MLB Farm Systems Ranked by Surplus WAR

You smell that? It’s baseball’s prospect-list season. The fresh top-100 lists — populated by new names as well as old ones — seem to be popping up each day. With the individual rankings coming out, some organization rankings are becoming available, as well. I have always regarded the organizational rankings as subjective — and, as a result, not 100% useful. Utilizing the methodology I introduced in my article on prospect evaluation from this year’s Hardball Times Annual, however, it’s possible to calculate a total value for every team’s farm system and remove the biases of subjectivity. In what follows, I’ve used that same process to rank all 30 of baseball’s farm systems by the surplus WAR they should generate.

I provide a detailed explanation of my methodology in the Annual article. To summarize it briefly, however, what I’ve done is to identify WAR equivalencies for the scouting grades produced by Baseball America in their annual Prospect Handbook. The grade-to-WAR conversion appears as follows.

Prospect Grade to WAR Conversion
Prospect Grade Total WAR Surplus WAR
80 25.0 18.5
75 18.0 13.0
70 11.0 9.0
65 8.5 6.0
60 4.7 3.0
55 2.5 1.5
50 1.1 0.5
45 0.4 0.0

To create the overall totals for this post, I used each team’s top-30 rankings per the most recent edition of Baseball America’ Prospect Handbook. Also accounting for those trades which have occurred since the BA rankings were locked down, I counted the number of 50 or higher-graded prospects (i.e. the sort which provide surplus value) in each system. The results follows.

2016 Farm System Surplus WAR
Team 70 65 60 55 50 Surplus WAR Surplus WAR Rank BA Rank
Boston 2 2 1 2 13 42.5 1 4
Los Angles Dodgers 2 3 3 11 37.0 2 1
Texas 1 1 5 1 8 35.5 3 7
Houston 2 3 6 9 34.5 4 2
Atlanta 1 5 5 11 34.0 5 3
Colorado 1 5 4 13 33.5 6 6
Washington 1 1 3 2 13 33.5 6 5
Minnesota 1 4 3 10 30.5 8 10
Milwaukee 1 2 8 10 29.0 9 9
New York Mets 1 1 8 12 27.0 10 15
Pittsburgh 1 3 4 11 26.5 11 11
St. Louis 1 7 13 26.0 12 14
Cincinnati 1 3 2 15 25.5 13 12
Philadelphia 1 2 6 9 25.5 13 8
Tampa Bay 1 2 5 12 25.5 13 13
Cleveland 1 3 2 14 25.0 16 17
Kansas City 1 1 6 14 25.0 16 21
New York Yankees 5 2 11 23.5 18 16
Chicago Cubs 1 9 11 22.0 19 20
Toronto 2 5 10 18.5 20 24
San Francisco 1 5 13 16.5 21 19
Oakland 1 6 9 17.0 21 18
Seattle 1 3 16 15.5 23 28
Chicago White Sox 2 2 11 14.5 24 23
Arizona 4 14 13.0 25 22
San Diego 7 5 13.0 25 25
Detroit 1 4 7 12.5 27 26
Baltimore 2 2 6 12.0 28 27
Miami 1 2 10 11.0 29 29
Los Angles Angels 1 8 5.5 30 30
Total 8 16 63 126 329 710.5

My thoughts:

  • Boston has the best system by this measure, with some heavy hitters at the top: both Yoan Moncada and Anderson Espinoza feature 70 grades, while Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi earn 65s. The second-ranked Dodgers were the only other team with two 70-grade prospects.
  • Three distinct tiers exist: one ranging from 33.5 WAR to 37.0 WAR (six teams) and another from 25 WAR to 28.5 WAR (nine teams). The final one covers 11.0 to 15.5 WAR (seven teams). These three tiers make up 22 of the teams with the other teams sprinkled in-between.
  • I had to check the Angels system a couple times to see if it is this bad. They only have one player graded at 55. The Cubs, by comparison, have nine.
  • It was necessary this year for an organization to employ at least one 65 or higher-graded player to have a top-half farm system. The top 17 ranked systems had one such player, the bottom 13 didn’t.
  • Some preseason contenders — the Red Sox, Dodgers, Rangers, Astros, and Nationals — have the system depth to go get a decent player at the trade deadline. Other teams like the Angels, Tigers, Diamondbacks, and White Sox just don’t have as many pieces to trade.

Well, I have the farm systems ranked using one publication. I plan on doing the same with MLB.com’s prospect rankings and our own Dan Farnsworth’s once each on is complete. Until then, it looks like the Boston Red Sox can put a claim on the best farm system in the majors.

We hoped you liked reading MLB Farm Systems Ranked by Surplus WAR by Jeff Zimmerman!

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Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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Spencer Jones
Member
Spencer Jones

In your research did you see if a 70 grade hitter is as valuable as a 70 grade pitcher?? Wondering if setting different values for hitters and pitchers would make sense.