25 January 2018

Orioles Top 100 Prospect Value: 1990-2018

Spend enough time reading about the Orioles' minor league system and the yearly reminder is that other clubs have better systems.  Part of it has been because the Orioles have ignored the international scene since the late 1990s after the club invested money in international prospects that went nowhere and Peter Angelos, allegedly, became more aware how exploitative the labor market can be.

However, it is good to recognize that the Orioles have never really been all that proficient with the international market.  The highest ranked international talents (according to Baseball America) were players acquired from a long time ago.  Leo Gomez was signed out of Puerto Rico in the 1980s before the draft placed the island under the domestic draft umbrella.  Manny Alexander was an 1980s Domincan product along with Armando Benitez.  Nerio Rodriguez is the only 1990s ranked international prospect. Radhames Liz covers the 2000s for the Dominican Republic with Jonathan Schoop and Eduardo Rodriguez coming from Curacao and Venezuela, respectively.  And, that is it over 29 years.  Seven players when the average is 24.  Needless to say that kind of disadvantage in finding useful international players will dampen a system.

Below, prospect value uses 2016 valuations produced in this post.

What we see is that the Orioles usually have a subpar minor league system.  The only season Duquette has overseen with an above average farm was his first year when Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy catapulted the system.  Over the next few years, the club had issues with have few first round picks to push up value and the lack of post-first round draftees under the MacPhail era developing.

The MacPhail era was largely spent as a better than average farm system.  The value during these years was sunk into Matt Wieters, Chris Tillman, and Brian Matusz.  Before then, it was pretty much a wasteland during the Flanny years in the wake of the late 1990s disasters.  I do not know if the scouting system fell apart then, but the club had trouble getting accolades for their talent.  During this time, the Orioles were implementing some innovative techniques to find talent, but over time those innovative techniques wound up being more snake oil than functional.

What about the 2018 crop?
The Orioles came back in 2018 with a more respectable crop of players.  Austin Hays road his helium up to a 21 ranking where last year he was unranked coming off the draft.  There is a question as to what his final position might be.  The negative view on him sees him as lacking enough foot speed for centerfield and lacking the arm for right field.  The positive view sees him as someone who early on could play some center, but with an arm that sits comfortably in right field.  Scouting reports vary quite a bit and he exists in that nether region where no consensus lies.  The same can be said for his bat.  His tools look largely average, but it seems that perhaps his hit tool is undervalued.  His hit tools has carried the weight at every step and made the other tools play up to level.  I think in general that a 21 ranking is a bit aggressive, but with all his success I can see why someone would shrug and hand him that.  It is defensible.

Chance Sisco returns after his 2016 debut though this time he finds himself eleven places behind where he was.  My knock on Sisco is that poor defensive catchers when drafted rarely ever learn how to adequately catch.  This places a great deal of pressure on the bat to keep afloat a poor defensive catcher or to sustain the player when he is pushed from behind the plate.  Sisco has a contact oriented bat, but that is about it.  That is a very difficult skill set to be successful with.  I prefer bat first catchers to have some plate discipline and something more than slap gap power.  I do think he has the athleticism to move out to second or third, but the bat leaves one wanting quite a bit more and there is not all that much projection here.  I think the ranking is largely residual to an expectation he can still catch.  The hit tool does not impress me.

Ryan Mountcastle debuts at 71 and I find it to be a tad bit low.  Yes, he cannot find himself a walk, but the bat is glowing and dripping with potential.  I think ultimately he is either a left fielder or a first baseman, but I think the bat plays at either of those positions.  The only fear is that more advanced pitching can find a gaping hole in his game.  Mountcastle struggled mightily when he was promoted to Bowie, but was putting together excellent plate appearances toward the end.  To be honest, I would probably place him about 50th.

The take home message is basically that the Orioles find themselves in a better place with young talent.  The monstrous cliff now looks more like a scary ravine.  The farm system is not in a good place, but it is in a better than normal position.  Moving forward, players like Hunter Harvey and DL Hall may provide some ranking recognition.  Cedric Mullins might sneak into a discussion here or there.  DJ Stewart might finally convince people he is actually good.  The club is likely to draft an excellent talent at the 11 spot in the draft this year.

We shall see.


Pip said...

How can a player ranked so high have such a nebulous projection as to best position?
Is there that much development yet to come?

Jon Shepherd said...

Because the bat is good.

Pip said...

Do such rankings value offense more than Defense?

Jon Shepherd said...

It is about the value and usefulness of the player. If the guy has a really good bat, it means something regardless of where he winds up.