Mike Hessman, Minors Home Run Leader, Retires
The greatest home run hitter the domestic minor leagues have ever seen has decided that 19 seasons is enough. First baseman/third baseman Mike Hessman, the U.S. minor league career home […]
Top Ten Prospects: Baltimore Orioles
Complete Index of Top 10s
By Will Lingo
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2005.
Angelos took over in August 1993, inheriting the respected Roland Hemond as his general manager. Hemond had been on the job since 1987. By 1995, however, he was gone, and no GM since has lasted more than three years. The GM tandem of Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan is the latest to try to right the ship.
What they have is an organization in disarray. The Orioles reached third place in the American League East in 2004 after six straight fourth-place finishes, but it was the seventh straight sub-.500 season and the team was 20 games out of the playoffs.
The player-development operation continues to be in upheaval. Tony DeMacio, the scouting director hired during the brief Frank Wren administration, didn't have his contract renewed after the season. Nor did farm director Doc Rodgers, who in his two years brought discipline and planning to a system that previously had little of either.
DeMacio's record as scouting director isn't outstanding, but scouts say almost all of his early selections involved compromise of some sort. It's illustrative that his best picks, such as pitchers Erik Bedard (sixth round, 1999) and John Maine (sixth round, 2002), came in the later rounds when money is less of a consideration.
With the eighth overall pick in 2004, DeMacio wanted to choose Georgia high school shortstop Chris Nelson. After the draft started, Angelos insisted on a college pitcher who would sign for no more than Major League Baseball's slot recommendation of $2.2 million. So Baltimore took Rice righthander Wade Townsend, offered him $1.85 million and lost his rights when he returned to school.
As many as one-third of the players DeMacio and his scouts ranked on their draft board after scouting them last spring were deemed undraftable by upper management. The reason? They didn't fit the psychological profiles the Orioles have relied more heavily on in the last two years.
Flanagan brought in Dave Ritterpusch as the club's director of baseball information systems two years ago, and his influence has grown steadily. The Orioles touted his psychological profiling last offseason, saying it gave them an edge.
Ritterpusch declined to reveal his analysis, though he said it prompted the team to acquire pitching prospects Ryan Hannaman and Don Levinski in trades in 2003, even though most teams considered them damaged goods. Both pitched poorly in 2004 before having shoulder surgery, and both could miss all of 2005. The problem extends beyond favoring one particular philosophy. The approach seems to change with the wind.
The Orioles also got promising righthander Denny Bautista in the trade that brought Levinski from the Marlins, but they traded him to the Royals last June for 37-year-old Jason Grimsley. The decision was prompted by two bad outings by Bautista in a late May series against the Yankees, and club executives outside of baseball operations soured on him and ordered him traded.
If the new farm director (David Stockstill, promoted from field coordinator) and a scouting director can get everyone in the organization working from the same blueprint, it would be a positive move. More likely, however, is that disarray and disappointing finishes will continue until there are changes at the top.