The teams with the best regular season records from each league will meet to decide the 2020 World Series. Strong and sustainable farm systems have led the way for both organizations, as well as many of the teams that made impressive runs throughout the 2020 season. The Yankees must continue to refine their player development network to keep pace with the top teams in the sport.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have become the model that many teams seek to emulate. The Dodgers’ President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman has built a titan, but he first made his name as the General Manager of Tampa Bay, building the Rays team that went to the World Series in 2008 while also making the playoffs in 2010, 2011, and 2013.
The Dodgers have now reached their third World Series in four years, and have won eight straight National League West titles. They have done this while producing impact players such as Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager and Walker Buehler and maintaining a top rated farm system.
Baseball America has ranked the Dodgers as one of the top nine farm systems in baseball dating back to 2015. This includes the franchise peaking as the number one rated farm system in 2016 despite drafting near the bottom of the draft year in and year out. The last time the Dodgers drafted earlier than 15th in the draft they took a high school left hander named Clayton Kershaw in 2006. Baseball America credits them with having the best player development staff in the game.
Opposing the Dodgers is a team familiar to Yankees fans, the Tampa Bay Rays. Tampa can not boast a similar track record to the Dodgers’ long run of success, but they did win 90 games or more two seasons in a row before winning the American League East this season. They have done this with one of the best farm systems in the game churning out valuable contributors over the last few seasons.
The Rays steadily climbed the rankings after being ranked as low as 20th in 2014. They continue to be the top ranked farm system in the game since the middle of the 2019 season. Their current farm system is not only deep, but includes the top prospect in the game — Wander Franco.
The importance of maintaining a strong farm system cannot be overlooked. Houston had a top 10 system from 2014-2017. They used many pieces from that system to aggressively trade for players like Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke. This was while they produced a home grown core that reached four straight American League Championship series.
Atlanta and San Diego have both boasted the top system in the game over recent seasons before taking major steps forward at the major league level over the last few years. Toronto and the Chicago White Sox also made the playoffs this season after placing inside of the top five and boasting some of the best young talent in the game.
The Yankees are currently ranked as the 18th best system in baseball. They peaked as the second best system in baseball heading into 2018 before the graduations of Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar from the ranks of prospects. Trades saw players like Justus Sheffield leave town, while other top prospects like Albert Abreu failed to take the next step to become elite.
Their positional talent is headed by 17-year-old centerfielder Jasson Dominguez, who is very young and still considered risky due to his distance away from the upper minors and major leagues. The high end pitchers that have dominated the Yankees prospect rankings over the last few seasons, led by Deivi García and Clarke Schmidt, began to reach the major leagues this season. More will certainly follow next year as elite arms like Luis Gil and Luis Medina could be knocking on the door after spending the season at the Yankees’ alternate training site.
The Yankees have also taken steps to overhaul their player development system in the last few years, bringing in highly regarded hitting coordinator Dillion Lawson and pitching coordinator Sam Briend. Lawson earned a strong reputation working for the Houston Astros and several very successful college programs. Briend’s work at Driveline Baseball caught the eyes of the Yankees and many others as he has been on the cutting edge of blending technology and performance with pitchers.
Both coordinators have continued to bring in coaches that match their philosophies. However, the lost 2020 season is going to rob evaluators of the chance to see the results of this player development team.
It is no accident that teams with consistently good farm systems are reaching and going deep into the playoffs. The steady influx of young, productive players allows these teams to focus bigger money on impact players such as a Morton or Betts who can take them to the next level. The Yankees have produced a solid pipeline of players into the major leagues since 2016, but they will have to keep up with the best systems in the game to carry themselves to the championship level they desire.