KATOH’s Farm System Rankings

‘Tis the season for prospect rankings. With little else going on in the baseball world, prospect writers typically spend the month of February releasing and discussing ordered lists of prospects and farm systems. Even within the past hour at this very site, our own Jeff Zimmerman published a farm-system ranking derived from the scouting grades produced by Baseball America.

This year, I showed up to the party a little early by putting out KATOH’s top 100 list last month. I still have more to give, however. And here I present you with KATOH’s organizational rankings.

My methodology for compiling this ranking was pretty straightforward: I simply aggregated all of the KATOH forecasts by team. Still, there a few caveats worth mentioning.

  • To be considered in this exercise, a player must have recorded at least 200 plate appearances or batters faced in 2015. KATOH derives its forecasts from minor league stats, so it can’t really formulate an opinion on players who didn’t play much in 2015. As a result, many of the players who were drafted in 2015 are omitted.
  • This exercise only considers players projected for at least 1.0 WAR over their first six years in the big leagues. Ideally, I’d consider all prospects, but that would involve verifying the teams for thousands of mostly nondescript minor leaguers. That obviously taken some time. This one-win threshold cuts pretty deep into a team’s farm system. The average team has 18 players above this cutoff, while none have fewer than 10. That feels like more than enough for these purposes.
  • KATOH tends to favor hitters over pitchers, especially on the high end. So this analysis likely favors organizations with farm systems that are hitter-heavy over those that rely more on pitchers. This is likely because a pitcher’s stats capture a smaller portion of his future potential relative to hitters. Factors like velocity also very important when it comes to projecting pitchers.
  • And as always, stats don’t tell the full story. This is the output from a flawed statistical model that fails to take into account many of the factors that go into evaluating a prospect. If an organization has a lot of raw, toolsy prospects, it’s likely to be underrated here.

KATOH’s Farm System Ranking
Rank Team Cumulative KATOH WAR
1 Brewers 86
2 Astros 77
3 Dodgers 70
4 Rangers 66
5 Yankees 65
6 Twins 65
7 Rockies 64
8 Rays 64
9 Phillies 62
10 Pirates 60
11 Padres 58
12 Reds 55
13 Braves 54
14 Indians 48
15 Cardinals 48
16 Nationals 46
17 Cubs 45
18 Red Sox 42
19 Athletics 36
20 Royals 35
21 Diamondbacks 35
22 Orioles 35
23 Mets 34
24 Mariners 33
25 Tigers 28
26 Giants 26
27 White Sox 22
28 Blue Jays 22
29 Angels 19
30 Marlins 14

Here’s that same list in the form of a graph.

KATOH Farm

And here’s that same chart with each bar broken up into three parts: WAR from players projected for 3.5+ WAR, WAR from 2.0-3.5 WAR players and WAR from 1.0-2.0 WAR players. This will hopefully help you visualize the distribution of talent in each system.

KATOH Farm1

And here’s that same graph, but split by hitters and pitchers.

KATOH Farm2

Both Baseball America Keith Law also put out their organizational rankings in the last week. Here’s a look at how KATOH compares to those rankings. KATOH favors the teams above the trendlines, such as the Padres, Yankees, Brewers and Rays. KATOH’s down on the teams below the trendlines, such as the Braves, Red Sox, Mets and Giants.

First Mr. Law:

Law

And now Baseball America:

BA

Some brief remarks on the top-five organizations:

#1 – Brewers

It’s almost as if the Brewers topped this list on purpose. Seven of their top eight prospects joined the organization in the past seven months, with Orlando Arcia representing the only holdover. Recently acquired KATOH darlings Ramon Flores, Josh Hader, Isan Diaz, Zachary Davies and Javier Betancourt are responsible for a lot of those wins. However, consensus top-100 guys Jacob Nottingham, Brett Phillips and Jorge Lopez also project very well.

#2 – Astros

The Astros have easily the deepest farm system according to KATOH. They have 31 players projected for at least 1.0 WAR, which is four more than any other team. A big chunk of their projected WAR comes from their not-so-small army of prospects in the 1.0-3.5 WAR range, including Joe Musgrove, David Paulino, Jamie Ritchie and many more. They also have quite a few top end guys in A.J. Reed, Tony Kemp, Francis Martes, Andrew Aplin, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker. The Astros have a lot of prospects who feel like “scouting the stat line” specials, but they also have a lot of prospects who aren’t. The Astros have a lot of prospects period.

#3 – Dodgers

With just 18 players projected for at least 1.0 WAR, the Dodgers don’t have a particularly deep farm system. However, elite prospects Corey Seager and Julio Urias push them up the list. Alex Verdugo, Austin Barnes, Micah Johnson, Zach Lee, Jose De Leon and Cody Bellinger also project very well, but there isn’t much beyond that. Their system is very top heavy, but the top is heavy enough to carry them. Interestingly, they also project for the most pitching WAR of any team by a pretty wide margin. Urias, Lee and De Leon shoulder most of the load on the pitching side, though lower-tier arms like Grant Holmes, Frankie Montas and Jharel Cotton also move the needle.

