Hypothetically speaking, if you owned an MLB team that was terrible and looking to rebuild, which teams around the league would you emulate? Also consider you have one of the worst farm systems and virtually no analytics department. A good idea might be to choose the two most successful rebuilds of all-time. The Cubs won the World Series in 2016, led by Theo Epstein. The Astros won the World Series in 2017, led by Jeff Luhnow. In fact, if you really wanted to copy the Cubs and Astros, why not just poach their personnel?
This is exactly what the Baltimore Orioles have done. The team is currently 13-23 and dead last in the AL East. They will not be good this year and most likely next year as well. However, there is a plan that is quietly being put in place that is designed to create sustained success for the club in the near future. In the offseason, the O’s made some key hires that will turn their rebuild into a timely success.
Their first big hire was Mike Elias as their new Executive VP and General Manager. He was the Assistant GM for Houston where he helped rebuild the Astros from a pretty similar place to where the Orioles are now. Just a few days after he was hired, Elias poached Sig Mejdal from the Astros who was their analytics genius that helped them win the 2017 World Series. Mejdal has a double-major in mechanical and aeronautical engineering from the University of California, Davis. He also has two master’s degrees, one in operations research and the other in cognitive psychology. Oh yea, he also worked for NASA.
Elias appointed Mejdal as the O’s new Asst. GM of Analytics. He came over from Houston for more control and autonomy over key decisions that will be made in the O’s front office. The last key acquisition was hiring Brandon Hyde as their new manager. He was the first base coach for the 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs and has a talent for helping develop young players. Elias saw Hyde as an integral part of the rebuild as he and Mejdal work on producing high-level talent from the draft.
Elias doesn’t just have credibility from his successes in St. Louis and Houston; he also has a tangible vision on how to execute and measure this rebuild. He understands the benchmarks and metrics the Orioles need to track in order for sustained success. The O’s are focusing on expanding international scouting, specifically in Latin America, while heavily investing in a brand new analytics department. According to The Athletic, the Orioles will be investing more money in the Dominican Republic and Elias himself will be making more “personal visits” to check-in on progress, but more importantly to develop relationships with the community of players.
The front office is in the process of installing TrackMan units into the Dominican minor league training facilities. Mejdal will primarily focus on leveraging advanced data to re-brand the Orioles’ amateur scouting department. To say the Orioles had a novice approach to analytics would be an understatement, as they only had one programmer when Mejdal arrived, according to the Baltimore Sun. During spring training, Hyde made a point to invite more minor league coaches to camp so they could integrate with the major league coaches.
Hyde, Elias, and Mejdal collectively know what it takes to build and develop a winning ball club from almost nothing. They certainly have their work cut out for them, but if anyone could do it, it’s them.