Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ranking the farm systems - DBS Style

This is the time of year when top of the line pubs like Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus start to put out their rankings of the 30 MLB teams' farm systems. And then every yahoo with a website gets in on it, too. So this yahoo decided to post his thoughts on the farms as well.

My criteria for a good farm system may be a little different from the national guys. I'm a pretty practical and straight-forward person. Something either works or it doesn't. If it doesn't, my real-life job is to fix it and make it work.

When I rank prospects and, by extension, farm systems I go by a 60% performance/40% potential. You can draft all the 18 year olds and sign 16 year old Latinos, but eventually they need to learn how to hit a curveball or throw a good changeup.

I believe that having talent in the upper minors (AAA and AA) bears more weight than what a rookie does in short season or low A. You need to have prospects at the key positions of C, SS, and CF. You need good strike zone discipline, both your K rate and BB rate, for a batter. You need to miss bats as a pitcher. And you need to be age appropriate.

A farm system should either help supply the ML team with cost-controlled talent or provide the GM with adequate chips to make trades at the ML level.

With all my criteria laid out, let's get to the rankings, in reverse order. My assessments are based on the Baseball America Top 10's for each team only.

30. Diamondbacks - Their #1 prospect, Jarrod Parker, is out all of 2010 after TJ surgery. They have 7 2009 draft picks in their top 10. This is a young unproven system with little hope for help to the major league squad in 2010.

29. Astros - Considering that last year the Astros would have ranked 42nd out of 30 teams, this is a huge improvement for them. Jason Castro looks like a major league catcher and Jordan Lyles could be a nice middle of the rotation starter (MORS). The rest of their 10 consists of relievers, back of rotation starters (BORS), or OF with poor K/BB rates.

28. Cardinals - When you have a HS player drafted that year as your #1 prospect, that is typically not a good sign, especially when Shelby Miller was maybe the 4th best HS pitcher in the draft. This is a very old top 10, with two 27 year olds and a 26 year old (Craig, Freese, Hawksworth). There is not a lot of interesting pieces here.

27. Angels - There are 4 2009 draft picks in this top 10 and their #1 is an injury prone catcher that may not stay at catcher. Which is a problem when Conger's bat won't translate to many other positions. Lot of future relievers in this list.

26. White Sox - Trader Kenny Williams really takes my 2nd rule of a farm system to heart. He uses the farm more than any other team, even the Yankees, to get the ML talent he wants. This has left him with a decent top 3, but Hudson is a MORS at best and Tyler Flowers may not stay at C. There are 3 2009's on here, highlighted by #1 Jared Mitchell, so this is a somewhat unproven system.

25. Mets - For all of their wealth and ML payroll, the Mets are very cheap when it comes to the draft. This has led to a barren system for some time. They have relied on international FA's in recent years to bolster it. Top 2 players Jenry Mejia and Wilmer Flores are proof of that. Mejia could be a top of rotation starter (TORS)/MORS, but the rest of the list profiles a lot of future relievers, middle infielders that won't hit enough at the ML level (Havens, Tejada) and overrated players like Davis and F-Mart.

24. Blue Jays - Believe it or not, but the Blue Jays went UP as a result of the Halladay trade. They may have challenged the D-Backs and Astros for the bottom, which happens when you don't sign 3 of your 4 draft picks in 2009 and your system is barren to start. Most of the Jays problems stem from a really failed draft year of Jackson, Tolisano, Aherns. This was to be their infield of the future. It won't be. From the Phils help arrived in the form of Drabek, Taylor (flipped to OAK for Brett Wallace), and Travis D'Arnaud. It is slim after that.

23. Padres - A great way to rejuvenate this farm would be to trade Adrian Gonzalez, but I covered that one already. This list is a head scratcher. I like Simon Castro at 2, but don't like Tate at 1. They specialize in plate discipline in SD (Forsythe, Darnell, Decker) but aren't real good at defensive positions...or speed. Tate, to me, has the makings of an epic bust.

22. Nationals - Welcome to the Strasburg Carnival Ride. He boosted this system 3-4 spots just by himself as the rest of the 10 has the fantastic Derek Norris at C and Drew Storen ready to contribute, but then nothing at all after that. It is filled with players that lack the most important of the 5 tools...the hit tool. Marrero, Burgess, and Hood all can't make contact. The middle infielders are uninspiring.

