How the Draft and the Trade Deadline Affected Our Farm System Rankings

Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

A large portion of every season’s prospect-related transaction activity takes place between the draft and the trade deadline, a window that, since the draft was moved to July, spans just a few weeks. We can use the way the FanGraphs farm system rankings are calculated to track movement during this period on the baseball calendar and hopefully come to more fully understand how successful rebuilds are born. Over time, we can better contextualize trade and draft hauls by using this methodology to build a historical understanding of prospect movement. Mostly though, these rankings track the depth and impact of talent in each farm system at a specific moment in time. Or, in the case of the below links and tables, four moments in time. There are some methodological caveats to pass along (I’ll get to those momentarily), as well as some very specific examples where the movement communicated in the tables below does not properly capture team activity during the last month of trades and draft signings (which I get into throughout this post).

Let’s start with some basic disclaimers. Remember that while the Craig Edwards research that facilitates this approach is empirical, my subjective player evaluations (and their resulting Future Values) feed the formula that spits out the farm rankings. Just one significant over- or under-evaluation of a player can shift the way a team lines up in these rankings pretty dramatically, especially if you’re focused on the ordinal rankings. The monetary values, in addition to providing an approximate measure and reminder of how the draft and international amateur processes suppress what these guys might earn on an open market, illustrate the ways systems are spaced and clustered with more nuance. If I’m way too light or way too heavy on any single impact prospect, I’m basically infecting a list with half a standard deviation’s worth of error in this regard because Craig’s math favors top-heavy systems rather than ones with depth.

It’s also important to remember that a team sliding in these rankings isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Teams tend to drop in the farm system rankings when their big league rookies graduate and are no longer part of the org’s contingent of prospect-eligible players. Turning prospects into big leaguers is a good thing. With this in mind, readers should familiarize themselves with the farm system rankings from before the 2023 graduates began to be peeled off lists, as they provide important context for the tables below. Conversely, climbing these rankings isn’t always good either. The Mets and White Sox are both big climbers in the rankings below, but that’s because they have each had disappointing seasons and were prominent deadline sellers. They’re making the best of the hand they dealt themselves, but I’m sure they’d rather be in the playoff hunt than padding their minor league coffers.

Again, these are snapshots of talent in a given system at a given time, according to Craig’s math and my evaluations. You’re going to see the way rankings and values changed during the draft in the first table, followed by some thoughts and commentary on that movement. In the second table, I outline movement during the deadline period and across both of them combined.

Farm System Movement Across the Draft
Team Pre-Draft Rank Pre-Draft Value* Draft Value* Post-Draft Value* Post-Draft Rank Draft Rank Δ
WSN 12 $167 $67 $234 6 +6
DET 19 $138 $37 $174 15 +4
MIN 17 $143 $32 $175 14 +3
TEX 4 $229 $48 $277 2 +2
ARI 11 $184 $38 $222 9 +2
SEA 27 $109 $18 $126 25 +2
ATL 30 $80 $30 $109 28 +2
PIT 2 $243 $65 $308 1 +1
BOS 6 $223 $23 $245 5 +1
NYM 20 $130 $13 $142 20 0
SFG 10 $186 $19 $204 10 0
CHW 23 $121 $11 $131 23 0
MIL 13 $160 $20 $180 13 0
STL 24 $119 $9 $127 24 0
CIN 18 $142 $15 $157 18 0
OAK 21 $123 $18 $141 21 0
MIA 22 $123 $13 $135 22 0
TBR 3 $236 $15 $250 4 -1
BAL 7 $216 $8 $224 8 -1
NYY 26 $109 $9 $118 27 -1
KCR 29 $86 $11 $96 30 -1
LAA 28 $91 $10 $101 29 -1
HOU 25 $110 $9 $119 26 -1
CHC 1 $245 $14 $259 3 -2
LAD 5 $225 $9 $233 7 -2
COL 15 $148 $11 $159 17 -2
PHI 14 $158 $7 $165 16 -2
CLE 8 $192 $12 $204 11 -3
SDP 9 $190 $9 $198 12 -3
TOR 16 $146 $10 $156 19 -3
*Dollar amounts in millions.

The Pre-Draft Rank column in this table is just the base 2023 rankings with the graduates removed. The Pirates and Cubs (with the Rays lurking just behind) were in a tier of their own here. The Brewers and Cardinals have been the most consistent NL Central contenders of the last five years, but the Reds’ excellent 2023 rookie class (they graduated so many big leaguers that they moved from third to 18th in the rankings), as well as the trajectories of the already-competitive Cubs and the scrappy, young Pirates, should make this division fun and competitive for the next several seasons.

