2013 Baseball Farm System Rankings
Up until 2012, I had avoided doing farm system rankings. Here is the introduction I wrote about them last year:
People have asked me to do it constantly over the years, but I guess I read too much post-modern stuff in college and the idea of saying "this farm system is better than that farm system" never appealed to me outside of generalities. By this I mean, everyone knows the Blue Jays farm system (one of the best) is better than the Marlins farm system (one of the worst), but an actual ranking of all 30 teams in "order" never interested me. One could say with a great measure of accuracy that the Padres and Rangers have better farm systems than the Astros and White Sox, but saying that "the Athletics are 11th and the Pirates are 12th" was a statement containing within it so many subjective assumptions that it could not possibly be considered objectively true.
There is obviously a huge amount of interest in these kinds of lists, so despite my misgivings, I decided "what the hell" and have worked up a list of my own. There is a mathematical component that plays into this. . .However, the following list is not based solely on a formula, and some teams were moved up or down a few notches for various reasons.
The list tries to find a balance between everything. Both high-end impact talent and overall depth are considered. I probably consider depth more than some other analysts. I've been working on this list for about a week and I could tinker with it forever, but it's time to get things moving, so here goes.
That's all still true. Things can change fast of course: the Marlins farm system is now better than the Jays system, so the example I used in the intro last year changed rapidly. Which is kind of the point I was trying to make: these things are very fluid.
Anyway, here is my list for 2013. This is not based solely on a mathematical formula or compilation of player grades; there is a subjective component as well. Note that this is only looking at players who are still rookie eligible.
1) St. Louis Cardinals (ranked #5 last year): Strengths: Everything. They have pitching, hitting, high upside, and depth. They have a proven track record of player development. Weaknesses: none really. They could use a shortstop with a better bat but so could most teams.
2) Seattle Mariners (#4 last year): Strength: Good balance between hitting and pitching, strength up the middle with Zunino, Miller, Franklin; potential ace arms; good knack for finding underappreciated college hitters. Weaknesses: Persistent problems with Latin American prospects showing poor strike zone judgment and contact issues.
3) Tampa Bay Rays (#7): System was already strong and trade with Royals just adds more. Strength: considerable pitching depth; good mix of players who will be ready now/soon (Myers, Archer, Odorizzi) plus guys at lower levels with high upside. Weaknesses: upper level hitting other than Myers.
4) Texas Rangers (3): System in transitional phase but still among the best in the game, headlined by Profar and Olt. Strengths: lots and lots of high-upside players, strong up-the-middle depth, low-level bats with big upside. Weaknesses: pitching is not as good as the hitting, no one stands out as a future ace, needs to show they can develop the tools guys into actual players.
5) Pittsburgh Pirates (12): System improving rapidly. Strengths: high upside pitching arms (Cole, Taillon, Heredia) with depth to back them up, lots of C+ types. Breakthrough seasons from Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco point to improvement in Latin American acquisitions. Weaknesses: big investments in high school pitching have not paid off. More hitting depth would be helpful.
6) San Diego Padres (2): This system is still persistently underrated. Jedd Gyorko is poster boy for that. Strengths: tons and tons of depth, large number of prospects in the B/B-/C+ range, could look even better if recent high school pitching drafts take off in '13. Weaknesses: hitting is weaker than pitching but it isn't bad, especially if Austin Hedges continues to hit. Expensive investments in high school tools players have not panned out (Donavan Tate, Everett Williams).
7) Minnesota Twins (17): Strengths: hitting. Oswaldo Arcia and Aaron Hicks will be ready to help the outfield sometime in 2013. Enormous upside in players like Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario. Weaknesses: lack of high upside arms although that's improved thanks to '12 draft and winter trades that brought in Alex Meyer and Trevor May. If new group of arms develops properly, this could be a top three system by end of '13.
8) Miami Marlins (29): Quick turnaround here. Strengths: star power at the top with Christian Yelich and Jose Fernandez. Trades have added some depth (Marisnick, Nicolino, Hechavarria, Dietrich, Brantly). Some sleeper pitching arms (Charlie Lowell, Mason Hope). Weaknesses: much of the improvement is due to trades and not internal development, especially on the hitting side.
