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Orioles farm system ranked among top five in all of baseball originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
It's been a rough few years for O's fans at the major league level, but there is finally light at the end of the tunnel.
The team's farm system has long been ranked among the worst in baseball, but it's finally begun to creep higher in recent years. Now, a couple of weeks away from the start of the 2021 season, fans are seeing its highest ranking yet.
MLB Pipeline rates the Orioles as the fifth-best farm system in the sport, a remarkable jump from previous seasons. They are led at the top by catcher Adley Rutschman, the No. 2 overall prospect in baseball.
Rutschman is a generational prospect and was one of the most obvious number one overall draft picks in nearly a decade when the Orioles selected him in 2019. He hasn't had the chance to flex his muscles in the minor leagues much yet, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but the team (and its fans) haven't wavered on their sky-high expectations for the switch-hitting backstop.
One prospect (no matter how talented) does not a farm system make, however. The Orioles have added talent to their organization through a number of different avenues since Mike Elias took control of the front office, including through trades, high-level draft picks and finally dipping their toes into the international market.
They've also been able to help develop some of the homegrown talent that was already brought in under the previous regime. Among the team's top 30 prospects according to MLB Pipeline, 16 have been brought in under Elias, which is a large number for just two years. But three of the top five prospects in the organization were drafted under Dan Duquette, including No. 2 Grayson Rodriguez, No. 4 DL Hall and No. 5 Ryan Mountcastle.
The development of top pitching prospects like Rodriguez and Hall especially has been a pleasant surprise for O's fans, and it could key the next contender in Baltimore.
The Orioles are also slated to have the No. 5 pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, which appears to be strong at the top with college pitching and high school infielders, and they are projected to finish near the bottom of the standings in 2021 again which would give them another top pick in 2022.
The Orioles have added a lot of talent to the system in the past two seasons, and they are set up well to continue to add to that pipeline with blue-chip prospects in the next couple years as well. Additional development from high draft picks like Gunnar Henderson and Heston Kjerstad could make this crop of prospects look even stronger, too.
Baltimore's standing in the top five among farm systems in baseball is far from a consensus -- The Athletic's Keith Law notably had them 18th in his rankings released in February -- but across the board the O's are moving up, with just about every publication giving them their highest ranking in years, if not ever.
The light at the end of the tunnel for O's fans is still far away, but the important thing for now is that it's getting closer. A few more years with top-five farm systems in baseball, and Baltimore will be back where fans want them -- in the postseason.