From the standpoint of wins and losses, the Orioles farm system had a very lean year indeed, but director of player development Tom Trebelhorn sees encouraging signs for what lies ahead.
"I think the players we think can play all did fine," said Trebelhorn. "We believe they had normal to better than average development."
No Orioles affiliate made the playoffs in its respective league, but Bowie, Frederick, Delmarva and Gulf Coast all contended until late in the season. Only Triple-A Rochester -- which was undermined by call-ups, injuries and bullpen woes -- and Rookie League Bluefield never figured in a pennant race.
Trebelhorn admitted disappointment with the Red Wings, who fielded an "old outfield [that] didn't pan out," and a dream infield of Calvin Pickering, Ryan Minor, Jerry Hairston and Jesse Garcia was together infrequently (the club was 5-1 when all four started).
"We thought the won-lost would be better there," he said.
"When healthy and together, they did fine, but that wasn't always the case."
But Double-A Bowie probably over-achieved, Single-A Frederick was in the thick of its second-half divisional race until rainouts and promotions took a toll, and Single-A Delmarva, when bolstered by players from the 1999 draft, righted itself after a horrible first half.
Trebelhorn found particular hope in the performances of first-year draftees such as outfielders Larry Bigbie and Keith Reed, infielders Willie Harris and Matt Riordan, and young Shorebirds pitchers John Stephens, Juan Guzman and Steve Bechler.
The system's deepest position appears to be middle infield, where Hairston and Garcia held sway at Rochester, Augie Ojeda and Carlos Casimiro performed at Bowie, Eddie Martinez and Eddy Garabito teamed at Frederick, and Harris and Brian Roberts were together at Delmarva.
"We need some fatter guys on the corners," Trebelhorn said jokingly. "But we've got eight competent middle infielders. There might be some repeats there [players returning to the same level]."
There were some individual surprises, as well.
The most notable turnaround probably came from Baysox outfielder Wady Almonte, who resurrected his career with an excellent season afield and at the plate.
"He was off a year [because of injury] to reflect, and he came back strong," said Trebelhorn. "I've never seen a player mature faster."
Stephens struck out 217 batters, a phenomenal minor-league total, and organizational-type players such as Rick Short, Howie Clark and Johnny Isom thrived.
"I think that you always look at drafts when evaluating any year," said Trebelhorn. "And our first-year players have done very well. Delmarva had 11 of those, and some teams in that league didn't have any, and they still were in it in the second half. That's a good sign."
O 's prospects in fall leagues
Arizona: 1B Calvin Pickering, IF Jesse Garcia, OF Eugene Kingsale, C Jayson Werth, P Ryan Kohlmeier, P Matt Riley
California: 1B Franky Figueroa, OF Darnell McDonald, P Sean Douglass, P Rick Bauer
Florida Instructional: 36 players
Pub Date: 9/09/99