There have been more than a few people who have tried to attach a monetary value to prospects, and thus, farm systems. Some of them have been much better than others. I’ve taken some of those studies and written about it all many times. The best one has been implemented utilizing the Baseball America Top 100, and the letter grades given out by John Sickels. The reason those are so valuable is that they’ve been around the longest. That gives a much larger sample size to deal with.

Craig Edwards made another attempt over at Fangraphs today. You can read all about his methodology, and what went into his values here. Edwards only used the Baseball America Top 100 rankings from 1996-2010 to gather his data. There’s some issues with that, as I think we’ve come a very long way in prospect evaluation from 1996, or even 2006, and in some ways, even 2010. Not only that, with how far we’ve come in Tommy John recover from the 1990’s, this data is probably negatively effecting the values of pitchers a little bit, too. But projections are never going to be perfect.

With all of that said, we care more about the Cincinnati Reds around here than the minor leagues as a whole. In a second post, Craig Edwards decided to take his newly formed data and apply it to each farm system. Using the data he applied it to the Fangraphs prospect rankings. In this system, the Reds stack up fairly well. Let’s take a look:

Value based on Prospect In-Season Rankings during 2018

Looking at the chart above we can see that the Cincinnati Reds would have the 6th most valuable farm system in Major League Baseball. They are grouped up with the Twins and Tigers, but well behind the Blue Jays, Rays, White Sox, Braves, and Padres.

A large majority of the value is tied up in Top 100 prospects. In fact, a large majority of value is tied up in Top 20 prospects. Take the top prospect in baseball, Vladimir Guerrero Jr, for example. His value, according to this study, is $112M. That’s more than seven entire farm systems. It’s also nearly DOUBLE the value of the number two prospect in the game, Fernando Tatis Jr., who sits there with a value of $65M.

What does the value look like within the Cincinnati Reds system? Before taking a look, it’s worth noting that the rankings, and thus the values, are based on the most recent Fangraphs rankings. Those came out mid-season, and while players have moved up due to graduations ahead of them, the rankings aren’t entirely accurate for right this second. Still, it’ll give a general look/feel as to how the value is spread. For some reason, though, the numbers don’t quite add up. Edwards value of the Reds system was listed at $256M, but the individual players for the Reds listed at 40 or higher FV adds up to $263M. That wouldn’t move them up in the rankings, but is worth noting. Here’s how the Reds system broke down:

Values based on 2018 in-season rankings

When looking at the list, you can see how updated rankings would probably look a little bit different. Tony Santillan should be worth significantly more than is valued at in this chart. Josiah Gray also has had his Future Value upgraded. It, however, isn’t reflected above. And his value would be six times higher than it currently is listed at. But, those little things can apply to every farm system. Things have changed all around baseball in the months since the rankings were last updated.

This system isn’t perfect. I still think that, generally, pitchers are being undervalued a little bit. But by-and-large, I think this reflects upon what the generally feeling I have is. Farm systems are, and should be ranked by how their Top 5-10 prospects stand. It’s the very top that is likely to bring future value that is a difference maker. Depth is nothing to sneeze at, and it does matter. But it matters far less than having an elite level prospect or three.

Currently, the guys at Fangraphs do a great job with their prospect rankings and value system. When their post-season 2018/2019 Prospect rankings come out, I will revisit this and show the new numbers/values.

About The Author

Doug Gray is the owner and operator of this website and has been running it since 2006 in one variation or another. You can follow him on twitter @dougdirt24, or follow the site on Facebook. and Youtube.

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20 Responses

  1. Oldtimer

    Regardless of $ value, the Reds minor league team don’t do all that well in the most important metric of all.

    W-L record. The Reds farm teams (collectively) were well under .500 this year. The best teams were slightly above .500 but not by much.

    • Shawn

      You can’t go by win loss record. Each team may only have 2-3 legit prospects.

    • Doug Gray

      The most important metric is actually how that farm system leads to wins in the future. And there’s a pretty good correlation between highly ranked farm systems and future MLB wins.

      • Oldtimer

        Former Reds GM Bob Howsam and former Reds manager Sparky Anderson both said it was important for Reds MiLB prospects to learn how to win in the minor leagues. They know a lot more than most of us.

        Reds minor league results (W-L and player development) in 1960s and 1970s ultimately yielded several HOF caliber players, a few major league MVPs, five NL pennant winners, 2 WS championship teams, 7 teams that played in postseason, and 11 teams that won 90+ games in 20 years (1960 through 1979).

        Howsam and Anderson were right.

  2. Big Ed

    I’ve always thought that MLB and its teams, in practice, have two monopolies. The first and obvious one is a monopoly on the market to produce/show MLB games. The second monopoly is the market for producing talent for MLB. (The Japanese leagues are a minor competitor.)

    You could, of course, quibble with the values that the Fangraphs article puts on the guys. And it is a closed system, in that the Reds must sometimes buy contracts from other teams. The Reds, though, paid Senzel and Trammell nice little bonuses, and their contracts are worth north of $100 million right now. So, the Reds have “made” about $100 million by developing Senzel and Trammell.

    Basketball and football, who use colleges (and in hoops the G-League and European leagues) to develop talent, don’t have this second monopoly.

