Thursday, September 3, 2009

Levine offers a theory for the minor-league system

As many of you read the Eddie's Farm reports every morning, you know it hasn't been pretty. Zach Levine has a theory on why every team in the farm system finished with a losing record, and notes the Astros' three lowest levels of the farm system had a cumulative .354 winning percentage, dead last in the Majors (the Reds were 29th, with a cumulative .400 WP).

What is his theory, you ask?

The Astros expanded to three teams at these levels, spreading the talent too thin.

I would put some stock in this, though not nearly the whole thing, because some teams do fine with three clubs.

The brief history is that the Astros expanded to seven affiliates in the United States for the first time since 1992 when they gained an entry in the Gulf Coast League. It's allowed them to bring more players on board and force players to sit on the bench less, so if they can afford it, it's definitely good for development.

But does it show in the record?

The top 11 teams in that organizational rank that I briefed above have only two affiliates.

Seven teams have three domestic affiliates at or below short-season A. The seven teams rank 12th, 13th, 15th, 19th, 23rd, 26th and 30th in overall short-season winning percentage, an average winning percentage of .464...

...And ultimately producing a few top prospects and turning them into big leaguers is the goal of the system, not wins and losses.

But wins and losses are a reflection of organizational depth — the pool that has a chance to improve down the road. And right now, the short-season Class of 2009 appears, actual sight unseen but with numbers that are damaging to the eye, to be lacking in the depth department.

I'll go along with this. The Astros don't need a new crop of 50 players fighting for a Major-League roster spot each spring (though it would be nice). They only need a few, so you go into the draft knowing that if you can get four major leaguers out of each class, you've got a pretty successful system.

That said, I would like the Astros to keep the seven minor-league teams, and push their players to succeed faster and more aggressively.