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OnBaseMachine
03-13-2008, 09:51 PM
Who has the best farm systems?
Rays, A's, Rangers, Reds and Red Sox among elite
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com

Creating a pipeline. Building up the farm. Filling the prospect cupboard.

Call it what you want, but it's all the rage these days. Developing homegrown talent is no longer seen as a necessity just for low-revenue teams; even the biggest-market organizations have re-dedicated themselves to building from within.

What each club does with its farm system varies. Some want to funnel players up to the big leagues to contribute (see Rays, Tampa). Others use the farm system as pawns in trades (see Diamondbacks, Arizona or Mets, New York). And some are trying to find a happy medium (see Red Sox, Boston and Yankees, New York).

There's no set criteria for evaluating systems. Any combination of overall depth, number of elite prospects and/or total players close to contributing can be used to come up with a list. As a result, everyone's top five will be different, though there are some teams most can agree on.

1. Tampa Bay Rays: Picking perennially at the top of every draft certainly does have its benefits. Since 2000, the Rays have taken their first draftee in the top 10 of the first round. It hasn't translated into big-league improvement, but that's going to change soon.

The Rays have five players in MLB.com's Top 50, beginning with No. 2 overall Evan Longoria, who's ready to take over at third base and join an already young roster.

Tampa had been known for developing hitting talent, but the pitching has caught up. The No. 1 overall pick from last year, David Price (No. 11 on the prospect list), impressed in big-league camp and shouldn't need a whole lot of time before he's ready. He joins Wade Davis (No. 12), Jacob McGee (No. 20) and Jeff Niemann, who ranked just outside the Top 50 as top-level arms who should be able to contribute by 2009, at the latest.

Not only do the Rays have elite talent, they've got depth as well, with legitimate prospects at just about every position. That kind of talent throughout a system breeds competition, and everyone knows that competition brings out the best in players. The Rays have the No. 1 overall pick once again in the 2008 draft, so they're sure to add to their coffers, though their days of top 10 picks will come to an end in short order.

2. Oakland A's: A year ago, the A's wouldn't have come close to this list. It's amazing what a couple of trades will do for your system's strength.

The deals that sent Dan Haren, Nick Swisher and, to a lesser extent, Mark Kotsay, away brought in more talent than the A's know what to do with. Two Top 50 guys in Carlos and Gio Gonzalez are now a part of the organization and will make an impact in Oakland very soon.

But that's just scratching the surface. There's a number of bats -- Daric Barton, Ryan Sweeney -- and arms -- Greg Smith, Dallas Braden -- ready to contribute now or in the near future.

Beyond the close-to-the-bigs guys, there's a horde of talent down below. Take a trip to the A's California League affiliate in Stockton, Calif. to see the future. That might be the most, forgive the pun, stocked team in all of the Minors, with recent draftees, international signees and, of course, acquisitions from the trade activity, filling up the roster.

3. Texas Rangers: The Rangers have come a long way in the last couple of years. They've got two Top 50 guys in Elvis Andrus and Eric Hurley; their place on this list is largely because of the depth they've accumulated.

A chunk of the talent came via the Mark Teixeira, Eric Gagne and Kenny Lofton trades. More of it came from very successful drafts the past couple of years. Add to those two sources an influx of international talent and the Rangers are awash in young players.

Texas could be seen as the envy of many organizations in two areas: catching and power arms. In last year's first round alone, Texas moved way up the list by taking high school pitchers Blake Beavan and Michael Main. Behind young backstops in the big leagues (Gerald Laird and Jarrod Saltalamacchia), they've got guys like Taylor Teagarden and Max Ramirez. It may seem like an embarrassment of riches, but the Rangers aren't complaining.

4. Cincinnati Reds: Call them the big four. The Reds have a quartet of elite prospects that single-handedly put them in the upper-echelon of all farm systems. And all four of them should start contributing in Cincy in 2008.

Outfielder Jay Bruce is the consensus No. 1 prospect in all of baseball. Ace of the future Homer Bailey may have had a small hiccup last year, but finished strongly and is still a Top 10 kind of player. Joey Votto is ready for a full-time first base job in the big leagues now and right-hander Johnny Cueto has generated a ton of buzz in big-league camp this spring, working his way into the No. 5 starter mix. Even if none of these players breaks north with the Reds on Opening Day, you'll be hearing from them soon enough.

There is a decided drop-off after these four, but there are still a good number of future big leaguers in this system. Their biggest strength in terms of depth is probably in the middle infield, where there's a viable shortstop at pretty much every level. There's also some good arms behind the Bailey-Cueto dynamic duo and if you examine the system closely enough, they've got at least one legitimate prospect at every position.

