Farm systems, ranked, sorta.

So everyone’s asking me for a ranking of farm systems. This just a very rough cut, and if anything, I’m overvaluing my top 100 as an input to this, so take it for what it’s worth.

1. Tampa Bay
2. Texas
3. Boston
4. Cincinnati
5. NY Yankees
6. LA Dodgers
7. Chicago Cubs
8. Atlanta
9. San Francisco
10. Oakland
11. Seattle
12. Baltimore
13. Colorado
14. Florida
15. LA Angels
16. St. Louis
17. Milwaukee
18. San Diego
19. Washington
20. Arizona
21. Cleveland
22. Minnesota
23. Toronto
24. Pittsburgh
25. Detroit
26. Kansas City
27. Philadelphia
28. NY Mets
29. Houston
30. Chicago White Sox

The top two teams have insane prospect depth, and Boston isn’t far behind, especially if you believe in some of the guys in Lowell this year. The Reds really run four deep plus Mesoraco, and that’s about it, but what a front four. Atlanta impressed me when I looked at their system – they dealt a lot of ability in the Teixeira deal, and yet they still have a strong system deep in pitching. Keep an eye on Jeff Locke as a sleeper for ’08. San Francisco is a bit of a fetish of mine, as they have almost no talent in full-season ball, but I loved their draft this year, and I’ll roll the dice on a power bat like Villalona.

Seattle doesn’t get enough credit for their fantastic work internationally. They’ve consistently done well in Venezuela, they’re active all over the Pacific Rim, and former Toronto scouting director Bob Engle – who drafted Halladay and Carpenter – has done a really solid job in western Europe that I think is going to give the M’s a strategic advantage over there for several years.

The Angels and Cards are two teams I can’t get excited about. Wood and Adenhart both disappointed a bit this year, and they’ve lost so many high picks while doing diddly-squat in Latin America that their system is thin. The Cards have a ton of guys I project as extra players – fourth outfielders, utility infielders, middle relievers – and I’m not sure how to value that appropriately. The Nats are sort of the Giants Lite, in that their best players are all in short-season ball, and I like the Giants’ crop better.

I may have more to say on Cleveland in a day or two, but I ranted about them in chat yesterday:

John (Chi): Two questions: When you were in Toronto, did you ever read any Robertson Davies? If not, I really suggest Fifth Business. Second, your rankings seem to suggest the Indians farm cupboard is pretty bare? What’re your thoughts on their system?

Keith Law: It is pretty bare. I know it’s all chic to say that they’re the new “model franchise,” but their drafts have kind of sucked for a long time now, and their farm system has not been all that productive outside of prospects they acquired in trade. That speaks well to a pro scouting process, but I don’t know that that alone is a recipe for long-term success.

Seriously, look at Cleveland’s draft going back to 1998, the Sabathia draft. They haven’t kind of sucked; they have SUCKED. The 2007 division winner was built on several great Latin American finds, and a few ripoff trades in Colon, Hafner, and Eduardo Perez. That covers almost every major contributor except Betancourt, who was signed out of Japan as a free agent, and Sabathia, who was Cleveland’s last great draft pick. Since then, their next-best pick was Jeremy Guthrie, who did nothing for Cleveland before a nice rookie year in ’07 for Baltimore.

Minnesota would have been bottom three prior to the trade. Toronto has some promise in short-season ball, and of course I’m a big Snider fan. Detroit at least gets a pass for emptying their farm system to get two great big leaguers in Renteria and Cabrera, and the same goes for the Mets and Santana. The Astros and White Sox have drafted unbelievably poorly over the last few years – you could flip those two in the rankings and I wouldn’t argue, as both organizations deserve the ignominy of being called the worst farm system in the game.

There’s one consistent thing about the clubs in the bottom nine if we ignore the Tigers and Mets, who got to the bottom nine by trading their prospects: The other seven clubs have gotten nothing from Latin America in ages. The Twins, Pirates, Royals, Blue Jays, and White Sox in particular have done a horrid job in Latin America. The Astros had a great run in Venezuela that has cooled off a bit, and the Phillies might be bouncing back a bit there but haven’t had anyone come out of Latin America in ages. It’s really hard to have a top-flight farm system if you pretend the world stops south of Puerto Rico.


  1. I’d like to hear some specifics about the Padres’ system.

  2. Keith,

    What do you think of the Reds’ Matt Maloney?

  3. what sucks more, indians farm or watchmen?

  4. If the Orioles trade Bedard for the 5 that I’ve heard most recently (Jones, Sherill, Tillman, Butler, Mickolio), how high do they move?

