Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2012 Farm System Rankings

As seen on, here are my 2012 Farm System Rankings. I'll be coming out with a Top 100 list for NESN soon, so stay tuned.

If you'd like to see the series as it ran on NESN, here are the links.

Systems 30-21  I  20-11  I  10-1

As always, feedback is appreciated.

Although baseball fans typically spend the offseason analyzing their favorite team's major-league rosters, assessing a team's farm system can offer a better perspective of how well set-up that organization is to succeed not just in 2012, but for the foreseeable future as well.
With several major offseason deals in the books, and with the 2011 draft class now firmly entrenched in each team's system, now is as good a time as any to review how all 30 farm systems stack up heading into the 2012 season.
There's a certain amount of subjectivity that comes with any prospect ranking, as balancing proximity to the majors, upside and probability is a difficult task. But based on scouting reports from Baseball America, ESPN's Keith Law, Minor League Ball's John Sickles and more, plus analysis of both traditional and advanced statistics, here is a series aiming to rank, in reverse order, all 30 farm systems.
It's not a perfect science, but in general, organizations with high-upside prospects rank higher than those without, and prospects who are closer to the majors are worth more than those who are further away. That being said, an organization's depth –- including in the low minors -– does factor in to where they rank.
To begin, the bottom 10 systems in baseball are listed below. For the most part, these systems either lack prominent prospects all together, or contain one or two high-end prospects with little talent to follow.
As always, players must meet MLB rookie eligibility requirements (under 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched at the major league level) to qualify as part of an organization's farm system.
1) San Diego Padres
Top Prospect: Rymer Liriano, outfielder

The Padres boast the best combination of upside and probability of any farm system in baseball, and have talent through all levels of their minor leagues. Robbie Erlin, Casey Kelly and Joe Wieland should all be permanent members of the big league rotation by mid-2013, and Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, Liriano, Corey Spangenberg and Jedd Gyorko give them a solid crop of offensive prospects as well. Trading Mat Latos to the Reds will hurt them in 2012, but it put them in a much better position going forward.

2) Toronto Blue Jays
Top Prospect: Travis d’Arnaud, catcher

GM Alex Anthopoulos has done a tremendous job building this farm system through trades, drafting and the international market, and as a result the Jays now have the top system in the American League. Jake Marisnik and Anthony Gose form one of the most dynamic outfield prospect pairings in baseball, and d’Arnaud is an elite catching prospect. With Drew Hutchison, Justin Nicolino, Noah Snydergaard, Daniel Norris, Deck McGuire and Aaron Sanchez, the Jays have a bevy of No. 2/3 starter types throughout the system as well. It’s a very impressive group, especially given the trade of Nestor Molina and recent graduations of Henderson Alvarez and Brett Lawrie.

3) Arizona Diamondbacks
Top Prospect: Trevor Bauer, starting pitcher

Even after trading Jarrod Parker for Trevor Cahill, the D-Backs boast one of the most impressive collections of pitchers in the minors. Bauer and Tyler Skaggs should be MLB-ready this season, and Archie Bradley, Pat Corbin and David Holmberg aren’t too far behind. Matt Davidson and Bobby Borchering could boast 30-homer power, and Anthony Meo and Andrew Chafin could be phenomenal relievers. Add in up-the-middle prospects Chris Owings and A.J. Pollock, and Arizona has set itself up for success for years to come.

4) Tampa Bay Rays
Top Prospect: Matt Moore, starting pitcher

It doesn’t matter how many prospects the Rays graduate to the majors each year – they just keep replenishing an incredibly deep system. Flame-throwing lefty Moore is one of the three or four best prospects in baseball, and shortstop Hak-Ju Lee and pitcher Chris Archer will make plenty of Top 50 lists as well. A haul of Taylor Guerreri, Mikie Mathook and Grayson Garvin were parts of a good 2011 draft, and Brandon Guyer and Alex Torres, Alex Colome and Tim Beckham could play roles on the 2012 MLB club.

