On Bleacher Nation yesterday, a conversation was had that gets started over an over about how much MLB Farm System rankings matter, particularly Baseball America, one of many that do a pre-season estimation of what a franchise has percolating in its future. Of course, like accounting Balance Sheets, it’s a snapshot in time by one outlet whose model is to create excitement and discussions based off what it sees out of the 16-24 year old set down in the dusty minors.
To cut to the quick, I compiled the rankings of farm systems from 2007-2013 and compared them to what teams achieved for wins between (2011-2013). I ran various regressions; multiple years; look at the wins from just 2012-2013; compared against the avg. system ranking for the time span; deviation; and absolute variation from year-to-year movement up and down.
The results: 2009 was a key year for predicting 2011-2013 win totals in that it was statistically significant. The R-square was low (less than .20 by itself) and when you include multiple years (which I did not weight – a technique to try later) this R-squared improves to about .35, but with more explanatory variables (up to 7 years).
So, what to say?
1) I am doing other prospect analysis that reflects international (undrafted) free agents is the huge piece to the puzzle on understanding a successful team’s future. (Which should not surprise – about 20%+ of BA’s Top 100 prospects over the past 25 years have rank after signing as an undrafted FA – and many were top-end performers.)
2) That it has to be more about who is developing them – the teams like the A’s, Braves, Cardinals, Red Sox, Rays (who, on average, ranked highest in this span) are getting talent enough to the bigs. The connection is fairly weak to farm system rankings. (But this is affected by guys that leave – churn out – to the bigs.
3) And well, are these rankings between 5-10 or 15-22 really all that much different? Is it number 1, then 2-5, then everybody else down to 25, then 5 really bad farms. And jumping 10-20 spots in one year because you added a no. 1 overall (who is projected to add 20WAR on average in a career, if some analysts are spot on). Does that really make the farm better or is it just saying the ticket at the top moves rankings 10 spots?
But I digress there. Not a completed analysis, just a snapshot.