Thursday, February 4, 2016

Down on the Farm: More Proof the Giants Have A Great Scouting Department and Farm System

August Fagerstrom put up an article in Fangraphs yesterday that quantifies how all 30 of the current MLB teams were built.  Interestingly, the team with the most players on their 40 man roster acquired through their own draft is the Giants with 24.  The next highest team is the Cardinals with 21.  Those 24 players are not just benchwarmers and AAA guys either.  The projected fWAR from those drafted players is 27 with the next highest team slightly over 21.  So, the Giants are getting major contributions from their drafted players, far better than any other team in MLB.  It's not just from first round draft picks either.  Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey and Joe Panik are former first rounders, but Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Matt Duffy are not, nor are several key bench players and relievers.

What the article does not say is that this list does not count Tim Lincecum who was the guy who started all this when he was drafted in 2006, nor does it count Pablo Sandoval who was an international signee and Matt Cain who came even before Tim Lincecum makes only a minor contribution due to his recent struggles with injuries.  Just think about the impact those 3 guys made on the Giants organization and then realize that we are already starting into the second generation of homegrown players bringing success to the Giants!  The Giants track record of success in relying on the draft and their farm system now goes back a full 10 years, and longer if you count Matt Cain as the start of it all.  That's right, this coming June will mark the 10 year anniversary of the drafting of Tim Lincecum.  10 years!

The fascinating thing about all this is through most of this period, the Giants farm system has not been ranked highly by most baseball prospect evaluators.  Specifically, the last time the Giants farm system was ranked higher than #22 by Baseball America was 2010 when Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner were still prospects and Zack Wheeler was still in the Giants organization.  Yet, in that same time frame, they have graduated Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik, Matt Duffy and a multitude of role players who have made major contributions to two championship teams and collectively account for a huge chunk of that 27 projected fWAR for 2016.

So, what is missing here?  By this time, even the national writers who have been ranking the Giants system in the bottom 10 are starting to acknowledge that their success is not due to luck or "something in the water" or "pixie dust."  Their run of success in the draft and farm system has simply run too long to attribute to luck.  At first, the CW was the success was due to having a string of high draft picks because, after all, you don't have to be smart to draft a successful top 5 or top 10 pick.  Then players like Belt and Crawford started coming along and blew that theory out of the water.  The latest line is "well, Matt Duffy came out of nowhere.  Nobody could have seen that coming!"  Well, I'm not so sure about that.  While there are always going to be doubts about whether any prospect can make that final jump to MLB, is there anybody who reads this blog regularly who was shocked by Matt Duffy's success, or Brandon Crawford's or Joe Panik's?  If you followed this farm system closely, and knew a little bit about peripheral statistics such as K rates and K/BB ratios, you could see the numbers these players were putting up in the minor leagues were for real.

One thought that I have is you have to look deeper than the overall Top 100 prospects to fully understand a farm system.  A lot of what passes for farm system ranking consists of counting Top 100 prospects and then ranking the systems based on that alone.  Look, even I do not try to argue that the Giants should have more top 100 prospects, although lists that exclude Christian Arroyo are not credible, IMO, and I think you could make an argument for a few more like Tyler Beede, Phil Bickford, Lucious Fox and even Clayton Blackburn and Mac Williamson.  What I do think is that if you were to extend the rankings into the top 200 or 300, you would start seeing a whole lot of Giants prospect names showing up, or at least you should.  What the Giants have proven is those 2'nd and 3'rd tier prospects need to be taken seriously.  In short, system rankings need to include depth in the analysis and not just the top tier talent.

Another thought is in the Sabermetric age, the mental side of the game is being ignored.  I heard a recent interview, I forget exactly who or where, but someone was being asked about what the Giants scouts are looking for that other scouts and analysts may be missing.  The answer was the mental side of the game.  Do they know how to play the game?  Are they both capable and willing to learn?  A great example of this idea would be Matt Duffy, who may not have the most exciting tools in the game, but keeps a copy of The Mental Side of Hitting with him at all times and reads from it daily like a devotional book.  Joe Panik would be another guy who may not have the eye-popping tools but seems to have an unusually clear-eyed vision of what he needs to do in each AB.

Bottom line:  After almost 10 years of building this team through the draft and farm system, the Giants remain as well positioned for the future as any team in baseball!


  1. Excellent post Doctor!
    Thank goodness Spring training is coming very soon.

    Richard in Winnipeg

  2. Their conventional wisdom is that the Giants farm system is bad and they use their perception of this weakness in a laughable circular logic way in order to reinforce their perception. I looked for proof of that for quite some time and, finally, MLB.COM gave me the evidence I needed with Keury Mella and his elevation to the Top-100 last year after the trade with the Reds.

    Our #5 guy became their #5 guy and, magically, a Top-100 prospect. Meanwhile our 1-through-4 guys got no promotion and the Reds' 1-through-4 guys stayed in the Top-100.

