Results tagged ‘ 2012 Norfolk Tides season opener ’
Tonight is the Norfolk Tides International League home opener against the Gwinnett Braves. Jason Berken will be the Tides’ starting pitcher. The Tides feature many AAA veterans like Jamie Hoffman; prospects who haven’t quite panned out yet like Josh Bell, Chris Tillman, Brad Bergesen, and Jason Berken; and major leaguers trying to get back to the big leagues like Josh Barfield, Oscar Villareal, and Pat Neshek. The only two young players we haven’t already seen in Norfolk are first baseman Joe Mahoney and center fielder Xavier Avery.
The Orioles made a concerted effort to bring in more experienced, veteran ballplayers to bolster Norfolk. The Orioles realized that it was important to have a competitive team in Norfolk if they wanted to keep the affiliation. Aside from the first half of 2009, the Tides have been noncompetitive in the International League. One of the challenges of the current AAA setup is that there is almost always one more “Western” team in the Pacific Coast League that there are major league teams who want a “Western” PCL team. Currently, the Toronto Blue Jays drew the short straw and have their AAA team in Las Vegas. But, if Norfolk became dissatisifed with the Orioles, it’d be a natural fit for Washington to move from Syracuse to Norfolk; the Mets to move from Buffalo to Syracuse; and Toronto to move from Las Vegas to Buffalo. That leaves the Orioles out in the desert.
Fans go to minor-league games either because the team is loaded with interesting prospects or because the team is playing winning, exciting baseball. The Orioles don’t have interesting prospects ready for AAA, so they decided to make the team more competitive and likely to win by importing experienced players.
I’ve been critical of the Orioles farm system. It’s generally conceded that their top three prospects — Manny Machado, Dylan Bundy, and Jonathan Schoop — are near the top of the heap, and that there’s a huge dropoff after that. But the dropoff is in two specific areas — first, there are very few good prospects at the higher levels (although both Machado and Schoop are starting 2012 at AA Bowie), and second, the prospects between 4 and, say, 15 are really, really weak. The prospects ranked 16-30 (according to Baseball America) aren’t noticeably worse that most other teams’ 16-30 prosepcts, but 4 to about 15 are dreadful.