hitters that are protecting your (younger) hitters that are paid to sit on one mistake.
“You have pitchers that are paid to get young hitters out. They may not be able to do it in the Majors, but they can get the 22 or 24-year-old that just got to Triple-A. You have a few of those at Double-A; you have a bunch of those at Triple-A.
“So every time you move a level, he (a player like Angle) has to graduate to another level of expertise that is being paid to specifically find his holes.
“In general, people from the scouting side of the game have a philosophy: you simply need to challenge them and see. There are times you move people up and that’s how you find out what level the player is.”
Stockstill emphasizes that, in the end, it all comes back to the Major Leagues. Everything a club does on the farm is geared toward prepping players to play there.
“There is really one level - the Major League level. Everyone wants to play at the highest level possible, but that doesn’t mean they are being developed better at that level than another level.
“When I talk to young kids about college, I tell them go where you will play. If a club were lucky enough to have nine frontline shortstops, you would need them at different places in order to get playing time, developmental playing time. They have to have a place to play.
“You want numerous good players at numerous positions. When you get to that point, you think you have a pretty good farm system. The danger with any position is hey we’ve got nine clubs and only have one guy at this position. You are hoping to have a problem finding them a place to play. That means you have depth in your system.”
I asked Stockstill what factors like age and maturity play in deciding when to promote players.
“Each player will handle things differently. I’m more concerned with how the player will be handled. If we send a guy up, are you afraid if we have to send him back down, it will do him harm. Not if we do our job.
“I’d rather challenge the player and if he doesn’t succeed there, we will handle him properly to get him refocused and ready to get back on an upward plane. That’s the job.
“Once they reach a certain level and need to be challenged, we are going to do that. I told a player the other day, I don’t care if you hit .200. Next year, you’ll hit .240 or .280. We are looking at you moving forward.”