In the previous parts of this analysis, I've identified several areas that have impacted the success of the Astros farm system - bad drafts from 2002 to 2007, the relative age of the players/teams, pitching injuries, and the closing of the Astros' Venezuelan Academy after the 2008 season, in particular. I will be referring to some of that information as we look at the farm system trends from 2007 to 2011.
In looking at how different teams/levels within the system are faring, it became immediately obvious to me that I would have to totally discount Salem/Lancaster, the GCL Astros and the DSL Astros in the overall trending analysis. Here are my reasons. Going from Salem in 2007 & 2008 to Lancaster in 2009 to 2011 was like going from the earth to the moon. ERA & WHIP skyrocketed as did the batting stats. The venues are much too different - any trends are meaningless. The GCL has only been around for three of the five years that are part of this analysis. In addition, since the GCL came into being, the team there has generally been composed of the rawest/youngest of the draft class, Latin NDFA's in their first season in the U.S., and players undergoing rehab assignments which inhibits meaningful analysis. The DSL is actually starting to show slight improvement, but since my primary focus is the actual draft classes and the talent level at the DSL is notoriously unpredictable, I chose to forego this team as well.
That leaves us with Greeneville, Tri-City, Lexington and Corpus Christi which have all been consistent venues, plus Round Rock/Oklahoma City (since OKC plays similarly enough to RR for these purposes).
First, let's look at the Win Percentage. As you can see, the average (dark blue line) and the trendline based on the average indicate a positive trend over the five seasons even though this season trended downwards on all but OKC (which consists largely of free agents, waiver claims, etc. at this point). If you do a trendline on each team, you will find that all are going up except for Corpus which is still being impacted by the 2007 and earlier drafts and the 2009 draft pitching injuries which has forced younger players into service at this level.
Also note the huge jump in win percentage from 2007 to 2008 at Greeneville as the team segued from 44% primary players from the 2007 draft to 56% Latin NDFA's and the big dip in the Lexington win percentage in 2008 as the 2007 draft class came through there.
Lexington has the most volatile numbers. In 2008 and 2009, they had a large number of the 2007 draft class. In 2010, they had Jose Altuve and J.D. Martinez; in 2011, they didn't.
So what does all of this actually mean? I'm a little concerned with the downturn on many of the stats in the 2011 season even though the overall trends show as positive. But I'm hoping that the downturn in 2011 has more to do with youth and the lack of depth from prior year debacles than it does with lack of talent in the system. After all, these numbers are simply averages. A large number of players have stats that are superior to these, but lack of quality depth in the system will bring those averages down.
In closing, the Astros farm system teams simply must show improvement in 2012 and there is every reason to believe that they will. The average age of those left in the system works in our favor, as does the potential positive impact from the late signings and trade deadline acquisitions. If we can start getting contributions from the previously injured pitchers and get the DSL to really start producing as well, that will be enormously helpful. And, although I'm not wild about some of the changes to the draft, it will result in getting our draft picks signed and playing earlier. Based on all of this, I believe that 2012 should be the year that we start to see more positive results. At least I hope so.