The big movers in terms of value added via the draft are the clubs you’d expect. It’s the teams that drafted one of the best five players available (the Pirates, Nationals, Twins, Rangers, and Tigers) and the two clubs that drafted prospects who I thought had an argument to be considered among them (the Diamondbacks and Braves). Just beyond that group are the Red Sox, Brewers, and Giants, who all drafted at least one player I valued highly (Kyle Teel, Cooper Pratt, and Joe Whitman, respectively) later (or for a lesser bonus) than I projected.

The teams that pull up the rear in terms of value added during the draft sometimes highlight a hole in this line of thinking or dissonance in my own analysis. For instance, the Phillies (who didn’t have a second round pick) ended up spreading around a lot of mid-six-figure bonuses to high school prospects. That’s a perfectly reasonable strategy to try to have a deep and exciting class, especially when you’ve lost a high pick and its bonus slot, but the farm calculations don’t love that kind of prospect. Similarly, the ordinal rankings are misleading when you sort to see who fell during the draft process. For instance, the Padres dropped three spots not because their draft class was bad (if the bonus pool amounts are a proxy for ranking expected added value, the Friars outperformed theirs) but because the Giants, Nationals, and Diamondbacks were lined up right behind them prior to the draft.

Farm System Movement Across the Trade Deadline
Team Post-Draft Rank Post-Draft Value* Deadline Value* Current Value* Current Rank Deadline Rank Δ Deadline + Draft Δ
PIT 1 $308 $5 $313 1 0 1
CHC 3 $259 -$7 $252 2 +1 -1
WSN 6 $234 $10 $244 3 +3 +9
BOS 5 $245 -$3 $242 4 +1 +2
CLE 11 $204 $34 $238 5 +5 +2
LAD 7 $233 -$6 $227 6 +1 -1
TEX 2 $277 -$53 $224 7 -5 -3
TBR 4 $250 -$29 $221 9 -4 -5
BAL 8 $224 -$3 $221 8 -1 -2
ARI 9 $222 -$3 $219 10 -1 +1
NYM 20 $142 $73 $215 11 +9 +9
SFG 10 $204 $1 $205 12 -1 -1
CHW 23 $131 $64 $195 13 +11 +11
SDP 12 $198 -$5 $193 14 -1 -4
MIL 13 $180 $3 $183 15 -1 -1
DET 15 $174 $4 $178 16 0 +4
MIN 14 $175 $0 $175 17 -2 +1
COL 17 $159 $3 $162 18 0 -2
PHI 16 $165 -$4 $161 19 -2 -4
STL 24 $127 $33 $160 20 +5 +5
CIN 18 $157 -$1 $156 21 -3 -3
TOR 19 $156 -$4 $152 22 -3 -6
OAK 21 $141 -$7 $134 23 -2 -2
SEA 25 $126 -$2 $124 24 +1 +3
NYY 27 $118 -$3 $115 25 +2 +1
ATL 28 $109 -$3 $106 26 +2 +4
MIA 22 $135 -$34 $101 27 -5 -5
KCR 30 $96 -$4 $92 28 +2 +1
LAA 29 $101 -$34 $67 29 0 -1
HOU 26 $119 -$62 $57 30 -4 -5
*Dollar amounts in millions.

Note that for four teams, the numbers above don’t exactly match their live ranking on the site. Matt Wallner, Reese Olson, and most significantly Luis Matos and Henry Davis graduated right around the trade deadline; had I included their loss in the calculations, it would have warped the way their teams’ deadline trends showed in the table. Well, mostly. The Pirates created enough space between themselves and the rest of the pack at the deadline that, even with Davis’ graduation, they remain first overall. The A’s deadline movement was impacted by clerical error, as I forgot to remove graduate Kyle Muller from their prospect list and did so during this time. Readers should consider their farm value to have moved $1 million-$2 million (Joe Boyle, and lower-ceiling, fringe 40-man arms Easton Lucas and Chad Patrick were acquired) during the deadline period rather than the -$7 million shown. Most of Oakland’s sell-off activity occurred during the offseason with the Sean Murphy trade.

If you sort the table to see which teams lost the most prospect value at the deadline, you see the impact of the AL West arms race, as the Astros, Rangers, and Angels make up three of the five most aggressive buyers. The Marlins and Rays were the others, and after that there’s a significant drop off. Tampa Bay and Texas remain among the top 10 despite trading valuable prospects, and join the Dodgers and Orioles as orgs that tout both a contending big league roster as well as a strong farm system.

In my opinion, the Marlins have tended to overpay in trades while the current regime has been in place, and particularly if you look at the way teams’ playoff odds trended from mid-July (just before the bulk of trade activity took place) to August 2, the drop in Miami’s farm system value, rank and postseason chances look pretty disappointing next to one another. My cutoff date punishes the Marlins heavily because the big league team lost nine of 10 at the start of that window. If we look at Miami’s playoff odds when they started adding pieces (49% on July 27) compared to August 2, the contrast isn’t nearly as damning, but it still isn’t great. You could argue they had to do something because they were sinking so rapidly.

