Detroit – Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, and when ESPN baseball analyst Keith Law looks at the Tigers' farm system, invariably he doesn't like what he sees.
Law giving the Tigers' farm system low marks has become an annual rite of winter, and this year, he's ranked it dead last (pay site). Here is his rationale:
"They've traded five of their top 10 prospects from last year's list (Nos. 3, 4, 5, 8 and 10) and made their top guy from that list, Nick Castellanos, their everyday third baseman. The No. 9 prospect in the system, Endrys Briceno, blew out his elbow, and the No. 2 prospect, Daniel Fields, fought a wrist injury all year.
"I loved their first-rounder from last year (OF Derek Hill), but I had to build their top 10 almost completely from scratch because of how actively Dave Dombrowski uses what he has in the system."
Thank goodness farm system rankings aren't a tie-breaker, or even a precursor, to how a team performs in any given season.
Dombrowski, the Tigers president and general manager, is often confounded by these rankings. He asserts that if the Tigers farm is so barren, how come teams have been so willing to trade Major League talent for its prospects?
Going back just one year, the Tigers have moved seven prospects for five players who are expected to play major roles in Detroit this season:
Eugenio Suarez and Jonathon Crawford brought starting pitcher Alfredo Simon; Domingo Leyba was part of the deal that brought starting pitcher Shane Greene; Devon Travis brought centerfielder Anthony Gose; Willy Adames was in the deal to bring starting pitcher David Price; and Corey Knebel and Jake Thompson brought reliever Joakim Soria.
Dombrowski could also point to the infusion of home-grown talent expected to contribute at the Major League level this season – Castellanos, James McCann, Bruce Rondon, Tyler Collins and Hernan Perez, with Buck Farmer, Kevin Ziomek, Drew VerHagen, Kyle Ryan, Kyle Lobstein, Chad Smith and Steven Moya knocking at the door.
For the record, Law ranks the Cubs, Twins, Astros, Mets and Red Sox as the top five farm systems in MLB.
Here is Baseball Prospectus' ranking of the Tigers' top 10 prospects: 1. CF Derek Hill; 2. C James McCann; 3. OF Steven Moya; 4. RHP Buck Farmer; 5. LHP Kevin Ziomek; 6. LHP Kyle Lobstein; 7. RHP Spencer Turnbull; 8. C Grayson Geiner; 9. RHP Joe Jimenez; 10. SS Dixon Machado.