Rays' Farm System's Productivity Stands Out
Ranking the 30 organizations for what they've recently produced
CHICAGO—Our annual organization talent rankings are both precise and imprecise.
Precise, in that they refer to this specific moment in time. Three months ago, when we sent the Prospect Handbook to the printer, we rated the Nationals as having baseball's best farm system and the Athletics as having the fifth-worst.
Shortly afterward, Washington sent four prospects, including potential frontline starters Brad Peacock and A.J. Cole, to Oakland in exchange for Gio Gonzalez. Now the Nationals have dropped to No. 12, while the A's, who also signed Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes, have risen to No. 7.
Imprecise, in that the rankings are as subjective as can be. We're considering the cumulative future value of 250 or so players in each of 30 systems, factoring in performance and tools, ceilings and likelihoods they get reached. When we're done, 29 organizations believe that we've sold them short.
Additionally, our ratings reflect very little about a team's ability to sign or develop talent. They simply gauge how much talent is presently in its system.
That's why we also like to look at which organizations have been most productive over the last three years. No one has generated more talent than the Rays.
Tampa Bay has unveiled four-fifths of a starting rotation in two-time all-star David Price, Baseball America 2011 Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson, Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis. The Rays also introduced Desmond Jennings, who may be a better version of Carl Crawford, as well as two semi-regulars (Reid Brignac, since-traded John Jaso) and a pair of relievers (Brandon Gomes, Jake McGee). With all of that talent arriving from the minors, Tampa Bay was able to make consecutive playoff appearances despite MLB's sixth-lowest payroll in the last two seasons.
Below, we rank the organizations based on the talent that has passed through their systems since the end of the 2008 season. That includes both prospects who graduated to the majors or were used in trades, as well as those lost via waivers or the Rule 5 draft. A team gets credit only for players who spent time in its system (so no Austin Jackson for the Tigers) and anyone who was traded by one organization and reached the majors with another (such as Brett Lawrie) are counted with both.
Ranking The Rest
New York's system has provided a balance of big league help (Alfredo Aceves, Brett Gardner, Ivan Nova, David Robertson) and trade fodder (Austin Jackson, Mark Melancon, Jesus Montero, Arodys Vizcaino). The latter group helped land Curtis Granderson and Michael Pineda.
Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann look like frontline starters, and Washington promoted building blocks such as Tyler Clippard, Danny Espinosa, Wilson Ramos and Drew Storen. It also used a four-prospect package headlined by Peacock and Cole to add Gonzalez.
4. BLUE JAYS.
Lawrie looks like a superstar in the making, and Ricky Romero has justified being the sixth overall pick in 2005. Toronto also has hopes for J.P. Arencibia, Brett Cecil and Kyle Drabek, though it erred by letting Ryan Roberts and Sergio Santos leave as free agents.
Acquired in the Mark Teixeira trade, Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz have been key components of back-to-back pennant-winners. Julio Borbon, Derek Holland, Mitch Moreland and Alexi Ogando also have contributed. Justin Smoak and Blake Beavan helped land Cliff Lee.
Jason Heyward won BA's Rookie of the Year award in 2010 and Craig Kimbrel took home NL rookie of the year honors last year. Atlanta also has graduated Brandon Beachy, Freddie Freeman, Tommy Hanson, Mike Minor and Jonny Venters.
Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner starred as San Francisco won the 2010 World Series. Brandon Belt has a bright future, and so does Zack Wheeler, who regrettably was traded for Carlos Beltran.
Kansas City's future began to take shape when it promoted more talent than any team in 2011: Louis Coleman, Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, Danny Duffy, Johnny Giavotella, Greg Holland, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez.
Andrew Bailey, Trevor Cahill and Gonzalez all made all-star teams the last two years before getting dealt this offseason. Oakland has held onto Brett Anderson, Tyson Ross and Jemile Weeks.
Cleveland drained its system last year by graduating Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis and sending Drew Pomeranz and Alex White for Ubaldo Jimenez. Carlos Santana came up in 2010, as did a slew of role players such as Michael Brantley and Josh Tomlin.