Similar to the way one could argue the farm calculations didn’t properly capture the Phillies’ draft class, they don’t come close to capturing Kansas City’s deadline activity, for a few different reasons. For one, the Royals traded Aroldis Chapman before the window of time in which I’m capturing movement. They also acquired more complex-level players (either from the Florida or Arizona Complex Leagues, or the Dominican Summer League) than any other org during this year’s trade phase, and especially when those types of prospects are pitchers and corner hitters (like Jesus Rios and Derlin Figueroa), they are punished in my FV grades for lacking close proximity to the majors and/or a stable statistical track record, respectively. Finally, they got back some young, controllable big leaguers, like Cole Ragans, who are no longer “prospects” and therefore don’t impact the farm rankings. Ragans has had a four-tick velocity bump this year and will be a foundational piece of their rotation if he can sustain it.

When you combine action occurring during the draft and trade deadline, the Mets, Nationals, and White Sox stand apart from the other teams in terms of talent added to their systems. Several teams that more or less stood pat (like the Twins), or made a number of less splashy changes (like the Padres adding Ji Man Choi, Rich Hill, Garrett Cooper and a few reliable arms for what amounted to $5 million in prospect value) have had leaps in their playoff position during the last few weeks, which you can see in the table below.

Make Playoffs % and Farm System Movement
Team 7/15 Postseason Odds 8/2 Postseason Odds Odds Change Deadline Value* Deadline Rank Δ
PIT 0.8% 0.2% -0.6 $5 0
CHC 9.40% 34.4% 25.0 -$7 1
WSN 0.0% 0.0% 0.0 $10 3
BOS 27.4% 23.2% -4.2 -$3 1
CLE 28.4% 19.6% -8.8 $34 5
LAD 95.0% 97.2% 2.2 -$6 1
TEX 74.0% 81.7% 7.7 -$53 -5
TBR 98.7% 96.9% -1.8 -$29 -4
BAL 82.0% 93.2% 11.2 -$3 -1
ARI 57.3% 30.6% -26.7 -$3 -1
NYM 11.1% 4.0% -7.1 $73 9
SFG 69.8% 71.2% 1.4 $1 -1
CHW 1.8% 0.0% -1.8 $64 11
SDP 28.5% 46.5% 18.0 -$5 -1
MIL 71.4% 64.8% -6.6 $3 -1
DET 3.1% 1.8% -1.3 $4 0
MIN 68.2% 78.7% 10.5 $0 -2
COL 0.0% 0.0% 0.0 $3 0
PHI 62.3% 68.1% 5.8 -$4 -2
STL 5.2% 1.0% -4.2 $33 5
CIN 23.1% 35.5% 12.4 -$1 -3
TOR 77.8% 68.1% -9.7 -$4 -3
OAK 0.0% 0.0% 0.0 -$7 -2
SEA 13.2% 16.4% 3.2 -$2 1
NYY 51.5% 20.7% -30.8 -$3 2
ATL 100.0% 100.0% 0.0 -$3 2
MIA 66.1% 46.3% -19.8 -$34 -5
KCR 0.0% 0.0% 0.0 -$4 2
LAA 9.6% 10.8% 1.2 -$34 0
HOU 64.3% 88.9% 24.6 -$62 -4
*Dollar amounts in millions.





Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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eichorn
8 months ago

Hey Eric — I’m thinking the culture of Farm Rankings, Top 100 rankings of players, or even rankings of players by position has a lot of cracks in it, that don’t correlate with how GMs make decisions on how they acquire players — AND separately, how the top 100 rankings system heavily favors players who come into the draft with the right story line, and have a parabolic development curve with no reversals, or major injuries.

Heston Kjerstad to me epitomizes the opportunity to rethink things, and crack the mold. When Elias drafted Kjerstad at #2, he said: best LH power in the draft. He wasn’t thought of as an outfielder/future 1b or worst case DH. The words were Left-Handed power — implied premise, every conending team should have one of those. More on that aspect below.

Then there’s the rankings history of Kjerstad — well, he was off the charts for a while… now he’s creeping up. He’s still the best left-handed power hitting prospect in the majors. One list doesn’t rank him as one of the top 10 outfielders…. It’s the wrong point of emphasis. I’ve watched a good number of Orioles players who were never on a rankings list have excellent careers — their crime in the prospects hype land is that they had gradual development and injuries. Perhaps some new lists and models are needed to capture what’s happening. I estimate about 30% of good careers don’t make it to the top 100 prospect list. Big oversight.

