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#1. Atlanta Braves (Last Year’s Rank: #13)
Easily the best farm system in baseball thanks in large part to a plethora of impact arms and a pair of franchise-altering middle infielders. Atlanta owns five of the top 63 prospects in baseball with several others – Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Austin Riley, Ronald Acuna, Joey Wentz, and Kyle Muller – all capable of ascending to that lofty status in the coming year or two. Because of the relative youth of the system, as well as gaping holes/veteran holdovers littering the big league roster, their window of competitiveness likely won’t open till at least 2018 at the earliest.
#2. St. Louis Cardinals (#11)
Exceptionally heavy in terms of right-handed pitching, St. Louis has 15 minor leaguers among the game’s Top 250 – seven of them being of the right-handed variety. But the risk is spread across varying types of arms: Alex Reyes, Sandy Alcantara, and Junior Fernandez are youngsters that could chuck a ball through a cinderblock wall; Luke Weaver, Dakota Hudson, and Andrew Morales are polished collegiate arms; and Jack Flaherty is a combination of both groups (young and polished). Outside of Harrison Bader, Carson Kelly, and Paul DeJong, the system remains a bit thing on advanced sticks.
#3. Tampa Bay Rays (#2)
I’ve been the biggest supporter of this system over the past couple years. And, finally, all that patience is starting to come to fruition as many of the club’s under heralded prospects are starting to gain traction. Willy Adames has quietly developed into one of the best young shortstops MiLB has to offer. Casey Gillaspie and Jake Bauers are budding sabermetric darlings with their developing power and immense ability to find first base. Right-handers Brent Honeywell, Jacob Faria, and Hunter Wood all have the makings of quality big league starters. Don’t sleep on Jaime Shultz, who has the look of a front-of-the-rotation arm if he can shave down his walk rate, or Adrian Rondon who could be the next big time shortstop prospect.
#4. Los Angeles Dodgers (#1)
Despite churning out three franchise-altering prospects the last couple of seasons – Julio Urias, Corey Seager, and Joc Pederson – the Dodgers’ system remains remarkably strong, in large part due to their international expenditures. Cuban right-hander Yadier Alvarez is poised to be the most talked about minor league arm in 2017. Cody Bellinger and Willie Calhoun could form the left side of the Dodgers’ infield for the next decade or so. Outfielders Yusniel Diaz, Andrew Toles, and Alex Verdugo offer up a trio of toolsy futures. It wouldn’t be shocking to see several of the club’s top prospects get dealt for another high-profile starter to slot in behind Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, and Julio Urias if/when injuries occur.
#5. Milwaukee Brewers (#6)
Poised to be one of the surprise teams of 2019, Milwaukee’s system is loaded with potential impact arms and toolsy everyday players. Josh Hader is one of the preeminent swing-and-miss artists outside of the major leagues. Phil Bickford, who was acquired in the midseason deal with San Francisco, continues to fly under the radar – for some unbeknownst reason. Marcos Diplan could be one of the bigger breakouts in 2017. And Brandon Woodruff bounced back from an awful 2015 to establish himself as a viable mid-rotation arm. Outfielders Corey Ray, their first round pick last June, and Lewis Brinson could both be up in the big leagues by mid-2018. Don’t overlook young right-hander Jordan Yamamoto, who happened to be among the best moundsmen last season in Low Class A.
#6. Pittsburgh Pirates (#12)
Arguably the envy in all of baseball, Pittsburgh already has an outfield to dream upon with Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, and Gregory Polanco, but the impending arrival of baseball’s best prospect – center fielder Austin Meadows – only adds to an embarrassment of riches. Josh Bell, the top minor league first baseman, looked at ease during his first taste of the big leagues, slugging an impressive .273/.368/.406 in 152 trips to the plate. Kevin Newman’s arrival will come just in time as Jordy Mercer departs via free agency. Oh, and then there’s Tyler Glasnow and Mitch Keller – easily two of the best pitching prospects on the planet.
