Surplus of shortstop prospects could help Orioles accelerate turnaround

Baltimore Orioles prospect Manny Machado showed off his skills in the 2011 All-Star Futures Game last summer. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Baltimore fans have been patient long enough. The O’s revival is depending upon the arrival of strong, skilled prospects from their farm system.

It’s been a long time coming for a classic baseball town that was undeserving of such a drought. The Orioles were one of the richest traditions in baseball throughout the ’60s and ’70s. Later, they would see unsubstantial success in the ’90s as a result of the Ripken era, but never have they been so close to redemption.

The Orioles’ farm system could prove to be the most mercurial in baseball. For the first time in a long time, Baltimore has a surplus of a commodity in their farm system: shortstops.

Having three shortstops blooming in your farm system is a blessing that escapes most teams. It’s because the position requires a slightly broader skill set than that of the other infield positions, and finding a player with a plus bat can be a difficult corollary to ask of a hot-gloved infielder. Fortunately for the Orioles, sorting out this semblance of talent won’t prove to be all that difficult.

Their top prospect, Manny Machado, will more than likely win the starting job once he ascends to the majors. He’s a five-tool prospect and was arguably the best position player in the draft of 2010. His repertoire and versatility draw a lot of comparisons to Alex Rodriguez, due to his size, mechanics and swing speed. Although his hands and arm can move with blinding speed, he lacks the top-end speed that managers look for in a leadoff batter.

These talents also help explain why Machado could make the move to third base if the Orioles want a bit more range in their middle infield. Here we have another example of why a plethora of shortstops is a luxury for any ballclub. The Orioles can insert Machado into the lineup at a variety of positions, and still leave themselves with options defensively as well as with the leadoff role.

Baltimore could also choose to call up 21-year-old Mychal Givens, a pitcher in high school who converted to shortstop after being drafted in 2009. Obviously he has arm strength, touching 97 mph in high school. His arm is undoubtedly his greatest asset, and that’s probably why Baltimore will opt to use him at short instead of Machado.

A further advantage of B-more’s bountiful prospects is that skill players of their prowess often make for fine trade bait. In such a case, Givens’ athleticism would make him quite appetizing for a team looking to reload with skill players, or looking to add an injury insurance policy.

Lastly, we arrive at Jonathan Schoop, a 20 year-old phenom from Curacao who has scouts clamoring about his ceiling. The projected upside for Schoop at the shortstop position is astronomical because of how adept he is with his hands and speed. He scuttles across the gap with startling pace and his delivery to first base is so fluid he could beat a finger snap. He was hitting .319 with the Delmarva Shorebirds (single-A) last year and had the front office at Camden salivating. He then went on to hit .277 for the Frederick Keys this past summer and all but solidified his future with the Orioles organization. His bat will be an irrefutable consideration when the Orioles begin to retool.

It’s easy to see why shortstops are so crucial to a baseball team, but what’s even more rewarding are the possibilities a team can entertain when they have a bunch of shortstops to choose from. It’s a big reason why the O’s are a favorite to become a future division contender just as soon as some of these fresh faces arrive. The impact this kind of athleticism can have on a franchise can be volatile, and that’s exactly why the Orioles are going to become one of the more exciting teams in the American League.

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