Watching the watchers

ESPN’s Keith Law published his Top 100 prospects list today… The Padres on the list are:

19. RHP Casey Kelly
38. 1B Anthony Rizzo
46. OF Jaff Decker (TinCaps ’09)
64. RHP Simon Castro (TinCaps ’09)

Along with all the player-specific prospect rankings that have been trickling out this week, several outlets are ranking how the 30 MLB organizations stack up against each other. The Padres haven’t gotten a lot of love lately. Their year-by-year rankings according to Baseball America are…

2008: 12th
2009: 29th
2010: 20th
2011: 9th

In fairness, Keith Law has the Padres ranked 16th, but it seems like they’re going in the right direction. The question is, what do these rankings really mean? Tough to say, especially since the rankings are based on subjective evaluations, but it’s the best system we have.

Prospect ranking tends to be a top-heavy venture and for good reason. The goal isn’t to develop a bunch of big-league utility players who can win Midwest League titles; it’s producing good everyday major leaguers, whether that’s in the form of trading prospects for proven MLB players or letting the prospects graduate to the big leagues. Let’s take a look at which organizations have been ranked highly recently and the bigger-name players they’ve produced.

2008
1. Rays (Longoria, Price, Wade Davis, Jeremy Hellickson)
2. Red Sox (Buchholz, Ellsbury, two pitchers traded for Victor Martinez)
3. Reds (Bruce, Bailey, Votto, Cueto, Stubbs)
4. Rangers (Andrus, Feliz)
5. Yankees (J. Chamberlain, A. Jackson, J. Tabata, I. Kennedy, J. Montero, B. Gardner)

2009
1. Rangers (Feliz, D. Holland, Andrus, two players traded for Cliff Lee)
2. Marlins (Maybin, Stanton, L. Morrison, Gaby Sanchez, Chris Coghlan)
3. A’s (Brett Anderson, Cahill, Gio Gonzalez)
4. Rays (Price, Wade Davis, Hellickson, Jeff Niemann)
5. Giants (Bumgarner, Posey, Sergio Romo)

2010
1. Rays (Hellickson, Wade Davis)
2. Rangers (Feliz, two Cliff Lee trade pieces)
3. Indians (Carlos Santana)
4. Giants (Posey, Bumgarner)
5. Phillies (Domonic Brown, three Roy Halladay trade pieces)

Notice who’s in there most often: Rays, Rangers, Giants. All playoff teams last year. The Reds and Phillies made the most of their farm systems in different ways (Reds used their own players; Phillies used theirs to trade for Roy Halladay).

Again, the takeaway from this exercise is this: The true measure of a club’s minor-league system isn’t how many games the Fort Wayne TinCaps or Lake Elsinore Storm win (although, obviously, teams with good players do tend to win). It’s how many individual players would be regulars on a playoff-type MLB team. Any good organizational rankings should try to reflect that.

Random thoughts:

  • The Padres handed out their organizational awards yesterday… Former TinCaps were all over it. C Jason Hagerty (’10) was the Offensive Player of the Year, C Luis Martinez (’07-08) was Defensive Player of the Year, RHP Brad Brach (’09) was Pitcher of the Year and INF Jeudy Valdez (’09-10) was named Baserunner of the Year. Former Fort Wayne manager Gary Jones (’03) was named minor-league Coach of the Year. Maybe this is what it’ll take for Brach to get some headlines. You’d think going 78-for-83 with a 1.90 ERA, more strikeouts than innings pitched and an opponent batting average under .200 for his career would do it, but what do I know?
  • Jorge Cantu’s signing with the Padres is a done deal. By the numbers, Cantu looks like a league-average hitter who has versatility and he’s coming cheap as a backup. Another solid move by the Padres.
  • Padres GM Jed Hoyer did a radio interview in San Diego and discussed a cornucopia of baseball-related subjects.
  • Will Venable models the Padres’ new road jerseys, now with no sand color!
  • The Reds locked up another homegrown player in RHP Johnny Cueto and their GM reiterated the importance of player development.
  • Folks in Dodgertown aren’t too pleased with the production of their minor-league system since the big crop of 2006. Help should be on the way, as long as they don’t make any more Casey Blake-for-Carlos Santana kind of deals. We’ve seen SS Dee Gordon, OF Jerry Sands, LHP Aaron Miller and RHP Ethan Martin in the MWL over the last few years.
  • Big Fat Bartolo Colon signed a minor-league deal with the Yankees. I get that it’s a tiny investment on their part, but doesn’t this make their hesitation on Carl Pavano look really bad? They have one guy in their rotation who I’d feel completely comfortable with (Sabathia), then a bunch of question marks in Phil Hughes (inexperienced), A.J. Burnett (head case) and whoever else they’re running out there… Ivan Nova? Sergio Mitre? Bartolo Colon? Apparently they’re still looking at Justin Duchscherer and Jeremy Bonderman, but those don’t sound much better. If I were a Yankee fan, I’d be freaking out and praying Andy Pettitte stops Brett Favre-ing them.
  • Derek Jeter has been spotted in the batting cage. And there was much rejoicing.
  • The Blue Jays have been the talk of January so far as they rebuild. I’m pretty sure their GM has Jedi mind powers, because that’s the only way anyone can explain how he found somebody to take Vernon Wells’s contract in a trade.
  • Peter Gammons says the Rays have had a nice off-season as they move on from losing several key pieces.
  • MLB players get a smaller percentage of their teams’ revenue than players of any other major sport. Which could change with the collective bargaining agreement expiring after this season.
  • Baseball America has the pre-season college Top 25 rankings. From what I’ve been told by experts on the subject, this year’s draft class has the typical high-school talent, but it’s the college talent that makes it deeper than most drafts. Also, how about Oregon? They just restarted their baseball program a few years ago and they’re already in the Top 15. Also, Cal at No. 17 is interesting… the school could cut the baseball program following the season due to budget concerns. St. John’s and UConn are the only two teams on the list from what I’d consider “northern” schools.
  • Most of the SportScience piec
    es have been decent, but this one is hilariously bad. And I love bears. Not the Chicago Bears, though.
  • I saw this commercial in passing last night, but wasn’t really watching it. I can’t decide if it’s funny or creepy.

Musical guest, as a tribute to the Fort Wayne winter weather… Dave Matthews Band!

Take care!

DW

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