#7. Chicago White Sox (#29)
Thanks to a couple offseason trades – admittedly, huge offseason trades – the White Sox went from having one of the worst systems to landing squarely among the top 10. Chicago GM Rick Hahn did incredibly well landing future All-Star, and potential MVP candidate, Yoan Moncada and flame-throwing right-hander Michael Kopech (as well as Luis Alexander Basabe) in the Chris Sale deal with Boston. And Hahn hit another homerun by acquiring Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning in the Adam Eaton trade with Washington. A rotation with Carlos Rodon, Carson Fulmer, Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, and Reynaldo Lopez looks dominating. Chicago also did well in drafting their backstop of the future in Zack Collins as well. Expect the system to add another influx of talent when Jose Quintana is eventually traded.
#8. New York Yankees (#18)
Years and years and years and years of wild spending offseasons finally caught up with the Yankees as they suffered through disappointing final seasons from Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. But Brian Cashman pulled off a couple solid in-season swaps that sent Aroldis Chapman to Chicago and Andrew Miller to Cleveland. Three of the prospects netted in those deals – Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, and Justus Sheffield – all find themselves among the system’s Top 5 prospects. Frazier and fellow tools-laden outfielder Aaron Judge are going to make up two-thirds of the club’s outfield within months – which means that either Brett Garnder or Jacoby Ellsbury will be dealt away. They’re not far away from realistically contending again, they just need a couple decent mid-rotation arms.
#9. Cincinnati Reds (#8)
The club’s top two prospects over the past several years – Jesse Winker and Robert Stephenson – both battled through disappointing 2016 seasons with one of them (Winker) likely to rebound. As for Stephenson, well, he just hasn’t found the strike zone with any type of consistency since entering Class AA a couple years ago. Tyler Mahle, one of baseball’s most underrated prospects, Amir Garrett, and Cody Reed will look awfully good with Anthony DeSclafani and Brandon Finnegan. The front office just has to figure out what to do with Homer Bailey’s awful contract. Nick Senzel, the #2 pick in last year’s draft, was ridiculously dominant during his debut. And Vladimir Gutierrez, Jose Lopez, and Shedric Long could all be breakout prospects in 2017.
#10. Philadelphia Phillies (#10)
Even after a bit of downturn in production last season, J.P. Crawford remains the heir apparent to Jimmy Rollins throne at shortstop. Mickey Moniak and Cornelius Randolph provide attractive upside as high ceiling outfielders. Backstop Jorge Alfaro and outfielder Roman Quinn are ready to step in and become above-average regulars. Right-handers Franklyn Kilome and Kevin Gowdy provide a strong foundation for their future rotation. With Maikel Franco, Aaron Nola, Vincent Velasquez, and Odubel Herrera already in place, the Phillies’ reemergence in the NL East isn’t too far off.
#11. Houston Astros (#5)
Equipped with arguably the most explosive lineup in baseball, the Astros’ shortcoming – outside of health, of course – was their rotation. Enter Francis Martes, who is likely only a few months away from stepping into the front half of the big league club’s rotation. Fellow right-hander David Paulino is likely only a year away from helping as well. Look for a breakout season from teenager Franklin Perez. Former first round pick Daz Cameron has shown glimpses of a toolkit that’s reminiscent of his father Mike Cameron. Unless injuries strike the club’s outfield or DH position, expect former Virginia outfielder Derek Fisher to be dealt for help at the deadline.
#12. San Diego Padres (#23)
After cashing in all the franchise’s chips in an attempt to purchase a winner during a wild offseason a couple years ago, the Padres quickly reversed course and started collecting every notable prospect within arm’s reach. Enter: Anderson Espinoza, Manuel Margot, Chris Paddock, Adrian Morejon, Josh Naylor, and Fernando Tatis Jr. And that’s not including 2016 draft picks Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer, and Hudson Sanchez. The real problem for the front office will be filling all the holes not manned by Wil Myers and Austin Hedges over the next several years. It would be in the organization’s best interest to pull a Jeff Luhnow and ship off everything not nailed down like Ryan Schimpf, Yangervis Solarte, and any number of relievers.
#13. Minnesota Twins (#3)
This is certainly not on the same level as season’s past, but Minnesota’s system, nonetheless, still has a bevy of interesting prospects: Tyler Jay and Stephen Gonsalves are among the better southpaws in the minor leagues; right-hander Fernando Romero, fresh off of Tommy John surgery, is going to be one of the biggest breakout players in all of baseball in 2017 – if not the biggest. Nick Gordon continues to move up the chain with slightly improving offense. And last year’s first round pick Alex Kirilloff looked at ease in the Appalachian League. Don’t sleep on Midwest League batting champ Luis Arraez, who isn’t garnering much in term of national recognition.
