A little over two years ago, Dan Duquette departed the Orioles after serving as their executive vice president of baseball operations for seven years. Duquette, who is currently a management consultant in Massachusetts, is proud of the work he did with the Orioles, although he acknowledges that anything short of a World Series title was a disappointment.
Nearly half of this year’s Orioles team, including Keegan Akin, Austin Hays, Dean Kremer, John Means, Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander, Tanner Scott and DJ Stewart, were either drafted or traded for by the Duquette regime.
This interview has been edited for length.
Question: Since you left, the Orioles have been totally made over. Have you been watching the team closely?
Duquette: “We left a pretty good foundation for the club to rebuild it into contention. We had a good run there. We won more games than any other [American League] club for five years from 2012-16. That playoff game in Toronto was an inflection point for the organization.
“Now, the club is on the upward trend of another contending cycle. Santander was on the way to having a really good season and possibly getting some MVP votes until he got hurt.
“It’s clear that some of the investments that our scouting staff made are going to be helpful for the Orioles to be a contending team again, and relatively soon. If you take a look at some of the kids that they brought up this year, that’s a pretty good core. There’s some more talented young players, especially pitchers right behind in the development process.”
Q: One of the guys you drafted was Ryan Mountcastle. Were you surprised he do so well this year?
A: “Mountcastle made the [Baseball America] All-Rookie team on the basis of his bat. He’s a really gifted hitter. He can do some things with the bat that few hitters can do, and he’s getting the opportunity to do it in the big leagues.
“I’ll tell you what really impressed me also about Ryan Mountcastle was his raw speed. His raw speed and the amount of ground that he covered was right up there with Mookie Betts if you look at the Statcast numbers. That, to me, was really impressive, that as big and strong as he is and as good a hitter as he is with excellent power. He absolutely dominates left-handed pitching and always has. The speed is going to play on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively. That was impressive to me, as big as he is, how much ground he can cover.”
Q: A player you drafted in the same class with Mountcastle and brought up late in 2018 was Cedric Mullins. He had a rough 2019. Were you surprised by his improvement this season?
A: “He’s always had good tools, an excellent defensive player, and now he’s starting to integrate his speed into his offensive game. He’s a stronger left-handed hitter than he is a right-handed hitter. It’s good to see him apply his skills across the diamond in ways to help the club win games.
“That’s a pretty good draft. You got a couple of good outfielders in that ’15 draft. Of course, we got Mike Yastrzemski [in 2013]. Mike had a terrific year. He’s one of the top players in the National League. Unfortunately, he wasn’t in an Oriole uniform to do it.
“We got a number of outfielders up to the big leagues through the draft, some good depth, some talented outfielders, and they’re outfielders that can not only hit and have power, but they can also play defense. They’ve got the speed to cover the ground, and they can throw pretty well, too.”
Q: Your two final No. 1 picks, DL Hall in 2017 and Grayson Rodriguez in 2018, are highly thought of.
A: “Keep your eye on those dudes. They both showed a lot of promise when they were drafted and they should have bright futures. They’re very talented, very, very talented.
“When the club brought up Dean Kremer and Akin and they both pitched well against the Yankees, that was an encouraging sign for the future. Akin ended the season with a very impressive strikeout record after leading the International League in strikeouts last year.”
Q: The trade that you made that brought Kremer as well as Yusniel Diaz and others from the Dodgers for Manny Machado, is that looking more favorable?
A: “That should be helpful to the club for a period of time. He’s got a good arm. He’s got good breaking stuff. He knows what he needs to do to win games. I think he’s going to be a good pitcher.
“Diaz has got the power. He’s got a good arm, too, and he’s got a good batting stroke. That should be a good deal for the club over time.”
Q: Overall, are you proud of your time with the Orioles?
A: “Absolutely. We got the club back in contention, and we got them back to the playoffs after a 14-year drought, which was a good achievement, and then we played for the pennant and didn’t quite get over the hump.
“We didn’t have the huge resources, but we were able to compete against the best in the league, right? Including the behemoths of the AL East, and then it was time to rebuild. I think our scouts did a pretty good job on identifying talent to help the club in the next competitive cycle.
“One of the ways you can judge an executive is how the team does when they’re there, and how the team does after they left, if there’s a foundation, and there’s a foundation there, and the fans got to enjoy some good teams. They got to connect with some players that they liked.”
Q: Mike Elias has been complimentary of the work that you did in laying the groundwork. When you see that he’s basically been given free rein, would you have liked to have been able to sign international players as he has?
A: “One of the big disappointments of my time with the Orioles was that I wasn’t able to convince the ownership to make significant investments in the international talent market, on the amateur level.
“That’s 40 percent of the star players in the big leagues coming from the international market, and you’re competing against teams that the Orioles have to compete against in the American League East. That’s like going into a fight with one hand tied behind your back.
“That’s a positive step for the organization, but the organization has ground to make up on the international market because they haven’t been active in that market. They haven’t been a strong player in that market. It’s going to a little time for the club to develop that market.
“Certainly that was one of the major disappointments of my time in Baltimore because we had some very capable people that had good track records of signing star players from the international market, and those star players could have played in Baltimore. They could have been players that we could have traded for other talented players to play in Baltimore. That was a big personal disappointment of mine.”
Q: You built not only the Orioles, but the Expos and Red Sox into contenders. Would you like another opportunity to do it with a fourth club?
A: “I’ve been able to successfully turn around major league clubs in a short period of time. If an opportunity came along, that’s something that I would consider. I’ve got a young family, so I’m going to continue to work.”
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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