Royals’ Farm System: Best of the Decade?

Even before trading away Zack Greinke, the Royals were widely considered to have the best farm system in baseball. With Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress now in the fold, some prospect analysts believe the the Royals’ farm system may be historically good.

Is this a case of hyperbole, or do the Royals really have one of the best farm systems ever?

Ranking farm systems and prospects is always a fairly subjective task, but using Victor Wang’s research to value prospects is one of the more objective ways to compare farm systems. Wang looked at Baseball America’s Top 100 prospect lists from 1990-1999 and broke the players into five groups: players who ranked in the top 10, 11-25, 26-50, 51-75, and 76-100. Pitchers and position player’s were looked at separately. Wang then tracked the production of each player in the first six years of his career (the years under team control).

Erik Manning then took Wang’s data and calculated the average surplus value derived from each type of prospect:


* I valued top ten pitching prospects at $16 million (I think the discrepancy is related to sample size rather a difference in talent).

Using these values, I looked at every farm system dating back to 2004 to see how today’s Royals system stacks up. I analyzed the top 20 players in each system using John Sickels’ ranking for players who didn’t make BA’s Top 100 list.

Prior to this year’s Royals, the top three systems of the past decade were the 2006 Arizona Diamondbacks, the 2006 Los Angeles Dodgers, and the 2007 Tampa Bay Rays.

Led by two top ten prospects in Justin Upton and Stephen Drew, the farm system of the 2006 Diamondback’s rated the highest, posting an expected $228.3 million dollars in surplus value. In addition to Upton and Drew, the Diamondbacks’ farm system featured several blue-chip position players. Conor Jackson, Carlos Quentin, and Chris Young all ranked in the top 25 on BA’s Top 100, and Carlos Gonzalez ranked 32nd. On the pitching side, the lone Diamondback to crack the Top 100 was Dustin Nippert (67), but Matt Torra, Garrett Mock, Micah Owings, and Enrique Gonzalez all received B grades from John Sickels.

The 2006 Dodgers ranked second. Nine Dodgers made BA’s top 100 in 2006, but only Chad Billingsley (7) and Andy LaRoche (19) cracked the top 25. The lack of elite prospects limited the expected value from the Dodger’s system to $208 million.

Right on the heels of the 2006 Dodgers were the 2007 Rays. Delmon Young and Evan Longoria both ranked in the top ten, but Reid Brignac was the only other position player to rank in the top 75. Wang’s value system heavily favors position players, so the pitching-heavy Rays fell just a bit short of the Dodgers, with an expected total of $205 million dollars of value.

To compare these systems to the current Royals, I had to predict how BA will rank Royal prospects on their upcoming Top 100 list. Looking through their system, I think a whopping 11 Royals will find their way onto BA’s list. On the position player side, Eric Hosmer will likely rank in the top ten, Wil Myers and Mike Moustakas in the top 25, and Christian Colon somewhere between 51 and 75. Out of the Royals’ hurlers, I expect John Lamb, Mike Montgomery, and Jake Odorizzi to all rank in the 26-50 range, Danny Duffy and Chris Dwyer to rank between 51-75, and Aaron Crow and Jeremy Jeffress to finish at the tail end of the list.

According to Wang’s research, these eleven prospects, combined with Kansas City’s nine next-best prospects (as rated by Sickels), will be worth a projected $227.3 million in surplus value, almost identical to the 228.3 million the system the Diamondbacks had in 2006 was expected to provide.

You can make a case that I might be too high or too low on particular player, but even with a few subtle changes, the overall conclusion remains the same- the Royals have a great farm system, but it’s not objectively stronger than the system the Diamondbacks had in 2006.

An additional point of interest is that despite having great farm systems four years ago, both the Diamondbacks and the Dodges finished below .500 last season. The Rays have been able to sustain success, but their efforts have been bolstered by some outstanding trades and free-agent signings.

The strength of the Royals’ farm system gives them a great foundation for success, but a look back at two of the best farm systems in recent memory provides a cautionary tale for those predicting a Royals dynasty. As we have seen, a great farm system does not guarantee major league success down the road.

We hoped you liked reading Royals’ Farm System: Best of the Decade? by Reed MacPhail!

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Patrick
Guest
Patrick

And if anyone can mess it up… Lets face it – It’s GMDM.

The Been Stew
Guest

Mullins?

mowill
Member
mowill

Keep talking trash about Moore. He is assembling talent the way the Braves did in the late eighties and early nineties and the more talent you have the more you have talent that breaks out. I believe Sabean is considered a moron too, and we all know how that ended.

