There’s been a lot of talk about the Red Sox farm system of late, and really it’s been a focus for many years now. It goes without saying that this is an important part of any baseball organization, considering that a never-ending supply of young talent is one of the easiest ways to create sustainable success. Of course, it’s much easier said than done to preserve the same kind of talent in a farm system year after year while also staying towards the top of the standings. It’s a delicate line to walk, and only the most skilled general managers in the league can walk it.
With that in mind, Baseball America ranks the best farm systems around the league a couple times every year, and on Thursday they released their midseason rankings. You can check out the full rankings with a subscription here, but the Red Sox came in at number 20 on the list, putting them in the bottom-third of the entire league. They are sandwiched between the Twins and the Rangers.
Clearly, this is not where we want to see the Red Sox, and it’s not where we’ve gotten used to seeing them in years past. For a solid chunk of time now, this organization has consistently been near the top of these rankings. Since Dave Dombrowski has come over, they have started to make their way down the rankings. On the one hand, it’s disappointing. The promised land is to be near the top of the standings and near the top of these rankings at the same time as much as possible, and that’s just not happening right now. Of course, that’s an incredibly hard line to walk, and it’s probably not fair to expect that from any organization year in and year out. Plus, there are legitimate reasons why they are in this position.
For one thing, they are coming off a time in which they have graduated a ton of top-flight talent from their organization. Right now, a big core of the major-league roster is made up of guys like Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Christian Vazquez and Eduardo Rodriguez. All of these players graduated from the system and were a big reason this farm system used to be ranked near the top, and they are all still in their twenties while not making it past their first arbitration year yet. While it’s great to have a highly rated farm system, I think we can all agree it’s better to have a major-league roster that is filled with young talent that was developed in a highly rated farm system.
While that’s the biggest issue for Boston’s farm system, there’s another problem that has played a big role in the gradual downfall of Boston’s minor-league talent. After a massive international spending spree in the signing period that began on July 2, 2014, the Red Sox were barred from making any major signings in the next period. Then, after getting caught making some fishy deals with prospects in that next period, they lost some of those prospects from their system and were banned from the following signing period as well. So, essentially, this team missed two international signing periods. This market has been a huge part of the team’s farm-building strategy, and not being able to participate has a massive effect on the level of talent in the system. They were able to get back in the market this year and signed a few of the bigger names available including Daniel Flores, who was one of the two or three best international prospects.
The bottom line is the farm system isn’t where we would like it to be, but the team has some time to rebuild it. The core of the major-league roster is in place for at least a couple of years, giving Dombrowski and company some time to (hopefully) not need those major trades to supplement the roster. Expect them to keep dealing from the system, of course, but possibly laying off the top layer. As long as they continue to succeed in the international marketplace while also putting together solid drafts, they’ll move back up this list. In the meantime, just enjoy the fruits of the previously high-ranked farm systems that are now playing together in Boston.