5) Texas Rangers
Top Prospect: Jurickson Profar, shortstop

The Rangers have a nice mix of talent in the low-to-mid minors. Profar is arguably the best shortstop prospect in the game, and has five-tool talent. Martin Perez’s prospect star has faded in recent months, but he’s still just 20 and reached Triple-A last season. He could join righty Neil Ramirez and lefty Robbie Ross in the Rangers’ rotation in short order, with Cody Buckel further away (and Yu Darvish a possibility too). Outfielder Leonys Martin will be an excellent defender with some pop in center, and Mike Olt is a promising corner infield bat in the low minors. Infielders Rougned Odor and Christian Villanueva are exciting too. 

6) Kansas City Royals
Top Prospect: Wil Myers, outfielder

The Royals were billed as having perhaps the best farm system ever headed into 2011, and despite the graduations of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Johnny Giavotella, Danny Duffy and Aaron Crow to the big leagues, the Royals system is still sitting pretty. Myers is one of the best pure hitters in the minors, and could see a September call-up. 2011 first-round center fielder Bubba Starling was the best high school hitter in the draft, and Cheslor Cuthbert is an exciting hot corner prospect. Add in high-upside pitchers Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and John Lamb, and the Royals could have a very competitive MLB team by 2013.

7) Oakland Athletics
Top Prospect: Jarrod Parker, starting pitcher

The A’s began the off-season with a middling farm system, but have rebuilt quickly thanks to the trades of Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez. Parker and Brad Peacock are two newly acquired prospects likely to begin 2012 in the major league rotation. Outfielders Grant Green, Colin Cowgill, and Michael Taylor – plus first baseman Chris Cater -- should all vie for at-bats by mid-season. A.J. Cole and Sonny Gray are future top-of-the-rotation starters, Michael Choice is one of the best power hitters in the minors, and Derek Norris and Max Stassi are a solid pair of catching prospects. Overall, this is a deep system.

8) Atlanta Braves
Top Prospect: Julio Teheran, starting pitcher

With the possibly exception of the D-Backs, no system can compete with the Braves’ stash of MLB-ready arms. Teheran can be the ace on a playoff contender, Randall Delgado is a solid mid-rotation innings eater, and Arodys Vizcaino can be a high-upside starter or dynamic reliever. Considering the Braves just graduated Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor – and also have 2011 first-rounder Sean Gilmartin in the wings – it’s an impressive collection. It’s not the strongest offensive system, but Tyler Pastornicky is the favorite to be the Braves everyday shortstop next season, and Christian Bethancourt could be the team’s successor to Brian McCann.

9) Seattle Mariners
Top Prospect: Danny Hultzen, starting pitcher

The Mariners are in a similar position to the Braves with all their pitching talent, but most of their young arms are still one season away. Hultzen was a surprise as the second overall pick in the 2011 draft, but is a high probability no. 2 starter. Taijuan Walker is an explosive young arm, and James Paxton should pitch near the top of a MLB rotation as well. Jose Campos and Chance Ruffin are two more pitchers who deserve mention, as does power-hitting shortstop prospect Nick Franklin, who regularly evokes J.J. Hardy comparisons. Add in toolsy hitters Guillermo Pimentel and Francisco Martinez, and the M’s should be able to stop rebuilding soon.

10) New York Yankees
Top Prospect: Jesus Montero, designated hitter/catcher

The Yankees system lacks in depth, but it certainly doesn’t lack in star power. Montero can’t catch but it one of the two or three best hitters in the minors, and is an excellent candidate for 2012 AL Rookie of the Year. Southpaw Manny Banuelos is a half-season away from slotting as a solid number two or three starter, and the giant Dellin Betances could be scary if he improves his command and conditioning. Gary Sanchez and Mason Williams are great set of high-upside bats in the low minors, and Austin Romine and Adam Warren could play bit parts on the 2012 MLB squad.

11) St. Louis Cardinals
Top Prospect: Shelby Miller, starting pitcher

The Cardinals have drafted well and been active in the international market in recent years, and their farm system is now reaping the rewards. Miller is close to MLB ready and projects to be an ace, and starter Carlos Martinez and outfielder Oscar Taveras are two insanely talented Dominican signs. Zack Cox and Kolten Wong don’t awe scouts, but both should be at least average MLB regulars by mid-2013. Add in high-upside starter Tyrell Jenkins, plus 2011 contributors Lance Lynn and Eduardo Sanchez, and this is a very well balanced system.

