On November 16, 2018, the Baltimore Orioles hired Mike Elias as their General Manager and Executive Vice President. Elias then hired Vice President & Assistant General Manager for Analytics, Sig Mejdal from the Houston Astros to bring analytics to the Orioles. Along the way, young players like John Means have climbed up an improved Orioles farm system.
Orioles Farm System Ranked Among Most Improved
It didn’t take long for new management to make waves. In 2019, MLB.com’s Mike Rosenbaum ranked the Baltimore Orioles farm system among the top five most improved.
But, arguably, the Orioles best player on the 2020 roster so far didn’t come out of this rebuilding effort. Instead, the 26-year-old, John Means, just happy to make the opening day roster for the Orioles In 2019, is now the Orioles lone All-Star from a year ago.
From Obscurity to Stardom
Means climbed from obscurity to stardom in months, not years. Three years before his rise to effectiveness in 2019, he struggled in Double-A (Bowie, MD), completing his third season with an ERA greater than 4.00, and thinking, at least some of the time, that he might have reached his player peak. But, as with many who struggle in the minors, he thrived with the support of his family.
Means Questioned His Staying Power
A few years ago, John Means may not have made this type of list. After five years in the Baltimore Farm System, the 11thround draft pick had a 35-41 Won-Loss record. There were times in his early years in the minors that he questioned his staying power. He even did some substitute teaching in 2016 while at Double-A Bowie but discovered that it wasn’t for him. Even his college coach, West Virginia University pitching coach Derek Matlock, who he stayed in contact with, thought that around that time that “…I was going to get a call any minute that he (Means) was done with baseball.”
It seems that fan expectation today is to get great prospects to the bigs as quickly as possible. But quality GMs appreciate that it takes time for player development, even the great ones. Jim Palmer spent five solid years in the minors, his last two with eight different teams. His W-L record was 1-5 during that stretch. Even Cal Ripken Jr. spent four years in the minors with an overall BA of .279.
Orioles Other Top Prospects
Standing at the bottom of the rebuilding ladder and looking up, it’s easy to get dizzy. But Orioles fans still like the view. With one of the most improved farm systems, there are plenty of smiles around the halls of the franchise.
Besides the lanky, left-handed Means, this season the Orioles pitching should be helped in the bullpen by one of their top 30 prospects, Hunter Harvey. Harvey has looked good in preseason and, if he can stay healthy, he could be a major reason why the Orioles and their fans shouldn’t flinch when the team takes a lead into the later innings.
Of course, having the top pick in the 2019 draft, with the selection of catcher Adley Rutschman didn’t hurt the Orioles minor league ranking. Rutschman is a plus .320 hitter in college and a few minor league at-bats.
Another infielder, who was last season’s International League MVP, and who is expected to see action with the Orioles this season is Ryan Mountcastle. He has been a .300 hitter in the minors and is the 64thranked overall prospect in baseball.
And let’s not forget Austin Hays, number six on the top Orioles prospect list. He is a starter this season for the O’s after a great second half last year, where he batted .280 and demonstrated that he might be the Orioles’ center fielder of the future.
Young pitchers are also making their mark in the Orioles system. Lefty, DL Hall, who throws in the upper 90s and Grayson Rodriquez, both have starting pitching potential, to just name a couple.
There are many other prospects to consider. This is a good thing. It means the system is gaining quality depth which will hopefully pay dividends for the Orioles’ future.
A Means to an End
Finding and encouraging young talent through the obstacles of the minors are among the most important jobs of the GM. For them, it’s a means to an end. The young talented arm of John Means gives Orioles fans a glimmer of hope, and with a much-improved farm system, there’s hope to go around.
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