The Orioles have drafted quite a few players over the years that a number of teams, scouts, and draft followers have felt were highly talented prospects. Matt Hobgood was in high school throwing 95-96 mph fastball with a decent arsenal to suggest workhorse type pitcher. Brian Matusz was at San Diego throwing mostly 93-94 mph with a great change up and feel for pitching.
I could go on and on about a great deal of prospects, but take my word that Joe Jordan and his staff have done a tremendous job finding talent in the early, middle, and late rounds over the last few seasons. Even in limited capacity on the international front, Luis Lebron, Enrico Jimenez, Jonathan Schoop, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Roderick Bernadina are a few diamond in the rough types that the scouting departments can hang their hat on the rack for. Here are some things to improve:
Acquire as much quality talent as possible
The organization needs to continue to acquire as many talented amateur prospects as possible. This can be accomplished by increasing the overall amateur budget into the $10-15 million range annually. This would allow Joe Jordan and his staff the leeway to look past the dollar signs and grab the best in every spot. It would allow the international department to take a closer look at the Caribbean bonus babies to closely evaluate and maybe overspend to retain the services of the best Dominican, Venezuelan, Curacao, kids each season.
Lastly, the organization has to get away from giving crucial picks away at times when the free agents make little long term impact on the win column. If you increase the amount of selections and the types of players the team can afford to select, it increases the overall talent level in the system. Increasing the number of talented players would go a long way to improving the system’s ability to churn out quality prospects.
Better training and diet regiments
The whole diet and training regimens have to be rectified. The problems within the organization cannot be tied to an individual player, as we are talking about a landscape “of this pitcher is hurt”, “this pitcher has decreased velocity”, “this pitcher has a dead arm”.
The organization’s luck certainly is not just “bad” as these problems continue for seasons at a time. I have watched it and talked to so many players and scouts that feel the organization as a whole lacks preparation.
I have always said a strong foundation makes life easy. If your organization puts the hard work in during the winter months and continues these efforts until the spring, I would expect a great deal of the players in the organization to revert to previous forms. I do not see the quality growth and training principles in place to prevent arm injuries, oblique injuries, elbow injuries, knee injuries, etc.
What about improving the diet these players get at the ballparks? Maybe provide the nutritional foundation that not only allows players to grow in the off-season, but makes them better prepared for the long strenuous season.
Conditioning for pitchers
The first thing on my list is to build and maintain the strength of the AC joint and four rotator cuff tendons. Throwing a baseball is completely against physiological principles and the unnatural motion can easily lead to problems.
One of the best methods is long tossing and that is a story in its own right. The Orioles do not discourage the practice, but it is not a foundation for their throwing program to go beyond 120 ft. Some of the best pitchers in today’s game throw well north of that distance and they are healthy, durable and have some of the strongest arms in the game.
Besides long tossing, these guys need to use rubber tubing stretches, weight training, power lifting, strong man sandbag routines, Pilates, boxing along other methods. All of these workouts would help to build the stabilization of the joints, improve the lower body size, lower body strength, and overall core strength.
Change the condition for position players
I feel the position players are pushed by the organization to do the things listed above for the most part. These guys go through the grinds with a great deal of static and non-static condition programs.
I really do not see power guys not hitting their projections because of their size and strength. These guys should continue to find the best methods available to help build strength in the off-season and maintain it through the summer months to withstand the daily rigors that baseball places on your body.
Increase the number of instructors in the system
Increase the number of instructors and the types of instructors not only in the spring training and extended spring training phases, but during the season as well. When I played, I saw a new face every time I turned the corner, whether at home or away. These instructors talked daily and each would go over what the last instructor wanted to improve and continue to advance. There was an open dialogue of communication and I felt at ease with my relationships.
The Orioles need to make sure that players are getting individual attention from multiple people in every facet of their game. They need to take the time to create an environment that not only stresses performance, but growth of the skill sets.
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I cannot start to put my fingerprint on the problem, but something is not right. Do the Orioles need new leadership in the development department? Do they need new instructors? Do they need additional instructors? Do they need to revise their approach to push or relax prospects on individual timetables?
I wish I knew the exact problem, because if I knew it the Orioles would be well on their way to rectify the problem. It is most likely a little bit of the remarks above as a collective front as to why this system is not developing the players as everyone had hoped. Maybe some of it is plain bad luck, but a good deal of it can be hammered out with a fresh approach.