Baseball America and The Athletic differ in their ranking of Orioles' farm system -


Baseball America and The Athletic differ in their ranking of Orioles’ farm system

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

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.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB




  1. CalsPals

    February 10, 2021 at 12:48 pm

    Scary that professionals can have such a huge difference of opinion, kind of like weathermen/women…go O’s…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      February 10, 2021 at 2:08 pm

      Like Pelosi & Trump

    • Phil770

      February 10, 2021 at 6:55 pm

      Keith Law has never regarded Baltimore very well, so not too surprising. Elias has only been around two years (only one full draft and one full minor league season). 2018 the O’ had its worst season in franchise history; the 2nd half of 2017, performance of team was equally bad. The O’s payroll was up there. Minor league talent was bare, comparatively. TB has proven to be a good evaluator of talent and traded that talent for cheaper, sometimes better talent. They also play in a pitcher friendly park.


        February 12, 2021 at 8:41 am

        So you mean Keith Law isn’t a Tushie kisser of the O’s brass like most O’s writers are?

    • CalsPals

      February 12, 2021 at 9:08 am

      Ouch…go O’s…

  2. The Cartoon Bird

    February 10, 2021 at 1:19 pm

    The Orioles appear to have a deeper system and a system where the players perceived to have the most potential have played only at the A level, lower, or haven’t even made their professional debut. It’s imperative that as much as the Orioles have prioritized scouting and drafting, they better get player development right so that potential is exceeded and fulfilled.

  3. Birdman

    February 10, 2021 at 1:57 pm

    If you take the four different rankings of the Orioles farm system, which range from 7 to 18, you get an average ranking of the 11th strongest farm system … pretty encouraging for an organization that has usually ranked near the bottom of MLB ratings for decades.

  4. Boog Robinson Robinson

    February 10, 2021 at 2:27 pm

    Rank ’em schmank ’em.

    I thought it was about wins and losses? Now we’re told to ignore such trivial numbers. Only dinosaurs pay attention to those. The same idiots that care about batting averages and Rbis. We’re morons one an all.

    But hey, it’s the best farm system we’ve had in years. Everybody says so! Go Baysox!

    • CalsPals

      February 10, 2021 at 2:32 pm

      Maybe they should televise the minor league games….I’d pay for those…go O’s…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        February 10, 2021 at 4:27 pm

        You can stream them at I believe. I have a friend who’s son is now on the Royals. He followed his boy via the web audio only for a couple years, but but the last couple were video. But it ain’t free.

    • Birdman

      February 10, 2021 at 2:49 pm

      When you consistently, year after year, have a lousy farm system, you end up with the 2018 disaster of 115 loses.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        February 10, 2021 at 3:19 pm

        I know Birdman … I hear you, and you’re certainly not the first to point that out to me. But after 3 years of nothing but talking about the minor leagues, all the while not giving a damn about the big club .. I’m ready for the O’s to win a few. Constantly trading any warm body we may have for nothing but marginal prospects, doesn’t really help either cause. Frankly I’m a bit weary of it. Tanking is a losers shortcut. I maintain that there is absolutely no reason you can’t win a few in the big show while concurrently building a healthy farm system. Matter of fact, our hero, Rich Dubroff, points out in this very article how another AL East teams has indeed seemed to have done just that … and in a lesser market no less … Tampa Bay.

        I’ve asked again and again around here why these 2 things have to be exclusive of each other, and I’ve yet to hear a reason. Can someone please explain it to this old man? Why do we have to suck so bad to get better? Please Birdman, enlighten this old clown.

        • Birdman

          February 10, 2021 at 5:45 pm

          Boog … I too would like the Orioles to have a more competitive team on the field while the rebuild takes place. As for your question why both can’t take place at the same time, I think the answer pretty clearly rests with ownership. The Orioles payroll has been drastically slashed over the past few years, and that’s a decision made at the ownership level, not by Mike Elias.

          In 2017, the Orioles payroll on opening day was #10 in MLB, and by 2020, the payroll was #30, last in all of MLB (and that included the Davis and Cobb salaries). With the lowest payroll in the majors, and a farm system still in the process of a rebuild, its pretty difficult to field a winning team.

