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Top farm systems helped the Rays and Dodgers reach the World Series. The Orioles' is climbing the rankings.

From their payrolls to their big-name players, plenty separates the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays as they clash in the World Series this week.

One unifying factor will be encouraging to those who are hoping it’s not long yet before the Orioles can be considered in that class of the league’s best: well-regarded farm systems.

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When the matchup was solidified, Baseball America noted that each team has had a top-ranked farm system in the past five years and is comfortably in the top-10 of their rankings the past three years. The Rays had the top-ranked farm system in 2020, while the Dodgers had that honor in 2016.

The Orioles, for their part, were 12 both in the outlet’s preseason and midseason rankings. MLB Pipeline had the Orioles' ranked eighth, and it’s only slightly optimistic — but not outlandish — to say they’ll be a lot closer to first than either of those numbers by this time next year.

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Other teams will have a say in that, but stacking up the Orioles' top five against other teams' is going to see that top tier come out well in most comparisons. It’s still missing the dynamic international talent that populates the top of some team’s lists, but Adley Rutschman will be in the top handful of prospects this offseason after improving in a year without minor league games.

Depending on what others on the list do in performance and graduation, he could be No. 1 in all of baseball in the 2021 offseason.

Below him, there is plenty of buzz about the Orioles' top pitching prospects, Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall. Splitting hairs between the two is just that, but both have taken big steps forward in the last year. Both sat in the high-90s mph at the Bowie camp with their fastballs, and Hall made strides in separating his two breaking pitches. Rodriguez already has at least two plus secondary pitches with his changeup and slider, while Hall’s changeup isn’t far behind.

Those two could go to affiliates if the minor league season happens in any normal way in 2021 and make those gains public. Rodriguez was No. 32 in Baseball America’s latest rankings, and Hall is No. 41. If they pitch well, combined again with some graduations, they could end up in the top-25 by next fall.

The next tier would feature 2020 No. 2 overall pick Heston Kjerstad, who by virtue of his surprising selection and where he was rated coming into the draft is ranked No. 86 and behind several of his draft class contemporaries in the latest rankings. It’s hard to know whether the medical issue that’s keeping him from fall camp is cause for concern for his future, but as a power bat, he’s liable to produce in a way that will only have him climbing once games begin next spring.

Ryan Mountcastle will graduate within the first week of the season, but another high school infielder with power potential in Gunnar Henderson could be a breakout bat to take his place in that tier. And though the shine is long since off Yusniel Diaz, if he performs well at Triple-A, there could be a jump back into the top 100 for him.

Add in another potential elite talent with the fifth overall pick, and the Orioles could have five players in the top 50 of the league-wide rankings by the end of next season. Not many teams will be able to boast that.

The difference-maker in terms of solidifying a high organizational ranking would be the depth, and the Orioles are well on their way. With both the 2019 and 2020 draft classes getting solely development work and being mostly polished college players anyway, there could be a lot of gaudy numbers across the affiliates next year.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias will keep making trades to fill in gaps, and before long the first group of Latin American prospects from the team’s 2018 reinvestment in that market will come stateside.

Whether the organizational ranking when it comes to the Orioles eventually corresponds to winning baseball at Camden Yards will be what makes it all worth it. But for those searching for signs of what might be on the horizon have to look no further than the World Series to see all the ways a good farm system can eventually help clubs play into October.

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