I’ve gotten about a million emails about this (give or take a few hundred thousand), so I figured it was time to address it on the site. From Jim Callis’ chat over at ESPN last week (sub. req’d):
M Kantar (Marlborough, MA): Hi Jim, I have actually pre ordered a copy of the 2009 Prospect Handbook. I did have one question about where would the Red Sox farm system rank in MLB, about #9 overall?
Jim Callis: The Handbook is off at the printer’s and should be back in mid-January. I won’t give away all of our farm system rankings–and we will update them again in spring training after more trades are made–but I will tell you that the Red Sox system ranked 13th.
. . .
Doug (NY): Since you can’t give away the Sox ranking without their heated rivals, yankees please. thanks!
Jim Callis: OK, that seems fair enough. The Yankees ranked 15th.
Most of them emails asked the same thing: a) I thought the Red Sox had such a great system, and b) are the Yanks ranked too low? Let’s get the BoSox portion out of the way first.
The Sox had a great system coming into ’08, ranked #2 overall by Baseball America. During the season they graduated Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Justin Masterson and Jed Lowrie to the big league club, who were ranked their #1, 2, 4 and 5 prospects, respectively. Graduating four Top 100 prospects will take the huge bite out of any system, and that’s the main reason for their drop. Ryan Kalish struggled as he returned from a wrist problem, and Nick Hagadone had Tommy John surgery after 10 innings. Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss were dealt away, also contributing to their slide. The Sox have four legit prospects at or above the Double-A level, and one of those is a fastball-only reliever who walked 3.46 batters per nine innings last year. The rest of their talent is in the lower minors, and Junichi Tazawa is just a hyped up question mark at this point. Their ranking did seem a bit low, but it’s reasonable.
As far as the Yanks go, it’s a similar situation. Right at the top, Joba and Ian Kennedy graduated to the bigs a year after being Top 100 guys. Jose Tabata, Jeff Marquez, Ross Ohlendorf and Dan McCutchen were traded away after ranking amongst the Yanks’ top 14 prospect coming into the year. Alan Horne blew out his shoulder , Frankie Cervelli had his wrist broken, and JB Cox struggled in his return from TJ. Carmen Angelini had a bad year, and Humberto Sanchez’s return from TJ wasn’t so glorious. Of the guys that did take a big step forward, two of them will start next year as 26 year olds who project as back-end starters/relievers (Phil Coke & Al Aceves). Outside of Austin Jackson, all of their high end talent is in A-ball or lower. Then, of course, you have to factor in the unsigned first and second round picks from the draft. All that adds up to a middle of pack ranking.
Ranking fifteenth overall isn’t terrible, but it’s definitely a step down from the past two or three years. The Yanks will have picks in every round but the third next year (assuming they don’t sign another Type-A free agent), so they’ll have a chance to replenish the system a bit.