Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ranking the Minor League Systems

by Steve Klein

For the purpose of this review, a team's "minor league system" consists of all players with M0 or AM contracts. These are the ones who have little or no value right now, but whose futures the team controls.

Rankings are entirely subjective; I didn't try to apply any (Bill) Jamesian formulas to the process. I gave by far the greatest weight to what each player did at the major league level in real-life 2008, because that's the only part of his BRASS future that we know for sure. If he hasn't made it yet in the majors, the most highly-rated prospect can be the next Andy Marte.

For those players who haven't made the majors yet, I'm working from the Baseball America Top 100 issue from last March, modified by whatever I remember reading about a given player since then.

All in all, I'm sure many of you will disagree with some (or many, or all) of the rankings, and I look forward to your comments.

1. Dayton (Fabio Castro, Martin Prado, Ian Stewart, Wladimir Balentien, Chris Denorfia, Jay Bruce, Evan Longoria, Jeff Niemann) - The top team in Kevin's financial-outlook rankings is also #1 here, which should tell you who's likely to dominate the Silver League for the foreseeable future. Longoria alone would put the team which has him in the top spot, and if you took him away, the rest of the group wouldn't be worse than middle-of-the-pack.

2. Diamond (Clay Buchholz, Brian Wilson, Geovany Soto, Nate Schierholtz, Carlos Gonzalez, Matt LaPorta, Jake McGee, Rick Porcello) - Soto is of course the key man, and his supporting cast is arguably stronger than Longoria's. I won't argue with anyone who thinks this group should be #1.

3. San Jose (Jair Jurrjens, Jorge Campilo, Jacoby Ellsbury, Eric Patterson, Lars Anderson, Johnny Cueto, Greg Reynolds) - A clear dropoff in star quality from the top two, but more bulk talent that's ready to step in.

4. Andover (Lance Broadway, Joba Chamberlain, Ryan Speier, Eugenio Velez, Andy LaRoche, Brandon Wood, Victor Diaz, Chase Headley, Chris Marrero, Andrew McCutchen, Travis Snider) - Could easily have ranked #3 on the basis of upside potential.

5. SoCal (Armando Galarraga, J.R. Towles, Joey Votto, Kory Casto, Nathan Haynes, Carlos Carrasco, Clayton Kershaw, Sean Rodriguez) - Might rank higher considering that Votto was the ROY runner-up, but a first baseman with his stats isn't that special.

6. Belfast (Philip Humber, Edinson Volquez, Glen Perkins, Daric Barton, Jeff Salazar, Wade David, Fernando Martinez, Mark Rogers) - What is it about Texas Rangers pitchers? It seems like five years ago that we started hearing about their Holy Trinity of Danks, Volquez and Diamond, but none of them amounted to a bucket of warm spit until they got out of Texas.

7. Green Bay (Phil Dumatrait, John Lannan, Curtis Thigpen, Emilio Bonifacio, Brian Buscher, Brian Barton, Jaime Garcia, Nolan Reimold) - I frankly didn't know who Lannan was until I started writing this review. How did you know to draft him, Bob?

8. Inyo (Nick Blackburn, Ross Ohlendorf, Guillermo Quiroz, Robert Andino, Adam Jones, Brent Lillibridge, Billy Rowell, Chris Volstad) - I may have myself ranked too high, but there are two solid rotation starters and an outfielder with star potential here. But if Jones doesn't hit a lot better than he has so far. . .

9. Chuckanut Bay (Franklin Morales, Felipe Paulino, Billy Buckner, Mark Lowe, Josh Kinney, Juan Morillo, Terry Evans, Brandon Moss, Steven Pearce, Justin Ruggiano, Seth Smith, Dellin Berances, Hank Conger, Jed Lowrie) - Most of these guys will have better years, but even Lowrie hasn't done much yet.

10. Phoenix (Sean Gallagher, Luke Hochevar, Radhames Liz, Craig Hansen, Josh Sharpless, Luis Hernandez, Cesar Carrillo, Jeff Samardzija, Jose Tabata) - I'm really rooting for Samardzija to stay around. The nickname "Eye Chart" hasn't had a home since Doug Gwosdz retired, and who better to hang it on?

