The annual offseason tradition of prospect lists and rankings is nearing its inevitable conclusion. Soon, we'll get excited because pitchers and catchers are doing baseball-related things we don't get to watch, and then we'll get excited because of meaningless games featuring players we've barely heard of. The next thing you know, we'll have honest-to-goodness opinions about All-Star voting like a bunch of derelicts.
Until then, here's a prospect ranking. Specifically, Keith Law's. The ESPN analyst released his 2016 ranking of all 30 farm systems, and he ranked the Giants 21st, placing them in the bottom tier of farm systems. However, he wasn't negative in his team capsule:
Just one top-100 prospect but a passel of intriguing arms -- both starters and relievers -- which should succor the ailing major league rotation soon and help keep the bullpen rolling (a strength of all three World Series-winning Giants teams).
/makes note to use "succor" more often
Indeed, and the top-100 prospect is almost certainly Christian Arroyo, a hit-tool-first prospect drafted earlier than predicted, which isn't a strange formula for Giants fans to root for.
Still, it's the fourth-best farm system in the NL West (only the Diamondbacks are ranked lower), and the Dodgers are ranked all the way at #2. It's not exactly the happiest ranking in prospect history.
You should see how angry people get about Law's lists. Don't be that person. Yes, he didn't necessarily see Joe Panik or Matt Duffy coming, but that shouldn't be an indictment of anyone's individual rankings or methods. Because you know who else didn't see Panik or Duffy coming? The team that acquired Dan Uggla on purpose to play second base and the team that traded for Casey McGehee on purpose to play third base.
The Giants liked Panik and Duffy enough not to deal them away, and we'll never know what tantalizing deals were dangled in front of them in the team's darkest hours. They get credit for recognizing the talent, valuing it more than other teams, and developing it. But it's not like there were classified emails going around the front office about the right moment to deploy their secret All-Stars. Everyone was caught a little off guard by their immediate success.
With that written, the system is pretty clearly lacking in prospects that would surprise you if they didn't succeed. As in, it would surprise me if Arroyo didn't turn into some sort of useful major leaguer. It would surprise me if the Giants didn't get at least one impact reliever from their stable of compelling relief prospects. It would surprise me if the Giants didn't get at least one back-of-the-rotation starter from their lower-level arms. But that's about it.
Compare that to the top prospects the Giants had in the past. It would have stunned me if Brandon Belt didn't turn into a solid starter. It would have stunned me if Buster Posey were only a solid starter. The Giants don't have any of those prospects right now. Other teams do. And maybe those teams -- say, the stupid Dodgers -- will be disappointed in their best prospects, while Arroyo makes six All-Star teams. Don't yell at other people for not predicting that with the information available, though.
Rant over! Here's where Law ranked the Giants' system in previous years:
2015 - 29
2014 - 25
2013 - 26
2012 - 26
2011 - 23
2010 - 20
2009 - 9
2008 - 9
So if you're a glass-half-full sort, the Giants have their highest ranking in years!
As always, don't forget that it takes just one prospect to make the farm system a smashing success for the calendar year. The Giants have been pretty good at that in recent seasons, and that's why they have the world's best cure for this barrage of bad prospect news: A young, sustainable roster already in place.