There’s no question that the Orioles’ minor league system has improved under executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias.
The question is, how much? Two widely followed monitors of the minor leagues have different opinions on the Orioles in rankings released on Wednesday.
According to Baseball America, the Orioles have the seventh-best minor league system in the major leagues.
Keith Law, who writes for The Athletic, ranks them 18th.
Farm system rankings are closely monitored by front offices. For years, the Orioles had poorly rated minor league prospects.
Baseball America ranks five Oriole prospects in baseball’s top 100: Catcher Adley Rutschman (2nd), right-handed pitcher Grayson Rodriguez (22), left-handed pitcher DL Hall (59), outfielder Heston Kjerstad (62) and outfielder/first baseman Ryan Mountcastle (63).
Here’s BA’s explanation:
“In the 37 years of Baseball America farm system rankings, this is the Orioles’ highest-ever rank. Yes, the O’s had the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft and picked second in 2020, but it’s the new emphasis on Latin America and better depth that has them climbing the ranks.”
Here’s a different take from Law:
“The Orioles’ new leadership didn’t benefit from trading major league players for prospects, as most rebuilding GMs do, so their progress has been slower than Baltimore fans might want, but so far they’ve done fairly well with high draft picks and talent already in the system — although I wasn’t a huge fan of how they spread their money out in the 2020 draft. There was no international scouting department to speak of before Mike Elias took over as GM, and their efforts in Latin America still haven’t paid off — the only player in their top 20 who didn’t enter pro baseball via the draft was Yusniel Díaz, signed as a free agent by the Dodgers. They’ve been picking up lesser-known prospects on the sly for a year or so now, and at some point you would expect their R&D-informed player development work to boost some of those players’ stock.”
In September, MLB Pipeline rated the Orioles’ farm system eighth. Last month, Bleacher Report placed the Orioles 12th.
Both Baseball America and Law are in agreement on MLB’s top-rated system. It’s the Tampa Bay Rays, who have managed to pull off a World Series appearance and a system full of prospects.
While the Orioles’ higher ranking is good news, it’s tempered by their American League East opponents’ even stronger farm systems. Both Baseball America and Law rated the Toronto Blue Jays third.
Baseball America ranked the New York Yankees 18th. Law rates them 14th, four places ahead of the Orioles. Baseball America and Law rate the Boston Red Sox 20th.
There’s universal agreement that the Washington Nationals, who could contend for a second World Series appearance in three years, have baseball’s weakest farm system.