Much like MLB’s Top 30 rankings signal a close to prospect ranking season, so to do the attendant farm system/organizational talent rankings that come out around the same time. While it’s always great to land individual players on Top 100 lists, understanding how an organization’s sum total of talent stacks up against the rest of baseball offers a broader picture of how the team might fare in the coming years. It’s great to have a shining star, but without a crew of competent backup singers that star might become marooned on Mike Trout Island (RIP). Happily for the Mariners, beyond their Twin Flyin Js, evaluators (mostly) have a rosy perspective on the farm system as a whole:
Mariners 2021 Farm System Rankings
(Notes: The numbers in parentheses indicate the preseason rankings for 2020 vs. the mid-season ranks.)
The Mariners farm is viewed as at least a top-ten system by almost every major outlet, as well as some outlets not covered in the chart like Prospects 1500 or Bleacher Report. (FanGraphs has not yet completed 2021 organizational rankings, but it’s reasonable to assume the Mariners will move into the top 10 for 2021 after landing just outside it in 2020 with the Padres likely moving out of the top 10). With the Rays leading the way everywhere bolstered by a strong farm led by superprospect Wander Franco, second place feels like any other year’s number one spot, which is where three major outlets place the Mariners, including the grandaddy of prospect rankings in Baseball America and official-arm-of-MLB Pipeline. The exception, of course, is Keith Law at the Athletic, as detailed a while ago; it’s unclear how the Mariners moved down in a year where they didn’t promote any of their top tier prospects and added the number six pick in baseball, but hey, that’s showbiz for ya.
To be fair, The Athletic doesn’t have a rosy look at the rest of the AL West, either, placing everyone else 23-25 (LAA, TEX, HOU, in order) with the Athletics checking in at 29, bested in worstness only by the World Series-winning Nationals. That’s a view that’s mostly shared among these power rankings; Baseball America has the rest of the AL West ranging between 22-29, ESPN has the rest of the AL West 20 or higher (TEX 20, LAA 23, OAK 26, HOU 28), and Baseball Prospectus has LAA, HOU, and OAK ranking 25-27 with the lone high rank of the Rangers system at 13 because BP loves the Rangers system, year in and year out. It’s good to have some consistencies in life (consistencies you won’t find in the Rangers system, ba dum tsss).
Of course, when you get down into the weeds like that ordinal number rankings doesn’t matter so much as tiers, which is how BP did their rankings in 2020, with the Mariners sharing Tier 2 with the Diamondbacks, just behind the Tier 1s Rays and Padres. It’s pretty clear that no matter where exactly the rest of the AL West ranks numerically, the Mariners possess a significant advantage in how their farm system is regarded over a middling-tier squad like the Rangers, or the depleted farms in the rest of the AL West. Now the question is how the Mariners will marshal that prospect capital at the big-league level to contend in an AL West that still boasts some heavy MLB-level firepower in Houston along with an Angels squad that looks like they might finally have all their stars aligned, both figuratively and literally. As the trickle of Seattle’s top prospects making their way to T-Mobile park quickens into a steady stream over the next couple of years, we’ll finally start to get some answers.