11. Montreal (Tyler Clippard, Ross Detwiler, Dan Meyer, Yorman Bazardo, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Jeff Clement, Kevin Melillo, Donny Murphy, Pedro Alvarez, Neftali Perez, David Price) - Let's not get too excited just yet. Price only has 14 major-league innings (not counting postseason) and Alvarez is just getting started.

12. Sugar Creek (Hayden Penn, Jonathan Albaladejo, Dana Eveland, Cameron Maybin, J. Brent Cox, Chuck Lofgren, Josh Vitters) - Maybin has to succeed, or this ranking is way too high. Other than him, it's a league average innings muncher and who are these guys?

13. Twin City (Manny Parra, Tyler Johnson, Dennis Sarfate, Delwyn Young, Reid Brignac, Jason Heyward, Adam Miller) - Parra's OK, but will anyone else in this group ever really contribute? Miller's questionable, and who knows how long Jason Bartlett will keep Brignac down on the farm?

14. Meridian (Troy Patton, Jensen Lewis, Henry Owens, Alberto Gonzalez, Jorge Velandia, Joel Guzman, Nick Adenhart, Tim Beckham, Matt Wieters) - From here down, no team has anyone ready to step into a lineup or a rotation. Meridian tops this group because Wieters is probably the best prospect who hasn't reached the majors yet.

15. Olympia (Charlie Haeger, Ian Kennedy, Justin Maxwell, Gio Gonzalez, Humberto Sanchez, Pablo Sandoval) - Kennedy and Gonzalez are still considered top prospects, despite having stunk up the joint in brief trials. Sandoval came out of nowhere to put up unconscious numbers for a 21-year-old catcher.

16. Cream City (Manny Acosta, Blaine Boyer, Nick Masset, Mitch Stetter, Chris Lubanski, Justin Masterson, Neil Walker) - Masterson is a successful major-leaguer, but I don't give full weight to relief pitchers. Down the road, Walker is the likely star here.

17. Hoth (Merkin Valdez, Justin Huber, Joe Dillon, Ben Francisco, Paul McAnulty, Chris Snelling, Bryan Anderson, Michael Bowden, Anthony Swarzak) - You could argue this ranking should be higher because Francisco was a semi-regular, but in a 24-team league, any team which doesn't have three better outfielders is in trouble.

18. East Lyme (Luis Mendoza, Joshua Newman, Doug Slaten, Joe Thatcher, Chin-lung Hu, Will Inman, Colby Rasmus, Carlos Triunfel) - Rasmus is still an elite prospect, and I keep hearing good things about Hu despite he hasn't hit a lick yet.

19. Montgomery County (Eulogio de la Cruz, Joey Devine, Cale Iorg, Mike Moustakas, Dexter Fowler) - Moustakas will make or break this group; far too early to tell which.

20. Southtown (Garrett Olson, Jeff Bennett, Jonathan Meloan, Clay Rapada, Koyie Hill, Scott Elbert, Eric Hurley, Angel Villalona) - Villalona is supposed to be real good someday, but he's only 17.

21. Duluth-Superior (Phillippe Aumont, Austin Jackson, Desmond Jennings) - The Yankees are just hoping Jackson turns out to be better than Melky Cabrera.

22. Sierra Nevada (Juan Gutierrez, Kevin Hart, Joe Koshansky, Josh Anderson, David Murphy, Brett Anderson, Elvis Andrus) - Seems like I heard about Andrus years ago, but he's still under 20 in both age and BA prospect ranking. A lot could still go wrong before he hits the majors.

23. Great Kills (Deolis Guerra, Jarrod Parker, Brett Sinkbeil) - Who are these guys?

24. Plainsfield (Jim Johnson, Edwar Ramirez, Shawn Riggans, Shelley Duncan, Brandon Jones, Jeremy Hellickson) - Look for Duncan to DH full time against lefties this February, because that's the only way Kevin's ever going to get value out of him.