Depending on where you look and who you read you may get very different opinions on the quality of the Cincinnati Reds farm system. Kiley McDaniel of ESPN has rated the Reds farm system as the 5th best in all of baseball. That’s a big difference from where Keith Law of The Athletic rated them earlier in the week, placing them 13th in baseball.

How ESPN determines that quality of a farm system is a bit different. While McDaniel does go through each organization and rate/grade each individual prospect, he’s not just giving a gut feeling on how the system as a whole is valued compared to others. What he does is assign value to each prospect within an organization based on the historical value of prospects that had the same FV (Future Value) grades in the past. That value, which is determined in a “dollar amount” is then added up and teams are ranked by that total. If you’re interested in learning what all goes into that, here’s the link to the Fangraphs article that dives into it.

For a quick primer, though, position players and pitchers with the same FV are not valued the same. Historically speaking this is probably due to injury related factors that tend to cost pitchers significantly more time missed in their career. Using McDaniel’s Top 100 rankings to get the FV value of some Reds players, Elly DE La Cruz (60 FV) is valued at $60M, while Edwin Arroyo (55 FV) is valued at $46M, while Noelvi Marte, Cam Collier, and Spencer Steer (50 FV) are valued at $28M each.

Overall, the Reds farm system was given a value of $276.5M. That’s $11.5M better than the 6th rated Dodgers and just $500,000 behind the 4th rated Yankees. But it’s also $198.5M behind the top rated Orioles, who are laughably ahead of everyone in baseball with nine Top 100 prospects.

A year ago Cincinnati’s farm system was rated 20th and had a value of $166.5M. That feels like it may have been a bit lower than it should have been with hindsight. That farm system graduated Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, and Alexis Diaz among several others who played smaller roles for the club in 2022.

Cincinnati has rebuilt the system, even with graduations of several high-end prospects, thanks to a fire sale that resulted in acquiring a proverbial ton of prospects since the start of spring training in mid-March of 2022. Landing Cam Collier at the 18th pick didn’t hurt, either. Only two of the current top 11 prospects in the organization were actually in the organization as of a year ago (Elly De La Cruz and Matt McLain).

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13 Responses

    • Billy

      Whoops! I want to see them have good years. If they do the Reds are rolling in 2 years.

  1. Optimist

    I was expecting top 10, but this seems a tad optimistic even for me. That said, perhaps the ESPN calculation does give fair credit to the depth, which seems unusual for the Reds. As Doug notes, each of the pitching prospects has a definite issue, but there are many of them, and one or two are likely to exceed expectations. Everyone was watching Greene and Lodolo, but Ashcraft was also a very solid MiLBer. Not so much for the current crop, but at least there are 6-8 of them.

    The SS focussed acquisitions are the real foundation here, and if one of them remains at the position with offensive production, the entire offense looks a lot better. They’re not even at 100 OPS+ in the 8 MLB fielding spots, and with Joey on the way out, they’ll need 2 or 3 above 120.

  2. DaveCT

    Hey Doug, have you seen the BA Prospect Handbook? They just made their digital version available. JJ Cooper is full of his usual wealth of info, as well as a surprise or two. But, as a shoutout to RML, the BA reports bookend with your takes really well. Kudos.

  3. Stock

    When I saw how much better the Baltimore system was vs. the Reds my first thought was are the Orioles drafting much better than the Reds. I decided to compare the 2017 – 2021 drafts of both teams.

    In this 5 year period the Orioles have drafted 10 players that are currently rated a 40+ or better by Fangraphs. Fangraphs is provides a free prospect list. They also drafted two players that have reached the majors.

    List of Baltimore Players
    2017: DL Hall (Drafted in 1st round/50 FV)
    2018: Grayson Rodriguez (1/55)
    2019: Adley Rutchman (1/MLB), Gunnar Henderson (2/65), Kelly Stowers (3+/MLB), Joey Ortiz (3+/50)
    2020: Heston Kjerstad (1/45+), Jordan Westburg (1s/45), Colby Mayo (3+/55)
    2021: Colton Cowser (1/45), Connor Norby (2/45), Cade Povich (3+/45)

    The Reds match the 12 players the Orioles have but seven of the twelve players the Reds drafted are in the Majors.

    List of Cincinnati Players
    2017: Hunter Greene (1/MLB), Jeter Downs (1s/MLB), Stuart Fairchild (2/MLB)
    2018: Jonathan India (1/MLB), Lyon Richardson (2/40+), Josiah Gray (2/MLB), Mike Siani (4/45)
    2019: Nick Lodolo (1/MLB), Graham Ashcraft (3+/MLB)
    2020: None
    2021: Matt McLain (1/50), Jay Allen (1/40+), Andrew Abbott (2/40+)

    A quick comparison:
    Greene = Rutchman
    Lodolo = Rodriguez
    India, Ashcraft = Henderson, DL Hall
    Josiah Gray = Colby Mayo
    McLain = Joey Ortiz
    The Orioles have a slight advantage in the final 6 players but not by much.

    If you look at the international side the Orioles have two players: Frederick Bencosme and Leandro Arias. Both were rated 40+.
    The Reds have Elly De La Cruz, Daniel Vellojin, Yerlin Confidan and Carlos Jorge. The Reds win big here.

    It is fairly close but the difference prospect quality is due to the graduations of India, Greene, Lodolo and Ashcraft. Assuming Gunnar Henderson, Grayson Rodriguez, DL Hall and Joey Ortiz graduate this year the Reds prospect class should be better next winter. In fact if Fangraphs graduation projections the Reds could very well have the best group of prospects in the majors next winter.

    • DaveCT

      What’s interesting to me is the Reds’ rebound after graduating Greene, Lodolo, Ashcraft, Diaz last year. Typically, that type of hit on a system takes a year or more to reverse. Yet, if anything, we improved, thanks to the fire sale of course.

      • Doug Gray

        I’ll say this much: I felt that the three starters were all better/deserved to be ranked higher than the national places did. Diaz…. I liked him, but certainly didn’t see him having the kind of rookie season he did (who the heck did? He was elite right out of the gate).

    • patrick

      Lots of Reds bias here (everyone else is 45 or worse)
      Rauchman 70
      Henderson 65
      Holiday 60
      Rogriguez 55
      Mayo 55
      Hall 50
      Ortiz 50

      Is much better than
      EDLC 60
      Greene 55
      Lodolo 50
      Steer 50
      Arroyo 50
      Marte 50
      Collier 50

      Orioles top talent is better than us at this point.

      • Tom

        I’m not sure what to think about Marte. He’s lacking a standout element to his stat line other than age relative to level. Now growing into 3b, he’s going to be a tweener type. Do you slow the promotion cycle down for him until he improves even more or do you let him arrive as is in late 2024? Basically, I’m really hoping he can OPS over .900 at some point before arriving.