This week, Keith Law of Scouts, Inc. gave his analysis of the top farm systems in baseball. The #1 spot went to the Texas Rangers for the second year in a row, but sitting in the #2 spot was our own Boston Red Sox. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, considering the depth of pitching prospects in the system, but how does that impressive farm system translate to success on the Major League level?
Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus wrote a great article for ESPN Insiders about what has made the Red Sox such a strong team over the past decade and how the organization drafts for success. He wrote about how inaccurate it is to accuse the Sox of being the ‘Yankees of New England’ because they have a large payroll and spend big money in the free agent pool. The Red Sox have one thing the Yankees don’t: deep farm system talent that they develop on a yearly basis.
When I look at the 2010 roster for the Red Sox, it becomes apparent how effective the team’s scouting system is, nationally and internationally. Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia, the entire right side of the Sox infield, are former Sox draft picks that rose through the farm system. Youk was drafted as the 243rd pick in the 8th round in the 2001 draft and Pedroia was the 65th pick in the 2nd round of the 2004 draft.
Then, look through the Sox pitching staff for 2010 and you will find several other members of the home-grown talent club. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz in the starting rotation and Jonathan Papelbon, Manny Delcarmen, Daniel Bard, and Michael Bowden in the bullpen were all Sox draft picks over the past several years. Without the contributions from those guys, the Sox would not be the perennial contender they have turned into.
Beyond the draft picks, the Sox international scouting has been second-to-none, bringing in pitchers from Japan at an alarming rate, including potentially another lefty this season. There are currently 3 Japanese pitchers on the Red Sox 40-man roster (Tazama, Matsuzaka, Okajima) and will continue to draw international talent.
I understand the sentiment that the Sox are as ‘bad’ as the Evil Empire because they spend a lot of money on the free agent market, but you have to take everything into consideration. The Sox combine scouting and player development with plugging in key pieces from the free agent market to put the best possible team on the field.
The farm system rankings only tell part of the story, as we know. The Yankees farm system is ranked 25th out of 30 in depth, but with their World Series victory last season proves money can buy championships. For me, watching young players get drafted, develop through a farm system, and eventually succeed at the big league level is more enjoyable to watch and follow. Now let’s just hope 2010 is the year all of those draft picks peak at the highest level and bring the trophy back where it belong, in Boston.