Down on the farm: Execs pick best systems for 2024

January 11th, 2024

Over the first three parts of the 2024 MLB Pipeline Poll series, all of the questions were about individual players and their tools. In the finale of the series, we’re switching gears and have asked front office executives to take a deeper look at farm systems.

This line of questioning provides a peek into which organizations are perceived to be good at building a farm system, acquiring and developing talent. Which systems got the most love? Let’s find out.

Which team has the best farm system?

Also received votes: Brewers, Cubs, Nationals, Rangers, Red Sox, Yankees 

It’s not a surprise that the Orioles led the voting here. They topped the survey a year ago and have been at the top of our farm system rankings for five straight editions, dating back to the 2021 midseason re-rank. It is noteworthy just how much of a runaway this was, though, especially given the graduations to Baltimore that helped it reach the postseason in 2023. But the industry clearly has a favorite.

Which team uses the Draft best?

Also received votes: Brewers, Cardinals, D-backs, Mariners, Padres, Yankees

The Dodgers edge the Orioles for the second straight year in this category. They continue to do a terrific job at finding talent in every round, and remember, they typically don’t pick early in the first round, either. The O’s have done well with their early picks (and have used their bonus pool well). It will be interesting to see if they can keep consistently finding talent as they move down the Draft order as a result of their success in the big leagues.

Which team plays the international market better than any other?

Also received votes: Braves, Guardians, Mariners, Mets, Phillies, Rangers, Reds

This vote was much closer than the Draft one was, with the Yankees’ efforts getting the edge; they do boast 10 of their Top 30 prospects from international signing efforts. The Dodgers are the only organization to get multiple votes in both the Draft and international questions, a sign of long-term respect for how the franchise acquires amateur talent, even if the farm system isn’t as highly regarded as the Orioles.

What team is the best at acquiring prospects in trades?

Also received votes: Dodgers, Orioles, White Sox

This backs up the sentiment we’ve long had: If the Rays call asking about a prospect, especially a relatively lesser-known one, hang up the phone. Even when they’re working to tinker with the big league roster, their knack for getting a “throw-in” who turns into a Top 100 prospect is clearly well-known. Remember, they got top prospect Junior Caminero from Cleveland and fellow Top 100 prospect Curtis Mead from the Phillies in similar fashion.

Who has the most underrated farm system?

Also received votes: Giants, Rays, White Sox, Yankees

Some questions are more subjective than others, and “underrated” could be interpreted in many different ways. That’s probably why 14 systems got multiple votes, topped by the Mariners, Red Sox and Tigers. A total of 18 teams were mentioned, so more teams received votes than didn’t in this one. Not to toot our own horn, but we did have the Reds and Rangers in the top 10 of our midseason farm system rankings last summer.

Which team hoards its prospects the most?

27% - Orioles
23% - Guardians
14% - Pirates
9% - Reds
7% - Brewers
7% - Rockies
5% - Mets

Also received votes: Blue Jays, Braves, Cardinals, Nationals

I think much of this vote comes from the 2023 season and perhaps this offseason, when everyone was waiting for the Orioles to finally unlock the prospect vault to help an already-talented big league roster get to the next level. They haven’t done that ... yet, but the 2024 season should be a big one in terms of a talent logjam at the upper levels and the hope to play deep into October. The Guardians topped this question a year ago and still have the reputation of really liking what they have in house.

Which team best develops pitchers?

38% - Dodgers
17% - Guardians
11% - Mariners
11% - Rays
4% - Astros
4% - Braves
4% - Orioles
4% - Yankees

Also received votes: Brewers, Marlins, Twins

Not only do the Dodgers seem to acquire young arms well, they have a well-earned reputation for teasing the most talent out of them. From guys who made large contributions to the current big league rotation to mid-round finds like Nick Frasso and Gavin Stone in their Top 5, they keep churning them out. The Guardians also continue to find hidden talent, with Rookie of the Year runner-up Tanner Bibee, a fifth-round pick, the latest example.

Which team best develops hitters?

34% - Dodgers
30% - Orioles
7% - Braves
7% - Cardinals
5% - Astros
5% - Rangers
5% - Rockies

If I were to circle back and ask a follow-up question, it might be why the Dodgers didn’t get more support as the overall top farm system after being chosen as best at developing hitters and pitchers, in addition to using the Draft best (and getting multiple votes for their work on the international market). Of course, some of that has to do with talent in the system right now, and the Orioles continue to get hitters to Baltimore and are pooling them up in Double- and Triple-A.

Which team is best at uncovering and developing "sleeper" prospects?

28% - Dodgers
22% - Rays
11% - Brewers
7% - Astros
7% - Guardians
7% - Rangers
4% - Padres
4% - Twins

See above about the Dodgers and how good they are at finding talent every which way and helping them develop into legitimate prospects and big leaguers. The Rays, who were lauded for their penchant for stealing low-level prospects in trades, do very good work in helping them become the Junior Camineros of the world.