#4 – Rangers

It was easy to craft some sort of narrative around the top three systems. None really jump out with the Rangers, though, so I’m just going to name some highly-projected Rangers prospects. Nomar Mazara, Joey Gallo, Michael De Leon, Lewis Brinson, Hanser Alberto, Yeyson Yrizarri, Ariel Jurado. Odds are, a high proportion of those players will be good, which is why the Rangers have one of the top projected farm systems.

#5 – Yankees

The Yankees system looks a lot like the Astros in that a large share of their projected WAR comes from prospects projected for only one, two or three WAR. This tier features Aaron Judge, Rob Refsnyder, Abiatal Avelino and many more. They do, however, have a lot going on at the top end as well. Gary Sanchez and Jorge Mateo are the big names, and they’re backed up by KATOH specials Tyler Wade, Ronald Torreyes and Trey Amburgey.



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Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.


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Legeisc
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Legeisc
3 months 8 days ago

Would have enjoyed a BA/Law chart to see if BA and Law rankings fit better which each other than KATOH fits with one of them. Guess I’ll do that tonight.

Otter
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Otter
3 months 8 days ago

Eyeballing it, looks like Cubs, Nats, and Astros are the only big differences; Cubs easily being the biggest. But I’m not sure if that’s what you were getting at.

Otter
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Member
Otter
3 months 8 days ago

Would be interested in the flip side of this, seeing that KATOH and BA/Law different so much on the Red Sox and Braves, any particular reason why KATOH doesn’t ‘like’ those systems as much comparatively?

Surrealistic Pillow
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Surrealistic Pillow
3 months 8 days ago

Braves’ top 2 prospects in most publications are Swanson, who is not eligible for a KATOH projection by reason of <200 plate appearances, and Newcomb, who is rightfully given a poor KATOH projection because of his control issues. That likely explains a good deal of the inconsistency.

Damaso
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Damaso
3 months 8 days ago

because katoh is a good way to cut through hype?

Lenny
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Lenny
3 months 8 days ago

Oh for sure dude. The only question is what does the secret cabal of Red Sox prospect hypers have against Sam Travis, who apparently is a better prospect than Byron Buxton or Yoan Moncada.

Damaso
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Damaso
3 months 8 days ago

o fer sure dude. no chance any org could ever be overhyped.

redsoxu571
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redsoxu571
3 months 8 days ago

There is no hype. Only trolls.

redsoxu571
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redsoxu571
3 months 8 days ago

As C.M. says below, KATOH uses production and history to make its projections, basically giving a safer look as prospects. Given that all four of Boston’s top prospects are lower level guys, it makes perfect sense that their uncertainty would lead to a lower projection than, say, BA would assign (which historically skews more towards upside than most prospect ranking entities). If I had had to guess which entities would most/least like the Boston group, BA and a system like KATOH would have been my answers, before even seeing the results.

Sandy Kazmir
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Sandy Kazmir
3 months 8 days ago

Sorry this is false, everyone knows the Red Sox are the best at everything. Better tweak the formulas.

Brians Sticky Sock
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Brians Sticky Sock
3 months 8 days ago

Nah dude, here in Chicago we know Theo is God. The Red Sox are merely an angel or something like that.

jdbolick
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Member
3 months 8 days ago

I imagine the Red Sox discrepancy stems from having a lot of low minors guys. Anderson Espinoza didn’t even make KATOH’s top 100 while Devers and Moncado were only 54th and 77th respectively. Those tools are incredibly loud, so if they end up posting strong numbers in AA then KATOH will elevate them accordingly. Meanwhile the Braves discrepancy appears to be a simple difference of evaluation on several prospects. Neither Blair or Newcomb appear in the top 100, the former presumably due to his low strikeout rate and the latter due to his high walk rate. Then Swanson’s 99 PAs didn’t give KATOH much to go on. Personally I side with BA/Law on Boston and with KATOH on Atlanta.

evo34
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evo34
3 months 8 days ago

Important additional caveat for those new to the series: none of the stats used as inputs are park-adjusted. So orgs with extreme parks (esp. if the top prospects happen to play in them) are likely to have skewed projections.

Bad Hermit
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Bad Hermit
3 months 8 days ago

Angels aren’t last? Scrap KATOH.

TMWISH
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TMWISH
3 months 8 days ago

Great work! Just by the way Joe Wieland is no longer a Dodger.

DKH
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DKH
3 months 8 days ago

Thanks for the summary Chris, and for the comment on my pitcher comparison tool.

Do you manually maintain the team column for your minor leaguer dataset? Is there a good (public) data source for that information?

Jetsy Extrano
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Jetsy Extrano
3 months 7 days ago

Yeyson Yrizarri is an 80-grade name.

Dominikk85
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Dominikk85
3 months 1 day ago

Btw is Katoh favoring older prospects and not giving young high upside guys a lot of credit? Sometimes the rankings are quite different from traditional rankings. Should Katoh maybe use a more aggressive age correction factor?

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