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.

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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.

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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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