Callis on Duquette, the farm, O’s future and more

In reviewing some notes from the Winter Meetings, I found some quotes from an interview in Dallas with Jim Callis of Baseball America that had not yet been published here.

I know many fans love to hear Callis’ insights, and I do, too. So here are some topics we covered there.

Callis said that when Baseball America puts out its next list of the top 100 prospects in all of baseball, both Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy could be in the top 10.

“We haven’t put those lists together yet, but yes, they are that caliber of guy. I don’t know if they both will wind up in the top 10, but they are both that caliber of prospect.”

Dan Duquette wants to improve the Orioles’ farm system. I asked Callis how he may go about doing that.

“It’s funny, every time there is a regime change with any team, (we hear) they are always going to build from within and commit more resources to the draft and international.

“The job got a little tougher with the new CBA. There are going to be some restrictions. The Orioles will benefit from not playing well in recent years and they are probably going to have high picks for a few more years so they’ll have more (draft) cap space.

“But at the same time, it will be hard to go out and get a Nicky Delmonico in the sixth round with a seven-figure bonus. We’ll have to see how things shake out. I think when you are picking at the top of the draft, you’ll have more cap room to play with. I think, in general, teams are going to be able to sign two or three guys overslot and then after that have to figure out how to stretch their money. It’s like before, where if you wanted to spend $15 million on the draft, you could.

“But I think the Orioles were pushing hard on the draft before. They had picks that worked out and others that didn’t. So I don’t really know how much more you can do that with the CBA, so I don’t know that now their focus will change.

“They have the fifth-best team and fifth-best farm system in the AL East. And, it’s not like you have a ton of tradeable commodities. You have to do really well in the draft and do really well internationally to succeed and their margin for error is slim. They can’t afford many bad picks in the next two or three drafts to get back into competition in the AL East.”

Callis sized up the Orioles’ performance in recent drafts.

“I think they’ve done OK recently. They made a good pick like Zach Britton, but he goes through the system pretty quick. (Matt) Wieters and (Brian) Matusz, and I still like Matusz, but they went through the system quickly so they don’t stay there and build up your (farm system) ranking.

“Billy Rowell, he was not necessarily a bad pick at the time. It’s not like they reached for him, he just hasn’t worked out. (Matt) Hobgood, I think, was a financial pick. If you look at some guys they picked - like Matusz, the best college pitcher in the draft at four - that’s what you want. He just hasn’t developed. Some wonder are they screwing these guys up or were they not that good in the first place.”

I asked him if any players in the Oriole’ minor leagues took a nice step forward in 2011.

“(Bobby) Bundy had a nice year. Parker Bridwell still has a long way to go but he had a nice year. Xavier Avery is kind of athletic, but didn’t really hit much. LJ Hoes hit a little more after he moved off second base. Which is good, but obviously the bar is raised a lot higher (on offense) with him in left field. (Jonathan) Schoop is their clear third prospect and then you can argue a bunch of different guys.

“Nicky Delmonico is interesting. I don’t think a lot of teams would have paid that bonus to him. But who knows what position he winds up at, but he’s intriguing. Jason Esposito I like. I don’t think he’s going to be an All-Star, but he could be a solid third baseman in the big leagues.”

Callis is not optimistic about Orioles’ improvement in the next year or two.

“I can’t envision any scenario where the Orioles contend for at least two years. And even then, the Blue Jays are moving up and the Rays may be the fourth-place team in a couple of years, because the new CBA is going to limit what they can spend on the draft.”

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