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From Farm To Table

Maintaining a top farm system over multiple seasons almost always translates into big league success. The Astros’ system ranked No. 2 in 2016 and they won the World Series a year later. Their opponent was the Dodgers, who ranked No. 1 in 2016. The Cubs won the 2016 World Series after having the No. 1 system the year before, while the Royals parlayed the No. 1 system in 2011 into consecutive World Series appearances in 2014 and 2015.

Among the 14 organizations to finish with a top-five farm system for four or more straight seasons, half (seven) made it to the World Series in the six seasons following their first top-five appearance. The sample includes the Yankees and Braves dynasties of the 1990s.

New York Mets

Key Players: Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Kevin Mitchell, Rick Aguilera, Randy Myers.

How They Did: The Mets burned bright and burned out just as quickly, but when Gooden was at his best, he led off the best rotation in baseball. The Mets averaged 95 wins from 1984-1990, won the World Series in 1986 and went to the NLCS in 1988.

Milwaukee Brewers

Key Prospects: Gary Sheffield, Dave Nilsson, Dan Plesac, B.J. Surhoff, Teddy Higuera, Chris Bosio.

How They Did: OK, this is probably the biggest miss among all these teams. Park effects weren’t fully understood in the mid-1980s, when Triple-A Denver helped produce massive offensive numbers. The Brewers won 91 games in 1987 and 92 in 1992 but made no playoff appearances.

Toronto Blue Jays
(1987-89, 1991-1995)

Key Players: David Wells, John Olerud, Duane Ward, Carlos Delgado, Pat Hentgen, Chris Carpenter, Juan Guzman.

How They Did: The Blue Jays were one of the best teams in baseball at the end of the 1980s and the start of the 1990s. They made it to the ALCS in 1989 and 1991 and won the World Series in 1992 and 1993. Toronto got plenty of production from former prospects but also used them for a number of savvy trades.

Montreal Expos

Key Players: Vladimir Guerrero, Larry Walker, Cliff Floyd, Delino Deshields, Marquis Grissom, Mark Grudzielanek.

How They Did: Oh, what could have been. The Expos produced no playoff appearances despite an incredibly bountiful farm system. But the players’ strike sabotaged their chances. They won 94 in 1993 and were on pace for 105 wins in 1994 when the strike wiped out the World Series.

New York Yankees

Key Players: Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada.

How They Did: The Core Four led the Yankees to one of the best runs of success in baseball history. The Yankees won 11 pennants in 13 seasons with World Series wins in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. Considering this group’s longevity, they could also get credit for World Series appearances in 2001 and 2003 and a title in 2009.

Atlanta Braves

Key Prospects: Chipper Jones, Ryan Klesko, Javy Lopez, Andruw Jones, Mark Wohlers.

How They Did: An all-time farm system helped produce an all-time team. The Braves averaged 101 wins from 1992-1999, won the 1995 World Series and were NL champs in 1992, 1996 and 1999.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Key Players: Hideo Nomo, Raul Mondesi, Paul Konerko, Ismael Valdez, Chan-Ho Park, Adrian Beltre.

How They Did: The Dodgers produced players but didn’t produce a lot of success. They made playoff appearances in 1995 and 1996, but averaged just 85 wins from 1995-2002.

Florida Marlins

Key Players: Edgar Renteria, Livan Hernandez, Luis Castillo, Alex Gonzalez, A.J. Burnett, Mark Kotsay, Ryan Dempster.

How They Did: How can we judge this team? The Marlins won the World Series in 1997 with one group, tore the team down completely and rebuilt again and then won again in 2003 with a second group of prospects and free agents. Otherwise they were generally awful because of frequent teardowns.


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Los Angeles Angels

Key Players: John Lackey, Francisco Rodriguez, Ervin Santana, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Casey Kotchman.

How They Did: Rodriguez helped the Angels win the World Series in 2002. The club reached the ALCS in 2005 and 2009 and averaged 92 wins from 2002-2009.

Atlanta Braves

Key Players: Adam Wainwright, Kelly Johnson, Jeff Francoeur, Brian McCann, Charlie Morton, Martin Prado

How They Did: The second wave of Braves prospects couldn’t match the Chipper Jones-led group, but they won their division and lost in the NLDS every year from 2002-2005.

Minnesota Twins

Key Players: Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, Francisco Liriano.

How They Did: The Twins produced a top and middle of the lineup through the farm system that helped them average 89 wins from 2002-10 with six playoff appearances. They didn’t have much playoff success. Their best result was a lone ALCS appearance in 2002.

Milwaukee Brewers

Key Players: Prince Fielder, J.J. Hardy, Rickie Weeks, Yovani Gallardo, Corey Hart, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain.

How They Did: The Brewers had a nice albeit brief run. They lost the ALDS in 2008 and lost in the ALCS in 2011. Otherwise, they were a team that hovered around .500.

Los Angeles Dodgers 

Key Players: Russell Martin, Edwin Jackson, James Loney, Matt Kemp, Chad Billingsley.

How They Did: Injuries tarnished some of the luster with this group, but Martin and Kemp helped the Dodgers make it to the NLDS in 2004 and 2006 and lose in the NLCS in 2008 and 2009.

Tampa Bay Rays

Key Players: Evan Longoria, David Price, Matt Moore, Wade Davis, Desmond Jennings.

How They Did: Thanks to Longoria’s development into stardom, the Rays averaged 92 wins from 2008-2013 after never topping 70 wins in their first decade. They lost in the World Series in 2008 and lost in the ALDS in 2010, 2011 and 2013.

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