9) Boston Red Sox (11): Very solid farm system. Strengths: Bogaerts can/will be an All-Star, and Bradley should be a strong regular. Good depth in Grade B-/C+ types. System could jump several spots next year if low-level sleepers (Cody Kukuk, Jose Vinicio for example) take a step forward. Weaknesses: some of the tools guys and livelier arms haven't developed as hoped.
10) Houston Astros (25 last year, ranked 11th on January 28th 2013, moved up to 10th on February 5th following Jed Lowrie trade): Another system that has improved rapidly. Strengths: 2012 draft class looks excellent thanks to inventive exploitation of new draft rules. Trades have dramatically improved system depth. Potential impact bats in Singleton, Correa, Springer. Weaknesses: pitching is weaker than hitting especially at the higher levels, no obvious rotation anchor types are close to the majors. It will take time for recent draftees to filter through system.
11) Chicago Cubs (20, ranked 10th on January 28th 2013, moved to 11th on February 5th following Jed Lowrie trade): Another system that has improved quickly. Strengths: hitting at the top: Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Dan Vogelbach is a very impressive quartet and there is depth beyond them. Good developments with recent Latin American prospects at the lower levels. Weaknesses: pitching is much, much weaker than the hitting. Improving that has to be a priority.
12) New York Mets (15): Strengths: strong at the top with trade acquisitions Zack Wheeler, Travis D'arnaud, and Noah Syndergaard all ranking as Grade A- prospects. Pitching in general is a strength, with large amount of depth behind the top group. Weaknesses: impact hitting behind D'Arnaud and Wilmer Flores.
13) Arizona Diamondbacks (9): Strengths: good group of pitching prospects, with Tyler Skaggs, Archie Bradley, Andrew Chafin, David Holmberg a sound group with several of C+/B- beyond them. Weaknesses: Impact hitting, though Adam Eaton and Matt Davidson can be regulars and Stryker Trahan must be watched closely. Overall a solid system.
14) New York Yankees (16): Strengths: quartet of young hitters at the top, with Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, and Slade Heathcott all potential impact prospects, though all have some questions. Good depth in C+ types behind them. Weaknesses: impact pitching. I don't count Manny Banuelos as an automatic Tommy John recovery. Wildcard: Rafael DePaula, who could vault up lists quickly once he pitches against people his own age.
15) Cincinnati Reds (21): Strengths: pitching at the top with Robert Stephenson, Dan Corcino, Tony Cingrani and additional arms to back them up. Weaknesses: offense, once you get past Billy Hamilton and Jesse Winker though there are some bats at the lower levels that could develop. As with Arizona, this is a solid system in a transition phase and ranking here is no insult.
16) Colorado Rockies (13): Strengths: hitting at the top, with Trevor Story, David Dahl, Nolan Arenado, Kyle Parker all potential regulars if not more, with valuable role players behind them. Weaknesses: pitching. I like Edwar Cabrera, but he's unusual and everyone behind him has a red flag of some kind. As with Arizona and Cincinnati, this is a solid mid-range system with a lot to offer but some holes to fill.
17) San Francisco Giants (26): Strengths: Pitching! Kyle Crick, Chris Stratton, Clayton Blackburn are all strong rotation candidates for the future and there are some nice lefties too (Mike Kickham, Steven Okert, Josh Osich, Adalberto Mejia) plus bullpen material. Weaknesses: Hitting. I have a lot of mixed feelings about Gary Brown, Joe Panik, and Francisco Peguero. Can Mac Williamson be the needed impact bat?
18) Baltimore Orioles (19): This is where the big dropoff starts, as Orioles are clearly weaker than the teams ahead of them. Strengths: Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman are both potential aces and there are some decent arms backing them up though more depth will help. Weaknesses: with Manny Machado in the majors, hitting is a weak spot though I do like Jonathan Schoop. This system is improving but needs more time.
19) Los Angeles Dodgers (22): Strengths: Good hitting group at the top with Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, and Yasiel Puig. Some decent C+ pitching in the system. Weaknesses: general lack of depth, especially on pitching side with a group of arms that may or may not develop. I don't see Zach Lee as an ace at this point. System was thin due to financial limits but is turning around quickly due to monetary infusion. With the Logan White and his scouts unleashed, improvement should continue rapidly.
