For years, the Seattle Mariners had one, if not the worst, farm system in all of baseball. It was so bad, that any prospect with a shred of upside was fiercely protected by the fans who pay attention to these sort of things.
We could constantly hear Mariners fans bash Jerry Dipoto for trading away our “good” prospects. But in reality, the franchise didn’t really have any of them good enough to be worried about. The 3 biggest name prospect he traded were Tyler O’Neill, Luiz Gohara, and Nick Neidert. A trio of starts there right?
But since committing to a true rebuild just 8 months ago, something amazing has happened: the farm system got better. And it hasn’t gone from bad to mediocre, which would have been a nice accomplishment. It didn’t go from bad to average. It actually went from worst in the game to amongst the 10 best.
That isn’t an opinion of this writer. No, it is actually the opinion of Fangraphs.com and their new “farm rankings” which places expected monetary worth of every 35 grade player or higher in the system. Using this data-driven approach, the Mariners come out at #8 overall in the farm ranks, a jump of 22 spots from where they would have been last season.
Perhaps you prefer a traditional, scouting opinion on the farm system. Well, if you have a Baseball America subscription, you can find that they ranked the Mariners farm system 11th in the game right now.
And while MLB Pipeline is still finalizing their new ranks, the Mariners currently have 6 of their Top 100 prospects in all of baseball, third-most in the game. Three of the biggest publications on earth have the Mariners inside or on the edge of a Top 10 ranked farm system, a stunning turnaround in the past year.
And while these ranks are fun and certainly should give you some degree of hope moving forward, it is important to remember a few things. First, these ranks don’t matter at all. The players still have to prove they can live up to their potential at the MLB level and the player development staff still has to do their job as well.
Second, the Mariners could move down these list without trading a single prospect. Graduations happen and there is an outside chance that 2 or 3 key prospects lose that status due to playing time earned at the big league level.
That doesn’t mean things are trending in the wrong direction. It actually means the opposite. Think about it: would you rather have a highly ranked system? Or see guys like Justus Sheffield and Jake Fraley contribute at the big league level this season? The answer is obvious.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, remember that the goal of this rebuild IS NOT to have the best farm system in the game. IT IS to go to the playoffs and try to win a World Series. So while they may still be lightyears behind the Rays or Padres, it does not matter.
The top farm system is not the endgame. The farm system is just a tool to get you to where you want to be: dog piles and trophy presentations.