Is the Baseball America list a sign of trouble for the Orioles?

I have gotten a similar question this week after just two Orioles were listed among Baseball America’s top 100 prospects for 2011. The Rays had seven and the Yankees six players on the same list.

“How can the O’s have lost for 13 years and that’s all we have to show from our farm system,” several fans have asked?

We need to keep in mind that the Orioles had four players on the same lists in 2009 and 2010.

If one big job of a farm system is to send players to the majors, the O’s have done a decent job of that. Of the eight players the O’s will likely send out into the field on opening day, three are O’s draft picks in catcher Matt Wieters, second baseman Brian Roberts and right fielder Nick Markakis.

Three others were acquired in trades that involved O’s draft picks: J.J. Hardy, Mark Reynolds and Adam Jones. You can use your farm system to acquire players, too.

Three of five projected rotation starters - Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta - are O’s draft picks, and Zach Britton could make that number reach four.

Draft picks Jim Johnson and Jason Berken are in the bullpen and draft pick Nolan Reimold could make the team. Felix Pie was acquired for O’s draft pick Garrett Olson.

No one, including me, is bragging that the O’s have had a fertile farm system over the last eight to 10 years. But in recent years, it has been better and the O’s farm has directly or indirectly produced much of the team’s likely 25-man roster for this season.

Last year, the O’s had a minor league system ranked in the game’s top ten by most of the experts.

They could quickly get back to that in a year and players like Dan Klein, LJ Hoes, Xavier Avery, Joe Mahoney, Mychal Givens and Jonathon Schoop, among others, could be in the hunt for that list in 12 months.

Fans want to see the O’s produce the next superstar, the next Cal Ripken Jr. or Eddie Murray. Who doesn’t want that? But it’s a rarity when it happens.

The O’s current young nucleus of Wieters, Jones, Matusz, Bergesen, Arrieta, Chris Tillman and Britton all came from their farm or a trade of an O’s draft pick.

Not to mention the fact that the two players listed this week by Baseball America - Manny Machado and Britton - are considered to be among baseball’s best at prospects at their positions.

In the AL East, every team the O’s battle is not only good on the field, but also on the farm. Tampa Bay has one of the best minor league systems in the game and the other three are all solid.

The O’s task remains daunting in trying to gain ground on that group of clubs. But this week’s top 100 list does not provide the total picture of what the O’s minors has produced in recent years or what it might accomplish in the coming years.

Four O’s made the list in 2010:
5 - Matusz
37 - Josh Bell
63 - Britton
99 - Arrieta

Four O’s made the list in 2009:
1 - Wieters
22 - Tillman
25 - Matusz
67 - Arrieta

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