DALLAS - I had a chance to interview Jim Callis of Baseball America today here at the baseball Winter Meetings in Dallas. He spent quite a long time discussing the Orioles and their farm system with me.
It's no secret that right now, the Orioles have a farm system ranked by just about everyone in the bottom third of all teams in baseball. I asked Callis what he thought the issues were for the Orioles recently in struggling to produce better prospects.
"I don't think it's necessarily been bad player development," Callis said. "It's hard to break into the big leagues anytime, but it's really hard on a bad team. You can maybe say there is less pressure, they don't have to win.
"But if you are a pitcher and you don't have a very good team behind you, if they are not scoring enough runs or playing good defense behind you, it makes it harder. Coaches say do what got you here, but when you get to the majors sometimes they feel like they have to throw harder or they have to put it on the black and not just throw strikes.
"I don't know if it's a case of they've mis-scouted guys or they aren't developing. Chris Tillman is kind of a puzzler, but you know he had a reputation in high school for being kind of shaky makeup-wise.
"I just think everything gets magnified, your mistakes get magnified when the team is not playing well and they haven't play well for a while."
He did say that two Orioles' prospects may well rank among the top-10 in all of baseball.
"It's kind of a lopsided farm system if you will. The good news is the Orioles have two of the best prospects in baseball," Callis said. "They've got Manny Machado, who is either the first or second-best shortstop prospect in baseball. They've got Dylan Bundy, who even though he was drafted out of high school, is more like a college pitcher because he is so advanced and his stuff is so good.
"Those two guys, very exciting, after that it really drops off quick. So you kind of have that balance. In some ways, if you really had your choice, I'd rather have two superstars and not a lot of depth. But overall, the farm system as a whole, you have two guys you like but not a lot of other guys you see doing a lot for the Orioles."
Callis does like Jonathan Schoop, but considers him a borderline top-100 guy and someone who might sneak into Baseball America's top-100 when it is released.