If you think that everything is wrong with the Orioles because they lost 115 games last year, and that their minor league system is bad, there is at least one person who does not agree with you. That is new executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias.
Was the new man in charge just being nice or does he look around and truly see some things to like and some players here that could help the next winning team in Baltimore?
In his introduction yesterday to the Orioles media - and, by extension, the team’s fans, - Elias was asked if there are any similarities between Baltimore now and his first season with Houston in 2012, when the Astros went 51-111.
“One thing that we will find that is similar is there are players, a lot of players, on this team right now and in this organization, that are going to be a part of the next playoff team in Baltimore,” Elias said. “They’re here now. And so on top of acquiring new talent, we are going to do our best to improve and develop the talent that is already here. When you look back at our first year in Houston and some of the players that were already on the roster, it’s a pretty impressive group of names. I’m looking forward to seeing who that is going to be here.”
The 2012 Astros included Jose Altuve, Marwin Gonzalez and Dallas Keuchel. It also included J.D. Martinez (who had a .685 OPS) and Steve Pearce. Pearce played very sparingly that season, but two years later, he’d play a big role for the 2014 American League East champion Orioles.
Elias referred later in his first go-around with Baltimore media about how current players could help future winning O’s teams. That was when he was discussing how the organization expected to go through plenty of losses while rebuilding.
“It is important for everyone in the organization to understand what is going to go into that process and all be pulling on the same rope to do that,” he said. “It’s communication, and not just with coaches and scouts, but with players. There are a lot of players here that are going to be very important parts of our future. They have a really good opportunity now to get a lot of playing time. We’re going to be watching what they do and helping them along as they adjust to the major leagues.”
Elias also had some props for the current minor league system.
“As a (previous) scouting director, I’m familiar with a lot of the players in the minor league system,” he said. “There are some future stars in the system and there are some really good pitchers. There is more than enough here to work with. That is part of the attraction of this job to me.”
Elias also spoke on a couple of other topics that fall under player development. He was asked if he plans to restructure the Orioles’ minor league system.
“I think it’s too early for me to be able to speak to that with any kind of precision,” he said. “Like I said, there are good players here and good players coming. I have been fortunate enough to be very accustomed to having an elite farm system - one of the top five or 10 in the league wherever we’ve been. And my focus is on getting there. We’ll see what all that entails. But it’s going to obviously be a huge area of emphasis for us.”
Elias was also asked to provide some background to his draft strategy. He was part of three straight years from 2012-2014 when Houston had the No. 1 pick. The Orioles have the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft.
“We have had a lot of success in the draft,” he said. “Our strategy is very simple. We use all of the information available to us and we combine it in a way that yields to the best possible decision. Now I’m not going to go into the specifics of how we do that. But it involves collecting all types of information - scouting information, performance information, information that is derived from technology. Medical information. Information about the player’s makeup - his mental skills. We funnel that into our decision-making process in the draft. If we adhere to our process, you’re not going to make every pick perfect, but over time, your results are going to be better than the competition. That is what we are going to look to replicate here and I’m excited to do it.”
If we gave letter grades for press conferences, Elias would get an A. He was articulate and confident. He made you believe he actually could get this done in Baltimore. He’s going to bring some aspects and upgrades like in analytics that are much needed by the Orioles and he’s got a clear plan and vision.
What’s not to like?
So has he provided some hope and excitement for Birdland - even at a time when we know the Orioles will likely lose a lot in 2019 and maybe longer?