Farm system on the move: O’s get No. 5 ranking

In January, it was a nice moment and recognition for the Orioles player development operation when it achieved its highest ranking ever in Baseball America’s organizational rankings. They came in at No. 7 among all 30 clubs. On Thursday, MLBPipeline.com released its latest top 10 and the Orioles came in at No. 5.

Yep, they keep movin’ on up. The goal, set by executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias in his first day on the job, was to build an elite talent pipeline. These rankings provide evidence the Orioles are doing just that.

Having a top 10 farm system doesn’t guarantee future major league success - for either a highly ranked player or the team. But many teams with high farm rankings turn up in the playoffs in the years that follow that. MLBPipeline.com noted that in 2015, the teams ranked No. 1 were the Cubs (preseason) and the Red Sox (midseason). Chicago won the World Series in 2016 and Boston in 2018. The San Diego Padres were No. 1 in 2018 and 2019 and now are winning at the major league level.

Teams with deep farm systems use them to bring players to the big leagues and win and also trade from depth to acquire missing pieces. Because top starting pitchers are so expensive on the free agent market, teams covet young, controllable pitching. If the O’s bevy of young hurlers produces some real talent, the club will possess that which all teams want - youthful pitchers that can win.

When Baseball America ranked the Orioles at No. 7, the publication noted the O’s have had high draft picks to help get there, but also that “it’s the new emphasis on Latin America and better depth that has them climbing the ranks.”

The Orioles’ No. 7 ranking was their highest in the 37 years that Baseball American has been doing this.

So in the momentum department, the Orioles now have some in player development. They have five top 100 ranked players in several outlets and only Ryan Mountcastle should graduate and fall off the list this year. The O’s could replace him this time next year with infielder Gunnar Henderson, a player seemingly on his way into the top 100. They hold the No. 5 pick in the draft this summer. If both that player and Henderson wind up in the top 100, they could have six on these lists next year.

In the MLBPipeline.com rankings, Tampa Bay, with eight top 100 players, is No. 1. Detroit, with five, is No. 2. Seattle, with six, is No 3, and Miami, with five, is No. 4.

We should note that The Athletic doesn’t see the O’s farm at the level as the others and ranked Baltimore at No. 18.

During the offseason, I interviewed Jonathan Mayo of MLBPipeline.com. He told me 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.”

The task of taking a team that lost 223 games combined in 2018 and 2019 like the Orioles to a World Series winner going through the American League East is daunting, to say the least. They can’t spend with the big-market clubs, so they better be good on the farm and also in the international market.

The top 10 rankings provide hope for fans. It’s not the Orioles saying they feel good about their farm system, it is outside evaluators doing it.

Here is where O’s players have been ranked in top 100s by various outlets:

Thumbnail image for Rutschman-Gear-Delmarva-sidebar.jpgAdley Rutschman
2 - Baseball America, MLBPipeline.com, ESPN
3 - FanGraphs.com
6 - The Athletic

Grayson Rodriguez
22 - Baseball America
27 - MLBPipeline.com
30 - FanGraphs.com, ESPN
55 - The Athletic

DL Hall
49 - The Athletic
59 - Baseball America
70 - MLBPipeline.com
83 - FanGraphs.com
99 - ESPN

Heston Kjerstad
62 - Baseball America
69 - MLBPipeline.com
85 - The Athletic
103 - FanGraphs.com

Ryan Mountcastle
63 - Baseball America
77 - MLBPipeline.com
93 - ESPN
94 - FanGraphs.com

Harvey was dealing: Matt Harvey has made three spring training starts and each one was better than the last. He gave up three runs in two innings his first time out. After pitching on the back fields, he then gave up two runs over four innings in his second start. Last night, he allowed just one run and hit to the New York Yankees over four innings as New York batters went 1-for-13 against him.

It would be quite a story if Harvey makes the season-opening rotation.

“I guess if there is something I could control, it was me coming in each day and working hard and putting myself in a position to make them make a decision. So I think I’ve somewhat done that pretty well,” he said via Zoom after his outing.

Harvey seems to be clicking with O’s pitching coaches Chris Holt and Darren Holmes. The retooling of his mechanics is producing results.

“It’s exciting to finally feel my mechanics are working in the right direction. And be able to pitch again. It’s been a long time. Been a rough couple of years, but we’re definitely finally moving in the right direction,” Harvey said.

Check here for more on his pitching and the O’s win last night.

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