What you see before you came about through a mish-mash of events, the first being the Dorks Being Dorks podcast that Matt and I did about managing minors, and the last being that I happened across a Fangraphs article that discussed the evaluation of farm systems. In between there is the conversion to the 20/80 and relative rating scales, and some other thinking. Bottom line, though, I wanted to take a look-see at a process that compared the way that OOTP assesses its farm systems and the way I think about them.
This has always been a bug-a-boo of mine, because, while I love me some top prospects (which is what OOTP uses to assess farm systems) I think that method misses the core of what a farm system is, especially in today’s world of injury and large-scale use of the disabled list. You need some depth in your system today, right? Beyond that, scraping just the top off the prospect list means you’re missing out on the question of what systems are more likely to grow one of those famous “bumpers” we all love to hope for. To my way of thinking, a system with some depth has a great chance of yielding one of those hidden gems.
Makes sense, right?
So to look at these things, and motivated by the Fangraphs article I mentioned above, I decided to take a look at how many players each of our farm systems had in it that were rated at least 40, which is a number that I think is fair to say is a player who should be expected to at least provide some minimal value if needed to be pressed into service. I then weighted each level with a simple linear expression (an “80” gets 9 points, a “40” gets only 1). I note that Fangraphs uses a fancy calculation here that projects WAR and assesses $/WAR, but I’m just doing a simple math.
At that point I ranked our teams, and then put the OOTP ranking and power points into the mix to see how the two systems were different. Your mileage may vary.
I should note that I transposed the numbers by hand from a view in OOTP, and that they should represent the total number of players in our minors and International Complexes. This is before call-ups, but does not include “prospects” that are currently on major league rosters.
Regardless, here are the numbers I got:
Let’s do a little delving into this chart.
First, let’s look at the very bottom line: the total number of prospects we have in the league at each rating. Note how we have 169 prospects in our minors rated “40” and how that scales down gently … all the way until we get to “80” which then takes a bit of a bump. This last does not look like baseball…and it also shows that relative ratings don't actually do what people think they do. Note, however, that if we used 2-8 rather than 20-80, we’d see a curve that was more like what we were expecting (272 “4”, 161 “5”, 87 “6”, 42 “7”, an 34 “8”…same core data, different feel).
All right, now to our teams: The bottom line is that weighting the entire organization (or at least a larger portion of it), certainly makes a difference.
First, let’s look at the top.
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Rnk OOTP FanGraphs 1 NO YS9 2 HAW NO 3 SEA CLG 4 CLG PHX 5 YS9 HNT
Aside: I ponder why Huntsville and Phoenix are not up higher in the OOTP version anyway, but maybe that’s just me. The Talon’s system is rated #7 by OOTP, but Huntsville sits at #18. Perhaps the chart hasn’t been totally updated after a few trades?
Regardless, there are some interesting examples to consider here, and I’ll pick a few out.
Let’s start with the Commissioner’s Las Vegas squad. The Hustlers have no 75 or 80 prospects, but a few scattered in the middle realm, but they are second to Calgary in the lowest region on the chart with 13 “40” rated prospects. This is almost certainly due to a combination of draft strategy and the aggressive management actions Matt discussed I our podcast. As a result, while they score at the bottom of the league per OOTP (27, with 17 points), this Fangraphs process places them 9th—or upper third. I think this makes sense both intellectually and when you look at how Las Vegas has managed to keep things together through the years. Matt always has players to fill spots when he needs them.
Tyler Simmons in Jacksonville has a similar kind of profile. The Hurricanes are #28 by OOTP, but in overall depth their system scores a #6 rank by this Fangraphs method. I admit I haven’t paid attention to the depths of Tyler’s approach, but a scan of his system shows wonderful balance and suggests that there’s something going on here. The fact that Jacksonville is a perennial power might suggest this isn’t a fluke.
Let’s go the other way and look at Nashville, who currently ranks 9th by OOTP, but 28th by Fangraphs. Brett’s plan has actually been pretty interesting to watch, and he’s had issues to deal with outside the farm system. But still, this split is interesting. It should be noted that Eru Likiliki is in the majors right now. The OOTP method includes him as a top prospect, whereas he doesn’t show up at all in my cut.
Probably the bigger example of this issue of prospects in the big leagues is Des Moines, though. Ed’s system scores only with Jorge Aranda in OOTP, and registers in at #23. Same with this cut—though his depth looks a little better (and a look at his system shows more good news in that much of that depth is about ready to play). But neither OOTP nor this Fangraphs system includes guys like Chris White or Long Chamberlain III, who are in the majors despite having some growing to do.
Stephen Lane’s Long Beach Surfers are another team that looks stronger through the OOTP lens than through this lens. A scan of their line shows they are top heavy, with only 10 total prospects at the 40 and above level. Is OOTP over-rating them? Or does this Fangraphs approach under-rate them? You make the call. You can also add the Genius’s Wichita club to this gathering. The Aviators rank #13 via OOTP, but #24 in the deeper dive. A look at their prospect scatter can show you why.
Fred Holmes’ Mexico City is another interesting case. #20 in OOTP, The Aztecs score in at #8 by the deeper dive. They carry 18 players rated 40, 45, or 50. How many have to yield value to make things work out for Mexico City? I’ll say that this whole line seems to fit my view of how Fred goes about making teams—he’s always got teams filled up with solid guys.
And ya gotta love Allan Ehler’s Brooklyn system, which clearly shows he’s not just shooting shit when he says he’s emptied out the coffers in his attempt to make things happen for his fans. Both OOTP and the kludgy Fangraphs thing agrees that the Robins are hosed in the future.
Take a look at Hawaii. Their #2 ranking in OOTP’s scale is well-earned with four pretty major prospects in the wing, but the wider look suggests that, beyond those four, Mike Bieschke’s system is a little more hollow in the middle than you’d like to see, resulting in the Tropic’s overall ranking sliding to #18. Perhaps this suggests steps to take? Or at least that certain plans might need to be concocted.
Bottom line is that I really like this way of looking at things because I think it’s a more robust measure of where our organizations stand in their ability to provide players into our parent clubs. I suppose you could do this a lot better, of course. You can break it down by age bands, or include players in their first year in the bigs, or any one of a number of other methods. Regardless, though, I found this illuminating.