Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ranking the Farm Systems - 2011

Last year I ranked all 30 farm systems and explained my criteria in doing so. Aside from my stunningly wrong Royals writeup, I feel like the rankings were pretty fairly done.

If you didn't click the link above, here's my basic feelings on ranking farms:
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.

Keep in mind that these rankings are based only off of the Baseball America Top 10's for each team. So with no further delay, let's go in reverse order to properly build the suspense.

30. Mets - The Mets have 5 internationally signed players in their Top 10, and some are not very spectacular, so that shows how poor their June drafts have been. If a player like Brad Holt is your #10 (and I like him if he were a reliever, not a starter) you have some real problems. I see a lot of internationals with no plate discipline and players that will be on the corners in the OF. There's middle of the rotation pitchers (MORS) and a so-so 2B (Havens).

29. White Sox - The only reason the White Sox are not on the bottom of the list is Chris Sale. I feel both of these Top 10's equally suck and Sale is the only potential star of the bunch. There's a lot of present-day relievers in the Top 10, which is never a good sign, followed by guys coming off major injuries (Mitchell) and players that don't have enough power for their positions (Morel at 3B, for example). Kenny Williams' relentless trading has ravaged this system.

28. Orioles - The O's have graduated a ton of key players to the majors in the past 2 years (Weiters, Matusz, Tillman, for example) but haven't replenished the system very well in that timeframe. Manny Machado is their #1 and I feel that all the same things said about Tim Beckham at draft time in 2008 are being said of Machado. I like Britton at #2, but after that things fall way off the cliff. The #6 and #8 guys (Pelzer and Adams) were left exposed and unclaimed in the Rule 5 draft, so that may tell you some things. There are a ton of middle infielders who have no stick in this Top 10. Matt Hobgood, a 2009 1st rounder, didn't make this Top 10....all aboard, next stop Bustville!

27. Marlins - Like the O's, the Marlins have graduated some talent to the majors in recent years (Stanton, Morrison, Sanchez) and that has depleted the system. I feel like their system doesn't crater as badly after their top 2 guys, although it is not great overall. Lot of 2010 draft picks here and/or guys that didn't play much in a full season league yet.

26. Brewers - The Brewers burned their system to the ground in 2010. First Dylan Covey, their 1st round pick in 2010, was diagnosed with diabetes after draft day. He decided to not sign in order to go to college and learn to live with it. Then in December, the Brewers traded Cain, Jeffress, and Odorizzi (and young SS Escobar) to the Royals for Greinke. In the knee-jerk-reaction time after the trade, many nationals said the Brewers had the worst farm system as a result. I still think Rogers, Scarpetta, and Peralta are a decent 1-2-3 and there should be 2 useable starters out of that trio. The Brewers haven't drafted well in recent years and it is catching up to them on the farm.

25. Astros - This is a very young system, as 7 of the Top 10 were either signed in 2009 or 2010. But Jordan Lyles should be a steady #2 or #3 for the Astros as soon as June 2011. I really like Villar, who they obtained from the Phillies in the Oswalt deal. In addition to Villar, they also have DeShields and Mier at SS, as well. Bushue and Foltyniewicz are interesting enough to give the Astros an extra spot or two on these rankings.

24. Tigers - The Tigers, like the Astros, seem to have set up permanent camp in the bottom third of the farm system rankings. This system does have Jacob Turner, though, and 2010 draft bonus baby Nick Castellanos ($3.5M). The Tigers tried to replenish in the 2010 draft with Castellanos, Ruffin, and Smyly. There are still some future relievers in the Top 10. Crosby would give this system an upward tick if he would ever be healthy for a full season.

23. Red Sox - As with the Cubs, what you see on Baseball America is not what you get. The Red Sox traded Kelly, Rizzo, and Fuentes to the Padres in the Adrian Gonzalez deal. What was left is an uninspiring collection of #3's and #4's, an interesting SS (Iglesias) and some 4th OF'ers like Reddick. The Sox always draft well, though, so don't be surprised to see them move back up next year.

22. A's - Even though Grant Green may not stick at SS long term, his bat will play at 2B, even accounting for his Cal League-inflated numbers in 2010. Carter and Choice are nice power bats and there are enough MORS coursing through this Top 10. Beware the allure of high-priced international pitchers, as Michel Ynoa has been constantly injured and nowhere near this Top 10.

