Today the venerable publication Baseball America released their organizational rankings for every team in baseball. Organizational rankings are different from individual prospect rankings—a team might have a couple Top-50 or even Top-25 prospects, but if the dropoff in the system is sharp after that, a team won’t rank as highly as another, more well-rounded organization. Likewise, a team might have several players who rank in the top-200 or even Top-100, but if none of those players are seen as “impact” players, potential future superstars, that can also ding a team’s ranking. For the first time since Baseball America began ranking farm systems back in 1984, the Seattle Mariners top the 2022 list.
The Mariners move up one spot from their 2021 #2 ranking despite graduating both Logan Gilbert and Jarred Kelenic, trading spots with the Tampa Bay Rays, who graduated their own superprospect Wander Franco this past season. While RHP Emerson Hancock (#57 in 2021) has fallen off the list for Seattle after an injury-plagued year, meteoric rises from SS Noelvi Marte, who jumped from #73 in 2021 to #18 in 2022, and RHP George Kirby, who was unranked in 2021 but blasts onto BA’s Top-100 at #12 overall (!), helped propel Seattle to the top of BA’s rankings. The Mariners were also aided by the rise to prominence of RHP Matt Brash (#45), who never made the Top-100 during his time in San Diego but has exploded since putting on a Seattle uniform. LHP Brandon Williamson also fights his way onto this year’s Top-100 at #83; Williamson was also unranked previously after struggling with some hip issues early in his career.
Of course, the biggest infusion of helium to the Mariners system comes from wunderkind Julio Rodríguez, whom Baseball America sees as one of the top three prospects in baseball along with Baltimore’s Adley Rutschman and Kansas City’s Bobby Witt Jr. BA officially gives top billing to Rutschman, followed by Julio and then Witt Jr., but approaches the three more as a 1A/1B/1C rather than a strict 1/2/3, noting in a series examining the case for each as the top prospect in baseball how tight the gap is between these three consensus-best* top prospects. Julio will in all likelihood be graduated from the list by this time next year, so revel in this number-one ranking while it stands. However, with a new prospect wave headlined by a trio of prep prospects taken in the first three rounds of the 2021 draft (C Harry Ford, SS Edwin Arroyo, RHP Michael Morales), along with significant international free agency signings, the Mariners system shouldn’t return to the depths of where it was back in 2018, when they ranked dead last in the same publication. (Of note: Harry Ford has already been tabbed by BA as someone who just missed the 2022 list, and will almost certainly be on 2023’s, if his initial trajectory into pro ball is any indication.)
Speaking of dead last, outside of Texas, who rank ninth in BA’s 2022 organizational rankings, the rest of the AL West doesn’t fare so well, ranking 27th-29th consecutively. The A’s top the best of the worst, moving up one spot since 2021 on the beefy back of slugger Tyler Soderstrom, although if they do sell off their core and receive hefty prospect packages in return, Oakland is positioned to storm up through the rankings quickly. Houston falls two spots to 28th, having graduated most of their best prospects during the dynasty years and also suffering the loss of consecutive first-round picks as punishment for their cheating scandal. Their player development system remains excellent, and Houston is always able to pull some unheralded prospects out of international free agency and turn them into major-league contributors, but they lack any players in the Top-50, and former top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley has fallen off the list entirely. The biggest fall is suffered by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Disneyland, USA, California, who graduated both superprospect Jo Adell and technically-prospects Brandon Marsh and Griffin Canning while adding just lefty Reid Detmers (28), who will also graduate this season, to the 2022 list. Baseball America was not impressed with the Angels’ Oops! All Pitchers strategy in the 2021 draft, and lands them at 29, only bested (worsted?) by the charred remains of an emptied-out White Sox system.
Farm system rankings aren’t everything, of course—as is often pointed out, there’s no pennant for best farm system. But good farm systems do, more often than not, translate into results at the major-league level, whether that’s from players coming up through the system to impact the big-league team or trades from the system bringing in reinforcements from elsewhere. They also give a measure of health as to how an organization is doing; currently, the Mariners are well-positioned with both impact players who are MLB-adjacent, and a group of youngsters poised to become the next wave of talent in Seattle.
Looking at the No. 1s year by year is a very fun exercise. We're not perfect on these (we see you 2001 White Sox), but overall, I think these hold up very well and it just reinforces how impressive it is that Allan Simpson and crew could do so well from the first list in 1984.— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) February 2, 2022
*Among major, reputable publications