Additional thoughts on managing the farm

Yesterday I gave some thoughts on the Padres’ farm system. These thoughts were not unique. In fact, the ideas I discussed have become recognized as very basic tenets of operating a baseball team today.

I wanted to follow up on what I wrote with some material that reinforces the idea of patience and not giving away the farm as part of a quick fix. Additionally, I would like to share with you something a family member said to me yesterday regarding the U-T San Diego column that my last two posts are based upon. If you are comfortable with these terms I shall begin.

The first comment on yesterday’s post came from a human who goes by the handle Ochinko. Here’s his comment in part:

Padre’s fans must learn to take pride in doing things differently from nearly everyone else. And that will mean logic and patience must be at the core of the ethos. Here’s a tip: 17 of 25 players on the St. Louis postseason roster were drafted by the team.

Now just because someone quotes an endorsement for The Cardinal Way doesn’t mean that it should be taken as gospel. But let’s look at those numbers again: 17 of 25 players on the St. Louis postseason roster were drafted by the team. Technically it was 16 players, as Carlos Martinez was signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic as a teenager – but Ochinko’s point still stands. The Cardinals have done an outstanding job of building through the draft, developing their own talent, and then supplementing it with key trades (Adam Wainwright long ago and Matt Holliday more recently) and free agent acquisitions (Carlos Beltran).

Why did the St. Louis Cardinals commit to building through the farm?

In late October, Will Leitch of Sports on Earth wrote an article titled, The Invisible Man. The title was a reference to Albert Pujols and how despite being gone he had a large responsibility for the Cardinals being in the World Series. Leitch wrote:

With Alex Rodriguez signing $250 million contracts, DeWitt knew that the way the Cardinals were doing business under general manager Walt Jocketty –essentially leveraging the farm system in trades for players like Larry Walker, Scott Rolen and Mark Mulder — was unsustainable in this new age of baseball.

What does this have to do with Albert Pujols? The Cardinals realized that in order to sign Pujols when he became a free agent after the 2011 season it would require a lot of money to keep him:

The only way the Cardinals would be able to hold on to Pujols forever would be to surround him with young, cheap talent. The Cardinals would have to remake the whole farm system. They had five years to do it.

Obviously the part about keeping Albert Pujols never panned out but two byproducts resulted from the system overhaul:

  1. The Cardinals developed a ton of talent which ultimately pushed the Cardinals back to the World Series after Pujols left for Anaheim.
  2. The money earmarked for Pujols was used to bring in a free agent like Carlos Beltran and provide financial flexibility.

How successful are the Cardinals at acquiring and developing talent?

The Futures Guide 2013 by Baseball Prospectus provides organizational rankings for all 30 teams in addition to the top 10 prospects for each organization. The number one organization, unsurprisingly, is the St. Louis cardinals. As part of the organizational rankings section for the Cardinals, Baseball Prospectus wrote the following:

Must See Affiliate: Triple-A Memphis

Prospects To See There: Oscar Taveras, Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, Michael Wacha, Kolten Wong, Matt Adams.

Do you see those names?

Every player, with the exception of one,  should look familiar as a Cardinal who advanced from Triple-A Memphis and played a role in the 2013 World Series. The one player who didn’t see post-season action? That would be Dominican born outfielder, Oscar Taveras. Taveras is the Cardinals’ #1 prospect, the #2 prospect in all of baseball and hailed as a future star with batting title contending skills.

The Cardinals can do anything they want right now. They have a deep system with impact talent which can be used to fill out their major league roster or used in trade to fill other holes. The Padres’ system, ranked 3rd by Baseball Prospectus, has pitching depth at the low minors but is still working at developing impact offensive players. The Padres are going in the right direction but they’re still building something . . . so let’s not take one of the walls down just yet. Walls are important.

***

A one paper town

On a related note, my father-in-law mentioned Josh Johnson becoming a Padre to me yesterday afternoon. This excited me and we began discussing the future of the team. I mentioned that I liked the signing but that I also thought Josh Johnson was likely just a place holder until the young pitchers on the farm began to arrive in 2015 and 2016. How did the father-in-law respond to my assertion? He mentioned how he read in the U-T that the Padres had a lot of arms in the farm system and that they should begin trading them for offensive players! Good lord!

This is a problem. And I’m not talking about the fact that my father-in-law doesn’t read what I write. The issue is that casual fans read an article like the one in the U-T and then expect the Padres to pull the trigger on some sort of big trade for Giancarlo Stanton. But the trade never happens because it would undo everything the Padres have worked to build over the last few years. When that trade doesn’t happen the casual fans think that the Padres have done them wrong and the cycle of detached San Diego Padres fans continues.

The larger problem is that the North County Times no longer exists, long ago absorbed by Doug Manchester’s U-T San Diego. There are no competing ideas and the analysis provided by most columnists provides little depth for fans.

