Ranking the 2016 Farm Systems

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  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (Last Year’s Rank: #11) It almost doesn’t seem fair does it? The organization with seemingly limitless pockets is also sporting the deepest, most talented farm system in baseball. There’s plenty of high end, blue chip caliber prospects Julio Urias, Corey Seager, Jose De Leon€“ with a surplus of depth to deal. But here’€™s the impressive part: there are as many as 12 future big league regulars in the system (though with varying degrees of risk): Urias, Seager, De Leon, Montas, Alex Verdugo, Yadier Alvarez, Grant Holmes, Cody Bellinger, Austin Barnes (perhaps the next Justin Turner), Walker Buehler, hot-hitting Willie Calhoun, and Starling Heredia. We could be on the verge of a Yankees-type dynasty here.


  1. Tampa Bay Rays (#4):€“ Once again, I’€™m not afraid to put my analytical neck on the line for the Rays as having one of the top farm systems in baseball. But let’s briefly breakdown the system. Blake Snell is in competition with Steven Matz for the title as the minors’€™ second best southpaw (behind Julio Urias, of course). Brent Honeywell and Taylor Guerrieri rank as the sixth and seventh best right-handers. Daniel Robertson is as steady as they come and looks like he could be a decade-plus big league veteran. Jake Bauers, who is only entering his age-20 season thanks to his late birthday, batted .276/.329/.405 in his first taste of Class AA. And shortstop Willy Adames ranks as the 61st best overall prospect. Expect a big bounce back from second baseman Ryan Brett.


  1. Minnesota Twins (#2):€“ Welcome to the Byron Buxton Show, folks, because without him the club drops down to the bottom half of the rankings – a testament to his jaw-dropping ability. Jose Berrios is a budding front-of-the-rotation caliber arm who’s nearing big league readiness. And keep your fingers crossed that the front office pushes the first round pick Tyler Jay into the rotation in 2016. Gargantuan right-hander Alex Meyer has the ability to dominate at the big league level, but whether the organization is as patient with him as Seattle was with Randy Johnson is an entirely different story.


  1. Chicago Cubs (#1):€“ Even after the losses of Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell, and Jorge Soler, Chicago’s farm system is still brimming with plenty of talented youths. Albert Almora is never going to be an above-average big league bat, but he can run ‘€˜em down with the best of them. Billy McKinney, who lost a good chunk of 2015, should be knocking on the club’€™s big league door by June or July, which would afford the club a valuable trade chip. Duane Underwood offers up glimpses of front-of-the-rotation caliber production, but he’s yet to string it together for more than two months at a time. Last year’€™s first round pick Ian Happ could be a clone of new Cubbie Ben Zobrist.


  1. Houston Astros (#3): A.J. Reed is blossoming into the type of hitter everyone thought Jonathan Singleton and Chris Carter were going to be. Half the front office should be locked up for grand theft when they got Miami to throw in hard-throwing right-hander Frances Martes as part of the Jarred Cosart deal two years ago. And just to add to their stockpile of promise, the Astros added three high-ceiling first rounders last June: Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker, and Daz Cameron. Let’s see if Jon Kemmer can keep bashing his way through the high minors.


  1. Milwaukee Brewers (#28):€“ Made the single biggest jump among all the teams in a year’€™s time. Milwaukee acquired toolsy outfielder Brett Phillips, along with enigmatic big leaguer Domingo Santana, as part of the Carlos Gomez deal with Houston. Shortstop Orlando Arica came through in a huge way as he caught fire in the opening couple months in Class AA. And lanky southpaw Kodi Medeiros fanned more than a bat per inning as a 19-year-old in the Midwest League. Speed demon first rounder Trent Clark looked at ease during his debut. There’s not a whole lot of star quality to the system, but there’€™s plenty of middle tier prospects,€“ which quickly adds up. Michael Reed could be one of those saber darlings in the coming years. The club also did well in adding Jacob Nottingham from Oakland as well.


  1. Colorado Rockies (#19):€“ After promoting stud third baseman Nolan Arenado three years ago, Colorado has another promising hot corner making his way through the minors: Ryan McMahon. Former Oklahoma ace Jon Gray outpitched his big league ERA by nearly two full runs (5.53 ERA vs. 3.63 FIP). And shortstop Brendan Rodgers, the third pick last June, is the long term heir apparent to the recently vacated shortstop position. The organization also did well in adding right-hander Jeff Hoffman from Toronto.


  1. Cincinnati Reds (#10):€“ Walt Jocketty did better than expected with everything swirling around Aroldis Chapman’s head as he acquired one of the most underrated prospects in the game, right-hander Rookie Davis, and former Notre Dame third baseman Eric Jagielo. Corner outfielder Jesse Winker is one of the most talent prospects, as is fire-balling Robert Stephenson. Both of them could be the face of the franchise’™s next turnaround. Beyond that Cincinnati has some promising pitching depth with Amir Garrett, Cody Reed, Keury Mella, and John Lamb. Don’t buy into the Jose Peraza hype, please.


