A look at the O's lack of prospects listed by Baseball America

This is not a good statistic for the Orioles farm system.

Just four players from the O's organization were listed among the Baseball America top 20 prospects lists for each league in minor league baseball. One of the four came in a trade.

That tied Oakland for last in all of baseball.

Pitcher Zach Britton was ranked 2nd in the Eastern League and 6th in the International League. Outfielder Xavier Avery was rated 12th best prospect in the Carolina League and pitcher Jake Arrieta was 14th in the IL.

Right-hander Wynn Pelzer, acquired from San Diego for Miguel Tejada, was ranked 19th in the Texas League when he pitched with San Antonio before his trade to Baltimore.

Of course the O's have "graduated" players to the Majors who could have been on these lists if still in the minors. Plus some players that signed late, like Manny Machado, did not play enough to qualify for the list in either the GCL or New York-Penn League.

Other players, like Trent Mummey and Ryan Adams, finished just outside their league top 20, according to Baseball America writers.

I interviewed Jim Callis, Baseball America Executive Editor, to get his take on the Orioles lack of prospects on these lists. All quotes listed below in this story are from Callis.

Was this a real poor performance by the O's on the farm?
"I do think there is a correlation between the number of prospects you have on the top 20 lists and the strength of the farm system. That won't be the exact order, by any means, if we line the organizations up.

"If you had told me off the top of my head that the Orioles tied for the worst farm system in baseball, well, I don't think they are that bad. But at the same time it shows they don't necessarily have as many high ceiling guys in their system as other organizations do.

"You know Brian Matusz and Matt Wieters got to the big leagues very quick. We've discussed the Matt Hobgood pick. They say they took the guy they wanted, I maintain they took a guy that would save them some money and was not the fifth best player in the draft. Hobgood isn't on a top 20. Could they have done better with the fifth pick last year? Yeah, I think they could have.

"You look at this year, I do think they had a good draft. But with the way the draft works with the signing deadline and if you are going to sign a bunch of over-slot players, they are not going to play much and won't qualify for our lists.

"Manny Machado, had he played long enough in the Gulf Coast League, would have been, hands down easy the best prospect in that league. But he didn't qualify.

"It's a combination of a number of things. Their system stands out more for its depth than its top-end players right now. Two, they have graduated some guys to the big leagues pretty quickly. Three, I think it's hard to draft well and have the system loaded at every level."

The combined win percentage of all O's minor league clubs of .449 this year ranked 28th in baseball.
Couple that with the lack of O's players on these lists and does this mean Baltimore's farm system is now ranked in the bottom ten in baseball?

"It's hard to answer the question until we actually rank them. To me, they feel like a middle-of-the-pack system. I don't know if that means they are 14th or 18th or 21st. I think they are somewhere in the middle but we have not broken down each organization yet.

"I wouldn't worry too much about the won-loss record. A lot of that can depend how young your team is compared to other teams in a given league. If you're an organization that drafts more high school players than others, you may not do as well."

While the O's were lacking in prospects on the Baseball America lists, they also lag well behind the rest of the division.

Texas led all organizations with 18 players listed and Tampa was second with 15. New York and Boston tied for third with 14 and Toronto was eighth with 13 players listed.

What does this mean for the O's?
"The average team had ten prospects. The Rays finished second, the Red Sox and Yankees tied for third and the Blue Jays came in eighth. To be honest, that would probably be the bigger concern as an Orioles fan.

"They came in tied for last. I don't think their farm system is that bad. We haven't done the rankings and our top 30's and handbook yet, but I think the concern is where they rank compared to the others in the division. That is the most daunting task for the Orioles.

"They've gotten some young talent to the big leagues and have some talent still there. I think Manny Machado is going to be a superstar.

"But the Rays had the best record in the American League and still have one of the best farm systems in baseball. The Yankees can out-spend everyone and they have depth and that gives the Yankees trade bait. The Red Sox made a run at the playoffs and they have probably one of the younger farm systems and there is a lot of depth there. The Blue Jays, between the Halladay trade and being aggressive internationally, may have the most improved system in baseball.

"The Orioles spent 9.2 million on the draft this year, which was the sixth most in baseball and probably one of the top 15 figures of all time. But they were still out-spent by the Red Sox and Blue Jays within the division. That's the bigger concern.

"While I do like some aspects of their system, it's clearly the fifth best system in the American League East."

Coming later today: Jim Callis talks further about Manny Machado and also provides an opinion on O's minor league player of the year Joe Mahoney. Plus we get his take on the Orioles dropping the Bluefield team and reducing to six affiliates for next year.

Later this week, I'll provide quotes with Andy MacPhail with his take on the O's lack of players on the top 20 lists.

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