As O’s Continue to Win, Pressure to Promote Prospects Builds

April 15, 2009 | Peter Dilutis

The O’s are off to a surprising 6-2 start, and fans can already feel the magic in the air.

Unlike recent years, this Orioles team figures to improve as the season goes on, due to the depth that will be called up from the minors, as opposed to their recent trend of tanking during the dog days of August and September.

Andy MacPhail has maintained that he will not rush his prospects. However, in today’s Baltimore Sun (http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/baseball/bal-sp.schmuck15apr15,0,997093.column) Andy says that he is not “slavishly devoted” to any specific plan.

There are 2 important things to take out of this article.

Number one, MacPhail is at least saying that he is flexible, meaning that if the O’s continue to surprise, that he will at least consider bringing his top prospects up sooner than anticipated, giving the Orioles more talent to compete with this season.

Number two, these questions are already being asked so early in the season. If the O’s were 3-5 right now, the urgency to replace guys like Simon, Eaton, Bass, Freel, and Moeller on the team would not be as strong. However, if the Orioles find themselves in contention as we make the transition into the month of May, which is admittedly a big IF,  MacPhail will be feeling the pressure to bring up the young players, who would not only gain valuable experience which will help them in the future, but who also would be helping the Orioles win during this 2009 season.

Remember, it is the starting pitching, if anything, that will hold the Orioles back this season. Aside from Matt Wieters, the elite prospects in the organization, as well as solid ones such as Brad Bergesen, Radhames Liz, and David Hernandez, are all pitchers. If the Orioles feel that their offense, defense, and bullpen is good enough to contend with,  they may be more inclined to bring up some of their pitching prospects to sure up spots 3-5 in the rotation.

The Orioles are in a unique position, as some of their top prospects are better than their current players. It becomes a balancing act of trying to find a medium between winning now and staying on course for the future.

If it was up to me, I would replace Moeller with Wieters, send Hendrickson to the bullpen in place of Bass, and promote Bergesen, Tillman, and Arrieta in place of Simon, Hendrickson, and Eaton in the rotation. Also I would consider replacing Ryan Freel with the more offensive minded Lou Montanez.

What do you think? If the Orioles find themselves at say, 15-8, is that too early to think about bringing up the young guns? Is the hope of a competitive season worth the risk of hurting the development of our top prospects? Does that risk even exist with some of these players?

It is great that the organization will have to make these tough decisions, as that means that the current team is winning and pushing the issue. It will be interesting to see how things play out over the next month.

Until then, let’s continue to enjoy Orioles Magic.

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