The Orioles have enjoyed an encouraging "prospect list season" - the annual tradition in the weeks leading up to spring training in which national experts compile their updated prospect and farm system rankings.
The O's have seen top prospect Adley Rutschman consistently rank top two overall in all of baseball, while four of his future teammates have regularly appeared on Top 100 lists alongside him.
Now, evaluators are beginning to release their overall farm system rankings, where both a team's depth and star power are taken into consideration and compared to the rest of the league. And in this ranking, at least one notable writer needs to see more from the Orioles' minor league system before moving them higher.
Keith Law, formerly of ESPN and currently of The Athletic, unveiled his rankings today, and the O's came in at a paltry 18th overall. This is still an improvement from last season (when they were 24th) but is much lower than the rest of the industry.
It's not too surprising when you consider how Law ranked the O's best prospects individually. He placed Rutschman at number six overall, below his consensus ranking in the top two by most outlets. And he included just four Orioles prospects in his Top 100, leaving off Ryan Mountcastle. Law is also notably lower on Grayson Rodriguez, whom most evaluators have as Baltimore's best pitching prospect but Law has below DL Hall.
Law's rankings come on the same day as Baseball America's, who are quite a bit more bullish on the Orioles' farm system. In fact, BA has the Orioles up at seventh overall, which happens to be their highest-ranking in the magazine's 37-year history.
The O's are boosted in Baseball America's eyes thanks not only to a higher ranking of Rutschman (second) and more players in the Top 100 (five), but also for their depth beyond the Top 100 - rising star Gunnar Henderson and 2020 first-round pick Jordan Westburg were both listed as near-misses on their rankings.
There's no way to know for sure whose evaluations will be most accurate in the long term, other than to wait several years, but it is interesting to see such disparity between national outlets. Law mentions a lack of international impact in the Orioles' system - a common and deserved criticism over the last decade - while Baseball America and MLB Pipeline are encouraged enough by the teams' recent high draft picks and developing pitching depth to look past such a glaring hole.
Keith Law may end up right about the Orioles' system eventually, but fans in Baltimore are definitely hoping they'll have the chance to hold these rankings against him for years to come if their MiLB stars of today develop into MLB stars of tomorrow.