          • Boog Robinson Robinson

            February 10, 2021 at 7:50 pm

            So your answer pretty much says that losing is a choice….you blame it on ownership which is fair. But regardless of where the buck stops within the organization, I stand behind my assertion that you don’t have to lose to get better. Elia is running the show, so he’s “it” in the blame game.

            And BTW … last year, the Rays had the 28th largest …AKA the 3rd smallest .. payroll of 30 teams, and yet they’re coming off an American League Championship & W.S. appearance. So is winning with that handicap really that difficult as you suggest? (I know it’s difficult, but it CAN be done)

            My question remains unanswered. Why can’t you put a decent product on the field while building up the farm system?

        • BmoreMike

          February 11, 2021 at 2:11 am

          I would say the answer to this question of why we cant / don’t have a product like the Rays where were competitive both on the major league club and in the minors lies in the fact that the Rays (and many other teams) have had a much more robust and sound scouting and player development department – especially when it comes to international scouting. The Orioles in this new regime are just now becoming players in the international market and implementing analytics into their player development. The O’s are decades behind other clubs in that regard and we are now playing catch up. The plan is to keep stockpiling and developing young talent so that we can get to a point where we’re pumping out top prospects as well as fielding a competitive team year in and year out. That is the hope at least.

    • CalsPals

      February 10, 2021 at 4:55 pm

      As well as the Bluejays…go O’s…

  5. garyintheloo

    February 10, 2021 at 3:53 pm

    I read you loud and clear BRR. It should be all about winning unless your mantel is filled with participation trophies. Law always said the Pirates should trade anyone the fans could latch on to for prospects immediately. So what did they get? Three Wild Card elimination games and an even longer rebuild. No disrespect but if these guys know so much they would be working for MLB teams. No track record otherwise. BTW, BRR where did you move to now?

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      February 10, 2021 at 4:31 pm

      Reno Texas

  6. Bmore

    February 10, 2021 at 5:09 pm

    It doesn’t matter because even a prospect coming to the Orioles that becomes even half decent will be traded

  7. dlgruber1

    February 10, 2021 at 6:50 pm

    I remember Buck used to say you learn to win in the minors. If memory serves me correct in 2019 the O’s minor league teams basically dominated at their respective levels. I believe 3 of them had the best records in their leagues. While last years loss of the minor league season affected every major league team I truly believe it hurt the O’s more than any other team. I think we’d have started to see the fruits of those labors showing up this year and maybe even more of them would’ve made their debuts last year. While the losing at the MLB level is very frustrating I really do think I see a light more than halfway thru the tunnel. My biggest concern is that when that train arrives and the O’s are a solid contender, will ownership pay to keep them together. Time will tell but I’m looking very forward to it getting to that point. I too am not getting any younger.

  8. willmiranda

    February 10, 2021 at 9:20 pm

    Why is Ryan Mountcastle still listed among minor leaguers? Does he still need more seasoning? And how does Kjerstad, who has done nothing because of an unspecified health problem, rate ahead of him? OK, i know, it’s not an exact science.

    • Rich Dubroff

      February 10, 2021 at 10:15 pm

      Mountcastle is still technically a rookie. He fell four at-bats short of escaping rookie status, so he qualifies as a rookie.

      • willmiranda

        February 11, 2021 at 10:27 am

        I am well aware that he qualities as a rookie. But a rookie major leaguer is not a minor leaguer. My own feeling is that the term “prospect” should be used in the sense of “looking to the future,” that is, for players who seem to have potential but need time to test and develop it before they are performing at a major league level. A major leaguer may be marginal, but I think he’s outgrown the prospect stage. I don’t think guys in their mid- to late- twenties who shuttle between AAA and the Bigs are prospects, either.

    • CalsPals

      February 11, 2021 at 7:36 am

      Upside we were told earlier, doesn’t make sense, same position, zero games/at bats…go O’s…

  9. mstrchef13

    February 10, 2021 at 10:29 pm

    I take everything Keith Law says about the Orioles with a large sack of salt. He’s shown an anti-Orioles bias ever since he started at the four letter network. You have to wonder why he’s the only one to have the O’s in the lower half of the league.

