Baltimore Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette made a stop at the Buffalo Wild Wings in Annapolis the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 5. He was the guest speaker at the Bowie Baysox, Baltimore Orioles Winter Caravan held at the restaurant and he took the time to talk Orioles and Baysox baseball with the more than 100 fans in attendance.
Beginning his third season leading the Orioles organization, Duquette touched on a number of topics interesting to Baysox fans, including some of the great accomplishments from last season and what fans can look forward to in the future.
"Last year our team was .500 but we had some really good players; Caleb Joseph did a really good job - he was named the Eastern League Player of the Year by Topps. Mike Wright also had a great year and we think he is going to make a contribution."
Duquette also discussed the strong relationship the Orioles have with their Double-A Affiliate in Bowie and how the proximity of the two towns works as a benefit for the organization.
"There is nothing more American than players coming to your community, playing ball where you get to know them and then going on to the Big Leagues. That is the kind of situation we have in Bowie that we are very proud of. We consider this part of our direct community in Baltimore and we send a lot of our Big League players here during the course of the year…and we will probably keep it that way."
That close proximity to Baltimore means that Duquette is hardly a stranger at Prince George's Stadium. In talking about his experiences from this past season, he shared an entertaining interaction he had with a fan at a Baysox game.
"I had a fan come up to me at a Baysox game last year and she said 'Mr. Duquette, I know that people really like Kevin Gausman, but the guy that is a much more accomplished pitcher at this point in his career is Mike Wright.' I said I will take that under advisement because I like Mike Wright too. He has that great slider, terrific size and not a lot of people have him on the radar. If you saw him here last year you know he is not that far from contributing as a Major League pitcher."
Right-handed pitcher Eddie Gamboa has become a fan favorite in Bowie during the five years he has pitched with the Baysox. Prior to the start of the 2013 season, Gamboa made the decision to convert to throwing a knuckleball and Duquette said he is pleased with the progress Gamboa has made.
"Another player that pitched in Bowie that I think has a really bright future is Eddie Gamboa. Eddie Gamboa just started working with [Hall of Fame knuckleball pitcher] Phil Niekro last year and the progress that he made with his knuckleball was terrific. He continued that progress in Mexico this past winter and he won several games there. He is another guy that I think will be able to come up and make a nice contribution to our ballclub and you saw him here last year."
It has become a pretty well-established fact that Duquette is a big supporter of building a Major League ballclub through development of a strong farm system instead of paying for high-priced free agents. Over the past few weeks, many respected baseball organizations have released their lists of the Top 100 prospects in Minor League Baseball and the Orioles have been well-represented. Duquette did not disguise his pleasure when asked about those accolades for some top Orioles farmhands.
"The Orioles farm system is making good progress - not that we keep track of it but we actually have 5 of the top 43 prospects [according to Baseball America]. Jon Schoop is a good prospect. We have said this year in and year out - [Director of Minor League Operations] Kent [Qualls] was with me in Montreal and we had a terrific farm system and we built the Red Sox into a dynamic farm system and Kent is doing the same thing here with the Orioles. The best players that we have are going to come to the Majors through the farm system and you will be able to see them in Double-A before we see them in Baltimore."
Duquette further explained his dedication to building a strong Minor League system when asked about what Major League free agents the team may be targeting heading into Spring Training.
"Our best players are going to come to the team through the farm system. We only use free agency as a supplement. We have a good farm system and we ought to be able to bring up a steady stream of players and also make some good trades. That's how we are going to stock our ballclub."
Baysox Baseball - We'll Knock Your 'Sox Off. The Baysox open the 2014 season, their 22nd as the class Double-A Affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, at Prince George's Stadium Thursday, April 3. To keep up with Baysox news during the offseason, visit baysox.com.