12) Washington Nationals
Top Prospect: Bryce Harper, outfielder

The Nationals began the off-season with a borderline top five system, but were drained in the Gio Gonzalez deal. They still have baseball’s best prospect in Harper, and added arguably the best hitter in the 2011 draft in second/third baseman Anthony Rendon. They added more upside in the draft through pitchers Alex Meyer and Matt Purke, and took five-tool outfielder Brian Goodwin as well. Robbie Ray and Sammy Solis could be mid-rotation lefties in a few years, and Steve Lombardozzi could impact the 2012 club. This is no longer an elite system, but it’s still good.

13) Boston Red Sox
Top Prospect: Will Middlebrooks, third baseman

The Sox’ farm system is in many ways the inverse of the Yankees’ – it lacks any blue-chip prospects, but is incredibly deep. Middlebrooks and Jose Iglesias will likely form the team’s left side of the infield in short order, with Xander Bogaerts, Garin Cecchini and Sean Coyle contributing down the line.  Anthony Ranaudo now looks like a mid-rotation starter, but UConn product Matt Barnes has ace upside. Ryan Lavarnway and Alex Wilson should contribute to the majors this year, while Bryce Brentz and Brandon Jacobs are two power-hitting outfielders for the future. The Sox’ 2011 draft haul of Barnes, Blake Swihart, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Henry Owens should go a long way towards replenishing a system depleted by trades.

14) Pittsburgh Pirates
Top Prospect: Gerrit Cole, starting pitcher

The Pirates took Cole with the first overall pick in this year’s draft, and continue to build a farm system littered with high-upside players. Cole joins Jameson Taillon and Luis Heredia to form a ridiculously strong crop of right-handed pitchers who likely won’t make an impact until mid-2013. Josh Bell and Starling Marte form an intriguing pair of multi-tool outfielders, and Robbie Grossman could figure into the outfield future in Pittsburgh as well. Kyle McPherson and Jeff Locke should make appearances as back-end starters this season, and catcher Tony Sanchez and pitcher Stetson Allie still have time to turn their careers around.

15) Colorado Rockies
Top Prospect: Nolan Arenado, third baseman

Despite the failures of first-round lefties Tyler Matzek and Christian Friedrich, the Rockies have been able to quietly add talent to their system in the past several months. Arenado is the best third base prospect in the minors and should be MLB-ready by mid-2012. Drew Pomeranz was a great get for Ubaldo Jimenez, and has number two starter stuff even at Coors Field. Chad Bettis, Trevor Story and Tyler Anderson make for a nice group of players in the low minors, while catcher Wilin Rosario and outfielders Tim Wheeler and Charlie Blackmon will all likely contribute to the majors this year.

16) Chicago Cubs
Top Prospect: Anthony Rizzo, first baseman

Theo Epstein and co. inherit a system deep with position players, but somewhat barren on the pitching end. Rizzo and center fielder Brett Jackson are both MLB-ready, and they should be batting near the middle of the Cubs’ lineup by mid-season. Catcher Wellington Castillo and outfielder Matt Sczur look like second division starters or excellent back-ups, and 2011 first-rounder Javier Baez is a prototypical mashing third baseman. Right-handers Dillon Maples, Trey McNutt and Chris Carpenter all throw hard, but might end up in the bullpen. Josh Vitters and Dan Vogelbach are deeply flawed players, but both can hit.

17) Houston Astros
Top Prospect: Jonathan Singleton, first baseman

The Astros have done a good job of turning their farm system around in short order, and while it’s not elite, it’s certainly not respectable. Singleton and righty flame thrower Jared Cosart were a terrific return for Hunter Pence. Along with 2011 first round outfielder George Springer, they’re clearly the three best prospects in the system. Shortstop Jonathan Villar and outfielder Domingo Santana are two other solid prospects who used to be Phillies. Starters Brett Oberholtzer and Mike Foltynewicz are more useful to know for Scrabble purposes than baseball ones, but can become number four starters. 