21. Cubs - Keep in mind that what you see on the BA list isn't the true Cubs Top 10 anymore. When the Cubs got Garza they traded Archer (#1), Lee (#4), and Guyer (#10) in the deal. Jackson and McNutt are still interesting, though. They have some guys that will contribute to the ML team in 2011.

20. Diamondbacks - The D-backs had a very young, unproven system last year, which led me to rank them #30. Well, in 2010, some of those guys stepped forth and showed that even though they have flaws, they may be able to get this farm moving. Jarrod Parker is back and should be healthy in 2011. As for the guys who boosted their stock, Matt Davidson jumped ahead of draft mate Bobby Borchering on the depth chart. Marc Krauss hit a ton of HR's. Tyler Skaggs and Pat Corbin came over in the Dan Haren trade. With the #3 pick and the #7 pick in the 2011 draft (for failing to sign Loux), the Diamondbacks are my pick to improve their ranking the most by this time next year.

19. Cards - Shelby Miller had a huge 2010 and established himself on the short list of top pitching prospects. The Cards also reloaded through the June draft and international front in 2010, with Cox and Jenkins from the States and Martinez internationally. All 4 of these guys are high end potential players. There's still a few too many #4 and #5 starters on this list.

18. Giants - After graduating Posey and Bumgarner (plus Thomas Neal coming back to earth in AA), the Giants take a little hit. Brandon Belt seems to be a found diamond and Zack Wheeler is still a quality young pitcher, but the real interesting guy to me is Peguero at #4. He refuses to take a walk, but you don't see a lot of guys with 19 2B's, 16 3B's, 10 HR's and 40 SB's in the minors.

17. Angels - Mike Trout is an absolute stud waiting his turn to patrol CF for the Angels. He may see the majors in September 2011, but he should be good to go in 2012. I love Segura at 2B with the same type of stat line that Peguero from the Giants put up, but with a touch more BB. Speaking of walks, if Fabio Martinez ever controls them on the mound, he will be a beastmaster too.

16. Padres - Thanks to the Adrian Gonzalez trade with Boston, the Padres re-stocked a farm system in desperate need of a talent infusion. Like the Brewers, the Padres were scorned by their 1st round pick in 2010, but it wasn't for medical reasons. Karsten Whitson simply didn't sign, which was a huge gaffe for the front office. But Kelly, Rizzo, and Fuentes from the Red Sox help augment the talent base of Simon Castro, Drew Cumberland, and Jason Hagerty. I still think Tate is a bust, the same as I said when he was drafted, and that Jaff Decker is a fire plug.

15. Mariners - Ackley, Pineda, and Franklin are a heck of a 1-2-3. The Mariners then added #4 prospect Tijuan Walker in the 2010 draft, a lively armed HS pitcher. It wouldn't be a Mariners Top 10 without a huge influx of internationals, but most of the ones on this list were obtained via trades. Chavez had a huge year at the plate, but remember the Cal League does crazy things, especially the M's home park of High Desert. Very solid system that should produce some players in 2011.

14. Dodgers - The Dodgers had an interesting year in the minors. They had some huge surprises (Sands and de la Rosa), some disappointments (Withrow, Martin), and a big surprise on draft deadline day when the signed the once-thought-unsignable Zach Lee. I think Webster and Robinson are too low at their current spots (#5 and #10). Dee Gordon keeps chugging along at #1 until someone reminds him that he is 5'-11" and 150 lbs.

13. Pirates - The Pirates graduated Alvarez, Lincoln, and Tabata from last year Top 10, but reloaded with Taillon and Allie in the draft. Owens, Locke, and Morris (along with Justin Wilson) formed a great rotation at AA that should carry forth to AAA in 2011, even if all 4 don't start there right away. With Anthony Rendon the presumed pick at 1-1 in 2011 and no major promotions from the farm, this should be a Top 10 system by national standards next year.

12. Twins - I've resigned myself to the fact that the Twins will always have a boring farm system. But they get results at the majors and that's all that matters. The Twins do have some interesting internationals in Sano, Kepler, and Arcia, but right now the system is led by Hicks (underachiever) and Gibson.

