Saturday, January 27, 2007

Cashman Makes ESPN Kiss the Ring

Keith Law at has ranked the Major League farm systems from top to bottom. His top five looked like this:

1. Tampa Bay: Packed with high-ceiling bats and a lot of pitching depth, although most of it was in A-ball in 2006.

2. Colorado: Troy Tulowitzki and Chris Iannetta give them two outstanding up-the-middle prospects, and outfielder Dexter Fowler, who turned down a chance to go to some liberal arts school in Cambridge, Mass., looks like an outstanding late sign from 2005.

3. Arizona: One of the most impressive waves of hitting prospects that any team has assembled continues in 2007 with Chris Young ready to step in and Carlos Gonzalez and Justin Upton coming along behind him.

4. Kansas City: Little depth, but their top three prospects (Alex Gordon, Billy Butler and Luke Hochevar) are as good as any organization's top three.

5. N.Y. Yankees: Massive improvement since 2005, buttressed by some trades for prospects and a higher-ceiling approach to the draft.
Since Yankees fans have been used to ignoring the wasteland that was the Bomber farm-system, I would be remiss if I did not also mention his bottom five. The worst minor league system seems to be a consensus no-brainer:

26. Texas: Probably the shocker of the list for me, as the Rangers' touted DVD trio hasn't panned out as planned, with Thomas Diamond looking destined for the pen and John Danks dealt to pick up the more major-league ready Brandon McCarthy.

27. San Francisco: No surprise here, as the Giants have willfully surrendered their first-round picks for years until they were forced by the rules to keep their No. 1 in 2006, which they used to select Tim Lincecum, now their top prospect.

28. St. Louis: Saved from the bottom spot by Colby Rasmus, who just needs to pass the Double-A test to become one of the top 10 to 15 prospects in the minors.

29. Philadelphia: Thin system which got thinner by the sudden rise of Cole Hamels. The closest solid-average prospect to the majors here is Carlos Carrasco, who spent the year in low-A.

30. San Diego: The system's best prospects are Kevin Kouzmanoff, a low-power corner bat just acquired from Cleveland, and pitcher Cesar Carrillo, who missed the last half of the season with elbow trouble. Years of unproductive drafts have really taken a toll here.
Another ESPN "Insider" offered his two cents on the legitimacy (or lack thereof) that accompanies top-prospect hype. Hell, Rob Neyer even came up with a grading system. Studying the minor league systems of 10 MLB franchises, Neyer took Baseball America's list of 50 prospects (the top-5 from each team) and ranked them from grades of A through F. Of the 50 prospects analyzed, only six of them received an "A" grade. They were Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner, Cliff Lee, Joe Crede, Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano.

Keith Law also formulated a more in-depth analysis of the top farm systems. Here's what he had to say on what impressed him most about the Yankee minor leagues:
What sets the Yankees' system apart from most others is the presence of two of the 10 best prospects in baseball, something no other organization can claim. The first of these two is right-handed pitcher Philip Hughes, who should show up in the Bronx in the first half of this season. The Yanks' first-round pick in 2004 has rocketed through the system with two consistent plus-plus pitches in a 93-95 mph fastball with fair sink, and a 12-to-6 curveball, and he has a promising changeup as well.

Hughes' hitting counterpart on the Yanks' prospect depth chart is teenaged center fielder Jose Tabata [who] has an outstanding package of tools, but also has a degree of baseball acumen not often seen in players so young.
He has a quick bat with developing power and good command of the strike zone. He has good instincts in center, with a plus arm that will allow him to move to right if he outgrows center.

The Yanks' system also now boasts depth that it hasn't had in years. Trading Gary Sheffield netted the Yankees another top pitching prospect in Humberto Sanchez as well as two live arms in Kevin Whelan and Anthony Claggett. The Yanks also added two more tough signs in Mark Melancon and sashimi-raw flamethrower Dellin Betances. [The Yankees farm has shown] significant improvement for such a short period of time, and that's very bad news for the other four teams in the AL East.
I don't know if I would call Dellin Betances "sashimi-raw" because he has apparently taken large strides during a minuscule serving of professional ball. Perhaps Law was describing the 6-8 Betances before the Yankees drafted him, but we both agree on one thing . . . he does throw smoke. The teenager has impressed Nardi Contreras by bettering his mechanics and delivery which thereby helps loosen any "wild" tag. A well-located plus fastball that can reach 99mph can be a reliable backbone for a pitching prospect who is developing an above average knuckle-curve.

A lot of the naysayers on 18 year-old Tabata have said he lacks the power (and frame) needed to be an impact outfielder. But, his physical maturity may erase such doubters since he has been blessed with batting instincts well beyond his years. Either way, it's nice to see so much love being thrown in the direction of future pinstripers.


Juke said...

Rating farm systems & young players is gee, golly swell. But unless they are total wastoids, it takes 3 to 4 seasons to really know much. Even then it's still at least 2 more in the bigs to see if they have anything. Experts & predictions are worth less from my POV.

AS for Betances, he better learn how to wear a cap first. . ..

yankeesZrider said...

As I admitted, the ranking and touting of young prospects - especially teenagers like Betances - can become a dangerous game. The focus was not on any "guarantee" that the prospects will be MLB studs, but instead an undeniable emergence of the Yankee farm system.

Over the past 18 months, Brian Cashman has completed an overhaul of the organization and people around baseball (not just tri-staters like myself) are more and more becoming aware of the system's relevance.