    That's just conceptually bankrupt. If Mella is 5th in both organizations and Top-100, then 1-through-4 of both organizations are Top-100. Only, none of the Giants were Top-100. Why? Because the Giants don't have any Top-100 worthy players because they have a weak farm system! How do we know the Giants have a weak farm system? Why, it's because they have no Top-100 players! Proof! So there Giants' fans! (And logic be damned.)

    Anyway, I'd think they might clue in since the horrible, terrible, weak Giants farm system has produced the best over-all infield in the major leagues along with one of the best success-rates in providing quality players to the home club in the past decade, is not just luck. And that, perhaps, one might need to rethink the way you evaluate the system.

    Last, I'd include Sandoval. He still had to come up through the Farm even if he wasn't drafted. It's still scouting and development. I'd also include any Rule 5 draftees like Strickland or any reclamation projects, beyond cursory rehab assignments, that succeeded.

  3. Great article! Who cares what the so-called experts say, the proof is success on the field of play and the Giants have done it in spades. They have implemented a process of drafting that has produced quality players throughout the lineup and I would not be surprised that other teams will try mimic the Giants Way in the future, if for nothing else, trying to remain competitive in this time of extremely high salaries.

  4. Just a side note here, Doc: If the talking heads knew the missing algorithms, which the Giants presently employ, that would allow them to correctly evaluate the Giants farm strengths & those potential future major leaguers... That would imply that Sabean's secrets to success would be open for any and all to start using, in front offices around baseball as well as in the widespread blogosphere of analytical rosterbation. The fact that these guys are bewildered year after year, and still cannot grasp - even with the homegrown team we PRESENTLY run out onto the field each year - that our farm system remains as strong as any, is quite honestly an unstated compliment to the organization and those of us Giants prospectors who have been reading between the lines.

    I remember the days of Calvin Murray and Eugenio Velez, and today's farm system bears absolutely no resemblance to those farms of old. These are awesome days to be a fan of this team & an avid Giants prospect hound. The sheer abundance of actual and sleeper prospects to follow honestly makes it really difficult to follow the MiL season throughout the year.

    With that said, national recognition for the all around strengths of our organization would do a lot to change the story of this Giants Dynasty.

  5. Very thoughtful post DrB. I haven't had a chance to read the article yet, but I'm very interested to do so. I see that it's gaining notoriety... even the Giants official Twitter account shared it this afternoon.

    I've been intrigued by this idea of determining the best "homegrown" team in baseball for a while now. It started a few months ago when I noticed something on the Giants Baseball-Reference page. I really like how they have the top players by WAR listed near the top of the team pages. You can mouse over the player's headshot to see his WAR total for the season. Well, one night I put it together that the Giants top 6 players by WAR last season were all drafted & developed internally (Posey/Bum/Craw/Duffy/Belt/Panik). All 6 of those players were over 3 WAR individually as well, which seemed pretty impressive to me. I wondered to myself then if there was another team in baseball who could make that same claim (top 6 players all drafted/developed). I never really got around to looking into it in any more detail. So I am not surprised by the findings of the study done over at Fangraphs.

    It's crazy to think that this total franchise overhaul has been going on for 10 years now. I would say I began following the minor leagues closely during Bum's season in Augusta, so that puts me at 7 years now. I still go through periods where I get annoyed/irritated by the coverage (or lack thereof) of Giants prospects, but I think time has made me become somewhat immune to all that stuff. Prospect rankings truly are irrelevant, and I've gotten tired of defending the Giants and their development crew to people (some who consider themselves fans of the organization!).

    What matters most to me is that the prospects in this system have contributed at the only level that matters, the Majors. The organization had a very detailed plan in place at the end of the Bonds era, and a specific player-type in mind when they set out to turn the ship around... They looked for coachable, mature, and of course talented ball players. Their plan has played out masterfully... and at this point, I don't see any end in sight. Great time to be a Giants fan indeed!

    Cove Chatter

  6. I hope someone does a follow up analysis on the total fwar put up by players who were drafted/signed by the Giants, and are now playing for other teams. If you do the same analysis for all team, I suspect that it will really highlight how well the Giants evaluate their own talent.

    Also, I read recently where scouts are having a hard time finding/keeping their jobs. I wonder where the Giants rank in terms of numbers of scouts working for them. I am willing to bet that that's another area where the Giants differs from other teams.

  7. Excellent exposition. Another great article. While I think the Giants fully deserve more recognition, I kinda think it's better to be overlooked. More eyes on the farm system will eventually lead to more teams figuring out how to develop players like the Giants do. The winning might last longer if the team can keep the magic INSIDE. In other words, the East Coast can wallow in their bias as long as they like as long as the championships keep coming to San Francisco.