21. Brewers - Alcides Escobar still qualifies as a rook by a couple of AB's and good thing. He raised this mediocre list 1-2 spots. Lawrie and Gamel took steps backwards and Cain was hurt this year. Braddock and Heckathorn will be relievers and there are 3 2009's on here.

20. Yankees - Land of the catchers. The Yanks have 4 catchers in their Top 10, the most of any team. Odds that 2 of the 4 stay at catcher? 25% at best. Montero is a man-child and on any team would be starting in 2010 at 1B or DH. I prefer Vizcaino and Banuelos at 2 and 3. The presence of Brackman on this list is frightening.

19. Tigers - Turner and Crosby, although young and still not AA-tested, are a nice 1-2 punch at the top. Jackson and Schlereth were a nice get in the Granderson trade, but neither will be impact players. They'll get contributions from Avila, Ramirez, and Sizemore in 2010, but none are guys you feel comfortable paying once they hit arbitration most likely.

18. Cubs - Perhaps one of the most divisive farms. BA will invariably rank the Cubs higher than this because of the insane amount of hype leveled on Starlin Castro. Only 4 of the Cubs' Top 10 have reached AA to date. Castro and Vitters, especially Vitters, have poor K/BB rates. There is not much power in this 10 and there are multiple future relievers. It's an untested and flawed system.

17. Reds - They get a boost from the Chapman signing, but only 1 or 2 spots. This is a very unspectacular system, but it is more "battle ready" than other systems. Aside from Chapman, there is little upside, but they will get cost-controlled contributions starting in 2010 from Frazier and Heisey. Alonso is over-rated and can't hit lefties.

16. Phillies - They dropped after the Halladay trade, as the loss of Drabek/Taylor/D'Arnaud was not mitigated by Aumont/Gillies/Ramirez from SEA. Dominic Brown is intriguing, but still needs refinement. From #5 to 10, only 1 guy was above Low A in 2009, so it's young.

15. Mariners - Ackley is a pure hitter on the fast track and Saunders and Moore (#1, 2, 3) should contribute in 2010. That said, Truinfel is severely over-rated and Halman/Cortes/Martinez are wild cards due to K's/makeup/youth, respectively.

14. Royals - Next to the Cubs, I predict that this system will be drastically over-rated pre-season and shown to not be ready for prime time by the end. Only 1 of their 10 has made AA yet (#10, Lough, the definition of a tweener) and with the late arrival of Arguelles from Cuba, Lough won't even be on here. So none of their 10 will have made AA. They have a great collection of arms with Montgomery, Arguelles, Crow, Duffy, Melville, and Lamb but they need to be tested. Hosmer and Moustakas need to prove themselves.

13. Marlins - Stanton is a total beast, but I'm troubled by his K rate. I don't Morrison will hit for enough power to be a ML 1B. Skipworth is already a bust and Galloway and Cousins have disturbing K/BB rates.

12. Twins - The Twins are always a very blah system, with seemingly little in terms of impact. This year is no different. Hicks gets a lot of hype, but has not produced yet. Gibson has some injury concerns. Sano and Kepler are both 17 in 2010. Revere will not be a starter as a result of his lack of power and rag arm. Bromberg and Guterriez seem like BORS to me.

11. Orioles - Even with the graduation of Tillman, the O's still have some nice arms. Matusz could be a TORS (#2-type) or MORS at worst. Britton and Arrieta are both starters in the making, as well. Erbe and Mickolio will be relievers, but power ones. Snyder, like Morrison from FLA, won't hit enough to be a ML 1B.

10. Braves - Jason Heyward is the best hitter in the game, as a result of his combination of age (20), position (RF), power and plate discipline. Freeman has always been a twin brother to Morrison of FLA for me. Teheran and Delgado have nice TORS/MORS upside, but Minor is a BORS. Kimbrel is a reliever with serious control issues and Cody Johnson will not be a major leaguer.

