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.