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January 17, 2014

Pebble Hunting

What it Means to Have the Best Farm System in Baseball, Part Two

by Sam Miller


In the late 2000s, when the Angels’ farm system (weakened mostly by promotions and a lack of early first-round draft picks) started to place low in organizational rankings, some local writers would respond with a pithy counterpoint: In 2000, the Angels were ranked 29th by Baseball America, and two years later they won the World Series. This supposeduly irrefutable refutation was trotted out so reliably it seemed likely that reporters were parroting the club's own words. You never got the sense that the Angels, as an organization, thought much of organizational rankings.

The organizational rankings, in time, thought much more of the Angels. They improved from 29th to 25th to 17th to fifth to third and, finally, before the 2005 season, they were baseball’s no. 1 farm system, according to both BA and John Sickels. Baseball Prospectus didn’t do org rankings yet, but that year's top prospects list had two Angels in the top five. The Angels had made this great leap forward while also dramatically upgrading their big-league results; as Matt Welch writes in the Angels team essay in this year’s BP Annual, “it almost felt like the Angels had beaten baseball's business cycle.”

Many years have passed since then; every part of the organization has been at various points up or down. As we did last year with the 2004 Brewers' top 30 prospects, we’re going to look at the longitudinal impact of an elite farm system to see just how long the benefits last, and how big those benefits can get.

Year 1 (2005)
30 of 30 prospects remain in the system

Part of what made the Angels’ system so exciting at the time was that the two best prospects, no. 1 Casey Kotchman and no. 2 Dallas McPherson, were each already at the major-league level; McPherson, we wrote in that year’s Annual, was “the most polished power bat in the minors and was probably ready for a third base job in the majors two years ago.” But he flopped and got hurt in 2005, while Kotchman—blocked at first base by .273/.325/.371-hitting Darin Erstad—had a career-worst season in a repeat of Triple-A.

Six players from the top 30 appear in the majors this year, producing 1.3 WARP—or, if you exclude negative contributions, which I will do going forward unless noted—1.9 WARP. The most productive player is no. 7 prospect Ervin Santana, who debuts in May and throws 140 pretty good innings.

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Related Content:  Angels,  Prospects,  Los Angeles Angels,  Farm Systems

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Premium Article Raising Aces: Classic ... (01/17)
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Premium Article Pebble Hunting: The Ye... (01/09)
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Premium Article Pebble Hunting: Do the... (01/22)
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Premium Article Prospects Will Break Y... (01/17)

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