The fact is that the Orioles’ minor league teams combined to play just .459 ball in 2012 when you add up all the records, going 353-416. That ranks 28th in baseball, ahead of only Milwaukee and San Diego.
You certainly can’t tell much about the club’s farm system from that stat. It is a very debatable topic, but I have always felt that winning in the minor leagues is not that important. Of course, you play to win, you want to win and who doesn’t get encouraged when an O’s farm club does well and makes the playoffs?
But a minor league club’s record does not indicate whether it has a lot of prospects or few and/or the quality of those prospects.
In the end, the main job for the minor league is to send players to the major leagues.
In that regard, some very good things have happened this year. The Orioles have seen home-grown players like Manny Machado, Xavier Avery, LJ Hoes and Dylan Bundy get to the big league club. Outside of Machado, the others have not played a big role for the team, although Avery did some nice things early in the year. But they all have a chance to be a big part of the club’s future.
Then you have players like Nate McLouth, Lew Ford, Miguel Gonzalez, Steve Tolleson, Bill Hall and Steve Johnson, who were not original Orioles but have all made contributions at various times to help the winning. Several of those players thrived first at Triple-A Norfolk and earned their way to Baltimore.
Then you have another category of players like Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz, who went back to the minors to improve and work their way back to Baltimore.
A lot has been written and said about the constant roster moves between the Orioles and Norfolk this year. That shuttle was in constant motion and the shuttle might get a few votes for Most Valuable Oriole. Fortunately, it never ran out of gas or had engine problems.
The point is, the O’s called on their minor leagues often and in various ways this year, and the minors sent players to the majors that helped the big club win. That is the bottom line and that has been very important to this year.
By the way, here are the O’s farm club records for 2012:
.549 - Double-A Bowie (78-64)
.514 - Norfolk (74-70)
.486 - Dominican Summer League Orioles (34-36)
.446 - Single-A Frederick (62-77)
.417 - Rookie League Gulf Coast League Orioles (25-35)
.377 - Single-A Delmarva (.52-86)
.368 - Single-A Aberdeen (28-48)
Bowie was the only club to make the playoffs and lost its first-round Eastern League series to eventual league champion Akron.
But despite just one playoff team and a poor overall won-loss record, I think the Orioles minor leagues got job one done pretty well this year.