20) Philadelphia Phillies (24): Strengths: Good pitching depth with Jesse Biddle, Adam Morgan, Austin Wright standing out; they seem to find nice lefties. They also have a habit of finding Tyler Cloyd types that scouts don't like but who get people out. Some nice right-handers too with Ethan Martin and Jon Pettibone nearly ready to contribute, plus considerable bullpen material. Weaknesses: Hitting. Heavy investments in tools players have not panned out. Untoolsy Darin Ruf was a nice surprise though. Not a terrible system, clearly better than the teams behind them.
21) Kansas City Royals (6): James Shields trade cuts the heart out of this farm system, so they better win now. Strengths: some good arms remain headlined by Kyle Zimmer and Yordano Ventura. There are some intriguing tools guys at lower levels who could develop. Weaknesses: Overall hitting depth at the upper levels. Will Bubba Starling, Adalberto Mondesi, Orlando Calixte, Jorge Bonifacio, Cheslor Cuthbert, and Elier Hernandez put their tools to good use? Wildcard: right-hander Miguel Almonte.
22) Toronto Blue Jays (1): Another system gutted by recent trades by a team pushing to win in 2013. Remaining strengths: pitching, with Aaron Sanchez, Roberto Osuna, Marcus Stroman, and underappreciated Sean Nolin a nice quartet at the top and more live arms behind them. Weaknesses: they have a lot of tools guys who haven't shown they can play baseball yet. If they pan out, the Jays will move back up the list quickly.
23) Milwaukee Brewers (28): Strengths: Lots of B-/C+ types and potential role players which every team needs. A couple of nice pitchers at the top and ready to help with Wily Peralta, Tyler Thornburg. Weaknesses: impact talent, especially on the hitting side, although the 2012 draft could change that quickly if Victor Roache and Clint Coulter produce as expected. Not an elite system but not empty, and could look a lot better a year from now.
24) Cleveland Indians (27): I thought this system could take a big step forward but it didn't really happen. Strengths: Trevor Bauer and some lively arms behind him. Middle infield depth beginning with Francisco Lindor and Dorssys Paulino. Weaknesses: uninspired performances from young tools players at the lower levels, but there is still time for those guys to come around. The Indians remain an organization that could take a big leap forward in ‘13.
25) Washington Nationals (14): Graduations and trades have quickly weakened the talent down on the farm over the last year, but Mike Rizzo and company should be able to recharge quickly and the major league roster is young and strong. Strengths: Anthony Rendon and Brian Goodwin have star potential. Considerable raw material for a pitching staff. Weaknesses: They are banking a lot on injured pitchers recovering well. Many prospects are too old for their levels.
26) Atlanta Braves (8 last year, ranked 27th on January 28th, 2013, moved to 26th on February 4th following Jed Lowrie trade): System thinned out very quickly due to graduations, trades, injuries. Strengths: There is still good depth in pitching, though the highest ceiling arm (Julio Teheran) is enigmatic. Weaknesses: hitting. Tools players like Christian Bethancourt and Edward Salcedo are developing poorly with the bat.
27) Oakland Athletics (10 last year, ranked 26th on January 28th 2013, moved to 27th on February 4th following Jed Lowrie trade): Like the Nationals, graduations have quickly thinned the talent in the minors, but that's just fine at this point given how well many of the rookies performed last year. Strengths: 2012 draft brought in several interesting bats beginning with possible superstar Addison Russell. Good depth in potential relief pitching. Weaknesses: impact hitting and starting pitching at the upper levels.
28) Chicago White Sox (30): White Sox scouts can find players when given the resources to do so, but years of cheapskate draft strategy and poor non-Cuban Latin American focus have crippled system depth. Strengths: toolsy outfielders, with Courtney Hawkins looking excellent from 2012 draft. Weaknesses: overall depth, particularly with potential starting pitching. It will be interesting to see if new GM Rick Hahn can turn this around quickly.
29) Los Angeles Angels (18): Big drop now that Mike Trout has graduated and other players have been traded. Strengths: decent group of position players with Kaleb Cowart the best of the lot. Several potential bullpen arms. Weaknesses: impact pitching, especially potential starting pitchers. Overall depth.
30) Detroit Tigers (23): Very thin in all respects. Strengths: Nick Castellanos and Avisail Garcia could help soon, and there are some potential role players behind them. Bullpen arms. Weaknesses: lack of depth almost everywhere, particularly hitting.