21 April 2015

Do the Orioles Have an Old AAA Team?


At the end of spring training, it became clear that Matt Wieters would have to start the season on the disabled list. Fans and pundits discussed possible candidates to back up Caleb Joseph while Wieters was unavailable. I was stunned to see the name Brian Ward mentioned even as a footnote. Ward was 29 years old and had 222 plate appearances at AAA. I assumed that Ward was perceived as being a younger players because he hadn't had a long career at AAA.

That a player like Brian Ward would even be considered for an Orioles' major-league job is another reminder that the upper levels of the Orioles farm system are pretty barren, and even more barren when it comes to young prospects. The Orioles typically populate their AAA team with former major leaguers and minor league veterans who can fill in on the major league bench if needed, as opposed to younger players who need development. But are the Orioles that different from other organizations? Is their AAA team older and, presumably, more experience than other AAA teams?

I looked at the active players on each AAA team's opening-day roster. I excluded players on the restricted, temporarily-inactive, and disabled lists and relied on the rosters as reflected on each team's website. These admittedly arbitrary decisions may have affected the results slightly; some teams had only 24 players on their active roster while others hadn't updated their web page with their final roster decisions. Some players on the disabled list will be activated quickly while other players on the active roster will be sent down as soon as another player joins the team. Nevertheless, this should be reasonably accurate.

I counted the percentage of players on each AAA team that I classify as "Young", in their "Prime", or "Old"; the data is displayed at the end of this post. Young players were born in 1990 or later; Prime players were born between 1985 and 1989; Old players were born before 1985. I chose to use this method rather than just calculating an average age because the average age would be subject to distortions if a very old player, like Brad Penny, Cody Ransom, or Randy Wolf happened to be on the roster. I also recognize that these classifications turn a continuum into a series of discrete data points; someone born on December 31, 1989 would be classified as "Prime" while a player born one day later would be classified as "Young". I also could have displayed this data by individual years; the problem was that there was too much data to be easily interpreted.

My first impression was verified. The Orioles do have a smaller percentage of young players on their AAA team, and a larger percentage of prime and old players on their AAA team, than average. But they didn't have the smallest percentage of Young players; that distinction belongs to their AL East rivals, the Toronto Blue Jays. I was surprised to find that the New York Yankees have the AAA team with the largest percentage of Young players.

A few general observations:
  • Many of the teams with a low percentage of Old players at AAA have been rebuilding for several seasons, and their farm systems are deep in Young players. The outliers are the Red Sox and Cardinals, who are known for their "sustainability" approach to player development; and the Tigers and Yankees, about whom I can only guess that all the Old players in their organizations are on the major-league team.
  • The Orioles' distribution is identical to the Milwaukee Brewers. While the Orioles have had more recent success at the major-league level than the Brewers, the two organizations do have casual similarities. Neither farm system is known for their depth, and both are trying to maintain a successful major-league team without obvious internal solutions to problems. 
  • At least for the Orioles, they have populated their AAA team with the type of players we would have expected - marginal players in their prime, as opposed to prospects or minor-league lifers. The Orioles frequently shuttle players, especially pitchers, between AAA and the majors; and they have a lot of players suitable for shuttling.
  • As far as what this means in the big picture, I can't say. There are a lot of speculative possibilities, and it would require a lot of studies to determine which are real and which are illusory. I find it interesting, but not necessarily important.

Young
Prime
Old
BAL
0.17
0.63
0.21
BOS
0.40
0.44
0.16
NYY
0.54
0.42
0.04
TAM
0.28
0.48
0.24
TOR
0.00
0.72
0.28




CHW
0.21
0.63
0.17
CLE
0.29
0.46
0.25
DET
0.38
0.54
0.08
KAN
0.28
0.60
0.12
MIN
0.20
0.72
0.08




HOU
0.50
0.46
0.04
LAA
0.28
0.60
0.12
OAK
0.12
0.60
0.28
SEA
0.20
0.60
0.20
TEX
0.23
0.58
0.19




ATL
0.35
0.54
0.12
MIA
0.20
0.68
0.12
NYM
0.46
0.50
0.04
PHI
0.32
0.56
0.12
WAS
0.07
0.66
0.28




CHC
0.36
0.56
0.08
CIN
0.25
0.57
0.18
MIL
0.17
0.63
0.21
PIT
0.20
0.72
0.08
STL
0.20
0.76
0.04




ARI
0.33
0.54
0.12
COL
0.20
0.72
0.08
LAD
0.24
0.44
0.32
SD
0.32
0.56
0.12
SF
0.19
0.48
0.33




AVG
0.26
0.58
0.16


5 comments:

Boss61 said...

Very interesting. It has been my perception for years that the Duquette-controlled roster of the Tides is constructed differently than O's AAA teams have been historically.

I also have noticed that the Orioles tend to draft pitchers, disproportionately (to me). This is reflected in the comparative dearth of position player prospects.

Erik said...

I guess this leads to the question: does that mean the Orioles use their AA club differently than others because they stock so many AAAA players?

Anonymous said...

Or is AAA stocked with older players because the Orioles have been miserable in building up depth in their system for a long, long time?

Joe Reisel said...

#erik, #anonyomous - It's probably both. I can't prove it but it's also my belief that the Orioles have more "veteran" players at Bowie than most other teams. Also, the Orioles tend to promote their best prospects directly from Bowie - Matusz, Machado, Gausman (although eventually Matusz and Gausman did get assigned to Norfolk).

dannyboy said...

haha, i thought the article's title was asking if the major league team was just a bad, old AAA team. Looks that way so far, hope we get to 81-81