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Marlins' farm system empty on prospect value

The Miami Marlins emptied out what was left of their low-ranking farm system in order to acquire some pieces for the 2015 season. What remains is a farm system with one of the lowest trade values in baseball.

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, Eric Mullin mentioned that Baseball Prospectus recently ranked the Miami Marlins' farm system as the second-worst system in baseball. This ranking is actually fairly understandable. The Marlins were running low on prospect talent thanks to fast promotions from their most recent drafts (see 2010 and 2011 first-rounders Jose Fernandez and Christian Yelich) and trades of their most recent picks (see Andrew Heaney and Colin Moran). Despite the Marlins holding average or better draft position almost every year since 2007, the team has scratched and clawed its way into making a solid foundation around Giancarlo Stanton and not much else.

The farm system is not deep, and it is telling when you try and turn that farm system into a discussion about trade value. After FanGraphs' Kiley McDaniel released his top 200 prospects for the site, Dave Cameron attempted to turn those players into a trade value estimate. He used a recent revisit of the prospect valuation study by Kevin Creagh to estimate how much value individual prospect would be worth in a trade based on their rankings. Cameron then eyeballed a conversion from the study's scale to McDaniels's scale in order to estimate the value of each farm system based on those top 200 prospects.

The results were not pretty for the Marlins.

Team Surplus Value
CHC $225,000,000
MIN $180,000,000
TEX $170,000,000
LAD $135,000,000
BOS $130,000,000
NYM $130,000,000
ATL $120,000,000
HOU $115,000,000
COL $110,000,000
CIN $100,000,000
CHW $90,000,000
NYY $85,000,000
TOR $85,000,000
WSH $85,000,000
KC $80,000,000
PIT $80,000,000
PHI $75,000,000
ARZ $65,000,000
BAL $60,000,000
CLE $60,000,000
SEA $60,000,000
STL $55,000,000
TB $50,000,000
SD $45,000,000
LAA $30,000,000
SF $30,000,000
MIL $20,000,000
OAK $20,000,000
MIA $15,000,000
DET $10,000,000

McDaniel ranked only two Marlins players within that top 200, righty starter and 2014 first-round pick Tyler Kolek and catcher J.T. Realmuto. Those two players were worth a combined $15 million in trade value, ahead of only the Detroit Tigers' barren system.

You could argue that a few more names belong in the top 200 and thus valued at at least the $5 million that Cameron gave for prospects rated with a "future value" of 45+ in McDaniels's scale. Justin Nicolino just missed the top 100 prospects by Keith Law's rankings. There may be an argument for a player like Avery Romero or Jose Urena as well. However, the situations remains similar and pretty dire; the Marlins would be looking at a system that at best would still be among the bottom-feeders of the league.

Think about how this hamstrings the Marlins the next time you consider the Dee Gordon trade. In that deal, the Marlins handed over a lot of prospect and major league depth, but they also dealt Andrew Heaney, who was ranked as a future value 55 player and someone who would be worth $15 million in trade value alone. Heaney, who served as the Marlins' top prospect heading into last season, is close to being worth the entire team's non-depth farm system. Instead of helping the Marlins' rotation, he is helping to infuse some rare youth into the Los Angeles Angels.

This also puts a damper on the concept of the Marlins pulling off another trade for a major asset like Phillies starter Cole Hamels. The prospect cost for players on older but still reasonable free agent deals like Hamels is high, and the Marlins d not have the farm system to support such a move. In fact, they barely have the farm system to trade away to make a midseason acquisition. The team has expended almost all of its minor league resources.

Cameron points out one critical thing about this crude study: prospect quality always trumps depth.

While the Braves have more players on the Top 200 than any other organization, they’re all in that 45+ to 55 FV range, where the long-term values just aren’t as high as they are with more premium talent. There’s certainly value in having a large quantity of prospect depth, but history has shown that you’re probably better off with a few high-end guys rather than multiple mid-tier prospects. The Braves farm system still comes out looking quite strong relative to the rest of the league, but this knocks them down a few pegs for lacking a true standout talent.

Marlins fans may point out that Miami has a number of 45-future value players who could prove promising, but having a number of non-top tier names will always be trumped by teams owning top talent. That much middling depth might still never make the majors or form a dent in the win column for the Marlins in the next two or three years.

The Fish are stuck with this team orientation for the foreseeable future. The farm system lacks top talent or significant depth. Supplementing the core the team already has will be difficult without much talent or trade fodder available on the roster.