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How long will it take for the Giants’ farm system to stop being awful?

The Giants are projected to have one of the worst farm systems in baseball again. When will this change?

San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants
Because when you get a chance to use a Dan Ortmeier picture, you take it.
Photo by Don Smith /MLB Photos via Getty Images

Last week, Baseball America released their organizational rankings for 2018. The Giants weren’t last. It’s probably the best news about the farm system that we’ll get before the season starts, and you should be beaming with pride. They ranked 26th, which is about four spots higher than I would have guessed, considering we spent the entire offseason hearing about how awful the farm system was.

It’s still not good. And it hasn’t been good for a while. Here are the Baseball America organizational rankings from every team for the last five years:

Baseball America’s organizational rankings, 2014-2018

Team 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Team 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Arizona Diamondbacks 13 6 22 28 25
Atlanta Braves 26 29 3 1 1
Baltimore Orioles 12 28 27 27 17
Boston Red Sox 2 5 4 14 24
Chicago Cubs 4 1 20 16 28
Chicago White Sox 24 20 23 5 4
Cincinnati Reds 16 16 12 13 9
Cleveland Indians 17 23 16 18 22
Colorado Rockies 11 8 6 10 20
Detroit Tigers 28 30 26 25 21
Houston Astros 5 10 2 3 10
Kansas City Royals 8 13 21 26 29
Los Angeles Angels 30 27 30 29 14
Los Angeles Dodgers 14 3 1 4 8
Miami Marlins 27 24 29 30 19
Milwaukee Brewers 29 21 9 8 11
Minnesota Twins 3 2 10 21 12
New York Mets 10 4 15 15 27
New York Yankees 18 18 17 2 2
Oakland A's 23 19 18 17 18
Philadelphia Phillies 22 22 8 6 6
Pittsburgh Pirates 1 7 11 7 16
San Diego Padres 6 14 25 9 3
San Francisco Giants 19 26 19 24 26
Seattle Mariners 25 24 28 23 30
St. Louis Cardinals 7 15 14 12 13
Tampa Bay Rays 20 17 13 11 5
Texas Rangers 9 11 7 22 23
Toronto Blue Jays 15 9 24 20 7
Washington Nationals 21 12 5 19 15

It’s the worst showing for the Giants in years, but it’s also not as bad as it could be. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

But we’re not here today to wallow. We’re here to investigate the Giants’ ability to get into the land of the living without doing a major fire sale. How many of the sudden risers on this list were able to do that?

2015-2016 Braves

The Braves jumped from 29th on the list to first in just two years, and they moved up 26 spots in one offseason. If you’re looking for a dream scenario, it’s here. Now they have the best farm system in baseball, and the 28 spots they jumped from 2015 to 2018 is the best in baseball over the last five years.

Of course, their system was infused with talent because of a fire sale.

Also, they were busted for cheating on the international market.

This probably isn’t a good comp.

2016-2017 White Sox

Chris Sale has always been a great comparable player to Madison Bumgarner, right down to the team control and under-market contract.

So if the Giants wanted to trade Bumgarner, they would certainly move up in the rankings.

This probably isn’t a good comp.

2016-2017 Padres

Do you remember that offseason where the Padres got, like, Matt Kemp and Derek Norris and everybody was freaking out about how good they were going to be? That was so adorable. It cost them an awful lot of prospects to do that.

But they were able to get them back when they had a fire sale.

The Giants aren’t having a fire sale anytime soon.

This probably isn’t a good comp.

2015-2016 Phillies

Fire sale. This probably isn’t a good comp.

2015-2016 Brewers

Fire sale. This probably isn’t a good comp.

There would appear to be a pattern, here. That is, if the Giants want the best farm system in baseball, they will have to supplement their own drafting and development with prospects acquired in trades. Which isn’t something they’re willing to do just yet. That means if there are going to be gains, they’re likely to be incremental, even with the second-overall pick in June.

There is one comp that I like, though.

2017-2018 Angels

This is almost cheating because their farm system is temporarily buoyed by Shohei Ohtani, who isn’t really a prospect, and, whatever, we didn’t want him anyway. Even without Ohtani, though, the Angels’ system would still be much improved over the last couple years.

Remember when Keith Law wrote this?

I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen. They traded their top two prospects in the Andrelton Simmons deal and had no one remotely close to top-100 status. They need a big draft this year to start to restock the system or we’re going to start talking about whether it’s time to trade Mike Trout.

Something’s changed, alright.

the Angels are the comeback kids, with a couple of promising draft picks boosted by a slew of international signings, mostly pitchers, starting to make noise in pro ball. Their first-rounders in 2015 and 2016 have been lapped by the second-rounders in those years, and there are scouts who thought their first-round pick in 2017, Jordon Adell, was a top-three talent in the class.

This is the 1-2 combo that needs to happen for the Giants to get back to the land of respectability.

  1. Draft well
  2. Do well on the international market

Hrmm. I do believe that I’ve just solved baseball. The Giants should draft well and sign good international free agents if they want to improve their farm system. Thanks for reading.

But the question isn’t “how should the Giants get better prospects?” because the answer to that is “by getting better prospects.” The question is about how long it might take for the Giants to get back to the land of respectability.

And the answer to that is: by the end of 2018, really. A lot has to go right, but it could happen sooner than you think.

One of the biggest problems with the Giants’ system right now is that everyone is exceptionally cautious about Heliot Ramos. He was drafted in the first round, sure, but he wasn’t a consensus top-10 pick. His tools are fascinating, but nobody wants to put too much stock into Rookie League numbers. So he’s not going to boost the Giants too much right now. The same goes for Jacob Gonzalez, who is still very much an unknown to national prospect mavens. But if both of these prospects have strong seasons at higher levels, the Giants’ rankings will change dramatically.

If they’re successful, they’ll join the second-overall pick and maybe a few surprises or breakthroughs to help the Giants into the middle of next year’s rankings. The organization is getting out of the international-spending penalty box this summer, too, which means they might have a shot to sign some of the top prospects. The new Felipe Alou Baseball Academy makes them more appealing than they used to be, and maybe the Braves’ shenanigans will make other shenanigans less likely and give the Giants a better shot.

Or this season could be a repeat of last season, when the entire organization caught on fire, from Low-A to the majors, and the Giants will rank even worse. I’d say that’s unlikely, but I also watched last year. Nothing is impossible. I believe in this group’s ability to be awful again, I really do.

An improved farm will help the Giants when it comes to trades, and while it isn’t likely to doom them forever, there is some evidence that a good farm system can be worth a few wins in the future, at least.

They’re not the worst. They’re probably not going to be the best for a long time. Respectable, then. We’re shooting for respectable.

It might come this year. It’s not guaranteed, but I’m cautiously optimistic. The Angels are helping me get there. Yes, that’s right, the Angels are actually making me optimistic about the G

Baltimore Orioles vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Paul Spinelli/MLB Photos via Getty Images

ok that feeling passed, sorry, but the point is that, oh, hell, now I lost my train of thought