  5. Keith, I agree that the Indians system is not good. But what are you opinions on the Indians young players who don’t qualify as prospects (Fransico, F. Gutirerez, Cabrera, J. Lewis, J. Sowers)? Would any of them be anywhere close to your top 100?

  6. Of course I’m not unbiased, but I think the Phillies have 10-15 interesting prospects right now. Only Carrasco and Outman (of that list) have even made it to AA, and most of them are shortseason guys, so I expect our farm system to be near the bottom. I’m hoping at least 1 or 2 of them pan out. Our major league team is good right now, but if the owners don’t get their heads out of their collective back sides, we’ll be passed by Washington in 5 years.

  7. Padres: Lot of high-probability, low-ceiling guys. Blanks and Latos are relatively new ceiling guys, which puts them in much better shape now than they were a year ago (when I ranked them dead last). They have too many guys like Inman and Leblanc, good minor-league #s guys who can probably pitch well in PETCO, but who lack trade value because their stuff is meh and teams will worry about them pitching in neutral or hitters’ parks. Plus Headley moving from just a good-stats guy to someone who’s clearly going to contribute in the majors makes a big difference.

    Maloney is probably a middle reliever or setup guy in the bigs.

    The Bedard trade would only bump the O’s up a spot or two – maybe I’d just flip them and Seattle – because Jones no longer qualifies and Butler/Mickolio probably wouldn’t be in my M’s top 10. Maybe Butler, but he’s definitely not top 5, and I’d probably rank him below tools guys like Aumont, Liddi, Ramirez, etc. I love their international scouting. I can’t emphasize that enough.

    Cleveland’s big leaguers: Cabrera would make the top 100 if he qualified, no doubt. I don’t think anyone else would. I like Lewis a lot as a very good middle reliever/setup guy, but you’ll notice I had few pure relievers on my 100. Francisco’s a 4th OF. Gutierrez has a lot of ability but I think he’s a part-time guy. I have never been on Sowers, dating back to the 2003 Cape All-Star Game, when my former boss told me I was wrong when I said something to the effect of “this is it?” after seeing his inning.

  8. Keith, I agree 100% about Sowers. I’ve needed to be on sedatives everytime he pitched the last 2 seasons. The guy I forgot to ask about is Andy Marte, what the hell happened to him? Was he just overrated or what? I know he is out of options so its now or never for him, well until he pulls a Brandon Phillips on the Indians after they let him go.

  9. Thanks, Keith. Following up on Blanks, how far away is he, and if he’s close, what do the Padres do with him?

  10. Keith, you’ve inspired some work done by cleveland fans:

    Also, pointing to the Indians as an example, wouldn’t it be incredibly more productive to compare talent (up to an arbitrary age, say 25, like Goldstein) including major leaguers? Carmona has appeared on BA’s top 100 list just once, at 76. Asdrubal Cabrera, never. With results like that, I feel pretty confident saying the Indians can maintain long term success, despite mediocre drafting.

  11. keith, sorry for another question, but where would atlanta’s system rank if the teixera trade never happened (even without salty qualifying)? that trade still bugs me, a ton of talent to give up for a team that needed pitching (especially without a long-term deal in place for tex).

  12. Keith,

    It’s my first time posting after reading the site for a while. There are a couple things I’m wondering about. First, it’s awesome that your top 100 is on free Insider. Do you have anything to do with that or is it just some other managers who decide?

    To baseball… The conventional wisdom among Cubs fans seems to be that the Farm system is somewhat mediocre but it seems as though you really like the Cubs, ranking them 7th. What do you like about the system in particular and what do you think makes it better than two thirds of the league’s systems?

    Also, I read that you don’t really evaluate Japanese players but I am curious about your opinion on fukudome. I have heard a range of projections with the average seeming to be that he will post between an .830 and .900 OPS. How do you think he will do in the states?

  13. The research in that Cleveland link and in the associated part I thread are great. Too bad some commenters there who are unhappy I criticized the team decided to resort to ad hominems rather than counterarguments.

    Alex, I can’t say I love the Cubs’ system, but I was a huge Vitters fan going into the draft, and that hasn’t changed. They also get a lot of credit for Soto, and I’m sticking my neck out a bit on Donaldson, whom I liked in the draft but who exploded in his pro debut and who has adapted very well to catching full-time. I’ve predicted Abreu-like numbers for Fukudome.

    Jim: A notch or two higher. There’s a gap between them and the top 5/6.

