To close the prospect ranking season I offer my farm system or organizational rankings. These rankings consider the amount of high impact talent, depth of potential Major League talent, risk versus certainty and a host of other tidbits. These rankings represent a snapshot in time, a hint of how teams stack up against each other when looking at their minor league systems. The rankings also reflect my personal preference when weighing the pros and cons of one system against another. For the Top Ten systems I will provide a brief capsule that explains — in part — my ranking. Outside of the Top Ten I will provide a sentence or two that hints at the frame of reference that led to these rankings. For reference, a complete index of my team-by-team Top 15 rankings can be found here. As always, I will try to answer as many questions as I can in the comments section, so feel free to fire away.
1. San Diego Padres – Even before the Padres dealt Mat Latos to the Reds in exchange for Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso, Edinson Volquez and Brad Boxberger, they featured one of the deepest and best minor league systems in baseball. The addition of Grandal and Alonso in particular cements the Friars as having baseball’s best farm system, featuring eight players among the BPN Top 150 Prospects and several other players who were in contention for the back of the list. What the Padres’ system lacks in potential star power it makes up for in depth of potential solid big league players.
2. Texas Rangers – The Rangers offer another system with outstanding depth, albeit depth of high ceiling talent with the raw potential to become significant Major League contributors. Even without the inclusion of right-hander Yu Darvish, the Rangers sport a list of viable prospects that extends well beyond the Top 15 ranked at BPN. Their heavy spending in Latin American in recent years has left their system littered with high ceiling teenagers, balanced by those prospects like Martin Perez, Neil Ramirez and Mike Olt that are closer to the big leagues.
3. Toronto Blue Jays – The Blue Jays have been extremely aggressive in the draft in recent years. That aggression has resulted in a system loaded with high ceiling athletes and arms, most of who remain in the lower reaches of the system. The system is led by the top true catching prospect in the game, and followed by an intriguing blend of polished arms like Deck McGuire and Drew Hutchison, and high ceiling hurlers like Noah Syndergaard and Justin Nicolino. With a step forward from some of their young pitching prospects, the Blue Jays could claim the top spot on this list next year.
4. Seattle Mariners – The Mariners’ ranking was bolstered by the acquisition of Jesus Montero from the Yankees earlier this off-season. Prior to Montero’s arrival the system was heavily reliant on three arms at the top of the list and had little in the way of legitimate offensive potential. Montero gives them a true middle of the order bat to go with their pitching prospects and also increases my strong belief in their top-heavy system.
5. St. Louis Cardinals – When casually discussing the best farm systems in baseball, the Cardinals are rarely one of the teams that jump to the forefront. That has changed this year with three big time arms in Shelby Miller, Tyrell Jenkins and Carlos Martinez, backed by a host of potential offensive threats including Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong, Matt Adams and Zach Cox. The Cards’ system doesn’t stop there, featuring interesting depth with a blend of high ceiling athletes and polished, lower-ceiling players.
6. Kansas City Royals – Heading into the 2011 season the Royals were touted as having one of the most incredible farm systems in recent memory. With the graduation of Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, and regression/injury of some prospects, it may seem as though the Royals system isn’t quite as good this year. That is simply not true. While it is not an historically great farm system, the Royals still boast an incredible stable of young talent that could make them contenders in the American League Central.
7. Oakland Athletics – In the course of one off-season, Oakland’s farm system has vaulted from the bottom third of the league to near the top. By trading Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez, and signing Yoenis Cespedes, the A’s suddenly have seven prospects in the BPN Top 150, and at least one more that had a strong case for the list. That’s an impressive turnaround in a short amount of time, giving hope to the future of baseball in Oakland.
8. Tampa Bay Rays – Baseball fans have grown accustomed to seeing the Rays near the top of these lists, and while their system isn’t quite as robust as years past, it still features the top pitching prospect in baseball, one of the better shortstop prospects in the game and a laundry list of talented prospects that could take a step forward over the next year or two. While the stable of obvious big league contributors has thinned, the Rays are still talented down on the farm.
9. Atlanta Braves – Nearly all talk of the Braves farm system centers on the three pitching prospects – Teheran, Vizcaino and Delgado – that headline the top of any Braves’ top prospect list. That said, the players ranking behind the “Big Three” merit plenty of attention. Christian Bethancourt could be a monster behind the plate while Tyler Pastornicky and Andrelton Simmons very well could represent the present and future of the Braves’ shortstop situation. Beyond the most notable of prospects in the system, the Braves offer several intriguing players with upside that are further from the big leagues, but provide interesting depth.
