Less than a week ago the Cincinnati Reds were rated as the 7th best farm system in baseball by Baseball America. It’s Baseball America that’s long been considered the gold standard of prospect ranking. Part of that is that they’ve been around for over four decades now, while many other publications didn’t enter the prospect ranking landscape until the digital age and the turnover at those publications has been very high. Keith Law, now at The Athletic, has been doing prospect rankings for a while, and on Monday morning he released his latest farm system rankings. The Cincinnati Reds came in at 19th on his list.

One place says 7th. Another place says 19th. That’s a very large gap. So what’s the deal? Well, it’s a bit more complicated than “This place is full of smart people and Keith Law is a jabroni and hates the Reds”. Baseball America considers shortstop Jose Barrero as prospect eligible. Keith Law does not. The crew at Baseball America doesn’t consider service time as a “qualifier”, just the thresholds of 130 at-bats, 50-innings pitched, or 30 relief appearances. Service time, however, is a threshold that makes a player a rookie, and Law uses that in his rankings and that disqualifies Jose Barrero from technically being eligible as a prospect.

Jose Barrero being or not being “in the farm system” is a pretty big deal. He’s a top 50 prospect in all of baseball where he’s eligible on lists. One top 50 prospect not being eligible, though, doesn’t quite make up the gap between 7th and 19th, though – at least in my mind. Even without Barrero, Law still rated three prospects – Hunter Greene (12th), Elly De La Cruz (69th), and Matt McLain (72nd) – in the top 100. Notably absent is left-handed pitcher Nick Lodolo, who is rated in the top 50 at several other publications.

The Chicago Cubs had just one top 100 prospect, Brennan Davis who was rated 28th overall, but somehow rates higher than the Reds who have a higher rated prospect in Greene, more top 100 prospects, too, and plenty of depth. The rankings based on the data seems a bit strange. It’s tough to compute that the team with the higher rated guys in the top 100 and at the very least good depth behind those guys, is rated lower than the team with just one top 100 guy no matter how much depth they may seem to have. Because of that, it does seem that the farm system for Cincinnati is a bit underrated here.

The rankings were down from the previous year, too. Heading into 2021 the Reds were rated 17th overall. A lot of quality prospects “graduated” in the last year, though. Aside from Barrero, Cincinnati also saw Jonathan India, Tyler Stephenson, Vladimir Gutierrez, and Tony Santillan all lose their prospect status. That’s a pretty good cache of prospects to lose and only drop two spots in the rankings. Of course, it also feels like hindsight probably should have had them a little bit higher given how they all performed as rookies.

28 Responses

  1. Optimist

    Well, one place does seem full of smart people, and the other . . . Lodolo, huh, sup wit dat?

  2. RedsGettingBetter

    W f I T? Lodolo out of 100 top prospects? No way… It would be very interesting to ask Law what was thinking when wrote the ranking leaving the Reds’ farm system among mediocre

    • AC

      He said it was due to injury concerns. Law doesn’t like Lodolo’s delivery, and thinks the shoulder will be a problem moving forward.

  3. LDS

    I’m never sure who to trust on such ratings. So much of what is written, even by the writers with national reputations, seems to be speculation (at best) or opinions to keep the audience. How much of it is actually informed is another question. Some, I suspect, is no better than the discussions that arise in the comments section on RLN. In fact, much that is written here may well turn out to be more accurate in the end. For example, I saw an article at Bleacher Report today suggesting a trade option for the Reds and Dodgers built around Lux and Gray. Seems highly unlikely. And if the Dodgers were to make such a trade, well let’s just say I’d be leery. But in the lockdown era, they have to do something. I give Doug credit for trying to keep the writing substantive.

    • Doug Gray

      Here’s who to take seriously: Baseball America, ESPN, Fangraphs, MLB.com, The Athletic, Baseball Prospectus. In that order (for current times – but may need to adjust for past rankings when other people were in charge of the lists at those sites). I wouldn’t take much from anywhere else with too much seriousness from a national standpoint because no one else seems to have the ability/staff/resources to cover everyone.

  4. Brad

    I wonder too if agents or GMs weigh into rankings to help prop up their farm system for trades or their players.

    • David

      …And water is wet, too. 🙂

      Well yeah. I think a lot of these “Rankings” are so much propaganda. Sparky used to mock the LA Papers that “followed” (supported) the Dodgers in the 1970’s.

      “They sell baloney by the pound out there”, said the old Spark, as he did live in Thousand Oaks, California during the off-season.

      If the Reds really do have a good farm system, they will be pumping out the prospects to the ML Club over the next few years. We shall see what we shall see.

      I know it is limbo time in baseball right now, but ranking “farm systems” is either a very extensive review of talent, or just so much spit-ballin’. I think it is also much more that “Top 100” ranked talent. Those Top 100 guys sometimes don’t pan out.

  5. MK

    I do think Barrero is past the prospect threshold. If you are no longer eligible for Rookie of the Year you aren’t a prospect.

    • Stock

      I agree with you in principle MK but I like it when the ignore the days in the majors.

      For Barrero it does not make much of a difference because I am comfortable he is a 55. However, I would be interested to see if Santillan was upgrade based upon his performance as a RP. Fangraphs had Santillan as a 40+ prospect last year. I am curious to see if he would be a 45 or maybe even a 45+ after doing so well out of the bullpen this summer.

      If Keith Law is consistent he either ranks both Barrero and Santillan or neither of them. I would prefer both because it is an indication what Reds fans can expect in 2022.