    Jason: He’s a good 2 years out, and if they decide they’re committing to Gonzalez long term, he can just be trade bait.

    Eric: No idea on Marte. I really don’t. Kid had a great swing, great minor league numbers, but he has hit the wall hard, and I haven’t seen him in over a year to at least give myself a chance to figure out what went wrong.

  14. Keith, I know you’re high on the Giants right now, and I was wondering how you project Fred Lewis, Nate Schierholtz, Rajai Davis, Dan Ortmeier and Kevin Frandson. I was thinking 1 everyday player, two 4th outfielders and two utility players.

  15. I have to say that I disagree with your team prospect rankings.

    I have been able to scout a good majority of the Angels minor leaguers and the ones I have not seen, our own area scouts have taken notes, along with information from the LA Angels Scouting Director Eddie Bane who I correspond with regularly, and I believe that the Angels are deeper now than in years’ past.

    When the Angels touted Weaver, Kendrick, D-Mac, Mathis, Santana, Kotchman at the top of their prospect charts, they had prospects in the 11-50 range that were not even remotely close to what we have now in terms of overall talent.

    I constructed first top 50 Angels Prospects list on the net based on information from Major League scouts, our own area scouts, Eddie Bane and by observing the talent myself, and I must say I’m impressed up and down the list with the potential of producing Major League talent from this group, down the road.

    Just my 2 cents..

    Here’s our list if you’re interested in checking it out.

  16. Keith – I am trying to add a little perspective to this Santana trade for Baseball Analysts.

    Would you be kind enough to rank the quality of packages that each team received in the following deals? I would then publish your response (I have sent this out to a number of prospect experts)?

    - The Twins, for Johan Santana

    - The Nationals, for Church and Schneider

    - The Twins, for Matt Garza and others

    - The A’s, for Nick Swisher

    - The A’s for Dan Haren

    Patrick Sullivan

  17. Top 50 prospect lists are silly. There is no organization in baseball with as many as 30 actual prospects.

    I know Eddie Bane and I think he’s a good scout, but you need to discount what any scouting director says about players he drafted. For example:

    Trumbo has as much raw power if not more than any player in Baseball according to Eddie Bane.

    I can’t imagine Eddie even believes this, if he even said it. More raw power than Ryan Howard? Or, just thinking prospects, Jay Bruce? Matt La Porta? Absurd.

  18. Keith -

    Where do you think the Mets would have been if they hadn’t traded Santana, and with their first round draft picks this year, where do you thikn they’ll end up?



  19. Echoing Chip, I’d be very interested in your thoughts on the top 5 or 10 teams based on age (say, under 25 or so) rather than prospect status – that would seem to give a little fuller idea of how teams have done in recent years in terms of drafting/scouting/player development.

    Also, obviously he’s not the prospect that LaRoche is, but if LaRoche fails to win the job in spring training and the Dodgers get antsy again, is Tony Abreu a dark horse candidate for the Dodgers’ 3B job? And does he strike you as a future big league regular, or just a utility infielder?


  20. What obsessive Indians fan can forget the horrific Wil Hartley selection? IMO it’s not even debatable that our drafts have sucked since Sabathia.

    But what do you think of the Tribe’s (in)ability to extract value for “extra” players? Notable examples include Willy Taveras, Luke Scott, Maicer Izturis, Ryan Church, Brandon Phillips, and Jeremy Guthrie.

    To this day, the mention of Taveras’ name on the Indians forum I frequent sparks a 50-page argument, with one side pointing out that he stinks and the other arguing that players like this have value and should be traded before they are lost in the rule 5 draft or on waivers. Part of me says that you can cite missed opportunities by every team, but this seems to be a yearly occurrence for my Indians, and I can see it coming again with Marte.

  21. Keith – The idea of formulating the top 50 prospect list was to give fans an idea of some of these Angels youngsters.

    I have to disagree with you that beyond 30, nothing is left.

    As far as Mark Trumbo, he was referring to raw power, meaning it’s not in-game power yet. Mark hits some of the farthest HR’s in BP you’d ever see. Have you seen him take BP or get a hold of one during a game? wow!

    Chuck –

  22. Seeing the Rangers so high is a pleasent surprise. Hell, it made my night. I’d do anything to see a little more on them.

  23. Wait a minute. The Phillies have a farm system?

  24. You have the Cubs system as #8, but a few weeks ago you said they didn’t have enough talent to get Brian Roberts and Erik Bedard. Is this because they don’t have any top tier talent, or ML ready guys?


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