MLB Pipeline ranks the Angels farm. O cruel fate!

It’s been a few years since the minor league evaluators at MLB Pipeline, the farm-focused crew at MLB.com, have published a comprehensive ranking of all 30 MLB minor league systems. Their team is not a fly-by-night squad. Led by Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo and Mike Rosenbaum, they have deep knowledge of the prep and collegiate ranks, and their judgments are well-argued and sound. And in 2020, they estimate the Angels have the #26 ranked farm in baseball.

A bottom-five system.

Now, to be sure, this is a specific point of view that is not echoed by all other analysts. Bleacher Report pegged the Angels’ system at #25 in their preseason rankings, so Callis-Mayo-and-co are not alone in their estimation, but BR isn’t known for credible and thorough player analysis to the degree that MLB Pipeline is. Keith Law, who recently made the jump from ESPN to the The Athletic, ranked the Angels system at #18. But his estimate also came with ample warnings:

Jo Adell’s a stud, Brandon Marsh might be, too, but many of the other players with upside in this system took steps back last year or were hurt, and then the Angels traded away their first-rounder to clear Zack Cozart’s salary, so the system as a whole is in worse shape relative to their competitors than it was a year ago. It’s also really young – everyone’s system is young, of course, but this one seems especially so, with only one prospect drafted from college in their top 20.

Like Law, other estimators (like those at Baseball America) give the Angels more rope because they score more towards upside, while the team at MLB Pipeline score for breadth, depth and upside.

Nonetheless, it’s likely to be rather galling to have the farm judged by the keystone media organization of professional baseball as a bottom-five system, especially after four years of losing based in part on a draft-and-develop strategy with pronounced avoidance of major trades and a clear verbally-reinforced target of a “top five” system in short order.

Even more triggering for Angels fans might be how a handful of other teams are currently ranked:

Tampa Bay Rays (#1): The Rays had the lowest payroll in baseball last year ($54M!), yet also fielded a team that won 96 times last season, and won 90 games in 2018. In 2017, they shared the same record as the Angels. They have done more with less, despite an increasingly disadvantageous drafting position. Yes, they get a supplemental rounder here and there, but they also trade well, develop well and draft very well.

Los Angeles Dodgers (#3): The team with typically the best record in baseball, with ritually poor draft position, simply kills it on all fronts: trading, domestic drafting, the Latin harvest, player development. They prove again and again that you can carry a big payroll, selectively invest in free agency, and win at the MLB level without compromising one’s minor league organization.

Seattle Mariners (#9): The Dipoto-led Mariners only lost five more games than the Angels in 2019 while ostensibly “tanking”, but they rebuilt their farm from a bottom-three system two years ago to a top-ten system now. The argument usually goes: “but the Angels could do that too if they traded away their stars!” – but could they? After first-round picks like Thaiss and Wilson (and even Adams), are you so confident? The quick Mariners rebuild gives ammunition to two fan arguments that have percolated about over the past couple years: (1) Dipoto was actually better at drafting, trading and developing than many conceded, but had little opportunity to prove it given a punishing CBA and a win-now mandate. And (2) an interventionist owner in Arte Moreno has hamstrung both Dipoto and Billy Eppler from executing on a balanced build-and-contend strategy that could have made the Angels resemble the Mets less and the Dodgers more.

Oakland Athletics (#14): In recent years, the A’s have regularly maintained a farm ranked in the mid-teens, often led by some intriguing pitching talent (Luzardo and Puk are both in the top 60 here), while often punching above their weight (and pocketbook). Like Tampa, they have the lowest payroll in the AL West (usually around $80M), but have fielded a 97 win team each of the past two years. They make good strategic trades without eviscerating the MLB club, complement them with under-the-radar MLB talent, and they graduate players aggressively, often with productive results.

What can Billy Eppler learn from the clubs above? In the case of Tampa and Oakland, he’s working with a $100M+ payroll advantage, but still is underperforming both teams at both and MLB and MiLB level. Whether you’re bullish or pessimistic about the farm, we’re still working within a range of #16-#26 well below Eppler’s desired goal for the org. The consensus says it’s a below-average system (and one that is likely to fall further upon graduating Adell and Marsh).

What steps should the organization take to improve? Or should it abandon its largely unsuccessful five-year plan of organizational renaissance in favor of a couple short title runs? Do the Angels need new leadership that better prioritizes pitching in the draft, and a more balanced portfolio of minor league talent?

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matthiasstephan
Super Member
4 years ago

How much does it hurt our prospect ranking that we have been forced (due to injuries) to use players at the big league level that this year seem destined for AAA?

Rengifo, Thaiss, Suarez, Barria, even Ward are all young and could reasonably have still been prospects with less injuries to other players .

Would that have improved our ranking?

2002heaven
Super Member
4 years ago
Reply to  Turk's Teeth

TT why do you think Eppler passed on Pete Alonso over Matt Thaiss?

cgoldangel
Newbie
4 years ago

It may be a little too early to be completely down on the farm system because we have such a young group of prospects. Eppler’s strategy is to take the high risk younger players so right now they don’t rate too high. Give this group of young players a couple of years and you will have a better idea of just how good the farm really is. If they don’t develop, then we will be in trouble but if some of those young toolsy players blossom then our ranking will rise and we should be much deeper if our drafting strategy works.

gitchogritchoffmypettis
Legend

If the system generates a couple trades and 3-4 position players on our roster over the next few years I don’t give a shit about rankings. Of the 24 teams ahead of us I would hate to be stuck being a fan of more than half of them as they cry themselves to sleep all August spooning their farm rankings for comfort…. but please, for the love of Gah, draft college arms and some catching this year Biller.

