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:
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:
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.