Years ago, the White Sox wouldn't have been crushed in farm system rankings after trading away three top-10 prospects in one winter ... but only because they were already at the bottom to begin with.
In this regard, the Todd Frazier trade -- which cost the Sox Trayce Thompson, Frankie Montas and Micah Johnson -- posed a good challenge of the organization's infrastructure. The Sox had just climbed into the middle third after years in the bottom five, so it wouldn't take all that much to knock them back down to the cellar.
That didn't quite happen, but it did take a hit, at least in Keith Law's estimation. ESPN.com's farm guy ranked the White Sox' farm system the 22nd-best in baseball, down 10 spots from his ranking last season.
There are a few streaks of silver lining, though.
No. 1: It's still their second-best ranking since Law started in 2008.
The previous years?
No. 2: His comment wasn't damning.
Gradually improving thanks to some productive drafts, though they lost a little bit by trading three of their top 10 prospects for Todd Frazier (a good trade all the same). There's definitely a new emphasis on improving their player development, even if it's just to trade pieces for big league stars as was done in the Frazier deal.
I've said before that if Thompson and Marcus Semien ultimately make the White Sox regret trading them, it's a victory for the player-development folks, as that part couldn't be counted upon to push position players across the finish line before.
No. 3: Carlos Rodon doesn't count, and that's great.
Had either the Astros or Marlins taken Rodon instead of Brady Aiken and Tyler Kolek, the remaining pitcher of the three would still be toward the top of their rankings. Instead, Rodon completed a strong rookie season and looks ready to make the leap.
No. 4: There are two thinner teams in the Central.
The Royals are right behind the Sox at No. 23, but they converted their farm system into a World Series title, so they can be excused. The Tigers bring up the rear of the division at No. 26, although Law thinks Al Avila will pay attention to it more than Dave Dombrowski did.
No. 5: The Angels are the new White Sox.
The Sox used to be the laughingstock of these lists, and when Nestor Molina was the consensus second-best prospect, it was hard to blame the auditors. Knowing what we know, Law's comment on Anaheim's system is worth noting:
I've been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I've ever seen. They traded their top two prospects in the Andrelton Simmons deal and had no one remotely close to top-100 status. They need a big draft this year to start to restock the system or we're going to start talking about whether it's time to trade Mike Trout.
The Sox still can't get smug about the teams beneath them until they start stocking their roster with some fixtures, which is probably why they've been so averse to signing a player that would cost them a draft pick. Speaking of which, their compensatory pick slides up to No. 27 if the Orioles seal the deal with Yovani Gallardo and/or Dexter Fowler.