#14. Colorado Rockies (#7)
Same story, different year: the Rockies just can’t seem to unlock the key to consistently winning while playing half of their games in Coors Field. But the system sports a quartet of high octane arms that might be able to pierce through the thin air of Colorado: Riley Pint, their first round pick last June, Jeff Hoffman, who’s going to team with Jon Gray to give the opposition all sorts of fits, German Marquez, and Miguel Castro. I’m probably alone in my analysis of Brendan Rodgers because I think he looks more like a solid big leaguer, not one destined for superstardom. Tom Murphy and Raimel Tapia are ready to step in and help today.
#15. New York Mets (#26)
After years and years of struggling to find a long term solution to their shortstop problem, the Mets have two very solid options in Amed Rosario and Gavin Cecchini – though the latter is likely to slide over to second or third bases in the next year. Southpaw Thomas Szapucki and right-hander Robert Gsellman are just the latest promising arms the system has developed. Dominic Smith still has some questions about his long term future at first base. Don’t sleep on Desmond Lindsey as a big breakout in 2017. And TJ Rivera remains one of the most productive bats in the minors; hopefully he gets a chance to prove his value at the big league level.
#16. Toronto Blue Jays (#24)
Sean Reid-Foley is one of the most underrated, dominant hurlers not pitching at the game’s pinnacle level and looks every part of an Aaron Sanchez clone. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. got off to a promising start to his professional career. Hulking first baseman Rowdy Tellez looks like the Canadian version of Cody Bellinger, though he’s going to have to prove that he can handle lefties moving forward. T.J. Zeuch is going to be one of the better picks in the second half of the first round last June. Max Pentecost could move quickly, now that he’s finally healthy.
#17. Chicago Cubs (#4)
Definitely, definitely a far cry from the system that churned out a lot of the World Series winning team. But the Cubs’ farm isn’t exactly a barren cupboard either. Eloy Jimenez looks like a budding superstar with middle-of-the-lineup potential. Ian Happ is going to eventually fill the role that Ben Zobrist is currently manning. Albert Almora’s offensive will never live up to his lofty draft expectations, but his defense should help buoy his overall production in terms of wins above replacement. Mark Zagunis is a poor man’s version of Kris Bryant/Kyle Schwarber/Ian Happ. Hopefully, one or two of the low level wild card arms reaches their peak potential.
#18. Oakland Athletics (#15)
It’s not surprising in the least that Oakland’s home to the single most underrated prospect in the game: third baseman Matt Chapman. A three True Outcomes Hitter that can pick it like Brooks Robinson at third base, Chapman should man the hot corner for the franchise for several years. Franklin Barreto is a nice little middle infield prospect. And there are plenty of high upside, high velocity arms: A.J. Puk, Grant Holmes, Jharel Cotton, whom I expect to be worth more than two wins in 2017, and Daniel Gossett.
#19. Washington Nationals (#21)
After dealing away three of their better/best prospects in the Adam Eaton deal with the White Sox, the Nationals’ system still calls home to two high upside outfielders in Victor Robles, the ninth best prospect in baseball, and Juan Soto, who also cracks the Top 100. Erick Fedde provides some nice insurance in case any of the big league arms fall to injury. Center fielder Andrew Stevenson looks like a potential better version of Peter Bourjos.
#20. Cleveland Indians (#14)
Another system that took a big hit thanks to a big trade – one, in which, helped propel the Indians back to the World Series. Francisco Mejia, who was almost traded to Milwaukee in the Jonathan Lucroy deal, established himself as the top offensive catcher in the minor leagues. Triston McKenzie is likely going to be the best high school arm the club’s churned out since C.C. Sabathia. Bradley Zimmer’s ballooning strikeout rates are a significant cause for concern. Shosrtstop Yu-Cheng Chang is a solid offensive prospect. Former #1 overall pick Brady Aiken could zoom up a lot of lists is he can prove that his UCL won’t be an issue. Bobby Bradley looks like another Russell Brayan-type power-hitter.