  1. Boston Red Sox (#6): Yoan Moncada is proving to be quite the $60 million bargain. And teenage third baseman Rafael Devers has the makings of an above-average big leaguer. Right-hander Anderson Espinoza is going to be the biggest breakout prospect of 2016. He has everything you’d want in a young arm. Keep your fingers crossed that he doesn’t fall victim to the injury nexus. Last year’s first round pick, Andrew Benintendi, could be a fast mover to Boston, all aboard the train.


  1. Philadelphia Phillies (#14): Former General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. did exceedingly well in the Cole Hamels deal with Texas last season, acquiring their eventual second, fifth, sixth, and eighteenth best prospects. It wouldn’t be surprising to see J.P. Crawford eventually edge out Corey Seager in terms of wins above replacement thanks to his well-rounded game. And outfielder Nick Williams has All-Star potential as well. The new front office gambled on former Stanford ace Mark Appel in the Ken Giles deal. It’s not time to give up on the big right-hander, but it is quickly approaching. You’re looking at the 2018 Surprise Team of the


  1. Louis Cardinals (#21):“ The Cardinals have the innate ability to churn out impact arm after impact arm: Michael Wacha, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia, Shelby Miller, Jason Motte, etc… And right-hander Alex Reyes could eventually exceed them all. The club’s first round pick two years ago, Jack Flaherty, looked ridiculously strong as a teenager in the Sally. Underrated Florida State hurler Luke Weaver, a 2014 pick, could be pitching in St. Louis by the end of the year. Very pitching heavy with most of the bats still cutting their minor league teeth.


  1. Pittsburgh Pirates (#9): Led off by a three-headed monster, the Pirates’€™ competitive window is likely extended by several years as ace-in-waiting Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows, and Josh Bell graduate to the big leagues within the next year-plus. Former top prospect Jameson Taillon, who tantalized quite a bit during his early years, missed his second consecutive season. Outfielders Harold Ramirez and Willy Garcia have some big league upside. Don’t buy into the Alen Hanson hype.


  1. Atlanta Braves (#15):€“ The Braves’ front office fleeced the Diamondbacks out a decade-plus middle-of-the-order bat (at a premium position) in Dansby Swanson, a safe solid mid-rotation arm in Aaron Blair, and one of the more underrated outfielders at the big league level (Ender Inciarte) in one of the steals of this century. The system is chock full of flame-throwers with varying degrees of red flags. Touki Toussaint, another former member the Diamondbacks shipped off for pennies on the dollar, Sean Newcomb, Lucas Sims, Zachary Bird, and Chris Ellis all fall into that category. Mallex Smith could be a better version of Billy Hamilton.


  1. Cleveland Indians (#16):€“ Very, very sneaky farm system. Justus Sheffield could easily vault up into the game’s Top 20 prospects this time next year. Clint Frazier took some important strides last season as well, cutting his strikeout rate down to a career low 21.3%. Bradley Zimmer’s second half collapse in Class AA is worrisome. The front office took the ultimate high risk, high reward by taking injured southpaw Brady Aiken with their first pick last June. And the Tribe swindled the always savvy St. Louis front office out of Rob Kaminsky as well. Right-hander Mike Clevinger, who was acquired from the Angels for Vinnie Pestano two years ago, might be a poor man’s version of Corey Kluber.


  1. Oakland A’€™s (#24):€“ A typical Oakland-type system (go figure). There’€™s not a whole lot of youth when compared to other systems, but there are plenty of intriguing names sprinkled throughout. Sean Manaea, if he can turn in a full season, is one of the minors’€™ most promising southpaws. And the trio of Franklin Barreto, and Matt Olson give the organization a solid offensive foundation.


  1. Texas Rangers (#8): Took quite a stumble -€“ and rightfully so -€“ after dealing away three of the franchise’€™s better prospects (Nick Williams, Jake Thompson, and Jorge Alfaro) for ace lefty Cole Hamels. Still, though, there’€™s still plenty of firepower packed into the club’€™s top 10 prospects. Nomar Mazara is one of the most talented outfielders in the minors, Lewis Brinson looked like a budding five-tool All-Star, and Joey Gallo can hit ’em as far as anyone on earth (when he connects). The club did well in adding collegiate arms Dillon Tate and Michael Matuella last June as well.


  1. Arizona Diamondbacks (#12):€“ Easily a top 10 farm system -€“ maybe even a top five -“ before GM Dave Stewart and Co. stared gutting the minors for what amounted to bargain shopping for other teams. Right-hander Archie Bradley has a chance to be special. Second baseman Jamie Westbrook is one of the most underrated players in the game. And we’re all waiting for former collegiate-hitter-turned-first-round pick Braden Shipley to take the next step forward. Maybe it comes in 2016?


  1. New York Yankees (#17):€“ Another one of these teams that could have found themselves in the Top 10 if not for some offseason wheeling-and-dealing, though it’€™s hard to not justify acquiring the most dominant arm in the game (Aroldis Chapman). Aaron Judge looks like a Danny Tartabull-type player, offering up some intriguing power and speed. Speedy Jorge Mateo is likely going to fall victim to the “we finally found the replacement to Derek Jeters throne.€ And after multiple sessions in Class AA backstop Gary Sanchez finally made his way to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.