This is a problem but not one without a solution. Unfortunately the solution will require a little work on your part in the form of questioning those who provide information and then doing some research of your own.

Good luck.

***

I contribute to Padres Public on Thursday mornings and when I’m feeling particularly outraged by the location of statues around Petco Park. I can also be found on twitter at @AvengingJM. The dusty archives of AJM are located at avengingjm.blogspot.com

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  • Change the Padres

    I really don’t think the Padres have actually “worked to build this” as if it were their coherent, master plan to build a farm system with a surplus of mid-rotation pitching prospects without an obvious superstar offensive prospect in the system. If that was their master plan, it should scare the shit out of you, and you should be begging the UT to run Byrnes hit-pieces daily.

    If the Padres end up sticking some #3-4 starters in the bullpen for a significant amount of time so they can say that they stuck to that dogma, rather than dealing from their area of relative strength to improve the team and the entertainment experience, Padres fans should feel slighted.

    I’ll also use the opportunity to remind everyone that there is a way to not trade the farm while adding talent: free agency. The newly-crowned champs brought in Victorino, Drew, Napoli, Dempster, and Uehara in free agency, while re-signing the World Series MVP. I agree it’s too bad that the UT will focus upon a possible trade, perhaps turning inaction into lament, but the Padres can shut everyone up if they just dug into that wallet for a proven, star offensive player. Most of us would shut up if they dug into that wallet for a semi-proven, above-average offensive player already on their roster.

    It shouldn’t be this hard. Does the team need more talent to compete for a World Series title? Yes. Should the team deal from its farm system to do that? If your answer is no, where else could the answer be but free agency? Isn’t that what everyone was promised all along anyway – “we’ll build up that core and then add players through free agency.” ?

    • Over the last few years the Padres have begun spending more money in the draft on higher ceiling type players especially those still in High School. This is a departure from the previous strategy of drafting cheaper, college-types, who were “closer” to big league ready. I think that qualifies as a coherent plan.

      Now if you want to argue the results of their plan that’s another story. The results are good: deep system with many players (specifically pitchers) who have high floors. The results are bad: lack of offensive players and lack of players who have high ceilings. These results need to be overcome – the Padres need to draft and develop high ceiling players. Like Donavan Tate!

      When the window opens (it feels like its more 2015 and 2016) he Padres will have to open their wallets and go for a couple free-agents who aren’t reclamation projects like Josh Johnson. That’s my perception. I could be wrong. But it feels, unfortunately, like the Padres will always be a team that has to set itself up to coincide with the opening of a window.

      Comparing the Padres to the Red Sox in the pursuit of free agents is completely unrealistic. Completely.

      • Change the Padres

        And comparing the Padres farm system to the Cardinals is completely realistic? Get real. The Padres have zero elite prospects: neither an offensive superstar in the making nor a #1 arm. At least the Padres COULD theoretically emulate the Red Sox (at what we are assuming to be a decrease in profit, though this has never been empirically confirmed).

        My point was, quite simply, that there is another side to the ‘we should be the Cardinals coin’. You expounded upon the Cardinals having created 18 of their 25 players point, but never even considered that the Padres brought in (via free agency) a grand total of 1 of their 25 man roster last season. Or that the Red Sox brought in more than half of their roster.

        Everything in moderation: a strategy focusing exclusively on free agency will probably fail and one that focuses exclusively on creating players will always fail. At least according to the history of every season ever played thus far.

      • I didn’t compare the Padres’ farm system to that of the Cardinals’. I also didn’t say the Padres shouldn’t bring in any free agents.

      • Change the Padres

        By the same token: I didn’t say the Padres should emulate the Red Sox and I didn’t say they shouldn’t develop players. You did, however, reference the Cardinals farm system and then – immediately, in the same paragraph – said the Padres shouldn’t tear down the walls of their farm system; not sure how that isn’t drawing a parallel in some way.

        I guess I don’t understand your point: it’s too bad we don’t have a second newspaper anymore because there’s no way to get out your word? Newspapers are basically obsolete, and isn’t the point of this blog to do just that: get out an alternative opinion?

        The article reads like “it’s a problem that Padres fans will feel let down if this one option doesn’t happen, and it’s a problem because there’s no other opinion out there, except our opinion that we shouldn’t do that one option.”

        The logical conclusions:
        – a) get your message out
        – b) if you think the option shouldn’t be trading from their strength, you are by default advocating for free agent acquisitions. Just say that emphatically. I promise if you do b rather than railing against alternative b’s, a will follow. Or at least 1645 people will be directed to it.

  • USMC53

    Boy, you have a great point about the NC Times. It was a good source of Padres insight. Totally stinks that it’s gone and we’re left with only one media voice about the Padres, especially since that voice gives us crap like the Calkins article the other day.