5. Boston Red Sox: This one was a tough call, with the Yankees and their upper-level pitching, the Marlins and all that young talent -- some homegrown, some from the big trade with the Tigers -- and the up-and-coming Nationals, who have improved ten-fold with some truly impressive drafting, all getting some consideration. In the end, though, the combination of outstanding talent at the top and young talent at the bottom in Boston was too much to ignore.

It starts with the two guys who made major impacts last year. Clay Buchholz was the No. 6 prospect and Jacoby Ellsbury came in at No. 13. After that come the two names mentioned often during the Johan Santana trade saga: Jed Lowrie and Justin Masterson. Then, down below, it's a bounty of talent, fed by a scouting department that uses the organization's financial resources to take some risks that have really paid off. It's set them up for long-term success and they'll be able to keep the players they develop for as long as they'd like.

http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080313&content_id=359162&vkey=news_milb&fext=.jsp

GoReds33
03-13-2008, 10:58 PM
Man, I didn't realize the Red Sox built up their system that fast. Trading Hanley Ramirez was a huge hit to their system. Still, I don't see how a team with Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes, and Joba Chamberlain can be ranked below them.

fearofpopvol1
03-14-2008, 03:25 AM
Their biggest strength in terms of depth is probably in the middle infield, where there's a viable shortstop at pretty much every level.

??? I don't know about that.

Also, the A's at 2?? That seems high. I'm with Mayo that I would take the Red Sox system over the Yanks right now. I think I'd go:

Rays
Reds
Bo Sox
Yanks
Rangers

Oxilon
03-14-2008, 04:10 AM
I think between every list I've seen so far, the general concensus has been the DRays, BoSox, Reds, and Yanks in that order. Mayo definitely thinks way too much of the A's farm system. Even with those trades, they're still just inside the Top 10 at best. The 3 spot seems high for the Rangers as well.

GoReds33
03-14-2008, 08:39 AM
The 3 spot seems high for the Rangers as well.Especially considering that Volquez was considered their top prospect just a year ago.

Benihana
03-14-2008, 11:18 AM
If you count Volquez as one of our "prospects," I believe we would be neck and neck with the DRays for #1 overall.

princeton
03-14-2008, 11:37 AM
??? I don't know about that.




agreed. We have SSs that catch and SSs that hit, but need to invest in human fusion technology before we'll see a complete player.

Benihana
03-14-2008, 11:50 AM
agreed. We have SSs that catch and SSs that hit, but need to invest in human fusion technology before we'll see a complete player.

yep, aren't Cozart and Janish the only "real" shortstops in the system?

Frazier, Soto, Rosales and even Valaika can hit, but I don't think anybody is really confusing them for shortstops at the big league level.

princeton
03-14-2008, 11:56 AM
yep, aren't Cozart and Janish the only "real" shortstops in the system?

Frazier, Soto, Rosales and even Valaika can hit, but I don't think anybody is really confusing them for shortstops at the big league level.


if one of the hitters can become a below average ML shortstop, the Reds might be able to carry his glove IF they find great defensive OFers (Stubbs? Patterson?) and catcher.

alternatively, if the Reds can find a bat at catcher, then they can carry the bat of one of the hitlessers

dougdirt
03-14-2008, 12:35 PM
yep, aren't Cozart and Janish the only "real" shortstops in the system?

Frazier, Soto, Rosales and even Valaika can hit, but I don't think anybody is really confusing them for shortstops at the big league level.

Soto isn't written off of SS yet. There is a chance he could stick still at this point. Lets also not forget about Jose Castro, the kid we got from the Mets.

TRF
03-14-2008, 09:24 PM
Castro had good numbers at A+, but had a huge dropoff at AA for the Reds, I see him at AA this year. I think I read he was good with the glove.

dougdirt
03-15-2008, 02:58 AM
His 'huge dropoff' in AA, was 60 points of OPS in 59 plate appearances. Its hardly worth mentioning.

TRF
03-17-2008, 12:33 PM
A sub. 700 OPS is worth mentioning doug. Especially in a young kid at an advanced level. He's obviously been overpromoted.

dougdirt
03-17-2008, 01:37 PM
A sub. 700 OPS is worth mentioning doug. Especially in a young kid at an advanced level. He's obviously been overpromoted.

Not in less than a months worth of at bats.... 59 plate appearances is two weeks worth of games.

TRF
03-17-2008, 06:57 PM
I remeber getting smacked around for saying Guardado was a mirage for his 2 weeks worth of work before getting DL'd.

Castro hasn't really done great with the stick at any level, I'd have him repeat High A this year. He's young, let him earn the trip to AA.

dougdirt
03-17-2008, 07:12 PM
I remeber getting smacked around for saying Guardado was a mirage for his 2 weeks worth of work before getting DL'd.

Castro hasn't really done great with the stick at any level, I'd have him repeat High A this year. He's young, let him earn the trip to AA.

You would send a dude back to high A after hitting for a .318 batting average there the year before?

