I’m told that Bluebird Banter will have its own take on the world of Toronto Blue Jays prospects later this week. In the interim, I thought it worthwhile to reflect on the latest installment of Keith Law’s Farm System Rankings.
Later this week, he’ll also have his top-100 prospects (Tuesday) and top-10 prospects per team (Wednesday for the American League).
You can find the entire farm rankings article here. Law, who ranked the Blue Jays 24th, had this to say about the farm system:
A top-10 system before the big offseason trades, probably top five, but Alex Anthopoulos pushed his chips to the center of the table, stood up and said "Boo-yah!" … but in the politest way possible.
It was the briefest blurb that any team received, but the message was clear: sure, the Blue Jays took a big step back in terms of farm system quality and depth, but it was for a good reason.
To wit, here are the transactions impacting the farm system that the Blue Jays have made since last February’s rankings, when Law had them pegged third. (I’m not listing minor transactions of the Darin Mastroianni/Sean O’Sullivan variety.)
June 11 – MLB Draft, where the Jays swing for upside by allotting more money to top talent and leaving less for mid-round picks.
July 20 – send out Joe Musgrove, Asher Wojciechowski, David Rollins and Carlos Perez in the "Brandon Lyon, J.A. Happ and David Carpenter" trade with the Astros.
July 31 – trade Travis Snider and Eric Thames for relievers.
September 18 – enter into agreement with Buffalo Bisons as AAA affiliate.
November 19 – trade Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez, Justin Nicolino, Jake Marisnick and Anthony DeScalfani to Marlins in "The Big Trade" (note: this is no longer on their MLB transactions page).
December 17 – trade Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud and Wuilmer Becerra to Mets in the "R.A. Dickey trade."
So yes, the Jays sent out a lot of prospects over the course of the season and the offseason. I’d assume that if Alex Anthopoulos had known those Marlins and Mets deals would be on the table, he wouldn’t have made the deal for Happ, even if Musgrove and Asher aren’t exactly worth being upset about.
The net impact on the organization from these deals isn’t set in stone, but the Jays basically accepted dropping from third to 24th in farm system strength (depending on your rankings of choice) in order to hopefully rise from 23rd in regular seasons wins into the top-10 or top-five. If you ask most fans, I think they’d accept that trade-off in a heartbeat.
I’m by no means a prospect "expert," as much as I like to think reading the minor league box scores every day makes me one, so I’ll defer to Tom and the likes with their organizational evaluation later this week. I can, however, look up the Jays top-20 prospects from the end of last season.
You just have to go here. That’s a little secret "trick of the trade" for you.
The biggest issue I see with the Jays top prospects is that they are very far away from the Majors. While the team is very strong right now, there’s no longer an obvious pipeline of talent ready to fill in in the event of injury, trade or poor performance.
In fact, Marcus Stroman is one of only two top-10 prospects who has even reached Double-A, and he only threw eight innings there last year. Deck McGuire is the other, and he had an ERA of nearly six last season.
I’m still of the mind that the farm system has some talent. There are a lot of names throughout the Single-A levels that have elite upside, but players at that level of the system are notoriously prone to wide ranges of actual outcomes. Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris and Roberto Osuna are all exciting prospects but none of them are likely to see the Majors before 2015. D.J. Davis, Chris Hawkins and Anthony Alford are all very toolsy prospects, but they’re also very far away with obvious flaws to work out. (For the record, Alford has transferred from Southern Miss to Ole Miss after a season plagued with injuries and inconsistent playing time.)
Perhaps with all of this talent, Law is more down on the system than most? Law is an expert among experts, but he’s not perfect. John Sickels ranked the farm system 22nd, a year after having them pegged as the top system in baseball. Bleacher Report ranked the Jays 1st in their slideshow of "Top 10 Farm Systems Ranked 24th by Keith Law," but I doubt that’s valid. (Note: that’s a joke.)
Anyway, Tom and Woodsman are coming at you with some more in-depth prospecting later this week, so I’ll leave the nitty gritty to them. Until then, do you think Keith Law is underrating the system because of the outgoing prospects? Do the Jays still have enough depth to make deals, or is it now time to re-cultivate the system by letting the players move up organically and provide reinforcement down the line?