ESPN's Keith Law puts the Braves farm system in an unfavorable light (or at least, not as favorable as Braves fans are used to) as he ranks it 16th in his latest farm system rankings. Here is what he had to say about the Atlanta system:
They have reaped as little from the draft the past two years as anyone, taking low-ceiling college guys with early picks, staying at or under MLB's bonus recommendations and having less luck on the international market. It's telling that the major question on every position-player prospect in their top 10 is whether he'll hit.
It's true they've been spending less on the draft and on international free agents compared to other clubs, but they've used that strategy to draft and sign a lot of mid-level talent, creating a great deal of depth in the system. This was their stated strategy for the last two drafts. Compare the Braves system to the Pirates system. Pittsburgh has had years of drafting high picks and handing out big bonuses and signing international free agents to big money. Law ranks the Pirates eighth in his rankings.
To better compare the two systems, let's look at how another prospect evaluator ranks systems and players. John Sickels ranked the Braves eighth in his 2012 organizational rankings, while the Pirates come in 12th. When one looks at the way Sickels evaluates players, by assigning letter grades, one can see the differences in the two systems. The Braves had A or B quality prospects through their top-16, while the Pirates had A or B quality prospects through their top-8. This shows the Atlanta system's depth.
While the Pirates need all of their top guys to pan out, the Braves have the depth to allow for some of them to be busts (which every system will ultimately have). One also has to believe that the Braves will get more out of Teheran, Vizcaino, and Delgado than the Pirates will get out of Cole and Taillon.
It's almost like Law is looking ahead to the 2013 rankings, which will likely not be as good for the Braves. A lot will depend on how the Braves hitting prospects fare this year -- there is a lot of boom or bust in some of those guys -- but the Atlanta system will likely look a lot weaker once Teheran, Vizcaino, and Delgado all graduate to the Majors this season.
Evaluation of this sort is not a perfect science, but it does seem that Law is not giving the Atlanta system its fair due, focusing too much on whether hitters will hit, and ignoring all the pitching.