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D-backs GM Mike Hazen acknowledges improving farm system is a priority

Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen smiles as he talks with reporters during baseball's annual general managers meeting Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
LISTEN: Mike Hazen, Diamondbacks general manager

When Mike Hazen left the Boston Red Sox to become the new general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks last October, he likely took the job after considering the good and the bad.

The consensus is that the D-backs have a lot of talent at the big-league level and suffered through a losing 2016 season because of injury and underachievement.

The organization’s minor league system is another story altogether.

Many of Arizona’s top prospects have been traded away over the last few seasons, leaving the farm barren, according to many experts. MLB Pipeline didn’t include a single Arizona farmhand in its list of the top 100 prospects in baseball. ESPN baseball insider Keith Law ranked the D-backs dead last among MLB clubs in terms of minor-league strength, saying that previous GM Dave Stewart “disemboweled” the system.

Hazen knows there is work to be done in this area and talked about it with Doug and Wolf as part of Newsmakers Week on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

“I look at those rankings and those guys spend a lot of time on that stuff,” Hazen said. “Over the course of years, we’ve been ranked all over the map with the different clubs I’ve been with and you sort of take it with a grain of salt, because they’re not privy to every bit of information inside your organization. We know that and they know that, but it does give you a rough approximation.

“The way I look at it is, maybe we’re 30th, maybe we’re not. But we’re probably not fifth, right? If there’s a collective intelligence out there in the community, we’re at the bottom somewhere. And whether we’re 25th, 26th or 30th, it doesn’t really matter. I think it’s more indicative that we’re at the bottom. In order for us to be sustainable long-term, we need to be at the top, so that’s going to be a focus for us.”

In his ranking piece, Law mentioned the D-backs didn’t draft well during the Stewart years. In 2015, Arizona chose Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson with the first overall pick. He was traded to the Atlanta Braves following the 2015 campaign in a deal that brought Shelby Miller to Arizona. Swanson is now rated as the fourth-best prospect in all of baseball by MLB.com. The team’s second and third-round picks that year, pitchers Alex Young and Taylor Clarke, are still two of the organization’s top prospects.

Hazen was in Boston when the Swanson-Miller trade went down and understood what Arizona did.

“We knew they gave up some good players and you have to give up good players to get good players,” he said. “You have to do those things sometimes depending on the situation you’re in.”

In 2016, the D-backs had the 39th overall selection and chose outfielder Anfernee Grier out of Auburn. He is currently rated as the club’s fifth-best prospect by MLB.com.

Arizona owns the seventh-overall selection in June’s MLB Draft — an important one for the D-backs to re-stock their system.

“We’re going to have to figure out a way to rebuild that farm system so we have that sustainable run of talent coming in year in, year out,” Hazen said.

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