Baseball America vs. The Padres

The Baseball America Prospect Handbook, the book of record for the serious "seamhead", recently downgraded the Padres' minor league system as the twenty seventh out of thirty major league organizations. The writers at Baseball America justified their ranking stating, "{the} Farm system is riddled with players who profile better as reserves than as regulars." Suffice it to say, it was an assessment that the baseball people in the Padres organization did not roundly applaud.

Bill Gayton, the Padres Scouting Director was quick to refute the findings of the small North Carolina based publication the next day in the San Diego Union stating, "The organization is in good shape. The sky is not falling. Obviously, we want information to be positive rather than negative, but that isn't always realistic."

However, not everyone was quick to accept Gayton's explanation, most notably one very important person, John Moores.

When introducing Sandy Alderson as the new President/part-Owner of the Padres, The Padres owner cryptically agreed with negative analysis, stating on the Padres web site, "We can make some improvements in what we do, particularly in our farm system and our player development. That's a slow process, but absolutely necessary for us to stay competitive. We have some terrific people right now, but I think Sandy will make everybody better."

Is the player development system in as dire shape as many claim?  A quick answer is no, but first it is important to understand what The Prospect Handbook does and how it may have affected many people's opinions.

The Prospect Handbook is a complicated matrix analyzing different players at varying stages of their development, which results in a numerical ranking of not only a organization‘s top players, but for all of baseball.  In short, the book places greater weight on young players who have success at higher levels, especially if the player possess projectionable "tools", (For position players hitting, hitting for power, fielding, arm strength and speed.  For pitchers it is having significant velocity or "plus" pitches and the ability to control them), because they believe that they have a better chance of being impact players or Major League contributors.

The Prospect Handbook provides its readership with a snapshot of the process of where a system may be in a few years, but not where it is right now. Arguably, the only method in which to judge a systems success or failure is its effect on the club, right now. To do so, three criteria come into play (1) how many players on the team are products of the system and their affect on the team's success or failure (2) if the team is able to use prospects to obtain proven talent without taking away from the core of its success and finally (3) how the talent performs on a major league level.

The Padres have been picked by many baseball writers to be one of the better teams in the National League, and possibly win the National League West. The team has developed talent, with three key positions manned by products of the system; Khalil Greene, Xavier Nady and Sean Burroughs. The starting pitching staff is led by one of the better pitchers in baseball, Jake Peavy, with Adam Eaton and Brian Lawrence comprising a solid starting rotation.

Anyone want to think where the Padres would be without these guys now?

In 2003 the team was able to acquire one the best outfielders in the National League, Brian Giles, on the strength of three products from their farm system, Oliver Perez, Jason Bay and Cory Stewart.

Finally, the two top rookies in the National League for 2004, Bay and Greene, were teammates on the Portland Beavers and products of a "failing" farm system.

Despite various projections about what will or will not be, the record will always override any type of projection. The Padres farm system has been to demonstrate in 2005 its ability to meet its objectives, develop key players, enabled the team to acquire quality talent from other teams without significantly sacrificing its own Major League talent and produce two of the top rookies in the National League.

It's difficult to characterize that record as a failure.


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