Phillies system finally gets some respect

The Hardball Times, one of the best baseball information sites out there, put out a piece ranking all 30 minor league systems in baseball. The Phillies system ends up at #10 overall, namely on the strength of our pitching, which was ranked 4th overall. Here is an excerpt, but be sure and check the link above for the full piece.

The Stats

To keep things simple, I used a single stat for every pitcher and hitter in the minors. OPS was a natural choice for hitters, and to keep the graphs (which we’ll get to a bit later) on the same scale, I used OPS against for pitchers. To enable comparisons of everyone from Low-A to Triple-A on the same scale, I used equivalent (MLE) OPS, which is adjusted for park, league and level.

I took into account only two other variables for each player: their playing time and their age. It’s foolish to compare a 21-year-old in the Florida State League to a 25-year-old in the International League, and, as you’ll see in a moment, my ranking approach reflects that.

I considered playing time mainly to differentiate relief pitchers from starters. A team with a bunch of great relief prospects doesn’t have as strong a system as a team with several good starting prospects. (You could argue that adjusting for playing time isn’t sufficient, especially since differences in OPS against will be more extreme for relievers.)

Rating Players

First, I found averages and distributions for every age throughout the minors. In other words, I could compare every player to the average production from his age group. I included all players with reasonable playing time between the ages of 19 and 27—younger than 19, there are only a few players at low-A or above in all of baseball, and older than 27, players don’t really count as prospects anymore. (You could set the age limit lower, of course. It doesn’t end up mattering very much.)

Then, for every player in the minors, I determined whether he was above average for his age group, and whether he was in the 90th percentile or higher for his age group. (I also determined whether he was in the 75th percentile or higher, which helps make the graphs more interesting, but doesn’t affect the rankings.)

2 thoughts on “Phillies system finally gets some respect

  1. I was surprised but pleased to see the Sackmann piece. Wonder who he identified as our one “stud” hitter. Honestly, I don’t see any, though I think he’s close to the mark on our pitching.

    Two years ago, our hitters fared pretty well and the pitchers all stunk (that was the year Tejeda won the Owens award despite spending four and a half months in the bigs). Last season, it was the exact opposite. It would be nice to see at least a few good performances on both sides in 2007.

  2. We are #10 in this rating and #21 in BA. Why the difference and which system is better? I’ll try to explain why the BA rank is more accurate but why a method between the two has merit.

    The deficiencies of the Sackman piece:
    1. It counts last year’s minor leaguers in the system they played in. So, we get credit for Gio Gonzales, who was our top prospect, but is gone. We get credit for Hamels, our prior top prospect, who spent part of year in minors.

    2. Fully 1/3 of rating comes from performance of guys from 50% to 90% of all minor leaguers. How many guys at the 50% level get even a cup of coffee in majors? This gives way to much credit for mediocre depth.

    3. Enlarging on that, no distinction between guys at 90% performance level and the truly elite prospects. This helps Phillies, because Carrasco is only truly elite prospect.

    4. This includes guys up to age 27. Thus, it includes a lot of non-prospect career minor leaguers on the teams as filler. Even Ryan Howard, who got to the majors very late for a variety of reasons, was 25 during the whole 2005 season and 26 during the whole 2007 season.

    5. It is totally performance based, with no scouting adjustment for tools/potential. This makes it the total antithesis of the BA approach. Somewhere between the two likely more accurate.

    6. It gives zero credit for rookie leagues and 18 year olds. So basically last draft class discounted, except for college draftees who played in low A or higher. This restriction actually hurts Phillies, who had a good HS draft class in 2006.

    You see the difference starkly looking at the Devil Rays. They are the #1 ranked farm by BA, but #14 and behind the Phillies in this ranking. Looking at their top prospects and ours, I’d take theirs. We have nobody who comes close to a Delmon Young. I think also no position prospects that match Longoria, Brignac, Dukes, Iwamura. I’d give us the edge on pitching prospects.

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