  6. Norwood Nate

    Can we still say Keith Law is a jabroni? It’s just fun.

    • Mark Moore


      It’s funny, because it’s true

      • Earmbrister

        Keith Law has always seem to have had a burr in his saddle when it comes to Cincy. Did he get sick years ago on some bad chili in the Queen City?

      • Redsvol

        After reading who Keith Law thinks are the Reds top prospects and how he them ranked, its clear he know nothing about the system other than the top 3-4 “name” guys. He doesn’t have any of the high upside 2020 draft pitchers and he has Siani at #12. Those 2 things prove he know nothing beyond the top names in the organization.

  7. Stock

    The Cubs system is better than the Reds system if Barrero is not a prospect. Keith Law has it right. This goes right along with the discussion the other day on why the 2018 Reds system is better than the 2008 system. The top prospects are important but the depth adds value you don’t seem to apreciate. The Cubs may have only one prospect in the top 100 but my guess is Kevin Alcantara, Reginald Preciado, Owen Cassie and James Triantos are in the top 150.

    My guess is Law ranks Greene as 60 FV, De La Cruz, McLain and Lodolo as 50 prospects.

    Where as Davis is a 55 prospect and Kevin Alcantara, Reginald Preciado, Owen Cassie and James Triantos are 50 rated prospects.

    These 5 Cub prospects have more value than Greene, De La Cruz, McLain and Lodolo.

    As for depth beyond these top 5 prospects, Cubs are better.

    • Stock

      One other thing to consider is that any rating system that includes Barrero also includes Santillan. If it excludes one it must exclude both. To do otherwise would not be consistent. Therefore there are two players additional players in the BA rankings that are not in the Athletic rankings.

      • Doug Gray

        Except that no, that isn’t the case. Tony Santillan, for some reason, isn’t in the Baseball America rankings. And there’s no way he wouldn’t be considered a Top 40 prospect in the organization.

      • Stock

        Then BA messed up. Including one but not the other is not consistent

  8. Mark Moore

    I personally discount anything from Keith Law (he does inexplicably “hate” our Reds). You did a good job explaining it. And there is a LOT of subjectivity to go around.

  9. Old-school

    This is sadly funny.
    We cant agree on how good the Reds farm system is because no one can agree whether super prospect Jose barrero is a prospect or a major leaguer. The guy sat the bench and never got even 20 at bats in a row. DIdnt David bell answer that question pretty definitively?

    I’d like to see where the gurus rate Kyle Farmer for shortstop rankings in MLB in 2022.

  10. Votto4life

    These rankings don’t mean very much at all. What matters is how the players in the Red’s organization perform on the field.

    If your team’s system is ranked #1,
    but it fails to win a championship, what is
    the ranking worth?

    The Bengals are in The Super Bowl because the NFL has greater competitive balance than MLB.

    I was hopeful MLB would soon adopt a better system than the one we have had for the last 50 years. But as this lockout drags on, I am convinced no changes will be made to address competitive balance.

    Until there is a truly hard salary cap in place, I don’t see the Red’s winning another championship.

    • TR

      Few expected the Reds to sweep the A’s in 1990 in the same way few,
      this season, expected the Bengals to be where they are now.

  11. MBS

    I always use MLB.com as the benchmark, but I enjoy reading as many ranking as I can find. Doug you do some great work on prospects bio’s.

  12. CFD3000

    The rankings are interesting, especially in the midst of the CBA stalemate with no other hot stove news. But ultimately the quibbling over the semantics of who is and is not a prospect waters down the value of the rankings. I realize there has to be an objective cutoff, but any line in the prospect sand is automatically limiting.

    Is there anyone who would argue that we already know how much value these players will eventually provide? Barrero, Gutierrez, Santillan, Friedl, San Martin, and Moreta? No way – they are effectively still prospects whether they fit a hard definition or not. Add to that list the agreed prospects list of Greene, Lodolo, McLain, Ashcraft, Hinds and many more. Evaluate the combined expectations for both groups and you have a decent sense of the Reds potential in coming years.

    Where that potential stacks up relative to other teams is only important if you consider all young players, whether they fit your definition of prospects or not. For the record, I’m pretty excited about Barrero, Santillan and most of the “true” prospects, and not yet convinced that Gutierrez, Friedl, San Martin or Moreta will ever be impact players. But that still leaves plenty of reason to be optimistic about the Reds current prospects.

    • David

      Evaluations of minor league talent usually don’t have any insight as to exactly what kind of person the player actually is.
      Example: Josh Hamilton was one of the most highly regarded players to ever be drafted. He ruined the early years of his career with drug abuse.
      Compare this with Mike Trout. Mike Trout has been even better than how he was scouted and drafted. Mike not only had great ability, but has worked hard to be the best kind of player he can be. Trout is one of the greatest, if not the best, player of his generation. People thought he was going to be good, but he was better.
      And the Reds drafted Bernie Carbo ahead of Johnny Bench.
      I think you can qualitatively say the Reds have a better farm system than they had 10 years ago. After a raft of good players came out (2007-2010), then the system went to crap under Jocketty as GM. Bad drafts, no player development, but plenty of Veteran Presence.
      Today, they have a good number of legitimately talented minor leaguers that have a real shot at making it in the Majors. Those players that CFD3000 named, and maybe more. How good they will be is anyone’s guess. Nobody thought a skinny Cuban 2nd baseman named Tony Perez would end up in the Baseball Hall of Fame.