  1. Kansas City Royals (#22): Dayton Moore dealt away some promising future pieces for an eventual World Series title, so there’s not too much left down on the farm. Miguel Almonte could be a mid-rotation arm. Raul Mondesi is still being talked about as the next best thing, but he hasn’t hit since his debut in the Pioneer League four years ago. I’€™m still holding out hope – with my fingers and toes crossed -“ that Kyle Zimmer can make it through a season without succumbing to some type of injury.


  1. San Francisco Giants (#5):€“ The Giants dropped 15 spots over the course of the year. A lot of that has to do with the continued downward spiral of right-hander Kyle Crick, as well as promotions (Andrew Susac, Matt Duffy), and some big league swapping. The system was also hurt by a lack of depth.


  1. Washington Nationals (#20):€“ A quintet of blue chip prospects: – Lucas Giolito, Trea Turner, Reynaldo Lopez, Victor Robles, and Erick Fedde – helped buoy the system’€™s overall rankings. And once you get past A.J. Cole at #6, there’s a very good chance that no one else sees considerable time in Washington. Still, though, Lucas Giolito, nothing else needs to be said.


  1. Baltimore Orioles (#27):€“ Chance Sisco’€™s become the best catching prospect in baseball. And, yet, no one is really talking about that. The injured duo of Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey are as talented as any hurlers in the minors, so hopefully they can bounce back fully. Mychal Givens, who I listed in last year’s Top 20 list, looks the part of a dominant backend reliever. Hell, he was one during his debut last season. Let’s see if sweet-swinging masher Trey Mancini can continue to hit in 2016.


  1. San Diego Padres (#23): GM A.J. Preller did well in restocking the farm as last offseason’s purge as he acquired a pair of high ceiling youngsters, Manuel Margot and Javier Guerra,€“ from Boston for veteran relief ace Craig Kimbrel. Hunter Renfroe figured out Class AA after a couple hundred plate appearances and he’s likely to spend some significant time in San Diego in 2016. Hopefully, Alex Dickerson finally gets an extended look at the next level as well.


  1. Toronto Blue Jays (#13):€“ Dealt away a significant part of the minor league depth as the club geared up with a surprising second half surge. Former Division I football player Anthony Alford arrived as one of the more exciting prospects in 2015. Hyphenated assassin Sean Reid-Foley has a limitless ceiling as long as he can get over some control yips. And one of the club’s more recent first round selections, collegiate backstop Max Pentecost, missed the entire 2015 season and could be looking at a position change in the near future.


  1. Seattle Mariners (#18): A rotation featuring the likes of Felix Hernandez, Taijuan Walker, and Edwin Diaz could be special. But after the club’™s second and third top prospects, corner outfielder Alex Jackson and big southpaw Luiz Gohara, there is very little to note. D.J. Peterson stopped slugging. And masher Tyler O’Neill couldn’€™t find first base if you strapped a homing beacon on his head.


  1. New York Mets (#7): And here, ladies and gentlemen, is the biggest faller of the group as the Mets dropped 19 positions over the previous 12 months. Of course, promotions to Noah Syndergaard, Dilson Herrera, Michael Conforto, Rafael Montero, and Kevin Plaewecki have a lot to do with it. As do the trades of Michael Fulmer and Casey Meisner. Shortstop Gavin Cecchini finally had his coming out party and could be the organization’s answer to their long running shortstop question. Brandon Nimmo has some David DeJesus-type value in his bat — if he can solve southpaws.
  2. Detroit Tigers (#30):€“ No longer the worst system in baseball, thanks in large part to former GM Dave Dombrowski’s deals at the deadline last June. Detroit has an incredible surplus of older pitching prospects headlined by Kevin Ziomek and Austin Kubitza. I’m hoping the organization finally pushes Joe Jimenez into a rotation spot. If that does happen, watch out.


  1. Miami Marlins (#29):€“ Behind Tyler Kolek, the power-armed right-hander who hasn’t missed many sticks, Miami is sporting a trio of interesting low level bats: Josh Naylor, K.J. Woods, and Stone Garrett. If they continue to progress -“ Kolek included -€“ it wouldn’€™t be surprising to see Miami jump eight to 10 spots next year as some of the associated risk drops.


  1. Chicago White Sox (#25): There’s some solid talent upfront with Spencer Adams, Carson Fulmer, Tim Anderson, and Jordan Guerrero, but it becomes a who’€™s who of nobodies quickly after. It wouldn’€™t be overly surprising to see Fulmer pitching out of the Sox’€™s bullpen by late September either a la Chris Sale from a couple seasons ago.


  1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (#26):€“ The lack of talent is absolutely laughable at this point. There’€™s one potential big league player capable of becoming a regular: right-hander Jeremy Rhoades. After that it’€™s a lot of fringy type prospects. I’€™ll be shocked to see if Taylor Ward continues to hit like he did in his professional debut.


After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.