New list models:
-Fast track top 100
-Slow track top 100
-Farm rankings based on a Voltron model — see below:

Another way to rank farms would be something more like a Voltron model, which is how they more openly draft and talk about priorities in the NFL — QB, RB, DL, OL, WR, CB, S, TE… usually in that order. Teams can have player depth and trade for missing parts of voltron as a counter argument for Top 30 farm rankings by future value, but my bar napkin estimate is that this counts for something like 10% of WAR totals, it’s quite overblown

If we go back and look at all the contending teams — the ones that say made it to a 7 game series in the past 40 years, what venn diagram combination of players did those teams most frequently have?

In my imagination from an exhaustive Fangraphs study, the results told us you wanted 75% of this mix

-Very Toolsy SS
-Above avg defense / hitting at 2b + 3b
-Solid Left Power at 1b or LF
-Mature leader at C
-Great glove at CF
-1 excellent power Right-handed hitter
-1 very good overall right-handed hitter
-2 quality starters
-1 dominant ace
-3 excellent RHP relievers
-1-2 dependable LHP relievers
-Defensive Util depth in the infield
-Defensive Util depth in the outfield (bonus if you can hit LHP)
-and for October, defensive specialist at 1b

Last edited 8 months ago by eichorn
Ukranian to Vietnamese to French is back
8 months ago
Reply to  eichorn

Hey, Eric – I think with the culture of Farm Rankings, Top 100 player ratings or new player ratings and positions, there are many trisons that do not correlate and draw out, how the GM will try to live – separately possible, actions of the systems of the team – come to the draft with a legal plot lines, and have a parabolic development curve without reversals or serious injuries.

Heston K’srstad has allowed us to make sense of things in this evil form. When Elias drafted Kjerstad at #2, he said: LH’s best draft power. We don’t want to see 1. Yula. The letters were the Left Force – there is a prerequisite, every team that joins must have one of them. This is the lower aspect.

Then there is the history of Kjerstad’s rating — well, he was off the charts for a while… You have to go. They are the biggest of the big bands. One list did not include yoga in the top 10… This is an unusual top. I observed how a number of Oriole players, who never appear on the rental list, can have a great career – it’s a crime from the position of the coach, what he has is procedural development and injuries. Maybe you have to buy a sheet of new templates that suit you best, what do you advise. According to my father, almost 30% of the people who have gone on the list of the last 100 reviews. A big inconvenience.

New model:

– Top 100 fast track
– Top 100 fast bikes
– Rating of farms on the bases of the Voltron model – see Port:

I have to tell you about the NFL – KB, RB, DL, OL, VR, CB, C, TE… I cry myself in such circumstances. Ordinarily, I can assume an official function as a counterbalance to the first 30 farm for the maximum price, but for that I owe my father’s service, which represents 10% in the field of 10% of the total number of people around the world, but not for the council.

How about we go back and look at the competitive outsiders – those who are said to have hit a 7-game streak over the last 40 years, aka the Venn diagram combination of players most often on a team?

According to my opinion from the latest fangraph that showed us, what do you want 75% of this mix

– It’s very strong
-Added medium protection/impact on 2b+3b
-Solid left power on 1b on LF
-Mature leader in Ts
– Explosive gauntlet on the CF
-1 explosive power Right-handed striker
-1 striker Ye Yahao very
-2 oxygen heating
-1 dominant node
– 3 mining extreme softeners of the RHP
– 1-2 layers of the film festival
– The protective depth of the infield fence
-Defensive depth in the outfields (bonus, you can return LHP here)
-y to live, defense specialist up to 1 b

crackbaldo
8 months ago

“2 Oxygen Heating” is priceless.

eichorn
7 months ago
Reply to  crackbaldo

Stat weenie pileons like these are expected in cases where someone challenges the formations of research. It’s a culture of approbation, and group conformity through displays of nerdiness, loyalty, other cultural cues, etc. All good.

I dispute the farm ranking model on the basis of overall talent — I think it’s pretty hard to convert a random assortment talent pieces into the pieces a team generally needs to seriously contend with via trades, and a large dataset research on what kinds of MLB performances over the course of the season by what types of players lead to serious contention, modeled against what teams had overall talent (and cross searched against how sites like Fangraphs ranked them over time) could yield interesting results.

cowdisciplemember
8 months ago

There’s probably a rule against the CF using explosive gauntlets. But there shouldn’t be!

eichorn
7 months ago
Reply to  cowdisciple

Tee heee!

eichorn
7 months ago

A classic in the stat weenie genre, and look you got 56 upvotes approving you, I’m sure that felt great! — I still think it’s an interesting challenge to the overall farm ranking talent model. Consider that a lot of teams have troubles converting their talent pool via trades into the players they think their teams need down the stretch. It means that a generalized ball of talent doesn’t necessarily lead a team to serious contention. So is there another way to look at how to rank farms — is it one where the best way to model power rankings is also a bit dependent on who the MLB team has on its roster that overlap with the talent / or fit in like puzzle pieces, and what types of players / what types of roles matter more to higher probability contending teams?