Kiley McDaniel of ESPN released his farm system rankings and he has the Cincinnati Reds rated 5th overall. That’s a lot better of a rating than the one handed out by Keith Law of The Athletic earlier this week, who rated the system 13th. That seems like a big gap, and it is. But there could be a reason for it, too.
ESPN’s McDaniel uses a value-to-dollar system to rank farm systems. Based on a players FV rating (Future Value, based upon their graded tools along with a risk assessment) the prospects in a farm system are given a dollar value based on historical data of what similarly graded prospects ultimately provided to a big league organization before reaching free agency. If you want to read about how all of this works, here’s your link. On the flip side, most places aren’t doing it like this and are going more off of what they feel things stack up like by just looking at the various systems. Both certainly have merit. But there are also times when the two things are going to lead to some disagreements in the strength and value of a farm system (the Reds aren’t the only organization with big discrepancies between these two rankings).
McDaniel has the Reds taking a huge step forward from the rankings last year, which had Cincinnati with the 20th rated farm system. That system, of course, included Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, and Hunter Greene, but still was rated near the bottom. Despite their graduation, along with that of Alexis Diaz and a few others, things have shot upwards for the farm thanks to another huge step forward from Elly De La Cruz, the drafting of Cam Collier, and trades that reshaped the amount of top 200 prospects and depth in the organization.
In the paragraphs on Cincinnati’s farm system McDaniel notes that most of their top prospects will be in the upper minor leagues this season, “so the Reds could be interesting again soon”. Interesting can mean a wide variety of things. Fun to watch doesn’t always mean wins a bunch of games or compete for a spot in the playoffs. But interesting certainly could mean good and capable of competing for a spot in the playoffs.
As things stand right now, at least in my opinion, the Reds farm system is only so-so when it comes to pitching. There’s a little bit of upside here, but every pitcher with upside has some pretty big question marks on their resume. Of course the farm system graduated multiple quality big league pitchers last season, so while the “farm” may not be incredibly strong here – the organization has a a good group of young pitchers to work with right now.
Not every prospect is going to work out. Even the best of the best will see guys not turn out as expected at times. But there are also guys who are going to turn out to be much better than their prospect rankings suggested that they would be. You never really know until you know. During the last Reds rebuild the farm system was rated as an above-average one but the pitchers didn’t develop as much as was needed, and the position players never really stepped up.
It’s always better to be thought to have a good farm system than to not be thought to have a good farm system because that’s generally the reflection those within baseball will hold. The players in the minor leagues don’t necessarily have to be used by the big league club on the field to improve their team. Sometimes those players are traded to acquire others with the goal of improving the team.