The path to the World Series might be with top 100 prospects

This comes up a lot here when we talk about prospect rankings. Some fans say that “the rankings don’t mean much.” I can’t agree with that. Although we can certainly find misses. But without a specific study or stat to prove my point, I took note of an article yesterday by Jim Callis on MLBPipeline.com.

In this story, he pointed out that 24 of the 50 players on the World Series rosters - 12 on each team - were once ranked on a top 100 list. That seems like a pretty high percentage to me, almost half the rosters.

Yes, we can always point out misses. For instance, Trey Mancini was never ranked in anyone’s top 100 and he’s the Most Valuable Oriole. John Means was never even ranked in the O’s top 30 list by Baseball America, and look what he did this year. So see, the rankings don’t mean much.

No, I think they do, and Callis’ story tells us they meant something to the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals. Top stars such as Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, Juan Soto, Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and many more were once top 100 prospects.

The top 100 are the elite. The best of the best. It guarantees nothing, of course. But your odds are sure better to make the majors, and maybe even be an impact player, if you make the list. Can you do it without making the list? Of course, you can. Jose Altuve was signed for $15,000 out of Venezuela and never made the list. But compiling, producing and/or acquiring top 100 prospects is certatinly not a bad strategy.

Here are some other facts about the 24 top 100 players mentioned by Callis. A dozen of those players were first-round draft picks. Three of them - Strasburg, Correa and Cole - went 1/1, as Adley Rutschman did for the Orioles in June. Rutschman is already on the top 100 lists. Two of the players - Bregman and Verlander - were drafted No. 2 in round 1.

It should not come as a shock that you can get real stars picking real high in the June draft. Of those 12 first-round draft picks noted here, eight were taken in the top six of the draft and, as we noted, five in the top two.

It is interesting to note that of those 12 round 1 selections, nine were drafted from college and just three from the high school ranks.

Four of these 24 players who made a top 100 were international amateur signings, and for varying amounts. Yordan Alvarez was signed by the Dodgers for $2 million out of Cuba in 2016 and later traded to Houston. Juan Soto of the Nats was signed for $1.5 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2015. The Nats’ Victor Robles was signed for $225,000 out of the DR in 2013. Aníbal Sánchez was signed for $17,500 by Boston out of Venezuela in 2001.

Also, the highest draft picks are often the highest-ranked prospects. Again, no big surprise, but not all high picks make it to or near the top of the rankings. But Callis rated these players 1 through 24 according to how highly they were ranked. All eight of the players on this list who were drafted among the top six selections in round 1 were among the top nine ranked players. Robles was the only one outside of this demographic to make the top nine.

Get high draft picks and don’t miss on them. Seems like a sound plan. On the international front you can score big without a big signing bonus. This has always been noted among those who scour the world for players.

The Orioles signed lefty Eduardo Rodriguez in January 2010 out of Venezuela. He became a top 100 player on their watch, was later traded for Andrew Miller and this year won 19 games for Boston. Had he pitched for the Orioles he would have ended a forever drought for the Orioles. They have never signed an amateur out of Venezuela who made it all the way to the majors with them.

Harvey-Looks-Up-White-Sidebar.jpgBut back to this list, and here is something a bit surprising. The Orioles’ current 40-man roster has nine players who have at least once been ranked in the top 100.

* Dylan Bundy - four times in the top 100, as high as No. 2, per Baseball America, at the end of 2012
* Hunter Harvey - one time, No. 68 at the end of 2014.
* Luis Ortiz - two times, as high as No. 64 at the end of 2015.
* Dillon Tate - one time, No. 69 at the end of 2015.
* Chance Sisco - two times, as high as No. 57 at the end of 2016.
* Chris Davis - one time, No. 65 at the end of 2007.
* Jonathan Villar - one time, No. 94 at the end of 2010.
* Austin Hays - one time, No. 21 at the end of 2017.
* Mason Williams - two times, as high as No. 32 at the end of 2012.

Over this past winter and heading into the 2019 season, the Orioles had three players on the Baseball America top 100 with Yusniel Diaz at No. 37, DL Hall at No. 54 and Ryan Mountcastle at No. 90.

In the Baseball America top 100 that was out when the 2019 regular season was over, as well as the one that followed the June draft, the O’s placed five on the list. Adley Rutschman No. 5, Hall No. 35, Grayson Rodriguez No. 45, Diaz No. 75 and Mountcastle No. 88.

IronBirds’ new GM: In late September, after the minor league season had ended, the short season Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds promoted Jack Graham to the role of general manager. He replaces Matt Slatus, who took a job with the group that runs the spring training home for the Nationals and Astros in Florida.

Graham was once an O’s minor league player. They drafted him in round 38 in 2012. He played for an Aberdeen playoff team in 2013 that included Mancini, Sisco, Harvey and Mike Yastrzemski.

He’s been the IronBirds’ assistant general manager the last three years, and before that worked for Ripken Baseball. Graham, who turned 30 yesterday, is the nephew of Brian Graham, the Orioles’ former director of player development.

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