It’s an age-old question in minor league baseball: Does player development become more important than winning the game?
The answer is usually yes. The minors are there to develop players, to get them to improve and to send them to the majors. Winning the game is often secondary to that goal.
Bowie Baysox manager Gary Kendall cited an example of that involving his club this year.
When the Double-A Baysox open the Eastern League season Thursday night at Harrisburg, center fielder Xavier Avery, one of the fastest players in the O’s organization, will have the green light to steal bases.
He is getting that green light because he needs to learn how to steal even more bases. He also needs to learn when is the right time to try and steal a base and when there are times where you may not want to run.
“Avery is going to have a lot of stolen base attempts,” Kendall said Tuesday at Prince George’s Stadium. “He’s going to have a green light (to try and steal anytime). We’re going to let him go because he needs to develop that tool. There could be times we need to review, ‘Hey that was a good time to go’ or, ‘That wasn’t.’
“There may be times he might get thrown out and people may say, ‘Why were you running there?’ But it’s for his development. You want to develop those tools within the framework of the game. So development comes over winning there, to a certain extent.”
The 21-year-old Avery was rated as the third-best Orioles prospect by Baseball America after the 2010 season.
Avery stole 13 of 16 bases with the Gulf Coast O’s in 2008, then went 30-for-40 with Single-A Delmarva in 2009. Last year, he began with Single-A Frederick and stole 28 of 42 bases with the Keys. Then, after moving to Double-A, he was perfect with 10 steals in 10 attempts with the Baysox.
Avery, a second-round pick in 2008, has stolen 81 of 108 bases in his career for a success rate of 75 percent.
“There may be times where he may run us out of an inning,” Kendall added. “Hopefully, it never happens, but you know there will be times he may try to steal third with one out to get there for someone to get an RBI or force them to bring the infield in.
“He may get thrown out and it takes an RBI possibility away from someone like (Joe) Mahoney or (Brandon) Waring behind him. But that is all about the development. His development is vital.”