Brent Maguire
Editor
Trusted Member
4 years ago

Great stuff Turks. It’s definitely discouraging to see the club down near the bottom of the rankings after rising to a near-top 10 unit recently. My biggest concern with this system is how much they’re banking on high-risk, high-reward types (Adams, JJ, C-Rod, Soriano, etc). Adell and Marsh feel like the only real bets to contribute in some fashion at the MLB level. At some point, this organization will have to start building up more quality players through the draft/intl FA to supplement the other talent they’ve put on the roster.

DowningDude
Legend
4 years ago
Reply to  Brent Maguire

Is JJ Jeremiah Jackson or Jahmai Jones?

Jeff Joiner
Editor
Legend
4 years ago
Reply to  DowningDude

Most like Jackson. Jam seems to crush the AFL then become a victim of chronic swing changes by the coaching staff.

Brent Maguire
Editor
Trusted Member
4 years ago
Reply to  DowningDude

Whoops I meant Jackson.

2002heaven
Super Member
4 years ago

TYAS…….Told You All So.
Epp has been just brutal here for 4 yrs……Trials & Tribulations.

dontbatvlad4th
Member
4 years ago

I can’t say I’m surprised. Reading the MVP Machine right now and Dipoto comes up a number of times. It’s very clear after nearly completing the book, that the Angels are one of the last few teams that aren’t on the player development train. They JUST got on top of sabermetrics, I want to vomit thinking how long it will take them to dive into player development.

2002heaven
Super Member
4 years ago
Reply to  dontbatvlad4th

BillArte won’t.
He’s hoping JA will be the next big hitting everyday POS star. And then surround him with a bunch of bad players…..especially crap 27-29 yr old pitchers who are on their 3rd team. Like having Denzel Washington and Pauley Shore in the same bad movie.

Charles Sutton
Editor
Super Member
4 years ago

They need to give Callaway a year to see what he can do with those young optionable guys like Sandoval. Any of them that are apparently never really going to make it should be dumped somehow so we can draft, sign, or trade for some other guys that still hold promise.

Maybe Maitan needs some guidance about low carb diets.

DowningDude
Legend
4 years ago

Dang … We suck.

All this post needed was the 4 headshots and a jumbo sized emoji.

Did 2002Heaven make it over here?

gitchogritchoffmypettis
Legend
Reply to  DowningDude

Here you go. I have no idea where he’d have played in our org, but we could have drafted him instead of Marsh, so….. wah?
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gitchogritchoffmypettis
Legend
Reply to  Turk's Teeth

Yeah. Most of Eppler’s picks make at least some sense to me, and can still potentially prove fruitful, but Thaiss was a downer from the start. I know that it was post our “Escobar is our best hitter not named Trout” season and they really wanted a bat that would develop fast, like Kyle Schwarber, but Thaiss has strait up failed at that, and he didn’t even really remind me of KS when we drafted him.

This may have even somewhat motivated the “draft young athletes” bent of the drafts after Thaiss.

GeoKaplan8
Trusted Member
4 years ago

You gotta give it up for Andrew Friedman. He built both the Rays and Dodgers systems, and has success with either end of the payroll spectrum.

Jeff Joiner
Editor
Legend
4 years ago

This is yet another bad indictment of the Angels farm, particularly the pitching side. And completely whiffing on a first round pick last year was brutal.

Nobody is perfect and thus far Eppler’s handling of the pitching side of the game has been bad, particularly at the minor league level. Very few projectable arms drafted and constant trades from what little depth he has.

HalosFanForLife
Trusted Member
4 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Joiner

I’m with you, but we need to see what happens after last year’s pitchers only draft. (Well almost only) I’m excited to track last year’s draft class this season. You only need a few good catches for it to pay off. Now how do we get them all their reps?

John Henry Weitzel
Editor
Super Member
4 years ago

Angels like pulling non entities out of the farm though. Like Fletcher and Kole. Sure it looks bad. And it is at least half bad. But I think it isn’t as bad as it seems.

2002heaven
Super Member
4 years ago
Reply to  Turk's Teeth

I just don’t like Eppler’s draft strategy.
The one thing that’s constant about Billy Bean’s 22 yrs as the A’s GM is that he feels that he needs to have a star 3B ( Eric Chavez, Josh Donaldson, Matt Chapman ) whenever possible. Also since Eppler’s tenure started, is that he has yet to find and develop that uncut diamond in the later rounds ( Josh Hader, Russell Martin, Marcus Semien, Khris Davis, Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger …..all mid or lower round picks 4th RD or later ).
Anthony Rendon won’t save him……

gitchogritchoffmypettis
Legend
Reply to  2002heaven

Given that Hader, Semein and Davis weren’t drafted by the teams on which they became diamonds maybe we’ll eventually get ours.

2002heaven
Super Member
4 years ago

But Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts, and Russell Martin were……..
Antonio Rendon won’t save Guillermo Eppler……..