  10. Bozman

    February 10, 2021 at 10:39 pm

    I think I’d rather take the advice of BBA and not The Athletic.

  11. Orial

    February 11, 2021 at 8:14 am

    Hard to get a true feel when there hasn’t been MiLB in 2 years. One thing I do agree with Law on is how Elias spread the money around in last year’s draft. Seems he went for quantity over quality. Still tough to pass on Rene Martin.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      February 11, 2021 at 8:58 pm

      I have no problem with him passing on Rene Martin and going with a few more players. Even the top players in the draft often amount to a crap shoot.

  12. Baltimore Castaway

    February 11, 2021 at 9:51 am

    Glad that you posted these System Rankings this morning Rich.

    Couple of thoughts related to this;

    – Keith Law is an excellent example of today’s “Baseball Punditry”– professional writers who are totally in-the-tank for the New York/LA/Chicago/Boston Market teams…. being originally from New York I will give you a truncated response of what i would have said to him back in my time, will leave out the first part “…….and the horse you came in on.”

    – it is quite true that Mr Angelos was bamboozled by Buck Showalter into thinking that the Jones/Machado/Schoop/Davis/Britton core could win a Championship…..Duquette wanted to offload these guys way earlier and he would have received a hell of a lot of talent in return…

    -that the Orioles are this highly Ranked with almost zero International Talent speaks well for the future.

    – I am watching closely to see how much they will spend in the International Market over the next several years–John and Lou are after all their Father’s sons…

    – they are picking 5th in this Summer’s Draft, plus they should get a top-rated International Prospect or tho next year.

    – Baseball’s Pundits are high on Toronto’s prospects—hope they are better than the future DUD that will be Vlad Jr…

    • BarstoolSleeper

      February 11, 2021 at 1:59 pm

      BC they had the best record in baseball with that Showalter core for 2.5 years and made it to the ALCS. I’d hardly call that bamboozling

      • Baltimore Castaway

        February 11, 2021 at 3:53 pm

        I believe it was the best record in the A.L., but your point is well taken.

        That group of Free-swinging “beer-leaguers” was never going to win a Championship, not to mention that they didn’t have close to the starting pitching quality needed to prevail.

        It’s pretty well known that Showalter played a very divisive role between, himself, Angelos, Brady and Duquette.

        1) This does however fall on the Owner in that as the Boss of the team, he failed miserably in enforcing a chain-of-command that everyone needed to abide by. Great Plaintiff’s Lawyer, great Citizen in the Baltimore Community and lastly–a very kind-hearted and generous benefactor to very many people—not so much as an MLB Owner.

        2) Duquette wanted to trade Machado and Britton way earlier than when they were traded. This would have landed a motherlode of young talent that would have made a huge difference in terms of this team’s re-build.

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          February 11, 2021 at 9:00 pm

          They came up against a super hot Royal relieving corp. Timing is everything. They easily could have won it all that year.

    • BarstoolSleeper

      February 11, 2021 at 4:02 pm

      Can’t say I disagree with most of your points. From ‘12-‘16 the Os were in that window to win. You’re absolutely right that when it came crunch time, they failed to produce the homerun that got them there. Our backend bullpen was arguably the best in the game during that time with Miller, Oday, Britton and Brach. They seemed to be a survive the first 5 innings team and win the game with the pen type mentality. They could’ve gotten a ton in return for machado and Britton but I will argue that during those 5 seasons were not the time to trade them when they were in the mix of contention every year. They were a starting pitcher and a hit for average guy away from the WS in my opinion.

  13. B.C. Bird

    February 11, 2021 at 11:14 am

    hey Rich, clear up this mystery for me
    I thought all of minor league baseball used wood bats, if this is so why do they always refer Fredericks new entry as a wood bat league
    keep the faith

    • Rich Dubroff

      February 11, 2021 at 12:15 pm

      Frederick is no longer an affiliated minor league team and the Keys are part of a new league featuring prospects hoping to be drafted.

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