Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

San Diego; your 2020 NL West Champs


Machado states on the West coast ... and should help SD make the playoffs really soon. Photo via Baltimore sun

Machado states on the West coast … and should help SD make the playoffs really soon. Photo via Baltimore sun

I was listening to Baseball America’s podcast this week, where they reviewed their top 30 farm system rankings, and they noted a pretty amazing stat:

13 of the last 14 Farm systems they’ve ranked #1 made the playoffs within 2 seasons of being ranked #1 … and the 14th made it within 3.

It was so amazing, I just had to go back and quantify it.  Using my Minor League System Org Rankings worksheet (which contains every ranking I can find from 2000 to present), here’s how the data stacks up:

Year#1 ranked FarmMajor Names driving #1 Rankingprev season recordNext make playoffs# yrsBest playoff finish
2001Chicago White SoxBuehrle, Garland, Rowand95-6720054WS Winner
2002Chicago CubsPrior, Wood, Zambrano88-7420031NLCS
2003ClevelandSabathia, Lee, Sizemore74-8820074NLCS
2004MilwaukeeFielder, Hardy, Weeks68-9420084LDS
2005Los Angeles AngelsWeaver, Santana, Krod92-7020072ALCS
2006ArizonaDrew, Reynolds77-8520071NLCS
2007Tampa BayLongoria, Upton, Garza61-10120081WS
2008Tampa BayPrice, Davis66-9620102LDS
2009TexasAndrus, Smoak, Feliz79-8320101WS
2010Tampa BayMoore, Cobb84-7820111LDS
2011Kansas CityHosmer, Perez, Moustakas, Ventura67-9520143WS
2012Washington pre TradeHarper, Rendon, Cole, Peacock80-8120142LDS
2012Texas Odor, Deshields, Gallo96-6620153LDS
2013St. LouisTavares, Miller, Wacha, Martinez88-7420141NLCS
2014PittsburghCole, Polanco94-6820151NLWC
2015Chicago CubsBryant, Soler, Baez, Schwarber73-8920161WS Winner
2016Los Angeles DodgersSeager, Bellinger, Urias92-7020171WS
2017AtlantaAcuna, Swanson, Albies, Camargo68-9320181LDS
2018AtlantaAcuna, Gohara, Wright, Toussant72-90tbdtbdtbd
2019San DiegoTatis, Gore, Urias, Mejia66-96tbdtbdtbd

Sure enough … every team who has been ranked by BA as the #1 farm system since 2005 has made the playoffs within 2 years, with the exception of Kansas City … who made it in 3 years and actually WON the World Series on the backs of their #1 rank-driving players.  You’ll notice I put in two rankings in 2012: that was the year that the Nats were ranked #1 … then traded a ton of their depth for Gio Gonzalez and got dropped 10 points in-between the time that Baseball America published their annual rankings and they posted their rankings online … so technically the Nats qualify here, but after that big trade Texas ascended to #1.

Pretty amazing stat.

So, with the Padres ranked #1 right now … and having just added one of the best players in the game … its a good assumption that they’re back in the playoffs just as soon as their top-end prospects matriculate.  Do I really think they can overcome the high-spending Dodgers to actually WIN the division?  A tougher call; they’re going to need to commit to spending what it takes (in terms of dollars or prospects) to fill holes.


Written by Todd Boss

February 20th, 2019 at 11:44 am

13 Responses to 'San Diego; your 2020 NL West Champs'

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  1. That’s pretty interesting, I am surprised by the results, to be honest. I am definitely going to catch a few Padres games, but even though the lineup is interesting, and the farm system is stacked, someone has to pitch some quality innings.

    OT – been thinking that the Machado deal might prove troubling for a Rendon re-sign. I’ve been thinking a 5/$120m deal is about right and something the Nats would do (almost 6/$140m if you include this year), but while he isn’t as young nor quite the magnitude of Manny, that’s a long way off from 10/$300m. And if Arenado signs an 8/$240m deal? Rendon might feel forced to go much higher, like $175m ish, and I don’t see the Nats getting there.


