Since I was not invited to the meetings, I can’t say for sure how involved Andy MacPhail was or was not when it came to decisions involving Orioles minor leaguers over his time with the club.
But it sure does seem that first-year executive vice president Dan Duquette, who clearly takes a large and active interest in player development, will have a big say in which players end up with which minor league teams when the seasons begin in a few weeks. Duquette figures to be the final arbiter when it comes to the team’s top prospects.
“Yes (I will have major input), because player development is really important to the organization and I will be involved in some of those decisions,” Duquette told me Wednesday.
When Baseball America recently revealed its top 100 list, Bundy was ranked as baseball’s No. 10 prospect with Machado at No. 11 and Schoop at No. 82.
The Orioles and Duquette are trying to decide if Machado should start with Double-A Bowie after playing in 63 regular season games and nine playoff games last season with Single-A Frederick.
“That’s under consideration. He’s only had 500 at-bats in the minor leagues. In general, I think the Double-A level is really a proving ground and it seems to be a stopping point for everybody on their way to the big leagues. If you can play at Double-A, you should have an opportunity to play in the big leagues,” Duquette said.
How does Duquette determine, in general, when is the right time to move a player to a higher level?
“It’s usually the number of at-bats and the talent of the player. Most players are moved in the minor leagues as position players based on their skill as a hitter,” he said.
If Machado did start at Double-A at just 19 (he turns 20 on July 6), would a consideration be how he might handle some struggles at that level?
“Well, that’s always a consideration, but I’ll tell you something, the guys that have talent, they can play,” Duquette said. “They can play. So, again, it’s more important that the player develop his skills they need to be major leaguers. It’s not that important what level they are developing them at, but they need to develop their skills.”
Starting in late June last year, Schoop joined Machado with Frederick and moved from shortstop to second base while Machado stayed at short. It sounds like Duquette is inclined to have both players at shortstop this year, with one in Frederick and the other at Double-A Bowie.
“My thoughts are the players that can play shortstop should play shortstop as long as they possibly can and if the major league manager later wants to use them at another position, that’s fine. But the players that can play shortstop, I like to keep them at shortstop until someone moves them off there,” Duquette said.
“Both of them can play shortstop and I think they develop more value for the major league team if they play shortstop longer. I’d be more interested in the individual player’s development of major league skills. It’s not important that players play together in the minor leagues.”
So if they are split up come opening day, which player goes to Bowie and which to Frederick?
“We’ll discuss that in our meetings,” Duquette said. “We should be able to decide where those guys are going three or four days before the teams break camp. It’s interesting, Schoop played third base for the Netherlands (in an international tournament) and he played second base as well. So you already know he can play those positions at a high level. I think he has the skills to play at short. A lot of major league infielders were signed and drafted as shortstops.”
Duquette said the final decision on where Bundy starts the season has not yet been made.
“He was optioned to our low Class A team (Delmarva). I don’t know if he’ll start there or our other A-ball team (Frederick), but I expect he’ll start in A-ball,” he said of the club’s 2011 first-round pick.
With Bundy’s innings to be limited to likely around 120 this season, there was one theory going around that Bundy could stay in extended spring when the minor league seasons begin and join an affiliate later to avoid being shutdown late in the year by an innings limit. Duquette said that scenario is unlikely.
“I’d rather see the player out playing on a team (come opening day),” he said.
It seems possible that Bundy’s early-season outings could be limited to two or three innings and he builds up from there. That could set him up to be able to pitch some six or even seven-inning outings late in the year as he reaches his limit for innings for the 2012 season.