Ranking the Farm Systems by Trade Value

Trades

Players

Which teams have the strongest farm systems? Which ones have the weakest? And how do our organizational rankings differ from, say, Baseball America or MLB Pipeline?

First, our list represents a cross-section – a weighted average derived from public outlets. To our knowledge, we’re the only ones doing this.

Second, our model is based, as you would expect, on the trade value of each prospect. Because of that, there may be differences in the calculations based on the weightings – a 60-rated prospect can carry more than twice the value of a 50 in our model; the gap may be smaller in those outlets’ versions.

We also make some positional adjustments – for example, we know that 2B-only types have low market demand; and that projected relievers have lower ceilings; and that bat-first profiles are valued much more highly than glove-first ones. 

Further, we consider roster status. Players who are eligible for the Rule 5 draft are at risk of being lost to their teams for nothing, which reduces their team’s leverage in trade discussions. This is also true of players who are running low on options, because they were added to the 40-man roster before they were ready. These types tend to be bundled in trade packages more liberally than others, which means their values are discounted.

Finally, we graduate prospects earlier than most. Once a prospect plays 10% of a season in the majors, we move them into our post-prospect bucket, where their major-league projections are blended with their prospect projections on a sliding timescale. This means that players who were recently called up, such as Brett Baty, Shea Langeliers and Tyler Freeman, are no longer counted in their team’s prospect totals.

With that, here’s the list, based on the total values of the Top 30 prospects of each team, with notes below:

Rank

Team

Prospect Top 30

1

Orioles

327.6

2

Diamondbacks

279.7

3

Guardians

274.6

4

Reds

263.8

5

Dodgers

256.3

6

Rangers

227.0

7

Rays

224.1

8

Rockies

223.0

9

Cubs

219.1

10

Cardinals

218.5

11

Pirates

216.3

12

Red Sox

212.3

13

Giants

209.9

14

Marlins

207.6

15

Nationals

204.1

16

Brewers

197.3

17

Yankees

194.6

18

Mets

194.4

19

Athletics

153.7

20

White Sox

143.4

21

Twins

143.2

22

Tigers

132.8

23

Phillies

132.5

24

Blue Jays

125.3

25

Angels

109.8

26

Astros

109.3

27

Royals

102.6

28

Mariners

89.3

29

Padres

82.8

30

Braves

69.0

 

A few observations from the top down:

  • *The Orioles’ farm comes out almost $50M in value ahead of its nearest competitor, the Diamondbacks‘ farm. This could change when Gunnar Henderson and Corbin Carroll officially graduate. 
  • *The Guardians’ farm is less top-heavy, and it’s led by Daniel Espino, who’s still a ways away. That suggests they’ll take over the top spot at some point soon.
  • *The Reds’ system has moved up to #4. GM Nick Krall has done a great job rebuilding what was, not that long ago, a pretty mediocre system – mostly because of the haul he got in the Luis Castillo trade.
  • *The Dodgers, at #5, are a machine – they just keep pumping out valuable prospect after valuable prospect. Even after they graduate or trade from the top, there’s always more bubbling up. For every Keibert Ruiz, there’s a Diego Cartaya. For every Dustin May, there’s a Gavin Stone. That speaks to the strength of their player development system.
  • *There’s another tier of systems like those of the Rangers, Rays, and Cubs, which are deep but lack impact at the top.

And from the bottom up:

*The Braves’ farm has been depleted for all the right reasons – a big chunk of their previous prospect capital was used to supplement the MLB team, both in trade (e.g., for Matt Olson) and in graduations of highly productive rookies (Michael Harris II, Spencer Strider, Vaughn Grissom). That cupboard is now mostly bare. (Their top prospect now is Jared Shuster, whose value is $6.5M – that’s the lowest top value of any team, which is why their farm is in last place.) That’s a good problem to have, though. 

  • *The same could be said of the Padres, who shot most of their wad in the Juan Soto trade, but also in dozens of other trades over the last two years. It’s almost unprecedented how they went from having the strongest farm in baseball two years ago to almost the weakest today. 
  • *The Mariners, as well, had a Top 5 farm not long ago, but they spent a chunk of capital in trades (mostly with the Reds, in the Castillo and Winker/Suarez deals), while graduating the likes of Julio Rodriguez, George Kirby, and Matt Brash.
  • *The Angels are stuck between hell and high water – they have the dreaded combination of a weak MLB team and a weak farm, made worse by the fact that the MLB team is hamstrung by bad contracts, the dwindling control of Shohei Ohtani, and the beginning stages of Mike Trout’s decline years. At least they have some reinforcements on the farm, via the Logan O’Hoppe acquisition and the drafting of Zach Neto.
  • *The Tigers are in a very similar boat – whoever takes the top baseball operations job in Detroit has quite a challenge ahead of them.
  • *On the bright side, we’re starting to see early glimpses of hope from a couple teams in the early stages of rebuilds as they move up in the rankings – the Nationals (mostly via the Soto trade) and the A’s (almost all because they traded away their top five chips). The Cubs are about two years ahead of these clubs, the Pirates are still trending the right way (they’ve graduated some key prospects), and, interestingly, the Rockies have crept into the Top 10. Maybe they do know what they’re doing in Colorado after all.

About the Author

John Bitzer

John Bitzer

Founder and editor of baseballtradevalues.com
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