18) New York Mets
Top Prospect: Zack Wheeler, starting pitcher

The Mets’ robbing of the Giants in acquiring Wheeler for Carlos Beltran last season was downright criminal. Pairing him with Matt Harvey gives the Mets one of the best one-two starting pitcher punches in the minors. Righty Jeurys Familia has upside as well, but may end up in the bullpen – the Mets would do well to avoid hampering his development the way they did with Jenrry Mejia. 2011 first-rounder Brandon Nimmo is an exciting prospect, but is at least three seasons away. Wilmer Flores and Reese Havens are key for this system – it’s not hard to envision either as All-Stars or out of baseball by 2015.

19) Los Angeles Angels
Top Prospect: Mike Trout, outfielder

Trout deserves serious consideration – even over Harper – for best overall prospect in the game. He’ll likely be an All-Star the first time he gets over 500 at-bats. The Angels have a nice mix of infield prospects in third baseman Kaleb Cowart, shortstop Jean Segura, first baseman C.J. Cron and second baseman Taylor Lindsey, but none has played above High-A. Garrett Richards is likely ready to compete for the Angels’ fifth starters spot now, and has a ceiling as a third starter. Starter Trevor Reckling regressed badly in 2011, but Johnny Hellweg had a breakthrough campaign.

20) Minnesota Twins
Top Prospect: Miguel Sano, third baseman

The Twins system is deep in the low minors, but lacks impact players in any levels above High-A. Sano is the cream of the crop – he boasts some of the best pure power in the minors and could be a perennial All-Star if he doesn’t outgrow the hot corner. Outfielder Joe Benson and starters Kyle Gibson and Liam Hendricks could all contribute in 2012, but none possess star power. Oswaldo Arcia and Eddie Rosario are outfielders with more potential, but neither are close, and former organization golden boy Aaron Hicks never translated his tools into numbers. Shortstop Levi Michael and starter Alex Wimmers are more recent first-rounders with more probability than upside.

21) Milwaukee Brewers
Top Prospect: Taylor Jungmann, starting pitcher

The Brewers gutted their system last off-season by trading for Zack Greinke and Shawn Marcum, but are slowly inching their way back towards respectability. Jungmann and Jed Bradley were both 2011 first round picks, and both are quick-the-the-majors, mid-rotation starters, with Jungmann possessing the upside to be a bit more. Wily Peralta should see the majors at some point in 2012 and profiles as a solid number three starter, while righty Tyler Thornburg is further away but has a higher ceiling. The Brewers lack dynamic hitting prospects, but outfielder Logan Schafer and infielder Taylor Green could both be second-division starters. 

22) Philadelphia Phillies
Top Prospect: Trevor May, starting pitcher

The Phillies don’t have any blue-chip prospects now that Dominic Brown has graduated to the big leagues, but they still have some interesting players in their system. May doesn’t have the upside of Jesse Biddle or Brody Colvin, but is the safest bet to be an effect MLB starter. Sebastian Valle is a solid-if-unspectacular catching prospect, and the same can be said about shortstop Freddy Galvis. Phillipe Aumont and Justin DeFratus could be impact relievers in short order. 2011 first-rounder Larry Greene possesses enormous power potential and may be able to handle a corner outfield spot.

23) San Francisco Giants
Top Prospect: Gary Brown, outfielder

The Wheeler-for-Beltran trade further hurts this system, but there are still a few Giants worthy of keeping an eye on. Brown looks like a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder and potential leadoff hitter – think of him as a better Peter Bourjos. Shortstop Joe Panik has surprised during his brief professional career and his stock is on the rise. Tommy Joseph, Andrew Susac and Hector Sanchez form a very strong group of catching prospects, though Joseph may move to first base. Eric Surkamp should compete for a spot at the bottom of the big league rotation this season, while Heath Hembree and Josh Osich are notable power arms for the future.

