Comparing Farm System Rankings

As a follow-up on yesterday's postings of Keith Law's organizational prospect rankings and a FanPost ranking the organizations based on John Sickel's Top 20 Lists and Victor Wang's research on the value of prospects, I thought it would be worthwhile to look at the biggest disparities between the two rankings.

Sickels and Law have always had the reputations of being very willing to go against the grain on the evaluation of certain prospects, especially in comparison to the rankings produced by Baseball America. They are, in my opinion, two of the best in the business at minor league and amateur evaluation, but they often disagree on prospects.

Sickels has long been known to be a skeptic when it comes to player's with limited information and/or track records, primarily amateur players signed out of Latin America and American high schools. Law, on the other hand, has shown a larger willingness to be won over solely by tools and his own personal scouting reports rather than minor league statistical track record, but not nearly to the extent of the guys over at BA.

The bigger discrepancies were the Red Sox (#2 in Keith Law, #9 in John Sickels), Athletics (#14 in KL, #2 in JS), Orioles (#6 in KL, #18 in JS), Brewers (#26 in KL, #8 in JS), Giants (#20 in KL, #10 in JS), Rockies (#8 in KL, #22 in JS), Twins (#13 in KL, #23 in JS) and Marlins (#12 in KL, #25 in JS).

Details on each team after the jump.

With the Red Sox, it's not surprising that Law has them significantly higher than Sickels. The farm system is based primarily around high-upside guys in the lower levels of the system, the types of prospects that Law values more than Sickels. Presumably Law likes high-ceiling, lower-level guys like Ryan Westmoreland, Casey Kelly, David Renfroe, Jose Iglesias and Alex Wilson more than Sickels does. The B+ rankings for Kelly and Westmoreland and C+ rankings for Renfroe and Iglesias were probably lower than a lot of evaluators would give them.

In Oakland, the story is essentially the opposite of Boston: many of their top prospects are close to MLB-ready. Chris Carter and Michael Taylor, a guy that Law is generally not that high on, are guys that Sickels loves, and he gives the farm system huge credit for its depth, something that Law doesn't do to nearly the same extent. Presumably, Law doesn't like guys like Adrian Cardenas, Josh Donaldson and Sean Doolittle as much as Sickels does. It'll be interested to see what Law's Oakland prospect rankings look like.

In Baltimore, Law apparently likes the top tier of Baltimore's system significantly more than Sickels does. Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Josh Bell, Zach Britton, Brandon Erbe, Brandon Snyder, Matt Hobgood and Mychal Givens give them a pretty impressive core, but Sickels did pan the system for its clear lack of position player depth. Law has been one of Bell's biggest supporters for a while, but it's still a tad surprising to see them that high after the graduations of Chris Tillman, Matt Wieters, Nolan Reimold and David Hernandez.

Milwaukee is another one of those systems that Sickels gives huge credit for his depth. Law, as noted before, doesn't weigh the depth nearly as much, and apparently isn't that impressed by the top tier of Alcides Escobar, Brett Lawrie, Mat Gamel, Eric Arnett, Jonathan Lucroy and Jake Odorizzi. Law mentions the problems that he had with the farm system's dearth of impact pitching prospects.

San Francisco is one of the systems where Law docks an organization the most for a lack of depth. Obviously, with Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Zach Wheeler and Thomas Neal at the top, the organization has some solid impact prospects. But Law didn't see nearly as much in the remainder of the system as Sickels, apparently.

Colorado is another farm system that Sickels knocks for a lack of depth. The big three of Tyler Matzek, Christian Friedrich and Jhoulys Chacin obviously props up the farm system, but he's not nearly as high on guys like Wilin Rosario, Hector Gomez, Esmil Rogers, Tim Wheeler, and Eric Young Jr. It just seems like another system where Law is bowled over by the top tier more so than Sickels.

With the Twins, it's once again about Sickels' skepticism when it comes to players with limited minor league track records. Some could regard Aaron Hicks and Miguel Jean (Sano) as two of the best prospects in the game, but Sickels has Hicks as a B+ prospect, while Jean's given the C+ that Sickels gives to most top Latin American amateurs. Law presumably weighed them more significantly, considering there's not a whole lot else in the system beyond those two, Kyle Gibson, some decent B-quality position players, and low-level pitching talent. Law is also known to like Max Kepler-Rozycki, a toolsy teenage outfielder out of Europe regarded as one of the best prospects to ever come from the continent. Sickels considered him a C prospect, not even among the top 20, presumably much lower than Law.

Florida has a monster top four that clearly impressed Law more than Sickels in Mike Stanton, Logan Morrison, Matt Dominguez and Chad James, and Sickels only rated 11 Marlin prospects as a C+ or higher, which obviously explains the low ranking.

When looking at the rankings, there are three immediate differences between Law and Sickels:

- Law weighs upside and star potential significantly more than Sickels

- Sickels weighs organizational depth more than Law

- Sickels weighs minor league statistical track records more than Law

Obviously it's worth noting that Sickels very well could have put those farm systems in different order had he ranked them personally, but the idea of combining his grades to monetary values and ranking the farm systems seems nearly as good to me, especially when the leg work is being done by good minds.

That's just a snapshot look at the biggest disparities between the farm system rankings of two of the biggest names in the prospect ranking world, and an interesting look at where the two evaluators differ in how they look at farm systems. I personally was surprised to see Law so down on Oakland, and calling Baltimore the sixth best farm system in baseball was surprising as well. And seeing the Royals at #9 was probably nice for Royal fans, especially after the years that Hosmer and Moustakas had.

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