Job one for the new regime: Fix the minors

Now that we know Andy MacPhail is leaving the Orioles, a big project for his successor is to improve the club’s minor leagues.

When Baseball America released its top prospects lists for the various minor leagues this week, the Orioles, as expected, had fewer prospects making those lists than the other four American League East teams.

Not only do the Orioles reside in the cellar in the division in the win-loss record, but they trail the others in player development, too.

Some of this is puzzling to me. Having met and interviewed many of the staff in the O’s minors, I’ve often come away impressed with their knowledge and work ethic. There are a lot of good people there, yet the O’s are not producing prospects like Jacoby Ellsbury or Desmond Jennings.

Some point a finger at the scouting staff. But when I quiz some of the top experts in the game on this topic, people like Keith Law and Jim Callis, they have a lot of positive things to say about scouting director Joe Jordan.

This could change in a hurry and a year from now maybe players like Jonathan Schoop, Manny Machado, Nicky Delmonico and Dylan Bundy will elevate the entire minor league system. There is a lot riding on kids like that.

I sense there have been issues between scouting and player development within the Orioles. Some disagreement and debate is good and probably exists in all organizations. But at the end of the day, all the staff must be pulling on the same end of the rope and supporting each other. I question whether this is always true in this organization.

I’ll repeat something I have written before: There are plenty of good people in this organization. Plenty of them. Maybe the new boss needs to come in and weed out those that don’t fit or have lost effectiveness.

Late in the year, a source hinted to me that they felt there was a good chance Jordan might leave the Orioles. But he remains on the job and was at instructional league this week. I have heard all of his scouts are still on the staff at this point.

The only member of the organization that I have heard that has left at this point is Chris Bourjos, one of the Orioles’ pro scouts.

But, as far as I can tell, no minor league staff assignments have been set for next year yet as everyone waits to see who is in charge first.

There were plenty of good things that happened in the minors this year, from an international player like Schoop being named Player of the Year to three clubs making the playoffs, with Single-A Frederick winning a championship.

But, in the last year or two, it has become clear the O’s minors are devoid of impact players. They are producing players that can make the 25-man roster and reserve and role-type players but not those that have a chance to become All-Stars. Who is even the next Zach Britton or Matt Wieters on the farm?

Maybe now that he has a full season under his belt as manager, Buck Showalter has identified some areas of concern in the minors and he is ready to work to improve them.

The minor league players need to be held accountable, too. They need to do everything they can to improve themselves. Last year the Orioles had a surprisingly low number of minor leaguers that chose to play winter ball.

At a time when this organization is desperate to find talent, more players needed to play winter ball and they did not.

I have seen some of the minor leaguers post on Twitter this year they were happy once when batting practice was rained out. I won’t mention any names here, but someone needs to remind these kids the other AL East teams have better prospects than the Orioles. Maybe they need more batting practice, not less.

As someone who covers the minors closely, I have gotten to know many of the players and coaches. I like them and I root for them. Covering the minors is one of the joys of this job for me.

But the Orioles are coming up short there right now, in both scouting and player development.

That may just as well be job one for Buck and the person that moves into Andy MacPhail’s office. If the Orioles don’t get better there, how can they expect to ever move up in the AL East standings?

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