The measure of success in 2019

It’s a good question. What represents success for the 2019 Orioles? Is it a certain number of wins or something else? Can it even be quantified?

Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias was asked that question at the Winter Meetings.

“I want to improve the aggregate talent base of this organization, and that’s going to come in the form of additions to the organization via the draft, international signings, perhaps some trades that might occur,” Elias said. “But, just as importantly, the players that are here on the major league roster and in the minor leagues, we want to see them get better. So, to me, this season will be a success if we see the talent base across the entire organization from top to bottom go in the right direction.

“We’ve also got a lot of investment and infrastructure-related projects that we want to get going. Expanding the analytics department and expanding the international scouting operation are just two that I could name. But we’re going to have a lot of deep investment, deep infrastructure projects that we want to get off the ground this year, as well.”

So maybe some of this can be measured and maybe some of it can’t. How do you measure investment in infrastructure? How will we grade the analytics department?

Here are a few ways the Orioles can get better in 2019.

Bowie-Title-Flag.jpgImprove on the farm: You can’t tell this from won-loss records, but Houston was second in Major League Baseball in minor league won-loss percentage in 2018. Astros farm teams played .562 ball, second to Tampa Bay’s 604. Houston’s top two teams at Triple-A and Double-A won at .594 and .590 marks, respectively.

But seeing individual players improve, develop and advance toward the majors is more important. Do some players become better with their plate discipline? Can they improve on defense? Do they improve their nutrition and/or work ethic?

Some of this is hard to quantify in the same way one would a won-loss record, but it’s critical.

Add some international amateur signings: The Orioles failed to sign Victor Victor Mesa, Victor Mesa Jr. or Sandy Gastón. They went 0-for-3. But they could still add players with the $6 million or so they have remaining in their bonus pool. Teams can sign players through June 15.

While the top-rated players are long gone, perhaps Elias’ contacts on the international front will lead to signings and/or some players will emerge later. For this article in November, Baseball America’s Ben Badler said there are still ways the O’s could use some of that bonus money. He pointed out that last year Texas signed 21-year-old outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez in March to a $2.8 million bonus.

Have a strong first draft: You can’t judge a draft for at least a few years, so we won’t know how well the Orioles did in the 2019 draft until much later. But the selections made - starting with the overall No. 1 pick - will be crucial as the rebuilding moves forward. How deftly Elias and company use the bonus pool dollars to sign the max talent possible will be important.

Continue to build up scouting and analytics: We won’t be able to judge this or put a grade here, but it’s rather important to the future of the Orioles.

Build harmony throughout the organization: Just the fact that Elias made his own hires, with Sig Mejdal for analytics and Brandon Hyde as manager, should go a long way in building harmony organization-wide. The Orioles haven’t had this in recent years. To probably no one’s surprise, it eventually hurt the Orioles. Time for everyone to pull on the same rope. I think we see that, and it will be so needed next season.

Notice none of this mentioned wins and losses. They won’t be meaningless in 2019, but we should not be overly concerned with the wins and losses, either, coming off 115 losses. The 2013 Houston team lost 111 games, its third straight 100-loss season. But they only lost 92 in 2014 and a year later won 86 and made the playoffs. Two years later they won 101 and the World Series.

You can’t put a timetable on a turnaround, but if Elias and company can repeat what happened in Houston, 2019 will mean they’re off to a good start.

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