Five of the 10 postseason participants received sizable contributions from players who appeared in the 2017 Prospect Handbook as members of their organizations’ Top 30 Prospects. In fact, two playoff teams wouldn’t have qualified for the playoffs without the help of their farm systems.
The Yankees and Rockies received the most voluminous prospect payouts, and in those cases, player development made all the difference between playing October baseball and watching it on TV.
Led by BA Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge, the Yankees received far and away the most prospect value in 2017, as measured by the Baseball-Reference.com version of wins above replacement. New York received an estimated 13 wins from prospects, a total that is 78 percent higher than the No. 2 Rockies.
The magnitude of these prospect contributions can best be measured by each club’s win total compared with its preseason projected total by Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs. The BP and FG projection models can see regression coming for individual players but had no reason to forecast Judge’s historic rookie season or nearly nine WAR from Rockies rookie starters.
The Yankees won 91 games and claimed the top American League wild card, but preseason projections had pegged them for between 81 and 83 wins. A similar result transpired for the Rockies, who won 87 games and the second National League wild card, when they had been forecast to win between 76 and 79 times.
Prospects clearly made the differences between projected and actual win totals for the Yankees and Rockies. Here is a top 10 accounting (plus No. 30) of WAR contributed to major league teams by their prospect classes of 2017.
1. New York Yankees
Aaron Judge established rookie records with 52 home runs and 127 walks and led the AL with 128 runs, but he wasn’t the lone prospect standout in the Bronx. Judge produced 8.1 WAR toward the Yankees’ total, but lefthander Jordan Montgomery (2.9) and reliever Chad Green* (2.7) also shined for one of the AL’s top pitching staffs.
2. Colorado Rockies
The Rockies ranked fifth in the NL in park-adjusted ERA+ (111) while being paced by second-year starter Jon Gray and rookies Kyle Freeland (3.3), German Marquez (3.1) and Antonio Senzatela (2.1). The righthander Marquez, acquired from the Rays for Corey Dickerson before the 2016 season, led all rookies with 147 strikeouts.
3. Oakland Athletics
The Athletics won just 75 games and finished last in the AL West, yet they far exceeded expectations that they would pick near the top of the 2018 draft. (They will pick ninth.) Rookies like third baseman Matt Chapman (3.6), first baseman Matt Olson (2.8), righthander Paul Blackburn (1.6) and middle infielder Chad Pinder (1.0) had a lot to do with that.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers
First baseman Cody Bellinger (4.2) will presumably be the Dodgers’ second straight NL Rookie of the Year, joining shortstop Corey Seager, after he established an NL rookie record with 39 home runs. Los Angeles’ stout farm system also produced 27-year-old catcher Austin Barnes* (2.6), who even started four games at second base.
5. Seattle Mariners
General manager Jerry Dipoto is baseball’s most active trader, and two of his outfield acquisitions paid dividends in 2017. Right fielder Mitch Haniger (3.0) and left fielder Ben Gamel (1.0) joined center fielder Guillermo Heredia (1.1) and reliever Tony Zych (1.1) as prominent prospect contributors.
6. Philadelphia Phillies
The future began to arrive in Philadelphia this summer, highlighted by powerful first baseman Rhys Hoskins (2.0) and also including catcher Jorge Alfaro (0.9), shortstop J.P. Crawford (0.9) and right fielder Nick Williams (0.1). The club’s future on the mound is not nearly so focused, but righthander Ben Lively (1.2) and reliever Hoby Milner (1.1) had nice debuts.
7. Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles received nice work from reliever Donnie Hart (0.6) and catcher of the future Chance Sisco (0.4), but they rank No. 6 here mostly because of the power-hitting exploits of 25-year-old left fielder Trey Mancini, who clubbed 24 home runs and hit .293/.338/.488 while seemingly coming from out of nowhere.
8. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox received their prospect contributions from the likeliest of sources: left fielder Andrew Benintendi (2.6) and third baseman Rafael Devers (1.3). That duo ranked No. 1 and No. 18, respectively, on our preseason Top 100 Prospects list. In terms of future value, the Benintendi-Devers combo has more potential than any other duo here.
9. San Diego Padres
Center fielder Manuel Margot (2.5), right fielder Hunter Renfroe (0.8) and righthander Dinelson Lamet (0.6) all helped Triple-A El Paso win the Pacific Coat League title in 2016, and all three had their moments as big league rookies in 2017.
10. Milwaukee Brewers
Lefthander Josh Hader (1.8) ascended to the role of setup reliever--after running up a 5.28 ERA as a Triple-A starter--and center fielder Brett Phillips (1.4) showed off a well-rounded skill set for a surprising Brewers club that won 86 games and challenged for a wild card.
30. New York Mets
Left fielder Brandon Nimmo (0.9) brandished a .379 on-base percentage and shortstop Amed Rosario (0.2) flashed elite tools that could make him a future all-star, but poor performances by first baseman Dominic Smith (-1.2), righthander Chris Flexen (-1.1) and righthander Robert Gsellman (-0.6) more than negated their positive contributions.
* Prospect eligible but not Rookie of the Year eligible based on major league service time accrued prior to 2017