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A Prospect Ranking Update And Some Pertinent Thoughts

MLB: Cleveland Guardians at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

One of my favorite times of the year is the trade deadline in baseball, specifically the buildup to it. There is a particular allure to it that will have constantly daydreaming about in which ways could your favorite team improve — in the short-term, long-term, or both — if certain trades are consummated. Outside of the postseason, it is arguably the most all-consuming thing about Major League Baseball. I mean, I am still upset with the Astros trading Ben Zobrist away for Aubrey Huff back in 2006, four general managers ago.

Of course, the trade deadline for this season has already come and gone. Trade deadline analysis is old news, albeit still interesting. But prospect rankings are experiencing a bit of an update with all of the moves now processed and various websites updating their ranking. For example, Eric Logenhagen of FanGraphs published a useful analysis of farm system movement across the MLB Draft and trade deadline. His analysis provides a good snapshot into the health of all 30 organization’s farm systems. Spoiler: The Astros’ farm system is now ranked last per Logenhagen’s evaluation following the trade deadline. Honestly, this development isn’t a shocker considering the overall state of the farm and who Houston sent to New York in exchange for Justin Verlander.

MLB Pipeline and Baseball America have recently provided their mid-season prospect rankings, accounting for both the draft and the trade deadline. While Baseball America is paywalled (link here), it is worth noting that both Drew Gilbert and Ryan Clifford are now in their Top 100 prospects. The Astros have none at present.

For MLB Pipeline, the site has tabbed outfielder Jacob Melton as Houston’s top prospect, followed by outfielder Luis Baez, right-handed pitcher Spencer Arrighetti, shortstop Brice Matthews, and infielder Zach Dezenzo rounding out the organization’s top five prospects. For the first time in seemingly decades, Forrest Whitley no longer occupies a spot among the club’s top 30 prospects. Again, not a single Houston prospect is on their top 100 list. Not having a prospect on the top 100 is likely overrated in the grand scheme of things, but it is also not great to ignore the fact that the farm system is noticeably thin right now.

Some Thoughts About the Recent Trade Deadline and Prospect Rankings

While I enjoy the trade deadline for what it represents, I was also noticeably exasperated by it in another regard: Off-the-wall trade proposals that were given actual discourse online. Not usually from respected writers and commentators in the industry, mind you, but more from the general fan’s perspective. While bad takes are nothing new, I do feel like it was a bit more rampant this year. But if there is one thing Twitter — now X — has always been good for since its inception, it is seeing a lot of bad takes. To be fair, I have had my share of bad baseball takes over the years. Heavens, I do. But it just felt more widespread for the first time in a while. Or, most likely, it is due to the algorithms exposing my feed to more of those kinds of takes.

Regardless, I found myself reviewing some points I tweeted in 2022 about analysis, trades, organizational philosophies, and prospects. Prospect rankings, after all, are incredibly useful and full of wonderful information, even if the opinions differ from your own. But I felt it was appropriate to reiterate these points here as the updated rankings are given some spotlight in the coming days and weeks, especially as the general public tends to concentrate too much on the actual ranking instead of the players themselves.

  • Not all organizations assign the same value to a major league player or prospects; it varies based on their internal analysis and opinions.
  • Top prospect rankings are useful and are a good reference point; however, they’re not infallible and other clubs may value certain prospects higher or lower than the industry consensus. Don’t strictly compare prospects based solely on their rankings. Look deeper.
  • Clubs are usually driven in terms of personnel, finances, or both. For example, what is prioritized by ownership? Future upside in the form of top prospects and salary relief, or short-term performance at the Major League level? Where is the club in its current competitive lifecycle?
  • Teams also look to see if they can unlock a new level within a player by adjusting aspects of their profile. This is where knowing organizational philosophy comes in handy. Some players may appear like an obvious fit on the surface, but not all align with a particular philosophy. Applies to both major leaguers and prospects.
  • Lastly, let’s keep an open (and realistic) mind about prospect rankings and trade rumors. All clubs perform their due diligence. There are a lot of elements to consider. Fit matters, but there are other factors beyond that.

If there is an actual conclusion to this rambling of a post, I’d argue it is me spending less time on social media. Probably not a bad idea, to be honest. If there is a second point, all of these rankings and opinions are fluid. Circumstances change, as it did with Korey Lee and the Astros. But Dana Brown has a large task in front of him as Houston attempts to sustain this incredible run because the farm system is looking more bare now than it has in years.