24) Cincinnati Reds
Top Prospect: Devin Mesoraco, catcher

Trading for Latos certainly improves the Reds’ odds in 2012 and beyond, but it’s left their system thin. Mesoraco is the best catching prospect in the minors, and should garner plenty of NL Rookie of the Year votes in 2012. Infielders Zack Cosart and Todd Fraizer figure to see MLB time as well. Shortstop Billy Hamilton is an exciting prospect and is arguably the fastest player in the minors, but is several seasons away. The same can be said for starters Robert Stephenson and Daniel Corcino, who have yet to pitch above Low-A.

25) Detroit Tigers
Top Prospect: Jacob Turner, starting pitcher

Trades, free-agent signings and questionable drafting have drained this system, which is really only four or five prospects deep. Turner is the star, and while he inspires debate as to whether he’s more of a future ace or no. 2 starter, no one doubts he’s really good. Third baseman Nick Castellanos is the only position player of note in the Tigers’ system, and while he’ll hit, his power remains a question. Casey Crosby, Andy Oliver and Drew Smyly are three left-handers who could start or relieve, with Crosby possessing the most troubling injury history but also the biggest upside.  

26) Los Angeles Dodgers
Top Prospect: Zach Lee, starting pitcher

Lee is the prize of this system, and brings the same type of athleticism to the mound that makes Casey Kelly a top prospect as well. Nathan Eovaldi isn’t flashy but is probably ready to be a major league number four starter right now.  Allen Webster and Chris Withrow have experienced mixed results but both possess potential as mid-rotation starters. The system is very thin on offensive prospects, with the moderately toosly outfielder Alfredo Silverio likely the best of the group and catcher Tim Federowicz most likely to see action in 2012. Lefty first-rounder Chris Reed’s future is probably in the bullpen, but he’ll be given a chance to start first.

27) Baltimore Orioles
Top Prospect: Manny Machado, shortstop

The most top-heavy system in baseball, the Orioles are saved from an even lower ranking by Machado – a surefire top 10 prospect – and starter Dylan Bundy, who is likely one of the ten best pitching prospects in the game as well. Unfortunately for O’s fans, Machado likely won’t play in the majors until mid-2013, and 2015 is more likely for Bundy. Second baseman Jonathan Schoop is a decent prospect who may be able to play third as well. Jason Esposito and Nick Delmonico make a pair of recently drafted third base prospects who warrant some attention.

28) Cleveland Indians
Top Prospect: Francisco Lindor, shortstop

This system was hammered by graduations and the Jimenez trade last season. Lindor and Dillon Howard are in some ways a poor man’s Machado and Bundy – there’s a clear gap between those two players and everyone else in the Indians’ system. Tony Wolters shows some promise as a second baseman in the low minors, but is utterly bereft of power. Luigi Rodriguez and LeVon Washington are toolsy but unpolished outfielders, with Felix Sterling and Nick Hagadone serving as their counterparts on the mound. Cord Phelps looks like he’ll be a solid utility infielder with the chance to start for a few years in his prime.

29) Miami Marlins
Top Prospect: Christian Yelich, outfielder

It’s good that the Marlins spent big in free agency this offseason, because there isn’t much help coming form the farm. Yelich is the team’s only prospect with a shot at seeing his name on a Top 100 list, and if he can handle center as he ages he could be an elite player. Outfielder Marcell Ozuna is widely regarded as the team’s second-best prospect. Third baseman Matt Dominguez has proven that while he’s phenomenal defensively, he can’t hit. First rounder Jose Fernandez has no. 2 starter potential, but is several years away, while lefty Chad James is closer but profiles more as a no. 4.

30) Chicago White Sox
Top Prospect: Nestor Molina, starting pitcher

White Sox GM Kenny Williams should try to win one more time with his current squad of veterans, because judging by the Sox’ farm system, things are going to get a whole lot worse before they get better. Molina projects as a no. 2/3 starter or a closer, and was a solid get for Sergio Santos. Many view Addison Reed as the favorite to close in 2012, and he does have overpowering stuff. Infielder Eduardo Escobar can contribute in the field but can’t really hit. 2009 first-rounder Jared Mitchell still has tools, but is progressing very slowly thanks to injuries. 

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