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Major League Baseball announced on Wednesday a four-day series of games called “Spring Breakout.” In a four-day period from March 14th-17th, each team will pit 20-to-25 of its best prospects against another organization’s.
Twenty-eight major league teams will play one “Spring Breakout” game while one Florida-based and one Arizona-based team will play two. All games will be seven innings, and 12 games will be part of doubleheaders paired with major league exhibition games.
Details of the Orioles’ game haven’t been announced.
On March 14th, the Orioles will play a Grapefruit League game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton at 6:05 p.m. The Pirates were second in the most recent rankings, and the top two teams’ prospects facing each other should be fun to watch as part of a doubleheader.
There will be lots of attention on the Orioles’ prospects since they remain the top-ranked minor league system. Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias knows that once the minor league’s top prospect, Jackson Holliday, and outfielders Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad no longer qualify as prospects, the Orioles will likely drop.
“You have to accept, if you’re looking at rankings, there’s going to be some ebbs and flow in that as players graduate,” Elias said at last week’s Winter Meetings in Nashville.
“I can promise you this. It will not dry up. We’re going to be a first-rate scouting and player development organization as long as the people that are in this room are here and being in charge of that.
“Whether that’s top 10 or 11th one year, I don’t know, but I can point to other franchises that you don’t necessarily know where they’re ranked very year, but you know that they do a good job in scouting and player development. It’s just part of their identity. I think that’s the Orioles.”
It’s possible to have a strong major league team and still rate high in the rankings. According to MLB Pipeline, the Tampa Bay Rays had the top-ranked farm system in 2020, the year they last played in the World Series, and maintained the top spot until the Orioles surpassed them in the 2021 midseason rankings.
The Orioles will pick 22nd in next July’s draft and will also have the 32nd and 34th selections as a result of the Prospect Promotion Initiative pick they were awarded because of Gunnar Henderson’s Rookie of the Year award and a Competitive Balance “A” round selection.
“We’ll take all the picks MLB wants to give us and we need them,” Elias said. “You look at the finances. There’s a lot of disparity in baseball. There’s a lot of markets that have been identified as ones that should receive competitive-balance picks, and we’re one of them.
“The last two comp A have been [outfielder] Dylan Beavers and [infielder] Jordan Westburg, I think. Those are huge prospects for us. I think it’s an important lifeblood if you’re Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Baltimore. We appreciate that part of the system. I’d like to see it be more … That’s a drop in the bucket, I think compared to some of the market disparities that we have.”
Elias doesn’t scout as many players as he did when the Orioles had top 5 selections and the top picks in 2019 and 2022.
“We’ll be strong players in that part of the draft by all appearances,” Elias said. “It’ll be fun. I’ve said that’s kind of our goal to be a 20s kind of team. That’s a good thing.”
As scouting director with Houston, Elias scouted many players the Orioles ended up acquiring in trades and off waivers, and often sits near home plate not far from where other teams’ scouts sit.
“We have a good staff, a ton of experience in the draft in particular and player development,” he said. “It’s an organizational thing. It’s about the people who work for us in analytics, scouting, player development and it’s really what it boils down to.
“I’ve been very proud of the outcomes that we’ve gotten on these drafts and development projects the last five or six years. It’s been critical. If we’d done anything less, I’m not sure we’d be in this position. It’s been the driving factor of our having a successful rebuild has been picking productive players and also developing them at a state of the art rate.”
Call for questions: I’ll be answering Orioles’ questions in the next few days. Please email yours to: [email protected].
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