11. Reds - When you have a guy at your #1 spot that threw a fastball at 105 mph in the majors, that helps the ol' ranking. The Reds follow that up with Hamilton at #2 with his 48 SB's in short-season ball and breakout player Devin Mesoraco at catcher at #3. After that, the Reds have a ton of internationals with poor K/BB walks and some so-so pitchers, but it's these 3 that are controlling my ranking.

10. Nationals - Last year the Nats Top 10 was Strasburg, Norris, and bust. This year, one phenom was replaced with another phenom in Harper. Norris is still here after fighting through an injury plagued year, but now the Nats have Espinosa showing serious power and ready to play 2B in the majors. They also added Solis and Cole from the 2010 draft. Wilson Ramos was obtained in the Matt Capps trade with the Twins, so the Nats have definitely deepened things up.

9. Rockies - The Rockies always seem to have a vibrant system that never gets too high or too low in the rankings. Matzek has the #1 spot on lockdown for the time being, but behind him is Wilin Rosario at catcher and Arenado at 3B showing good power. The Rox added Tago, Parker, and Bettis in the 2010 draft and always have 1 or 2 toolsy internationals floating around the mix.

8. Indians - The Tribe is in full rebuild mode. They have populated this year's Top 10 with trade acquistions from the last 2 years (Knapp and Hagadone, plus the since-graduated Santana) and some solid, if unspectacular, draft picks in Chisenhall, White, and Kipnis. I'll be curious to see how Pomeranz does, as he was someone I thought the Pirates may have taken in 2010.

7. Blue Jays - In his short time on the job, GM Alex Anthopolous has rebuilt much of the farm's scorched earth left behind by JP Riccardi. He obtained Kyle Drabek and Travis d'Arnaud in the Halladay trade. He traded for Anthony Gose with HOU after they obtained him in the Oswalt trade. He got Lawrie in the offseason's trade for Shawn Marcum. And he's done a pretty good job himself in the drafts it seems.

6. Rangers - The Rangers graduated some talent in recent years, but they also traded some away during their playoff run. Gone are Smoak and Beavan. The frustrating Michael Main is with the Giants now. The Rangers reloaded a bit in the 2010 draft, but they still have Perez at #1 and the intriguing Profar at #2. This may be a touch high for them, but I'm thinking their potential will come through big time in 2011.

5. Phillies - This Top 10 has a little bit of something for everyone. Power/speed OF? Check. (Dom Brown). Power hitting 1B/OF with plate discipline? Yep. (Jonathan Singleton). A trio of young, fireballing pitchers? Mmm hmmm (May, Cosart, Colvin). Catcher? Bingo. (Valle). Toolsy high-upside OF's? Right again. (James and Santana). If this system seasons for another year, it could be #2 next year.

4. Braves - The Braves have an enviable collection of arms in their system, headlined by the exquisite Julio Teheran. The 20 year old will split 2011 between AA and AAA most likely. He is joined on the list by high end guys like Delgado, Vizcaino (injury flag, though), and Mike Minor. The only bat of interest is Freedie Freeman, and I'm not a huge fan, but the pitching is what defines this list.

3. Yankees - It pains me to say how good the Yankees farm is, although it's not as good as John Manuel thinks by recently putting 4 Yankees in the 20 overall top prospects. But this is the land of the catchers, as Montero/Sanchez/Romine are in 3 of the 10 slots. Banuelos and a resurgent Bettances are also great options. Even Brackman is showing some signs of life.

2. Rays - Not only is the farm good now with Hellickson headlining a group that includes Jennings, Moore, and McGee, but because of all the compensation picks accrued by the Rays from free agents leaving, they will have 12 picks in the first 3 rounds. There will probably be some safe picks, but you have to think the Rays will augment their talent base tremendously come June.

1. Royals - What do you get for the system that has everything? The Royals have a #6-10 that is better than some teams #1-5. Everything went right for the Royals on the farm in 2010. Hosmer and Moustakas overcame dreadful 2009's to explode in 2010. Wil Myers dominated in 2010. Pitching was excellent thanks to Montgomery, Lamb, Duffy, and Dwyer. And then the cherry on top was the addition of Odorizzi, Cain, and Jeffress in the Greinke trade. There won't be many, if any, defections from the minors to the majors in 2011, so it wouldn't surprise me to see the Royals at #1 next year.

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