    • Doug Gray

      The difference is, rookies get paid real amounts of money in those leagues, though. Where as in MLB, guys make $550,000 each of their first three seasons no matter how good they are.

      Baseball has a different system of how money is distributed, too. And that complicates things compared to how those two operate once guys get there.

      • Michael Smith

        Just to back up Dougs point. Jacob Evans went 28th to the Warriors. He makes 1.645m, 1.928m and 2.019m during the first three years of his contract.

      • MK

        The bonuses paid to high draft picks and highly touted international international picks, equal out some of those 1st year payment discrepancies with the other sports.

      • Doug Gray

        They don’t really, though, MK. Hunter Greene got the highest bonus ever. He got just under $7.1M. Even adding in the additional $1.65M for the first three years, that’s nothing compared to what the highest draft picks get in the NFL/NBA. And by the time you reach the late 1st round, you’re talking about guys getting $1-2M bonuses. That’s the salary guys are getting in the late 1st round in the NBA, and the NFL guys are getting way more than that per year as late 1st rounders.

      • Hoosierdad

        The big difference is in the NBA those high draft picks are expected to be immediate game changers for their teams. In the NFL those players will be first tear, or at worst, second year major contributors. MLB players may be several years away.

      • Doug Gray

        Certainly. But we are talking about their salary when they get there. Mike Trout was the best player alive his first MLB year (full year). And his second. And his third. He made a total of $1.5M for those three seasons. If he were in the NBA or the NFL, that would never, ever happen. He’d hold out if needed, or more likely, the team would just extend him and give him more money up front now. That doesn’t happen in baseball. They’ll extend guys, but they aren’t going to pay a 2nd year guy $9M as a part of that extension. They’ll give them $1.2M, then just buy out the arbitration years and maybe a year or two of free agency.

      • Ty

        Players on a NBA team only make up 1 out of, what? 30 so players when you add the g league rosters. Makes sense that a rookie in the NBA would make more than a rookie in mlb given that there’s only 5 guys on the floor at once.

      • Big Ed

        Football may be a better comp than basketball. The best 18-year-old basketball players (like Zion Williamson at Duke) are ready for the NBA, but are precluded by the collective bargaining agreement from playing in the NBA.

        It is very rare for any 18-year-old baseball or football player to be ready for the top levels. Bo Jackson could have done it in football, and a handful of guys like Griffey Jr. in baseball. Meanwhile, in the age 18-21 development years, the football guys don’t get paid, either; not even a bonus like Terry Trammell got. All the money generated in college football goes to coaches and administration, and yes, to educating (or “keeping eligible”) the vast majority of scholarship players who won’t play pro. Universities thus capture some of the value in what amounts to a monopoly in developing NFL players.

        The NFL itself has some restrictions on salaries in the first few years; the NFL restrictions, like those in MLB, are collectively bargained. The non-guaranteed contract in the NFL is much worse for players than what MLB has.

        The NBA, with small rosters and a game that inherently favors stars, is on a different plane. But the 250th best baseball player probably makes more money than the 250th best basketball player, especially if he has about 5 years in the league.

  3. Michael Smith

    Fair enough MK. League minimums come out to more than 3m for first 3 years.

    • CP

      Hunter Greene, Tony Santillan & Vlad are pretty good in house guys developing currently, but yeah you’re right that the distribution of talent in the reds minor leagues does seem to be weighted more toward position players than pitchers right now.

      There are a couple young guys from last years draft that I think have the ceiling to develop to some legit prospects, but it’s early. Gray, Lyons, & Marinan show potential but there is definitely a need for more going forward.

      One thing I have been thinking about though is how much over a bottleneck of talent the Reds have at the MLB and AAA level when it comes to pitching currently. Consider all the guys that could easily take a step forward and be seen in the MLB rotation/bullpen.

      Current rotation locks: FA Signing, Castillo, Disco

      Bullpen locks: Iglesias, Hughes, Hernandez, Lorenzen*, Garrett*

      * these guys could go rotation or bullpen I know…

      That leaves this bottleneck of guys to fill in 2 spots for SP and 3 at most in the bullpen I would think. So that’s 5 spots for: Reed, Stephenson, Wisler, Mella, Finny, Lopez, Peralta, Rainey, Reyes, Sims, Stephens, Herget. That’s 12 if my math skills are correct. More than likely the Reds add more FA pitchers than just one this year as well, so that number goes up. It takes a lot of guys to get through the year with injuries and poor performance, but I think the Reds system is in a decent spot with pitchers, so long as they keep adding more talent every year to the system (which they will).

  4. IMHO

    Lots of pitchers in the Reds farm system that go unnoticed because they are not the top 10 prospects…it’s unfortunate because some bullpen guys are pretty good and should be given a fair look.

  5. earmbrister

    Aside from player salaries in various sports …

    While the Reds would have the 6th most valuable farm system in MLB via the above rating system, ALL of their competition has less valuable systems. Nice to see that the Cubs had the 6th least valuable farm system, while the Brew Crew has the 9th least valuable system, and the Birds on a stick have the 12th least valuable. Heartening to see a good bit of light at the end of this tunnel.