There has been considerable talk this season and offseason about the idea that there are too many minor league levels and that baseball might consider getting rid of some of them.  Juggling the names, I have to admit that the number of short season leagues seems a bit high and the number of players a team carries who have no shot at an MLB future is also very high.  I grade players from A+ to C and I find that the Mets and most teams have a surprisingly high number of C and C+ rated players lingering in the minors for no reason.  For those keeping score, I’m including my grading ranks below:

  • A+: Prospect has a relatively good chance of becoming an All Star in the majors
  • A: Prospect has a relatively good chance of being an impact starter in the majors
  • A-: Prospect has a relatively good chance of starting in the majors
  • B+: Prospect has a relatively good chance of playing multiple MLB seasons
  • B: Prospect has a relatively good chance of reaching the MLB as a backup
  • B-: Prospect has a relatively good chance of reaching the MLB
  • C+: Prospect has an outside chance of reaching the MLB
  • C: Prospect is unlikely to ever reach the MLB

This month I’ve done an exercise, in which I’ve adjusted the Mets’ prospect depth charts as if the New York Penn and Gulf Coast leagues are no longer in existence. I’ll review some of the key names who now find themselves assigned at each level and then get into the broader impact to the organization. Lastly, I’ll review my overall thoughts after going through this entire exercise.

AAA: Syracuse Mets

There are little to no functional changes to the highest level of the Mets system.  You have a solid corp of starting pitchers vying to be backend starters, a handful of relievers who are looking for their chance in the majors and Andres Gimenez (the impactful prospect).  Sure, I’m ignoring Ali Sanchez, Luis Carpio and a few others who could reach the majors but the basic idea is that the players who would be in AAA for the Mets (with seven minor league teams) remains the same. One could argue this proves the upper minors for the Mets are devoid of talent but truthfully most teams would see little change to AAA other than a winnowing of the C and C+ ranked prospects who serve as AAA reserves.

AA: Binghamton Rumble Ponies

The weakest overall level in the Met system, the Rumble Ponies will still boast a few very promising players (Thomas Szapucki, Franklyn Kilome and Wagner Lagrange) while also carrying the fewest Top 50 players of any level.  At this level of the minors you begin to see an impact to the condensation of teams but it isn’t the one you’d expect.  Here I foresee the Mets sliding up unproven talent that may not be ready for the level in order to protect the more valuable bigger names in leagues below.

A+: St. Lucie Mets

Based on the makeup of the Mets system the Advanced A squad gets a very high number of the Mets Top 50 players.  Nobody will be surprised to see Ronny Mauricio, Mark Vientos, Jordan Humphreys or Shervyen Newton regardless of if there are five or seven teams.  What this exercise does is force the escalation of college players after their short season debut league regardless of their immediate success.  This means that Jake Mangum, Scott Ota and others wind up joining Luke Ritter.  This “fast-tracking” by age is likely the biggest notable change that we see so far. With seven teams you have room to promote highschool/prep school players to Kingsport or Brooklyn, leaving Columbia free for the collegiate names who had less success in Brooklyn. Now, it becomes a numbers game and age would force a lot of players to skip Low-A regardless.

A: Columbia Fireflies

While we are talking about escalation we should look at the number of Top 20 prospects who are jammed into the first full season level. Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty, Matthew Allan, Josh Wolf, Anderson Hernandez and others all find themselves sharing the same field.  This team is so jammed with talent it almost hurts but without Kingsport and/or Brooklyn, there is no where else to put them.  This would greatly escalate the timeline on a number of top prospects who will suddenly find themselves thrust, regardless of their debut, into full season baseball in their second seasons. This could get great players to the majors quicker but it could also rush player development and breakdown players who aren’t ready.  Myself, I want almost all those players to start in Columbia anyway.