#21. Boston Red Sox (#9)
Veteran front office triggerman Dave Dombrowski has traded away a tremendous amount of talent as he cultivates the big league roster to his liking. Gone are Manuel Margot, Anderson Espinoza, Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopch, and the Basabe Brothers. But there’s still a handful of prime time minor leaguers. Andrew Benintendi could be the latest Red Sox left field icon. Rafael Devers has handled the low levels without problems and will spend the 2017 season in Class AA as a 20-year-old. And Jason Groome, their first pick last June, has a high ceiling.
#22. Kansas City Royals (#19)
Sporting just four players in the Top 250: Matt Strahm, Josh Staumont, Alex Mills, and the yet-to-be-heralded Meibrys Viloria. Strahm has the ceiling of a potential #3-type arm. Staumont has the makings of an once-in-a-lifetime arm – if he keep his walk rate around 4.5 every nine innings. Alec Mills is ready to step in as a backend arm. And Viloria is coming off of a Pioneer League MVP.
#23. Arizona Diamondbacks (#17)
Heavy on collegiate arms with mid-rotation ceilings: Anthony Banda, Taylor Clarke, Cody Reed, and Alex Young. The only two position players to crack the Top 250 are Socrates Brito (#120) and Luis Alejandro Basabe (#166) thanks to years of mismanagement by Tony LaRussa and Dave Stewart.
#24. Seattle Mariners (#25)
Kyle Lewis looks like a homerun of a first round pick – if he can come back from a gruesome knee injury. Fellow outfielder Tyler O’Neill is one of the better minor league thumpers but his lack of defensive contributions severely limit his upside. If he can repeat his double-digit walk rates then he might be able to develop into a Three True Outcomes hitter. Mitch Haniger was simply the most lethal bat in the minor leagues and should produce near the league average mark in 2017. Right-hander Andrew Moore and lefty Dillon Overton, who was acquired in a deal with Oakland, offer up some backend value.
#25. Texas Rangers (#16)
The once proud system is currently lacking after years of aggressive promotions and trades. Yohander Mendez and Ariel Jurado have #3/#4-type ceilings. Former international Bonus Baby Leodys Taveras looked pretty good as a 17-year-old switch-hitter. Second baseman Andy Ibanez is limited offensively. Expect slugging shortstop Anderson Tejeda to leap up a lot of lists in 2017.
#26. Baltimore Orioles (#22)
Despite another abysmal ranking, the system has a few intriguing prospects: backstop Chance Sisco is one of the better catchers in the minors; Ofelky Peralta can miss a ton of sticks and is poised for a massive coming out party in 2017; and former first round pick Ryan Mountcastle has quietly established himself as a solid offensive-minded shortstop. College arms Cody Sedlock and Keegan Akin could move quickly. Fingers crossed for the health of former budding ace Hunter Harvey.
#27. Detroit Tigers (#27)
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Joe Jimenez closing out games with the Tigers by season’s end. I’ve long been on the dominant right-hander’s bandwagon. Former first round prep right-handers Beau Burrows and Matt Manning have been promising during their brief careers. Christin Stewart could help fill the void when J.D. Martinez eventually departs.
#28. San Francisco Giants (#20)
The organization’s top three prospects all rank between #138 and #145 in all of baseball. This is a poor farm with incredibly limited upside. Tyler Beede looks like a capable big league starter. Chris Shaw should be able to handle first base, but is currently blocked by Brandon Belt. And former first round pick Christian Arroyo is blocked at both shortstop and second base; his bat profiles terribly at the hot corner. One name to watch in 2017: right-hander Dan Slania.
#29. Los Angeles Angels (#30)
Two prospects of note: last year’s first round pick, former Virginia catcher-turned-first-baseman Matt Thais and right-hander Luis Pena. They do have a bevy of hard-throwing former starters-turned-dominant-relievers, a few of whom could make their debuts in 2017.
#30. Miami Marlins (#28)
Not good. Terrible. Hilariously bad. It’s the Braxton Garret Show. Tyler Kolek, he of a triple-digit fastball, is hurt and hasn’t missed any bats.