TRF
03-18-2008, 02:20 PM
At age 20? Since he never dominated a single level before that, and his OBP was almost completely hit driven? Yep. 11 BB's in over 300 AB's? Yep. A sub .400 SLG? Yep.

Sarasota bound for me. In 400 AB's at low A he had a sub .300 OBP.

Hell yes I'd have him repeat High A. You wouldn't?

dougdirt
03-18-2008, 02:31 PM
At age 20? Since he never dominated a single level before that, and his OBP was almost completely hit driven? Yep. 11 BB's in over 300 AB's? Yep. A sub .400 SLG? Yep.

Sarasota bound for me. In 400 AB's at low A he had a sub .300 OBP.

Hell yes I'd have him repeat High A. You wouldn't?

You are expecting someone to develop power with a body that isn't likely to develop power, even if he plays in High A the rest of his life. There is absolutely no reason to make a dude repeat a level because his .360+ OBP was hit driven because he hit .318. He is a shortstop, not a first baseman. Its also the FSL. Lots of peoples slugging percentages dip big time in that league.

As for his low A stuff.... last year the Mets let him go back to switch hitting, which they took him away from. It paid off BIG time for him.

He went from hitting .217 against RHP (in nearly all of his time in Low A) last year to hitting .333 this year versus RHP. The difference.... last year he was a righty versus them, this year he was a lefty and he hit them pretty well. He isn't likely to develop much power, so holding him back because of a lack of power makes no sense. As for his walk rate, well, he is a slap hitting guy with no power to speak of.... why wouldn't guys throw him strikes?

Seriously, there is no way you make a guy repeat a level after hitting .318 there.

TRF
03-18-2008, 02:44 PM
11 walks in 308 AB's. sorry, but that does not warrant promotion to AA in my book. I don't care too much about the power, though a SLG of about .420 would be nice. But 11 BB's is awful, I don't care what the level is.

He's 21 right now. Let him start at High A and promote him mid season if he's got his OBP over .350.

dougdirt
03-18-2008, 04:28 PM
11 walks in 308 AB's. sorry, but that does not warrant promotion to AA in my book. I don't care too much about the power, though a SLG of about .420 would be nice. But 11 BB's is awful, I don't care what the level is.

He's 21 right now. Let him start at High A and promote him mid season if he's got his OBP over .350.

Except he had an OBP over .350 last year at the same level and now you want him to do it again?

Not every player gets on base via the walk. Some guys just hit. There are more than 1 way to get things done. If a guy is hitting .318 then getting 20 walks over a full season is alright for a light hitting position.

I will say though that I am really glad you aren't running the farm system. You don't have a clue why he isn't walking. You don't watch the games. Maybe the guy doesn't walk because he doesn't get many balls thrown to him. He struck out 21 times in 300 at bats last year. So its obvious he doesn't have a strikezone judgment problem. Sure, if he hit .318, walked 11 times and struck out 90 times, then I would have a reason for going maybe we should hold him back.... but he hit .318, walked 11 times and struck out 21 times in over 300 at bats. Its not a strikezone command issue, its a he hits strikes when they are thrown to him. Thats not something you hold someone back for.

TRF
03-18-2008, 05:18 PM
ya know, we disagree on a number of things. I have yet to get overly snarky with you, but I'm starting to see why guys like steel get so... cross with you. It isn't just this either, bailey, stubbs, cueto. if ANYONE disagrees with you on anything you put them down severely and try and make it look like they are stupid in the process. nice.

Simply put on Castro, even if his glove were major league ready right now, he's got a weak bat, he's very young, and he only had 300 AB's at high A with and additional 54 AB's at AA. he was atrocious at low A, and I really don't know why but as you seem plugged in to EVERY minor league system I guess you do.

BTW I am glad I'm not running the farm system too. You don't mind if I follow it though do you? cuz if that's a problem for you, I can just watch the big league club. Then you can discuss the upside of Stubbs with yourself in the mirror.

fearofpopvol1
03-18-2008, 05:23 PM
I don't always agree with Doug, but I do this time. I think when you look at his BB/K ratio with Castro's BA in mind, I don't see why you don't promote him to the next level. I think he's earned it. If he is that bad, send him back, but I think he's ready for the next level based on his bat (and his glove seems to be quite good).

dougdirt
03-18-2008, 06:17 PM
ya know, we disagree on a number of things. I have yet to get overly snarky with you, but I'm starting to see why guys like steel get so... cross with you. It isn't just this either, bailey, stubbs, cueto. if ANYONE disagrees with you on anything you put them down severely and try and make it look like they are stupid in the process. nice.
I just can't comprehend the idea of making a guy repeat a level who has one weakness and its hitting for power. You want him to repeat the level and have a .350 OBP before a promotion. Problem is, he did that last year. It doesn't make much sense to me. I don't think I have tried to 'put you down severely'. Your logic just doesn't make sense. You want him to do exactly what he did last year in your example, to promote him this year.