9. Pirates - Yes, the Pirates. The Pirates have an impact 3B in Alvarez, a C prospect in Sanchez, a potential TORS (#2-level) in Lincoln, toolsy OF's in Marte and Tabata, MORS in Owens and Alderson, a starting SS with a great K/BB rate in D'Arnaud and upside in 2009 pick ZVR. A deep system that will contribute in 2010.

8. Rockies - If you're going to have a 2009 HS'er be your #1, at least have the best HS'er in Tyler Matzek. He and Friedrich are a killer 1-2 with plenty of heat. Wilin Rosario at C is promising and Chacin should be a MORS. They have 4 total 2009's on here, so they get dinged for that, but Wheeler and Brothers are very solid. Gomez and Young, Jr. provide the middle infield help.

7. Red Sox - 6 of their top 10 have not hit AA, but at least unlike the Royals, the Red Sox prospects achieved success at their levels in 2009. Looking at Kelly's numbers, though, I see a MORS not a TORS, especially when his FB sits 89-92. Rizzo, ranked lower than Lars Anderson, may be better than him right now.

6. Dodgers - When I sat down to evaluate the order, the Dodgers jumped up the most. Dee Gordon at 1 has some flaws and needs work, but his numbers were very impressive last year. But it's their arms that I like. Withrow, Martin, and Miller could all be TORS. Lindblom and Elbert are power arms in bullpen in 2010. Their #7 thru 10 have some real question marks, but their upside and present production is encouraging. Very underrated.

5. A's - Billy Beane is getting weird in recent years, but at least his farm still has some fruit on it. Carter and Taylor are power studs and are ready to go in 2010. Stassi and Green are untested, but are at key positions of C and SS and should stay there. Figueroa and Ross are MORS and Weeks/Cardenas are solid if unspectualar middle infielders. Desme retired, which dents the system a tad.

4. Indians - Through recent trades in the past 2 years, the Indians have revitalized a farm that was filled with LF/1B/DH types. There are now some impact arms and bats. Santana is a huge stud at C; hopefully the hand won't be sapped of strength. Hagadone and Knapp have injury concerns but could be TORS. Brantley is miscast as a corner OF, but his K/BB rate and speed will make up for it. Rondon and Carrasco are BORS.

3. Giants - Buster Posey is a stud at C and Bumgarner is a power lefty that is a true TORS. I like Neal, California League and all, as a corner OF. Wheeler is a 2009 HS pitcher, but his arsenal is very solid. Runzler is a reliever only and Crawford/Pegeuro have K/BB issues. This system is buoyed by Posey/Bumgarner/Neal for me.

2. Rangers - Not sure it gets too much better than Feliz/Smoak/Perez as a 1-2-3. The controversial Scheppers at 4 should be used until his arm inevitably falls off. It tiers after Scheppers at #4, with Kiker/Ross/Font most likely relievers long term but still valid options in the rotation. They lack bats in the system.

1. Rays - Jennings is an animal ready to be unleashed in 2010. His upside is a hair better than Andrew McCutchen's, in my opinion, due to better defense. The Rays have an impressive collection of TORS behind him in Hellickson (a long-time personal favorite), Davis, Moore (if he gets the control under control), McGee (back from surgery), and under the radar Colome. Torres and Barnese should be MORS. Brignac and Beckham provide options at SS, even though each star has faded on them slightly.


  1. What's up,

    These are great farm system rankings. I created rankings about a month ago...

    Even though Starlin Castro could be great, there's tons of "group think" where people are overlooking some concerns.

    Our big differences are the Dodgers and the Reds. But I think your rating of the Dodgers is better than mine. The system is led by lower-level guys that I wanted to wait one more season on, but there's so many potential talents I should have placed them at least 15.

    I think the Reds' system is underrated. They don't have a legitimate star (maybe Chapman), but they have at least eight solid prospects reasonably close to the majors(Champan, Leake, Frazier, Heisey, Francisco, Stubbs, Alonso, and Cozart). What I really like is most of these guys will provide help in places where the Reds need it. I probably rated them too high, but I think they've gotta be top 10.

    Great job on the rankings. It's hard to figure out whose system will work out, but it'll be interesting to see what happens.

  2. Thanks for the comment (belatedly) Brad. I did look at your rankings...the Reds at #3 is...optimistic, but we were fairly in line with the rest.

    Thanks for visiting.