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AL West Farm System Values

When a trade is made, we often see analysts rush to declare a winner and a loser. When it is a major leaguer for a major leaguer, the task is relatively easy.  When it becomes prospects for a big leaguer, however, suddenly everyone becomes a fortune teller.  We know nothing can be more challenging than predicting what a prospect will become. Is there a less subjective way to find a prospect's trade value? Yep, there is.  Here are the results from Victor Wang's research as seen at The Hardball Times:

Top 10 hitting prospects $36.5M
Top 11-25 hitters $25.1
Top 26-50 hitters $23.4
Top 51-75 hitters $14.2
Top 76-100 hitters $12.5
Top 10 pitching prospects $15.2
Top 11-25 pitchers $15.9
Top 26-50 pitchers $15.9
Top 51-75 pitchers $12.1
Top 76-100 pitchers $9.8
Grade B pitchers (as graded by Sickels)
Grade B hitters $5.5
Grade C pitchers 22 or younger $2.1
Grade C pitchers 23 or older $1.5
Grade C hitters 22 or younger $0.7
Grade C hitters 23 or older $0.5

The nutshell explanation of his method: 

  • Divide prospects into different tiers using Baseball America's prospect rankings.
  • Find what the average player in a talent pool produces during their cost-controlled years.
  • Find how much money a team would need to spend to acquire the prospect's production on the free-agent market. For this, Victor applied Studes' work on WSAB and its direct relationship to a player's salary.
  • Find the savings.
  • For those outside of the Baseball America's 100, Victor applied the same process to prospects graded with B's and C's by John Sickels, only with C prospects he further divided them by age. The grades would be seen in any of his top 20 rankings for a given farm system.

I suggest you head to your local bookstore for The Hardball Times Annual 2009 and read Victor's article in its entirety for more details. One thing that jumps out is how pitchers are so bunched up (TINSTAAP rears its ugly head) and how valuable Top 50 hitters are. Interestingly enough, B and C pitchers have more value than B and C hitters. Based on these numbers, we can now determine how much surplus value a farm system has.

To begin, I decided to take Mr. Greeley's advice to Go West. The AL West that is, which has two of the best farm systems in all of baseball, the Rangers and the A's. I just applied the dollar values using BA's most recent Top 100 and John Sickels' prospect rankings. Here's how it all shook out:

The A's edge the Rangers, largely because of a depth of arms. Both systems have solid hitting depth and ridiculous pitching depth. What put Oakland over the top was the fact they have six B grade pitchers; quite valuable commodities. Quality beats quantity. See the graph below.

Another observation is that the Mariners have a little better farm system than given they are credit for, even in light Erik Bedard fiasco. The Angels on the other hand have one horrid system for a club that has a pretty solid reputation for player development.

Now that we have the how out of the way, we'll look more at the what as I go division by division in upcoming posts.