Rookie: Gulf Coast Mets

Five players ranked in my Top 50 wind up either repeating or starting in the GCL.  Some of these players were in the GCL last season and some were in the DSL but for a few, this means actually delaying their progress. If the Mets still had Kingsport, Freddy Valdez and Ronny Rincones are no brainers to begin in that league.  If the Mets also had Brooklyn, I’d likely send Sebastian Espino on there.  The other half of the issue with this condensation is that you will wind up with no room to put the players drafted in the 2020 amateur draft.  It becomes extremely crowded down in the rookie leagues in a hurry. Perhaps this would just mean that teams don’t select as many prospects each year.

Overall Thoughts:

I maintain that baseball could likely get rid of either the Advanced Rookie League or the Short Season A league and not greatly impact the development process.  In this exercise, when you remove both, you wind up with no good place to put prospects very quickly.  While I understand that the Amateur Draft may be too deep, I think there is a real value in having (at least) two levels of short season baseball to assign players to.  This way you have a league for newly drafted high schoolers and Dominican Summer League graduates and another for collegiate draftees and those high schoolers who are not yet ready for full season baseball after their first year’s.

1. Removing the APP and NYP leagues from the minors would most directly impact each year’s draft class.
2. It would compress the timeline of player development and force teams to shed career minor leaguers.
3. The changes don’t have much impact on the upper levels of the Mets’ organization.

7 comments on “Mets Minors: Pondering a five-team farm system

  • TexasGusCC

    Right on Dave. Where would kids play in order to get acclimated to (a) stateside ball (b) professional ball because they just got drafted? If you want to cut out those two levels, it will make the GCL too competitive to use to break in players.

    Also, rumor of the Mets eliminating Binghamton and making Brooklyn their AA home sucks but neither MLB nor the Coupons have time to worry about a small city in upstate. I guess when they changed their name from the Mets to the Rumble Ponies, it hurt feelings?

    • Chris B

      I would be very upset if the Mets took away Binghamton’s team, or any minor league team for that matter. Nice article David

      • David Groveman

        Having been to both stadiums… it is odd our short season affiliate has nicer facilities than our AA one.

        This would also put our AA affiliate in a geographical zone to make it ideal for rehab assignments.

  • Brian Joura

    The Mets own the Brooklyn Cyclones, so it’s naive to think they wouldn’t keep that franchise in some way, shape or form. It would be fun to have the Double-A team that close to the big league team. Not sure how the territorial rules would apply here but if they do, maybe the Mets and Yankees can agree to have their Double-A teams in Brooklyn and Staten Island.

    And if the proposed elimination goes through, what recourse do the contracted teams have with their affiliation agreement? The B-Mets’ affiliate deal with the NY Mets goes thru the 2020 season.

    • Joe Vasile

      This is correct. The proposed “cut list” includes Binghamton as being one of the 42 MiLB teams throughout the nation having their affiliations revoked after 2020. It’s also proposed that Brooklyn would move up to Double-A as part of a nation-wide reshuffling of leagues to make them more geographically friendly (kind of a dumb idea if you ask me).

      If this plan to effectively kill minor league baseball goes through as proposed the Mets would be looking at:
      AAA: Syracuse
      AA: Brooklyn
      A+: St. Lucie
      A: Columbia
      Complex: GCL

  • Eraff

    It would be interesting to see the Salary and total cost break down at the Minor League Level, Level by Level. It would not be surprising to see teams develop their own “Camps” for player development, with single site locations on large Baseball Campuses. This would eliminate travel and some of the other considerations for the Lower Level Leagues.

    • Joe Vasile

      Teams all have these camps already – extended spring training, the Gulf Coast and Arizona Leagues, and international complex ball like the Dominican Summer League. The Appalachian League has most of its teams within short driving distance to one another.

      Players in short season/rookie ball make $1,100/month for the duration of their season – mid-June through Labor Day. They get $25/day meal money when on the road. They are not paid during the offseason or during spring training. By the time they reach Triple-A that scales up to $5-10k/month (depending on 40 man status), meal money remains the same, and again, only during the season.

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