Joe R
Guest
Joe R

Sabean also made very good offseason moves. Instead of signing old guys to long term deals, he gave out low risk high reward contracts to guys like Huff, Burrell post-release, etc, and it paid off.

Dayton Moore is a wonderful scout and has built a great farm system. But he’ll have to change his views on player valuation if he’s going to fill in the gaps that the farm doesn’t fill if the Royals are to be successful, and so far he’s shown no sense of shrewd deal making in the free agent market.

GMDM is the epitome of all that is good and bad about old baseball guys, really, and I’d feel more comfortable in the Royals’ near future success if they brought in a business mind to complement what is obviously a good talent evaluating mind in Moore.

David
Guest
David

Joe R – Moore’s not that old, he was born in 1967 which makes him 42 or 43. When he was hired by the Royals back in 2005, he was actually considered a rising young star in scouting.

mowill – the thing with Sabean is that he threw away hundreds of millions of dollars on players who didn’t make a significant contribution to the Giants’ WS run. Aaron Rowand was a replacement level player (-0.1 WAR) during the regular season, and relegated to the bench during the postseason. Barry Zito was a decent enough 5th starter (1.3 WAR) during the regular season, but did not make the postseason roster. So, for a total of 1.2 regular season WAR and no impact in the playoffs, the Giants paid these guys over $31 million. In general, blogs like FanGraphs have focused their criticism on Sabean’s big money free agent signings, as well as a few puzzling trades (which, to be fair, often worked out in the Giants’ favor). I think they’ve given him credit where it’s due, for making some shrewd cheap signings as well as stockpiling some great young pitchers.

Darryl Downy
Guest
Darryl Downy

Then, the thing about Sabean is he’s not unlike the ‘thing’ about Epstein and Cashman, both of whom also throw money down the drain. And they, BTW, are joined by every other GM is sport.

Fact of this matter though is that Sabean was/is made out to be a sophomoric talent, but as the team he constructed proved, it’s really his critics who are talentless. It’s about time fans realized what they really are – fans, and just because some shmuck like Cameron can entice readers with his over-the-top opinions does not mean he knows jack about the game. Which he obviously does not. #6

DrBGiantsfan
Guest

There is considerable circumstantial evidence that the Zito signing and possibly the Rowand signing were more the handiwork of former Giants Managing Partner Peter Magowan who was trying to replicate what he did when he first took over the Giants, and signed Barry Bonds to the biggest contract in baseball history at the time. That is likely the reason why Magowan is no longer the Managing Partner and Brian Sabean is still the GM.

Joe R
Guest
Joe R

@David – age is just a number, really. For example, Peter Gammons can chew a man’s ear off over FIP, while hoards of 20-somethings still evaluate by Wins, batting average, RBI, and other sneaker-selling stats. “old baseball” is a mindset.

Obviously old baseball isn’t a bad thing, as you’d have to be an idiot to think you can look at a kid’s college statistics and say “FIRST ROUNDER!”, as a scout might say “He has to start his swing early on fastballs, I don’t like him for my team”. Obviously knowing a kid can barely turn over an 85 MPH fastball spells impending doom once those become 95 MPH.

Moore needs a little help in other areas, and has shown by struggling to sign good value-vets, opting instead for guys like Guillen and Frenchie (and Kendall, well, the contract wasn’t bad, but it was unnecessary given the roster construction). I can see the team taking off if he’s given the supporting cast for decision making, since the Royals will continue to draft well with GMDM at the helm.

name
Guest
name

i guess this sort of begs the question: is pitching talent often overevaluated in regards to trading prospects

sidnancy
Guest
sidnancy

I’d guess it’s more likely that pitchers get hurt; why else would pitchers ranked #11-50 be worth more than the ones ranked 1-10?

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11

Because pitcher’s value is based on max velocity and size, and not so much on whether they can get hitters out or not? That’s a possibility.

Guys like Farnsworth are a scout’s wet dream. He’s a physical specimen that really fills out the uniform, and he throws gas.

There is no way to look bad drafting him because of his natural attributes. He’s the kind of guy that would light up an MLB Combine (if they had one). The only guys that get more attention than these types are propsects who have a dad that played MLB.

I’ve seen both Folty (#19, 2010 HOU) and Blair (1st Rd, StL 2009) pitch in HS. They weren’t the best prep pitchers I have seen (we were 1-1 versus Blair), but they were big (‘specially Folty) and they threw gas.

The thinking is that they have everything you can’t teach and can probably learn a lot of what you can. Problem is that a lot of guys don’t “learn”. Once they get to the point that they cannot blow everyone away, reality sets in, and not everyone can adjust.

The calls of “can he get guys out?” are often drowned out by “Did you see how big he is?” and “OMG! He is lighting up the radar gun.”