O’s fall to No. 22 in one farm system ranking and one 78-win prediction (updated)

As expected, the Orioles took a fall in the rankings when ESPN’s Keith Law released his latest list ranking all 30 farm systems in baseball.

Rated 10th on this list last year, the Orioles are now No. 22. The Chicago Cubs are No. 1. As for the rest of the American League East, Boston is No. 5, Toronto is No. 19, New York is No. 20 and Tampa Bay is No. 23.

bundy throwing spring sidebar.jpgBy the way, the Orioles were ranked No. 12 last year by Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus.

Click here to see the list (insider subscription required).

In this article from October, I projected the Orioles would fall into the 15-20 range and maybe lower.

One reason for that is players that “graduate” to the majors and lose rookie eligibility are no longer eligible for these lists. Add to that the fact the Orioles did not have a draft pick before the third round last June and they were likely to take a fall in these rankings.

Here’s Baseball America’s list of the Orioles’ top 10 prospects after the end of the 2013 season:

1. Dylan Bundy
2. Kevin Gausman
3. Eduardo Rodriguez
4. Hunter Harvey
5. Jonathan Schoop
6. Tim Berry
7. Henry Urrutia
8. Mike Wright
9. Michael Ohlman
10. Chance Sisco

Three of the top five can no longer make the list with Schoop and Gausman moving to the majors and Rodriguez being traded to Boston for Andrew Miller. Two of those three (Gausman and Rodriguez), and in some cases all three, were top-100 prospects last year.

In fact, Law ranked the top five on that list in his overall top 100 prospects in baseball last year with Gausman No. 23, Bundy No. 31, Harvey No. 38, Rodriguez No. 43 and Schoop No. 86.

This year, the Orioles will probably only have Bundy and Harvey ranked in most top 100s. ESPN will release its new top 100 today.

Going from five players to two in the top 100 is bound to lower the overall organizational ranking and it did for the Orioles.

Here is the Orioles top 10 that Baseball America released in October:

1. Dylan Bundy
2. Hunter Harvey
3. Christian Walker
4. Chance Sisco
5. Dariel Alvarez
6. Zach Davies
7. Tim Berry
8. Mike Wright
9. Mike Yastrzemski
10. Jomar Reyes

I interviewed Baseball America writer and editor J.J. Cooper about the changes on the O’s farm as it relates to these rankings. He downplayed the fact that the Orioles were likely to take a bit of a tumble.

“I don’t think you can say the farm system has taken a step back from last year, but it is not as talented probably as last year,” Cooper said.

“I think readers sometimes don’t understand when they see a team go down in the rankings. If you promote a Gausman and lose a guy like Eduardo Rodriguez, you take a hit because of that, but that is not a bad thing.

“They were a playoff team and those guys were part of them being a playoff team. Hey, it’s nice to be ranked No. 1 in our talent rankings, but they don’t give awards for that. No one is going to trade that for winning at the big league level. That is the whole purpose. If you keep guys in the minors longer, you can do better in these rankings. Sometimes fans can get caught up too much in those, though.”

Exactly.

Schoop and Gausman helped the Orioles win at the big league level and Rodriguez allowed the Orioles to essentially win a bidding war to trade for Miller.

Right now, players like Walker, Yastrzemski, Alvarez and the pitchers in the top 10 are seen as solid prospects, but not quite top-100 players. The top 100 are the cream of the crop in the sport. There are never guarantees in the world of prospect rankings, but top-100 players get that notice for a reason.

These rankings can also change a lot from year to year. This time next year, the Orioles will have made five picks in the top 101 selections in the upcoming First-Year Player Draft after not making a single pick until No. 90 last June.

The Orioles have the 26th pick, along with selections at No. 36, 67, 73 and 101 in the first three rounds. They will have 42 selections over the draft’s 40 rounds.

walker-at-bat-white-sidebar.jpg“It is going to be a deep draft according to our projections and hopefully we can get some impact players,” O’s scouting director Gary Rajsich said during the Winter Meetings.

“My first couple of years, we were pitching-oriented,” Rajsich said. “We wanted to build the pitching depth in the system. But now at the same time, we are able to get some quality position players that are now just starting to get some notice.

“They are coming into their own. They are maturing, getting stronger. Christian Walker, for example, he found his power this past year. We thought he had it and we’re real optimistic about the other guys coming in behind him, too.”

Along with those high draft picks, perhaps Bundy and Harvey move further up the top 100 lists next year and/or other players play well enough in 2015 to make the top 100 this time next year. That would move the Orioles right back up the rankings again.

But over the last 12 months, the Orioles used some of their top prospects to help win at the big league level, they lost draft picks for signing Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez and they traded a top-100 prospect in Rodriguez.

It all led to the club dropping in the farm system rankings and was somewhat understandable.

Not a favorable prediction: This Baseball Prospectus PECOTA prediction for the 2015 season has the Orioles finishing in last place at 78-84. It has Boston and Tampa Bay in a tie for first with 86 victories. It has defending American League champion Kansas City going 72-90.

Before anyone gets too worked up about it, keep in mind the same outlet had the same record for the Orioles last year, missing the team’s win total by 18 victories.

Here were their 2014 predictions:
Rays 90-72
Red Sox 88-74
Yankees 83-79
Blue Jays 82-80
Orioles 78-84

Two in top 100:
As expected, the Orioles had just their top two prospects ranked on the ESPN top 100 list, which was released this morning.

Harvey is No. 16, up from No. 38 last year, and Bundy is at No. 26 after being ranked No. 31 on this list last year.

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