Image credit: (Photo by Zach Lucy/Four Seam Images)
If recent history is any indication, the longest playoff drought in North American professional sports will soon be over.
The Mariners rank No. 1 in Baseball America’s 2022 Organization Talent Rankings, the first time the franchise has held the top spot in BA’s preseason farm system rankings. That designation is particularly meaningful given the Mariners have not made the playoffs since 2001.
Since 2005, 16 of the 17 teams named as having the No. 1 farm system made the playoffs within two years of that designation. The only team that took longer than two years, the 2011 Royals, made back-to-back World Series in the third and fourth years after they were named baseball’s best farm system.
|No. 1 Team
|Made playoffs in 2021
|Made playoffs next two seasons, reached 2020 World Series
|Made playoffs following season
|Made playoffs next four seasons, won 2021 World Series
|Made playoffs four of next five seasons, won 2021 World Series
|Made playoffs next six seasons, won 2020 World Series
|Made playoffs five of next six seasons, won 2016 World Series
|Made playoffs next two seasons
|Made playoffs next three seasons, reached 2013 World Series
|Made playoffs five of next eight seasons, won 2019 World Series
|Made playoffs two of next five seasons, reached 2014 World Series, won 2015 World Series
|Made playoffs three of next four seasons
|Made playoffs five of next eight seasons, reached 2010 and 2011 World Series
|Made playoffs four of next six seasons, reached 2008 World Series
|Made playoffs four of next seven seasons, reached 2008 World Series
|Made playoffs following season
|Made playoffs four of next five seasons
Having the top-ranked farm system bodes especially well for a Mariners club that is the only active franchise to never reach a World Series. Seven of the nine teams who had the No. 1 farm system between 2011-2020 (the Braves had the No. 1 farm system twice) went on to reach a World Series in the ensuing years.
As previously written, the staying power of teams that have a No. 1 farm system is notable. Fifteen of the last 17 teams to have a top-ranked farm system all made multiple playoff appearances within five years of that ranking. The Padres can make it 16 teams if they make another postseason appearance anytime between 2022-24.
For a Mariners team that has made only four postseason appearances in 45 years, all clustered within the franchise’s glory years of 1995-2001, the potential for sustained success is a welcome development.
Coming off a 90-win season, the Mariners already have a strong foundation in place like many of their top-ranked forebears. The 2020 Rays, 2016 Dodgers, 2014 Pirates, 2013 Cardinals and 2005 Angels all made the playoffs the year before having the top-ranked farm system. Having the No. 1 farm system helped them each extend their windows of contention and make at least two more playoff appearances. In the cases of the Cardinals, Dodgers and Rays, a World Series appearance followed within the next two seasons.
Of course, there is more to building a playoff team than just developing homegrown talent. All of the aforementioned teams signed productive free agents, made savvy trades and had a bit of luck go their way en route to becoming championship contenders.
But building a top farm system makes for a strong foundation, and in every instance for nearly two decades, a postseason appearance has followed shortly after.
If recent history holds, that means playoff baseball will return to the Emerald City in short order.