The Detroit Tigers have five prospects in the latest MLB Pipeline Top 100. Would you rather have a top-heavy system or one with more depth?
It’s been a strangely quiet week, with the Detroit Tigers sidelined because of a Covid-19 outbreak on the Cardinals, but our Slack channel came alive when the Pipeline lists were released (Pipeline also released a new Tigers top 30 prospects list).
The story sparked a debate among a few of us about what we prefer, a system with a deep stable of lower-ranked prospects, or a top-heavy system? Is it better to have a handful of players with All-Star potential, or dozens of prospects with a chance to be contributors at the MLB level?
While I am excited the Tigers are making progress in the prospect world, I always try to keep things in perspective. Maybe I sound like a buzzkill, but the purpose of this article is to be realistic when it comes to the MLB Pipeline Top 100 and player development. How many Top 100 prospects go on to become stars or regulars who contribute to their ballclub? Does Detroit have their core set for years of success, or should these prospects just be trade currency to land other players?
So, there are two ways to look at this. According to MLB.com, the following teams have produced the most top prospects since the inception of MLB.com rankings in 2004.
- Tampa Bay-67
- LA Dodgers-62
- Atlanta Braves-61
- San Diego Padres-55
The teams that produced the least?
- San Francisco Giants-30
- LA Angels-31
- Detroit Tigers-32
- Washington Nationals-32
- St. Louis Cardinals-33
- Baltimore Orioles-33
Since 2012, when the prospect list expanded to 100, the Padres, Braves, Pirates, Rays and Twins have averaged the most Top 100 prospects per year.
Those are the numbers, but how do they translate to on-field success in terms of playoff berths and championships? Well, it’s a mixed bag.
Let’s look at teams who have qualified for the playoffs since 2012 with the bold type as the World Series champs for the Top 100.
2012: AL-New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles, Oakland A’s, Texas Rangers
NL-San Francisco Giants, St Louis Cardinals, Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds, Atlanta Braves
2013: AL- Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, Cleveland Indians, Oakland A’s
NL- St.Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, LA Dodgers, Atlanta Braves
2014: AL- Kansas City Royals, Baltimore Orioles, LA Angels, Oakland A’s, Detroit Tigers,
NL-San Francisco Giants, St Louis Cardinals, Washington Nationals, LA Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates
2015: AL- Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals, Houston Astros, NY Yankees
NL- New York Mets, Chicago Cubs, St.Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, LA Dodgers
2016: AL- Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers
NL- Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington Nationals
2017: AL- Houston Astros, NY Yankees, Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians
NL-Chicago Cubs, Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington Nationals
2018: AL-Houston Astros, NY Yankees, Oakland A’s, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians
NL- Milwaukee Brewers, Colorado Rockies, LA Dodgers, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs,
2019: AL- Houston Astros, Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland A’s, NY Yankees, Minnesota Twins
NL- Washington Nationals, Milwaukee Brewers, St.Louis Cardinals, LA Dodgers, Atlanta Braves.
Both groups are well-represented here. The Nationals, Tigers, Cardinals, and Giants, who had the least amount of names in the top 100, have multiple World Series appearances, a pair of titles, and numerous postseason runs. Meanwhile, the Braves, Rays, Dodgers all have made trips to the postseason, though the Padres haven’t.
The Tigers under former General Manager Dave Dombrowski used whatever prospects they had for players who were proven, and he went heavy on college players in the draft knowing full well he was going to flip them
The teams who had the most amount of top prospects in the top 100 have had success but no title to show for it. The Tigers had prospects, sure, but they were depth players in their runs under Dombrowski with just Nick Castellanos as the only infielder who made the top 100 under his regime. The point is to win at the big-league level and from what it looks like, it’s better to have depth.
Tell us, what do you think?