Simply put on Castro, even if his glove were major league ready right now, he's got a weak bat, he's very young, and he only had 300 AB's at high A with and additional 54 AB's at AA. he was atrocious at low A, and I really don't know why but as you seem plugged in to EVERY minor league system I guess you do.
He doesn't have a weak bat. He has weak power. There is a difference between the two things. Weak bat is a guy hitting .240/.300/.300. Weak power is a guy hitting .315/.360/.370. His reason for struggles in low A was that the Mets told him to give up switch hitting. He bombed against righties big time, and the majority of his bats came against righties. He then was allowed to go to switch hitting last year and hit them very well.



BTW I am glad I'm not running the farm system too. You don't mind if I follow it though do you? cuz if that's a problem for you, I can just watch the big league club. Then you can discuss the upside of Stubbs with yourself in the mirror.

I don't care if you follow it, I just can't see your logic in making him repeat the level so he can post a .350 OBP again, after he did it last year.

TRF
05-06-2008, 06:42 PM
I just can't comprehend the idea of making a guy repeat a level who has one weakness and its hitting for power. You want him to repeat the level and have a .350 OBP before a promotion. Problem is, he did that last year. It doesn't make much sense to me. I don't think I have tried to 'put you down severely'. Your logic just doesn't make sense. You want him to do exactly what he did last year in your example, to promote him this year.


He doesn't have a weak bat. He has weak power. There is a difference between the two things. Weak bat is a guy hitting .240/.300/.300. Weak power is a guy hitting .315/.360/.370. His reason for struggles in low A was that the Mets told him to give up switch hitting. He bombed against righties big time, and the majority of his bats came against righties. He then was allowed to go to switch hitting last year and hit them very well.



I don't care if you follow it, I just can't see your logic in making him repeat the level so he can post a .350 OBP again, after he did it last year.

heh. How's he doing right now? :)

dougdirt
05-06-2008, 06:53 PM
heh. How's he doing right now? :)

Honestly, I don't have much of an issue. He is not striking out, has maintained a LD rate he has has through his career and his walk rate is up. The big difference, despite a lower strikeout rate and the same line drive rate, his BABIP is 64 points lower than it was last year. That difference would take him to a .312 with a .355 OBP this year. Give it time, its a long season.

TRF
06-25-2008, 05:45 PM
is three months long enough. This goes to pattern. doug without a doubt, if there is news on a prospect, I want to hear it from you. I know if it comes from you, it's likely true. But you seemingly cannot be objective about Red's prospects. I have no idea why. Stubbs and Bailey are the obvious favorites, but you seem to completely discount performance. Castro did not perform before 2007, and is not performing now, though you insisted he would. You discount Maloney as having much of a future, even though all he does at every level is perform. Meanwhile Bailey has excuse after excuse made for him.

At some point you have to pull back and realize results matter. For all prospects.

dougdirt
06-25-2008, 07:41 PM
TRF, no, I don't discount performance. I just happen to look at more than performance, such as why X is performing the way that they are.

The reason Castro didn't perform before 2007 was he was instructed he was no longer allowed to switch hit by the Mets. In 2007 they allowed him to go back to switch hitting and he performed fine. As for this year, I would suggest his horrid BABIP despite strong line drive rates is a reason for his drop in numbers, although his increased number of grounders likely isn't helping him ether.

As for Maloney, I never discounted him... I just don't like his odds of being more than a #4/5 starter along the lines of Jeremy Sowers (who also performed all the way and was flat out dominant at times in the box scores despite his lackluster stuff projecting to the majors), but with sligtly better stuff at this point.

I do enjoy you feeling the need to come call me out though and believing you have my reasoning figured out on everyone. High and mighty of you. I give opinions on probably 70% of the players in our system.... when you do that, you are going to be wrong sometimes. Its the nature of the business.

For the record I will still take Bailey's career over Maloney's and I don't have to think twice about that one. It won't be close if Bailey can stay healthy.

TRF
06-25-2008, 11:50 PM
doug, i'm not completely calling you out. just a little. note this in my above post.


doug without a doubt, if there is news on a prospect, I want to hear it from you. I know if it comes from you, it's likely true.

And that's the absolute truth. When you are offering news, I look for your posts. You've managed to work your way in somehow, and I'm extremely jealous. I wish I had your proximity.

I just think you have tunnel vision at times. And your OPINION isn't fact. Neither is mine. I might be wrong about Stubbs. I'm not right now, but I might be in the long run.

I just think you need to allow for the possibility in your posts bacause you do bring a lot to this board.

camisadelgolf
06-26-2008, 09:32 AM
Doug has acknowledged multiple times that Stubbs and other prospects might become busts. What he spends a lot of time arguins is that so-and-so player is not a bust yet and might never be.