Logan Morrison, Gaby Sanchez and Mike Stanton—the heart of Miami's order—all came up in 2010. Chris Coghlan won the 2009 NL rookie of the year award, and Cameron Maybin finally emerged after a trade to the Padres.
Philadelphia has traded more quality prospects than any team in the last three years, giving up Carlos Carrasco, Jarred Cosart, Travis d'Arnaud, Drabek, Anthony Gose, Domingo Santana, Jonathan Singleton, Jonathan Villar and others to get Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence. The system also provided direct help last year with still-developing Domonic Brown and Vance Worley.
After churning out Aroldis Chapman, Ryan Hanigan, Mike Leake and Drew Stubbs in recent years, Cincinnati's system still had enough (Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal and Brad Boxberger) to deal for Mat Latos.
Seattle's run of unproductivity ended last year when Dustin Ackley and Pineda got to the majors. Previously unheralded Doug Fister also came into his own.
Perpetually rebuilding Pittsburgh introduced Andrew McCutchen in 2009 and Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata and Neil Walker in 2010. Alex Presley highlighted its 2011 crop.
Allen Craig, David Freese, Jaime Garcia and Jason Motte all were heroes in St. Louis' 2011 World Series championship. Colby Rasmus also played a key role as trade bait.
Dealing Lawrie for Shawn Marcum and Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi for Zack Greinke helped Milwaukee win the National League Central last year. So did John Axford, a steal as a minor league free agent.
While Chicago has spun its wheels the last three years, it compounded its problems by trading away most of its best youngsters (Chris Archer, Andrew Cashner, Hak-Ju Lee). The Cubs aren't letting Starlin Castro go anywhere, however.
Underrated prospects Josh Collmenter and Paul Goldschmidt fueled Arizona's 2011 NL West title run, as did Daniel Hudson, Gerardo Parra and Roberts.
20. WHITE SOX.
Chicago GM Kenny Williams likes to trade youngsters, and he likely will rue dealing Dennis Holmberg, Daniel Hudson and Santos. Chris Sale has lived up to his seven-figure signing bonus, but Gordon Beckham and Dayan Viciedo have yet to do the same.
After a lull down on the farm, Los Angeles has graduated Peter Bourjos, Mark Trumbo and Jordan Walden to the majors in the last two years. The Angels also gave up Tyler Skaggs, one of the game's best mound prospects, to get Dan Haren.
Juan Nicasio has emerged as Colorado's top starter, and Rex Brothers could take over as closer in the near future. Dexter Fowler and Juan Nicasio are steady contributors.
Matt Wieters has become the star the Orioles hoped, but they're treading water in last place because Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and others haven't lived up to expectations.
24. RED SOX.
One reason Boston has missed the playoffs the last two years is that its system hasn't spawned a significant player since Daniel Bard in 2009. Casey Kelly, Josh Reddick and Anthony Rizzo were the key pieces in deals for Bailey and Adrian Gonzalez.
San Diego has brought two quality players to the majors in the last two seasons, Latos and Rizzo—and traded both this winter.
Alex Avila came out of nowhere to be an all-star, but Detroit hasn't accomplished much else. Rick Porcello no longer looks like the guy who got a $7 million contract out of the draft.
Outgoing owner Frank McCourt's penny-pinching has cut off Los Angeles' talent pipeline. Its most recent successes are a fourth-round pick (Dee Gordon) and a $15,000 international signee (Rubby de la Rosa).
Another club that has gone cheap under an owner (Fred Wilpon) with financial problems, New York has developed Ike Davis, Jon Niese and Ruben Tejada, but no difference-makers.
Outside of Bud Norris, Houston has a bunch of guys (Jose Altuve, Jason Castro, Jordan Lyles, J.D. Martinez, Johnny Paredes, Brett Wallace) who have yet to prove they're keepers.
After building a perennial contender on homegrown talent, Minnesota has fallen on hard times. The Twins traded their only obvious regular promoted in the last three years (Ramos) for Matt Capps.