Ken Rosenthal, the senior baseball writer for FOXSports.com, is one of the most respected media insiders in Major League Baseball. He's so plugged-in, most reporters dream they could one day report the breaking news nuggets he Tweets out when he actually goes to sleep (OK, maybe it's just me).
Rosenthal is still very familiar with the Orioles organization from his days reporting and writing columns for The Baltimore Sun back in the 1990s. Last week on FOXSports.com, he wrote a column that was critical of the Orioles' farm system, which he said puts them "at a severe disadvantage as they try to compete in the game’s toughest division, the AL East."
Somehow, I was able to track Rosenthal down for a phone interview as he was on his way to an airport somewhere on the West Coast on Monday night. We talked about a lot of things on the phone call, from the Baltimore farm system and the Buck Showalter effect to the Orioles' young pitching staff and Mark Reynolds' power potential.
Here is my full interview with Rosenthal, and it was a good one:
MV: Cal Ripken Jr. has said on numerous occasions that it will be up to the young rotation to take a step forward if the Orioles want to compete in the AL East this season. Do you agree that it's the X-factor?
KR: Yes, I do. And the offense will be better, certainly. I don’t have much doubt about that. How much? I don’t know yet. But sure, the young rotation, what they did last season under [manager Buck] Showalter, they’ve got to build on that and that’s not an easy thing to do in the AL East. But I would agree with that, no question.
MV: Baseball Prospectus labeled Matt Wieters as one of the 50 most disappointing prospects of all time. Do you think that’s a bit premature, and what kind of potential do you see in the young catcher?
KR: I’m a fan of Baseball Prospectus, but to me, that was ridiculous. It’s too early to make that kind of assessment. I respect them, but I didn’t agree with that at all. … Is he going to be the next Joe Mauer? Well, that’s probably in doubt now. But at the same, can he be an above-average major-league catcher, a switch-hitter with power? Yes, I still see him as that.
MV: Some in the national media have been critical of the acquisitions of veteran players such as Vlad Guerrero and Derrek Lee, but many fans are fired up about them. What’s your take on these moves? Do they fit with what the team is trying to do?
KR: Yes, because they’re only signed to one-year deals. It’s not as if they’re blocking any great prospects because there aren’t any great offensive prospects coming up. The Orioles had to do something to get the fans energized to some degree. It’s been a lot of bad years in a row -- we all know that -- and when you add [those players] and the history that they have, you’re more legitimate. They are more legitimate now. But does it translate into long-term success? No, because they’re going to be in the same situation next year of having to re-sign them or sign other guys. But it would help them -- or it should help them -- this season. As I originally wrote, unless they get the farm system straight, this is all patchwork. They need their draft picks to turn into impact players. Otherwise, this is just a treadmill that they’re on and they can’t get off.
MV: I know you have been critical the Orioles’ farm system -- and I can’t say that I disagree with you. What are some achievable goals the organization should be setting so that the pipeline is pumping prospects to Camden Yards consistently?
KR: As I wrote, they have to get more involved internationally. And it’s one thing to spend a lot of money in the draft, which they have done. I’ll give them credit. But the international talent comes from everywhere. Other teams do it and they don’t do it in a very expensive way in many cases. I look at the Yankees right now. There is a lot of excitement with a kid named Manny Banuelos, a Mexican left-hander. He came in a package with Alfredo Aceves and two other guys. The whole package cost about $600,000. And they also got Ramiro Peña out of Mexico, a utility infielder who has done a good job for them. The Orioles never seem to do this and it’s kind of exasperating, really. And I don’t quite follow the logic entirely.
MV: Changing gears a little bit here, everybody knows about Mark Reynolds’ strikeout totals. How many times will he strike out in his first season in the AL East, and does it matter?