Being a team's top pick, one taken No. 3 overall and given a very large bonus, typically comes with extremely high expectations. Anything short of complete domination might seem like a disappointment.
So there might be some who look at what Manny Machado did and think, "That's it?" A .257/.335/.421 line doesn't stand out, but given the amount of time he's been a professional, the Orioles are not displeased with the current state of his game.
"He's right on track," Orioles farm director John Stockstill said. "He's making above-average plays defensively. With his bat, he just needs to make adjustments. That will come with more plate appearances."
Machado's offensive game did take a hit when he moved up a level, hitting just .245/.308/.354 with Frederick. He also got dinged up, landing on the disabled list in early May, missing nearly a month. As a result, the Orioles' 2010 top pick finished with just 430 plate appearances in 101 games.
Given the amount of at-bats he's had against professional pitching, in other words, he's about where he should be. The Orioles would likely be more pleased if he had amassed about 300 more plate appearances by now, both by signing earlier and avoiding the DL. One was his choice, the other wasn't, but it did nevertheless leave him a little bit behind developmentally.
On the one hand, he's actually done relatively well considering how inexperienced he is. On the other, a player ranked No. 1 in the organization and No. 10 on MLB.com's postseason Top 50 list is supposed to do more. He could get the chance in 2012, with an assignment back to Fredrick or a push up to Double-A Bowie yet to be determined, perhaps by how Machado himself handles things this coming spring. Expectations can be very hard to handle, but when a player of Machado's caliber steps up to meet them, it can be exciting to watch.
Top 10 review
Living in the American League East isn't easy. The rent to live in the best neighborhood isn't affordable to all, so some teams have to find creative ways to make it work.
The Orioles are one of those teams, needing to rely on the farm system to add to the veterans on the roster in order to have a shot at supplanting the leaders in the division.
"For the most part, the players and pitchers did pretty well," Stockstill said. "Most of the players and pitchers we were counting on moved forward, so we're fairly pleased with that aspect of it."
It obviously remains a work in progress and the Orioles will once again have a high draft pick in 2012 (No. 4 overall) to add an impact player next June. Much of the help was supposed to come from the young arms in the system and that, too, has been a mixed bag. Pitchers like Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta have come, made some impact and had some difficulties at the big league level.
In 2011, Zach Britton was the big addition from the farm system. The Orioles' No. 1 prospect when the season began, Britton made the big league rotation at the start of the season. The 23-year-old had some understandable inconsistencies, but overall the organization is pleased with the southpaw's progress.
"Britton is the epitome of development," Stockstill said. "Five years in the Minors, out of high school, he's steadily progressed. He went up there and after the first four or five starts, the league got to him. Then he made some adjustments and finished strong."
Britton finished with 11 wins in 28 starts in his rookie season. After a first three months no one could really complain about -- he had a 3.38 ERA -- he got knocked around over three July starts (16 earned runs). However, he bounded back with three solid outings in August before perhaps running out of gas in September.
Orioles' top 10 prospects
|1.||Zach Britton, LHP||Machado|
|2.||Manny Machado, SS||Avery|
|3.||Xavier Avery, OF||Mahoney|
|4.||Joe Mahoney, OF/1B||Adams|
|5.||Ryan Adams, INF||Hoes|
|6.||L.J. Hoes, 2B||Klein|
|7.||Dan Klein, RHP||Schoop|
|8.||Mychal Givens, SS||Givens|
|9.||Jonathan Schoop, SS||Snyder|
|10.||Brandon Snyder, 1B/OF||Wynn Pelzer, RHP|
MLB.com's Preseason Picks
Manny Machado, SS: It was hoped Machado would win an organizational batting title in his first full season and perhaps get a promotion up a level in the process. The latter happened, but he finished with a .257 average with Delmarva and Frederick.
Dan Klein, RHP: At the start of the season, it was thought Klein would be a starter, at least in 2011, and would thus have a chance to compete for the organizational triple crown. Instead, he opened the year as a reliever and threw well, earning a promotion, but his season ended after just 16 combined outings because of a shoulder injury.
MLB.com's Postseason Selections
Jonathan Schoop, SS: Machado might get more the ink in terms of shortstop prospects in the system, but Schoop had a very solid season at age 19. Playing three infield positions, Schoop also earned a promotion and finished third in the system in average (.290) and tied for second in RBIs (71) while hitting 13 homers.
Robert Bundy, RHP: Sure, his younger brother may be the talk of the system soon, but in 2011, it was the elder Bundy's turn. At age 21, he earned a promotion near the end of the season from Frederick to Double-A Bowie, and finished tied for the system lead in wins as well as fifth in strikeouts and ERA.