Keith Law is very good at his job. He has an impressive resume, a clear knack for evaluating talent and an impressive selection of sources from which to glean information.
You may dislike the combative persona he’s built for himself, but that doesn’t detract from his ability to judge and effectively communicate his judgment of the prospects he has seen to the public at large.
I’ve been a KLaw fan and follower for a long time now. I’ve probably read every piece of MiLB content he’s written over the past four years and doubt I’ve missed a chat in the past two. I was sad when the possibility of him leaving ESPN for a job with the Astros opened up, and pleased when he stayed on board. He’s good, and I like him, and I strongly weigh his opinions when evaluating prospects.
But he’s wrong about the Red Sox.
Law revealed his farm system rankings on ESPN earlier today (Insider only, but it’s worth it), and listed the Red Sox as the 17th-best farm system in baseball. Mind you, this is out of 30 teams. He’s essentially saying their system is subpar, and the general reaction from Red Sox fans has been something along the lines of “OMG,” “WTF,” “angryface,” “sadface,” or some combination of all the above.
I would encourage such fans to relax, though, because Law is pretty much alone in his estimation of Boston’s system, and you don’t have to take my word for it.
Baseball America ranked the Red Sox as the sixth best farm system in the game. John Sickles ranked them ninth. Baseball Prospectus has yet to release their ranking, but given Jason Parks’ analysis of the Red Sox, it’s hard to see them failing to at least finish in the top half. MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo put six Red Sox prospects in his Top 100, so it’s tough to see them fairing poorly in rankings there either.
And while my opinion and credibility certainly means less than anyone else I’ve mentioned in this article, the hours and hours of work I put into scouring the internet, going to games and watching videos of prospects tells me that 17 is way too low as well.
I have not yet finalized my organizational rankings, but I predict I’ll have the Red Sox in the 8-10 range: a little lower than BA and in line with Sickles, and way higher than KLaw.
I’m going to write a piece on the follies of prospect rankings later this week, so I won’t spill a ton more ink over it here. But some of KLaw’s rankings make you scratch your head. I strongly prefer the Red Sox system to those of the Yankees, Royals, Reds and Mets. And if you find a single other major prospect name who ranks the Orioles ahead of the Red Sox this off-season, I’ll write a 500-word essay in praise of Dan Shaughnessy.
KLaw’s logic behind placing Boston so low is that the system’s “real shortage is in big league ready talent,” and he cites Allen Webster as the long player who’d qualify as such. Well, that’s just kind of wrong. It wouldn’t at all be surprising to see Jackie Bradley Jr., Bryce Brentz or Jose Iglesias see MLB time this season, and if you squint you can see Matt Barnes, Xander Bogaerts or Brandon Workman contributing too. Not all of those players are studs, sure, but it’s not like the Sox’ best talent is in rookie ball or Low-A.
Essentially this is just one (well-educated) man’s opinion against the rest of the industry, and if a few of Boston’s top prospects flame out this could look smart. I’m just here to reassure you that if you saw KLaw’s ranking and freaked out, you have fair reason to, you’re not just being a homer and plenty others are on your side.
And if you’re still stressed, go look up Xander Bogaerts’ stats and smile.