Andrew Stetka: Farm system leaves O's future in doubt

It's been an abysmal start to the 2018 season for the Orioles, and that could even be a massive understatement. In a year that seemed so crucial at the start with so many key cogs in the organization potentially moving on in the near future, the Birds have yet to take flight. It's something that has led many to look ahead, giving up hope of a postseason berth in 2018 before Memorial Day even hits.

With organizational uncertainty, the Orioles have done few things to set themselves up for some success over the next few seasons. Signing Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb this past offseason sets them up to have four starters under contract entering 2019. That's double the amount they had coming into this year, which is progress. They also have some bullpen pieces that we know will be around barring a trade. Darren O'Day is under contract, while Mychal Givens, Richard Bleier and Miguel Castro will also be around. But truthfully, that organizational uncertainty is the biggest question mark, and there's no guarantee that help is on the way through the farm.

The O's have made marginal gains with their farm system over the last year, going from really awful to (still) below average. Most prospect ranking outlets had them around 27th in baseball last year, and they rank anywhere from 23rd to 17th now, depending on where you get your information. So there's some improvement, but things still aren't great. What stands out to me the most over Dan Duquette's tenure as the team's executive vice president of baseball operations, is the lack of talent the organization has actually produced.

This isn't to say that Duquette hasn't made moves that have helped the club, but when it comes to actually drafting and developing players, there is a reason the O's are near the bottom of the barrel when it comes to farm system rankings. Many of the players that are productive Orioles were either drafted before Duquette arrived, or came via trade and free agency. Trey Mancini, Chance Sisco and Kevin Gausman are actually the only players drafted by the Orioles under Duquette who are on the 25-man roster. No one really knows what lies ahead in terms of potential players who can impact the roster in the coming years, whether Duquette is around to see it or not.

There are a handful of players either drafted by Duquette or just before him that have already gone on to other places and produced. The most notable is of course Jake Arrieta, who went on to win the Cy Young award with the Cubs, but there are a handful of others, too. Josh Hader, Steven Brault, Parker Bridwell and Zach Davies were all dealt away by Duquette and each have shown at least some ability to contribute. There's obviously no guarantee that any of those players would have become contributors for the Orioles, but when you reduce the number of bullets in the chamber, there's less of a chance of hitting the target. The Orioles are left with Hunter Harvey, DL Hall, Tanner Scott, Keegan Akin, Cody Sedlock, Chris Lee, David Hess and Michael Baumann among others to have some chance of hitting as a contributors.

Much of the success of the Orioles in the last seven years was due to things done by Andy MacPhail, Duquette's predecessor. The trade to acquire Adam Jones and Chris Tillman was MacPhail's doing. So was drafting Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado, as well as signing Jonathan Schoop. If the Orioles are going to have any success once Duquette has left, presumably after this season when his contract is up, they will still be relying on him anyway. It won't matter who takes over, because a farm system and organizational philosophy takes time to change. The work Duquette has done over the last few years will reverberate through the organization for many seasons to come, for better or worse.

Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AStetka. His thoughts on the O's appear here as part of's continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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