The Orioles farm system got some further positive recognition yesterday when it was ranked No. 7 by Baseball America in organizational rankings. That is up from No. 12 last year. In MLBPipeline.com’s latest organizational rankings, released in the fall, the O’s moved up from No. 13 to No. 8.
It should be pointed out that not every outlet sees the O’s farm as top 10 or even top 15. The Athletic rated the O’s No. 18 when it released ratings for every MLB club yesterday.
Baseball America noted that this is the highest O’s farm system ranking by the publication in the 37 years it has been doing these ratings. That is quite an achievement. At the same time, while the O’s have their highest ranking ever, they are just third among the five teams in the American League East. Tampa Bay is rated No. 1 for the second straight year and Toronto is No. 3. The New York Yankees are No. 18 and Boston is No. 20.
Baseball America notes that its accounting is based on “the totality of a farm system’s talent, with an emphasis on top prospects but also factoring in the depth of the organization’s prospect ranks.”
Here are rankings by each outlet of O’s players:
No. 2 - Baseball America and MLBPipeline.com
No. 6 - The Athletic
No. 22 - Baseball America
No. 27 - MLBPipeline.com
No. 55 - The Athletic
No. 49 - The Athletic
No. 59 - Baseball America
No. 70 - MLBPipeline.com
No. 62 - Baseball America
No. 69 - MLBPipeline.com
No. 85 - The Athletic
No. 63 - Baseball America
No. 77 - MLBPipeline.com
Matt Blood, the Orioles’ director of player development, was a guest on 105.7 The Fan yesterday afternoon and discussed the Baseball America rating that came out Wednesday.
“You know, it’s nice. It’s always nice to be recognized,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I put a whole lot of stock into it or definitely don’t allow it to fill our head with hot air. We know we have a lot of work to do and a lot of young players. If the Orioles are to get to where we want to go, we still have a lot of work to do.”
But Jonathan Mayo of MLBPipeline.com told me during a fall interview that he feels there is a solid connection between a team doing well in this type of ranking and later success at the big league level.
“There is a very strong correlation between having a highly thought of farm system and eventually winning,” Mayo said in this interview. “Not necessarily winning the whole thing - that’s a whole different conversation. But getting to the point where you’re competing and making the playoffs. Teams that have been in the upper part of rankings tend to do well.
“Houston, where Mike Elias came from. The Atlanta Braves recently. The Kansas City Royals several years ago turned the best farm system from around 2011 into a World Series team that won it all.”
This is the obvious goal and plan for the Orioles. Produce that elite talent pipeline that executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias has spoken of since the day he was hired. Produce talent from within and depth on the farm to both help the team and also to use in trades to fill holes on the big league roster.
The O’s commitment to their international program and the recent signings of two players getting seven-figure deals will eventually pay off in international talent making its way on to the club’s top 30 prospects lists too. It will give the team a chance to remain a top 10 farm system while also graduating talent that helps the major league club.
Call up a Ryan Mountcastle to produce in the big league lineup and eventually replace him in the next top 100 with a player like a Gunnar Henderson.
It is hard for organizations to both win big in the majors and stay on top of farm system rankings as well. Analysts over the years have told me it is do-able in the short term but much harder to do over years and years.
The Orioles would like a shot to do that. First they have to translate their improved farm system to winning at the big league level. Having now achieved two top 10 farm system rankings by major outlets, they seem to be trending in the right direction.