How did it come to this? A review of the missteps, mishaps and miscalculations that led to the Orioles' 2018 debacle - Page 3 of 7 -
Paul Folkemer

How did it come to this? A review of the missteps, mishaps and miscalculations that led to the Orioles’ 2018 debacle

2. They ignored prime avenues for talent.

The Orioles’ farm system, though it has produced a few successful players in recent years, is regularly ranked in the bottom third of baseball by most minor-league evaluators. The club boasts few top-shelf prospects and often lacks the depth to patch holes at the big league level.

A major reason for the thin system, as plenty of pundits have pointed out, is the Orioles’ lack of interest in the international amateur market. A glance at Baseball America’s 2018 international signings tracker is a gloomy sight for Orioles’ fans. Baltimore is the only major league club that hasn’t announced a single signing. Meanwhile, all the Orioles’ AL East opponents have signed at least a dozen players apiece. And the story has been the same for several years running. The Orioles consistently spend less money on international amateurs than any team in baseball.

The aversion to that market is an ownership decision. Granted, there’s plenty of risk associated with signing raw, teenage players, most of whom will wash out long before they reach the majors. And the buscones (street agents) who often represent them have been accused of exploiting their players.

Still, by ignoring the amateur market, the Orioles are lagging far behind their competitors in stockpiling talent. Many of the game’s most promising young players were signed as international amateurs, including Atlanta Braves’ rookie sensation Ronald Acuna (signed for $100,000) and Philadelphia Phillies’ top prospect Sixto Sanchez ($35,000). Even if the majority of international amateurs don’t pan out, the Orioles could have taken their chances on a handful of players for less than the cost of, say, Colby Rasmus.

The good news is that the Orioles may finally be shifting their philosophy on international amateurs. Dan Duquette, addressing the Orioles’ rebuild, told reporters last week, “We’re going to become more active on the international market and invest in our facilities and strengthen our overall baseball operation.” That commitment, assuming the Orioles follow through, could have an enormous impact on the club’s future success.

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