10. Washington Nationals – The Nationals’ prospect list was thinned when they acquired Gio Gonzalez from the A’s, but the best prospect in the game – Bryce Harper – still remains. Backed by potential stud Anthony Rendon, the Nats’ top two prospects can stand with anyone in the game. Beyond those two the list becomes increasingly risky, relying on pitchers like Alex Meyer and Matt Purke and position players with plenty of tools like Brian Goodwin and Michael Taylor. Though risky, that second tier of prospects offers some impressive raw skills and gives the Nationals a chance to develop several more impact players.
11. Pittsburgh Pirates – Stacked with plenty of pitching and a few bats scattered throughout, the Pirates farm system requires a lot of projection and faith in the developmental process.
12. Arizona Diamondbacks – Buoyed by the presence of Archie Bradley, Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs at the top, the D’Backs’ list thins out quickly beyond the top few prospects.
13. New York Yankees – The loss of Jesus Montero hurts the Yankees in these rankings but they still feature several tooled up young players and pitchers that keep them in the middle of the pack.
14. Los Angeles Angels – Mike Trout, one of the elite prospects in the game, boosts a system that is otherwise short on prospects short on track record and long on questions.
15. Colorado Rockies – With the addition of Drew Pomeranz at last year’s trade deadline, the Rockies now feature at least two big time prospects at the top, along with several other intriguing youngsters.
16. Baltimore Orioles – With Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado at the top of the rankings, it’s hard to ignore the impact potential of the Orioles’ system. However, things drop off quickly beyond the two studs.
17. Boston Red Sox – The Red Sox continued to demonstrate their willingness to spend in the draft and international markets in 2011, and that could help move them back up this list in 2012.
18. Chicago Cubs – The Cubs’ new regime will need to re-build a relatively weak farm system, and started doing just that with the acquisition of Anthony Rizzo this off-season.
19. New York Mets – The Mets feature two potential rotation horses – Wheeler and Harvey – at the top, but prospects that aren’t divisive among scouts become scarce quickly.
20. Minnesota Twins – If players like Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Aaron Hicks and Joe Benson reach the ceiling their tools suggest, this ranking could look low, but their system comes with risk at the top and a lack of ceiling as you look further.
21. Cincinnati Reds – The loss of Grandal and Alonso hurts big time, but the system is propped up by Devin Mesoraco and overshadowed by a good big league club that is ready to contend right now.
22. Detroit Tigers – Turner and Castellanos offer a nice one-two punch at the top of the list, but the Tigers have whiffed on some large dollar draft picks like Daniel Fields and Andrew Oliver, hurting their depth.
23. San Francisco Giants – I’m a big fan of the top three on the Giants’ list but when a reliever with fringe-closer potential sits at number four in the rankings, that’s not a good sign.
24. Los Angeles Dodgers – Player acquisition efforts have been hampered by an unsettled front office situation, leaving the system very short on true impact potential.
25. Milwaukee Brewers – Though it may not seem like much, the Brewers have made nice strides since rating as having one of the worst systems in memory last year. With Peralta, Jungmann and Bradley at the top, things are looking up.
26. Houston Astros – Another system in the midst of being resuscitated, the Astros added talent by dealing Hunter Pence and getting George Springer in the draft. There’s still a long way to go though.
27. Cleveland Indians – The Indians’ system is a tough one to make heads or tails of. They have some interesting young players particularly in Low-A, but the amount of risk present from top to bottom is stunning.
28. Miami Marlins – Marlins fans better hope the spending at the big league levels pays off over the next few years. There are few resources ready to help on the farm, and those that are likely won’t be impact players.
29. Philadelphia Phillies – The Phillies system is down for the right reasons. Having traded away a host of prospects to acquire big league talent, the Phillies must re-stock the farm, a task that may be difficult given the new CBA.
30. Chicago White Sox – Even though Addison Reed is the top relief prospect in the game, having him sit atop Chicago’s prospect rankings is downright ugly. The White Sox system is easily the worst in the game and there’s little hope for a significant step forward in 2012.