    20 Feb 19 at 5:47 pm

  2. Interesting stuff. Tank it till you bank it!

    Not ready to get fully on the Padre bandwagon yet, but the NL West is interesting. The Dodgers, who took a while to get going in 2018 and benefited from the unexpected emergence of Muncy (as they did with Taylor the year before), have largely stood pat. Instead of going for a higher-profile bat, they added only the oft-injured Pollock. Meanwhile, Machado, Grandal, Puig, Kemp, and Dozier have left town. That’s a heck of a lot of firepower to lose. They also got rid of Wood from their talented but oft-injured rotation, and Jansen had an ominous 4.03 FIP in ’18.

    I’m not sure what the D-Backs think they’re doing, but they lost Corbin and Buchholz from the rotation and Pollock from the lineup and have added nothing. They appear to be going in reverse. The Rox did a little in the offseason, but not much. Will their young rotation hold up? Will Murph give new meaning to “launch angle” in the lighter air?

    The Giants have major issues, most related to rapidly aging guys with big contracts. They’ve got plenty of cash and play in a perpetually full stadium, yet they largely sat still.

    And the Pads? Meh. Add Harper and Keuchel and then jump up and down. (Or get back Turner and Ross — haha!) Their rotation is still a mess unless they have three or four young guns step up all at once. That said, with the rest of the division not really trying in terms of talent acquisition, it’s ripe for a younger aggressive team to move up rapidly.


    21 Feb 19 at 11:55 am

  3. I’v thought since last season Machado was a more valuable potetional addition for a team to make than Harper. If Machado has “set the market” and the owners have a similar opinion, Harper’s going to have to take far less than what he wanted. I’m not sure his ego can handle it.

    Karl Kolchak

    21 Feb 19 at 2:26 pm

  4. Harper vs Machado in terms of value; i’ve read it both ways, who was the more valuable property.

    – Harper: much better overall hitter (121 vs 139 career ops+, 120 vs 140 wRC+ for his career)
    – Machado; can play SS, likely playing 3B. Harper can play CF, likely playing RF. So positionally … Machado slightly more valuable positionally b/c he’s on the dirt
    – Machado actually plays 3B well … while Harper at best was an adequate to decent RF … but fell off a cliff last year for whatever reasons (lazy, playing conservative, etc)
    – Both have managed to be lightning rods in the press for different reasons: Machado has the reputation of being lazy/dogging it, Harper has the reputation of being a clubhouse cancer. Neither take is probably fair, true, or provable.
    – Machado is much more durable; he’s only had one major injury in his 7 year career. Harper has missed significant parts of 3 seasons and clearly played through a fourth really hurt.
    – Career bWAR: Machado 33.8, Harper 27.4. Harper’s had one all-history season, two solid seasons, and some really poor seasons. Machado has been much mnore of a consistent producer.

    If you think Machado is the better player, you’re valuing his defense more than his offense, and counting on his steady production going forward.

    If you think Harper is the better player, you’re valuing his offense more than his defense (or don’t frankly care how a corner outfielder plays D), and banking on at least one more 10-win season.

    Todd Boss

    21 Feb 19 at 4:36 pm

  5. It’s remarkable how many mainstream guys think Harper comes back to the Nats. I don’t see it, frankly. Looks like they’ve moved on, but we won’t know until this saga finally ends.

    You know what team makes sense for him in a mystery team kind of way? Astros. They don’t really have any long term commitments beyond Altuve, it’s a big market and their OF is t that strong, even with Brantley. And they like him enough to put a decent trade offer together last summer. Won’t happen, but just sayin.


    21 Feb 19 at 7:09 pm

  6. Houston would never do it; they’re the leaders in the new-wave movement of player analysis, and they’d never hamstring their franchise on a 10 year deal.

