Pre-Draft Farm System Rankings

Let’s check in on the farm system rankings before the draft. I’m going to begin by pointing readers to a few useful resources. First and most importantly, here is a primer to remind you of the features of the rankings and here is Craig Edwards’ research on prospect valuation that helped inform our rankings methodology. Readers should consider the dollar amounts as an approximation of what the player might receive were they exposed to the open market, which in addition to acting as a filter that aids in our analysis of trades featuring prospect where money also changes hands, is also an illustration of the gap between what minor leaguers earn and what they’re “worth” to their organizations.

Next I’ll note that the “2021 Updated” section of The Board is now live. As players are added to (via the draft or trade) or subtracted from (via trade or graduation) an organization, the Farm Rankings associated with those teams will also update automatically. You may want to follow the FanGraphs Prospects Twitter account, which I typically use to tweet Board updates when players are added, subtracted, or move within the Future Value tiers. If you avoid Twitter because it crosses the wires of your brain and tears at our social fabric, you can simply access the feed on the Prospects Homepage. Just scroll down a little bit; it’s on the right.

You can also use The Board to look back at prior snapshots of the farm rankings. The completion of the team-by-team lists means that untouched rankings from my last sixth months of work are frozen in time here. Now that all 30 orgs have been audited, I’ve begun pulling graduating prospects off The Board. Very soon, prospects who graduate in a given year will exist on the Seasonal Tab of The Board in case a player’s evaluation is altered between when a prospect list is published and when the player graduates during the same year; you can check out last year’s version here. I mention this because perhaps the biggest flaw in doing farm rankings the way we do is that young, recently-graduated players can drastically alter where an organization lines up on the list. For instance, the White Sox were a middle-of-the-pack farm system entering the year, but because Andrew Vaughn, Michael Kopech, Garrett Crochet and Nick Madrigal have all graduated from rookie status, the org now ranks dead last.

So far this year, graduations are the only factor that has drastically impacted the way the rankings have shifted. With the draft and trade deadline looming in quick succession, though, they will shift a great deal in a relatively short span of time. Remember, my opinions generate the players’ grades, and then Craig’s math takes those grades and generates the rankings; I’m left to react to them rather than explain how I arrived at them.

The Rays are still in a tier of their own at the top, with the Padres having fallen away from them due to trades and graduations. The Rays snowballed a ton of talent and have an elite prospect at the very top of their system. When Wander Franco graduates, they will still have a $100 million gap between them and where the next tier starts, though if some of their other recently added prospects stick on the big league roster for the rest of the year, their system will fall back to the pack.

The next several teams — No. 2 Toronto through No. 12 Miami, all in about the $250 to $300 million range — are only separated by what equates to one top 100 prospect. Toronto’s system is being driven by their large group of relatively mature prospects. Third-ranked Pittsburgh’s hard rebuild moved them here. Fourth-ranked Seattle has a top-heavy system with lots of star power, but they and eighth-ranked Detroit lack depth compared to the other orgs in this orbit. Fifth-ranked Cleveland and sixth-ranked Arizona both had very good recent drafts and international classes.

Texas is the club whose ranking I’d most drastically tweak if I were doing these ranking by hand. They don’t have the major league-ready stars that other orgs do, but they have several fast-approaching everyday hitters, homegrown pitching depth (but not much internal hope for elite, top-of-rotation pitching), and the deepest system in the game. Teams ranked low who I think have players destined for huge growth includes the Cubs, Angels and Brewers because of the young players they have at Low-A and on the complex right now.

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 Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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1 year ago

This is fantastic–thanks. Just as a quick note–if you’ve set it up to automatically update from the draft prospects list, that list might be out of date. Yesterday you noted that Cowser and Rocker were FV50 and they are 45+ on the draft prospects list currently.

Thanks for all of this hard work. I am very much looking forward to reading a bunch of new writeups on prospects from this draft! Just wanted to let you know it wasn’t up yet.