What's the Impact of the 5 Biggest Year-to-Year MLB Farm System Ranking Dips Since 2011?
Baseball teams, maybe more so than those in the other three major sports, are subject to obvious life cycles of contention and non-contention. Farm systems are a unique aspect to baseball and have a lot to do with this phenomenon. You can’t draft a player who can immediately step on the major league field and make an impact.
The goal is to load up a farm system and build from within. While difficult, it’s the most cost efficient route to winning. When (or just before) those prospects develop, money (or other prospects) can be spent or traded away to fill any on-field holes with MLB-ready talent.
The Chicago Cubs are a great example of this. They loaded their clips with as many bullets as possible, formed the best farm system in baseball, and unloaded them into the bigs all at once in 2015. One year later, they won the World Series. That former top-ranked prospect class was a major factor in breaking the team’s 108-year curse, and after they graduated to the majors, the system ranking dropped to 20th.
This is only one reason a team's farm system ranking can drop. Prospects can make the majors but not push the team into playoff contention, players can be sent away for negligible returns, or, upon exceeding rookie limits, rookies can fizzle out and fail to become reliable starters.
A lot can happen, and baseball prospects are some of the flukiest bets in sports. So how did the Cubs dropping from 1st to 20th in one season rank among other teams who have experienced similar year-to-year drops since 2011? What type of returns did those teams see?
With the help of Baseball America’s organizational prospect rankings from the past seven seasons, I took a look at the five biggest ranking drops suffered in consecutive years, dove into why their ranking suffered so greatly, how it affected the organization in the long run and looked into any impact it had on the team’s current roster.