    Todd Boss

    22 Feb 19 at 9:45 am

  7. I’ve pointed to the Giants all along. They have the money, and they have the need for the entertainment value to keep their sellout crowds coming through the lean years. They also have an awful farm system, so they’re not going to getting much help from within. The Bay Area is high-enough profile to bring attention to a star (see Curry with the Warriors), and it’s much closer to Vegas than Philly is.

    I agree with Wally that I don’t get why so many national folks keep saying the Nats are in it. That has to be coming for Boras, trying to gin up the market. While the local media still acknowledges that Ted Lerner could be the ultimate wild card, most think Mark Lerner really is in charge now. If so, it would really undermine him for Dad to swoop in and stick him with a big contract to manage over the next decade.

    I’m not a Bryce hater, and I think the Nats would be a better team with him back, but not THAT much better. I think that ship has sailed, though. I just hope it docks anywhere but Philly.


    22 Feb 19 at 10:05 am

  8. Meanwhile, we have the first real sign of spring: an article by the Post’s new-and-eager beat writer who gushingly tells us that Taylor has shortened his swing and is going to make a lot more contact this season. He’s also going to cure cancer, walk on the moon, and make public appearances with Bigfoot. And Koda Glover is going to stay healthy all season.

    Hope springs eternal in the spring . . .


    22 Feb 19 at 10:09 am

  9. Team Revenue estimates:

    Not sure where they get their estimates, but if these are true, its pretty damning evidence on the lack of spending by certain teams. As you note KW, giants are very high revenue. What concerns me about SF is … its not Sabean calling all the shots anymore. They’ve hired Zaidi to run things, he comes from the Tampa bay brain trust of penny pinchers, and I just don’t see SF blowing past the limit.

    Todd Boss

    22 Feb 19 at 10:38 am

  10. As currently constructed, the Giants may be ticketed for last place in the NL West. They have aging vets, bad contracts, and nothing on the farm. Not spending is not an option. But they haven’t even done much “smart” spending, either. As with a number of teams, I’m not sure what they’re doing, other than pocketing a lot of money.


    22 Feb 19 at 12:20 pm

  11. Life can be weird sometimes, right? Like i am feeling a little concerned for Bryce that he doesn’t really have a market, and this ends up being the “Bryce Horror sweepstakes’.

    then I realize that I am potentially feeling bad for the guy because he isn’t going to beat a 10 year/$300m contract, and I shake it off and go on about my business.


    22 Feb 19 at 1:37 pm

  12. @Wally–I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: if Harper wanted to be the best paid player in the game, he should have gone out last year and played like it.

    Best thing for Harper would be to sign a one year deal somewhere (it won’t be the Nats. I can’t see him coming back here hat-in-hand after stupidly turning down $300 million from them), and having an MVP-caliber season. Then maybe he’ll be able to convince someone to open their wallets and top Giancarlo Stanton’s deal.

    Karl Kolchak

    22 Feb 19 at 2:36 pm

  13. What I don’t get is why Bryce/Boras have been so averse to shorter deals with higher AAV, say 4/140 (35 AAV), particularly since they’re going to insist on an opt-out after three or four years anyway. Yes, you are guaranteed the full 300M+ if you happen to drop in a few awful seasons (Stanton had a real stinker). I don’t know, . . . and I’ve come to the point where I really don’t care. But Bryce/Boras have closed the door on a lot of places where Bryce might have rather played by this insistence on the contract of 10 years or more. I don’t blame any team for not wanting to make that long a commitment.

    Oh well. No blame for the Local Nine. They spent a lot of money this offseason and really did a fabulous job of filling holes. Did you hear that they signed the best starter on the market? Is anyone even talking about that? (Corbin is apparently pretty low-key, so perhaps he’s fine with flying under the radar. It’s made it a lot easier for Stras to have Max as the public face of the staff.)

    Best news of the spring thus far: Kendrick seems to be 100%, or as miraculously close to it as he can be. Dozier also said to be healthy, which he wasn’t for much of ’18.


    22 Feb 19 at 3:18 pm

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