There has been much made of the Phillies farm system based on this graph.
This graph shows the Phillies as the worst minor league system in baseball based on W-L percentage. It has been used to rank the farm system, bash the front office, and destroy all hope of a better tomorrow. Here are the records of their stateside affiliates:
Lehigh Valley Ironpigs: 49-61
Reading Fightin Phils: 44-62
Clearwater Threshers: 32-73
Lakewood Blueclaws: 42-66
Williamsport Crosscutters: 21-22
GCL Phillies: 15-17
It all is irrelevant to the state the farm system.
The major league Phillies are an old organization, the second oldest in baseball behind the Yankees, but for the most part their farm system is a young organization. In the South Atlantic League the Lakewood Blueclaws are far and away the youngest organization coming in at 21.1667 years old, about 2 months younger than the next youngest team. This has led to a starting lineup that is full of prospects, and very young prospects at that, the oldest starting regulars are 22 year olds Willians Astudillo and Andrew Knapp. In Clearwater the team has aged (now the 9th youngest at 22.8824 years old), but during the season it featured lengthy cameos by Deivi Grullon (18) and Malquin Canelo (19), as well as a rotating group of outfielders from Extended Spring Training. There are no statistics on short season total team age, but Williamsport as 3 regular position players in the 20 youngest in the league.
At the top of the scale the AA and AAA rosters have been devastated by injuries, especially in the rotation, forcing them to fill teams with journeymen players.
Of my preseason Top 30 prospects in the system 14 of them have been injured for extended periods of time. Prospects don’t necessarily mean good win-loss numbers, but the sheer numbers of injuries left teams like Clearwater completely devoid of talent. The injuries have hit the pitching staff especially hard.
In my preseason top there were only 8 pitchers listed, of those only 2 have been healthy all year (Severino Gonzalez and Ken Giles), and two have yet to pitching this year (Adam Morgan and Shane Watson). But beyond the injuries to a large number of ranked pitchers, injuries to starters like Nic Hanson have tested their depth even further. The end result has been a bunch of pitchers forced into rotation or at level above their skill set. The worst part of most teams in the Phillies system has been the bullpens because of this talent drain.
In the 2014 draft the Phillies went heavy on pitchers, and those arms coupled with the returns of pitchers such as Yoel Mecias have bolstered lower level rotations. However, many of those arms have been on innings and pitch counts that have limited their impact.
Minor Leagues Are Weird:
Winning is not the first priority in the minor leagues, it isn’t last, but it is behind a bunch of developmental steps. Each hitter and pitcher at the lower levels is working on something specific, those things often highlight weaknesses. Now of course every team is doing this, but it adds to the volatility of games. Stats are hard to take away as well because often pitchers will be left in when they are falling apart to work through things.
W-L Record is a Horrible Indicator of Success:
The only midseason org reranking out there is Keith Law’s midseason ranking. His Top 5 Farm Systems are the Chicago Cubs, Minnesota Twins, Houston Astros, New York Mets, and Pittsburgh Pirates. Those teams are 10th, 5th, 12th, 3rd, and 29th in minor league win percentage. There is a ton of volatility in the rankings, and it really depends on where talent is, what kind of talent it is, and what injuries an org is facing.
In the end, winning is nice, but it isn’t everything in the minor leagues.