Another look at a strong year on the Baltimore farm

While the Orioles were the surprise team in the majors this year, gaining 31 wins from 2021 to 2022, the Baltimore farm also had a strong year. But there, the win-loss record is not the standard by which success is fully achieved.

Sure, you would like to win on the farm, but developing players and advancing them forward is the top goal. Helping them get better, moving them through the farm and onto the majors. That is the ultimate way to grade the farm – how many players make the majors and are good when they get there. The farm also produces so-called “prospect capital” that can be traded to bring more talent to the organization and improve overall depth while filling holes that might exist.

Only High-A Aberdeen (78-54) made the playoffs among the full-season clubs, losing in the South Atlantic League finals. But Triple-A Norfolk (74-76) and Double-A Bowie (68-70) were near .500. The Baysox lost out on a playoff spot for their second-half record on the final day of the season. Low Single-A Delmarva (49-81) had the poorest record, but it was a roster filled with international players on the rise, many playing full season ball for the first time and taking some lumps along the way.

In midseason farm system rankings, where outlets are grading your total talent in the organization which is not based on wins and losses, Baseball America, MLBPipeline.com and ESPN all ranked Baltimore No. 1 out of 30 major league organizations.

The Orioles got to the top, and now we'll find out if they can stay there as the team no doubt will use the farm in some different ways with a major league team ready to win now. You can’t force development, so they won’t be rushing players. But some could join the major league roster faster now as needs arise. And for the first time under Mike Elias, we could see him trading from his surplus of minor league talent to help the major league roster this winter. Up to about now, the team was in the position to try and add prospects of all ages to bolster the farm. It was all about rebuilding.

During the final series of the year, we got to interview the Orioles' minor league award winners for this season, like Player of the Year Jordan Westburg and Pitcher of the Year right-hander Ryan Watson.

"It was a solid year for sure on the Baltimore farm in 2022," said director of player development Matt Blood.

“It’s been a few years of coordination and planning and we’ve finally got our staff where we want it and this year was about going out and executing the plan and we saw a lot of good things. We’re happy, but we feel like we have more room to go.”

Blood was asked during that series when he was interviewed what excites him most about the future of the O’s farm.

“The people we have,” he said. “We have spent a lot of time getting the right people in place. They are on the same page and pulling for each other. We have a lot of humble people that just want to help the players get better. That to me sets up for success for the long run. And then we have some players that are very talented. They’ve bought into our process and they are getting better and are performing. And hopefully they will be helping the major league team win a lot of games. That is obviously the ultimate goal.”

My lasting impression of the O’s farm over the past two years is how together the staff is. They truly do seem to have found a chemistry that is great and exists no matter the affiliate I would visit to gather interviews. When I would ask players about that, they fully agreed and echoed Blood’s comment about the people on the farm and what a solid group it is from managers and coaches through the players themselves.

One reason I added my own two cents there – and maybe I shouldn’t say this – but in recent years some of my media brethren, even some locally, have volunteered a take to me that I may be too bullish on the O’s farm. I respectfully heard and considered that opinion a great deal. Was I getting too close? Was my reporting too favorable?

Maybe it was, but as I have told fans for years, when you report on 150 or so players on the farm, you will find success stories to report on and embrace. I love finding out about such players and finding out how they felt they got better. The learning about that process and really the joy in being a part of it from my end has always been there in my coverage of the farm. I love seeing the pursuit of dreams by kids dealing with great pressure and realizing the odds for most of them are very long. Some of those relationships and friendships with players and staff for me exist long past their time with the Orioles. And I really enjoy getting to know those quality people. Maybe today more than ever.

Seeing their success, as players and as an organization, is proof that the Orioles must be doing something right.

Ending this today with season-ending top 100 rankings of O’s players.

Baseball America
1 – Gunnar Henderson
4 – Grayson Rodriguez
38 – Jackson Holliday
55 – DL Hall
88 – Colton Cowser
89 – Jordan Westburg

MLBPipeline.com
2 – Gunnar Henderson
4 – Grayson Rodriguez
13 – Jackson Holliday
40 – Colton Cowser
76 – Jordan Westburg
87 – DL Hall  

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