The Padres took something that was a tremendous weakness after last offseason’s trade and spending spree, and turned it into a system that can start feeding the next competitive team in San Diego. There isn’t a ton of depth or more than a few high-probability prospects, but there is some upside to which Padres fans can look forward. The Craig Kimbrel trade was a big win, almost enough to wipe away the flop that was the 2015 season (of course, not really).
Two of the prospects that came over in that trade jump right into the 50+ FV group. Everyone agrees Manuel Margot is a legitimate prospect, but I’m a little lower on Javier Guerra, and Carlos Asuaje for that matter. Logan Allen is actually the prospect I’m picking to be the second-best prospect coming out of that deal. Guerra’s power potential isn’t a sure thing in my view, while Allen has the potential to move very quickly despite having been a prep pick just last June.
After last year’s dramatic improvements, I’m buying high on Colin Rea, believing the pitch mix and excellent command keeps him in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Also on this list, I make the case for why Travis Jankowski shouldn’t be dismissed as a fourth outfielder yet, while also acknowledging how much risk there is in Ruddy Giron’s future.
The depth of this system is really in the Quick Hits group. There were probably another 10-15 names I could justify putting there, but I wanted to stay focused on some of the more interesting ones. Their exclusion was less about not believing in their ceilings and more about an attempt to be concise about the prospects I wanted to highlight. It’s not as exciting of an area in which to possess depth, but there are quite a few players that could step up and appear on this list by midseason.
Read the rest of this entry »
The Pirates have put together a stunning collection of players who possess strong hit-tool projections, sort of reminiscent of the strategy attributed to the Cardinals’ scouting and development heads in the last 5-10 years. Even just looking at the last three drafts, they have taken five hitters in the various first rounds – Kevin Newman, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Cole Tucker, Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire – and all but Tucker project for average-or-better hit tools as their likely future grades. In fairness, there’s a case to be made that Tucker deserves a 50 as well.
In recent years the Pirates’ player-development system has not been able to get the most out of many of their positional players’ power potentials, a trend that a number of their current prospects will have to hope changes course. You could throw pitcher injuries into the mix as well, but that may only be more apparent because of the dramatic focus on acquiring top-tier hitters over pitchers in the draft and international markets.
There shouldn’t be a ton of surprise rankings on this list, except for perhaps Reese McGuire. He looked like a totally different player in the Arizona Fall League, and it was substantial enough to buy into more of his offensive potential than I have before. Overall, this is just a solid system with plenty of front-line talent and a great mix of upside and floor filling out the next two tiers. It’s an exciting time to watch Pirates’ prospects.
Since having committed to a full-scale rebuild, the Phillies have prepared themselves nicely for a more sustainable future. Right to the top of their prospect ranks went trade acquisitions Nick Williams, Mark Appel and Jake Thompson. Additionally, a number of second-tier players have given the organization the depth and upside it desperately needed after a few stagnant years with aging veterans. The main weakness of the minor-league group is its lack of immediate help for the rotation, with questions surrounding both Appel’s and Thompson’s viability as starters preventing them from being sure things. After that, there’s a lack of options until you get to the lower levels, where exciting younger pitchers like Franklyn Kilome look to take a step forward and challenge for upper-minors rotation spots.
There shouldn’t be a ton of surprises on this list. It looks like I’m a half-grade higher or lower on few guys than the consensus, but most of the guys after the 50+ group are fairly interchangeable. Medium-upside players at the lower levels of the system are plentiful, making the relative grades more a preference than anything.
Mark Appel’s ranking may stir some discussion, as I make the case here why I don’t think we have a Gerrit Cole-esque breakout to which we can to look forward. It’s not so dire that I don’t think he’s a major league starter, but his ceiling grade is lower here than most are ready to admit.
Billy Beane has been the master of the pseudo-rebuild for a long time now, replenishing the farm system while simultaneously improving or at least diversifying the big league roster. This past year has been more about subtraction from the minor league depth than addition, but internal development, a solid draft last June and some lesser moves have put the system in a better spot than it was last year. Translation: they have some more chips to play with come this July.
Though it is definitely in a better spot, it certainly isn’t without weakness. Besides Sean Manaea, there isn’t much immediate help for the big league rotation without dipping into some more of the command specialist-types that they have had to rely on the last few years, albeit with pretty good success. On the offensive side, Matt Olson, Chad Pinder and Renato Nunez are close to ready for their big league shots, as are guys like Joe Wendle and Matt Chapman, to a lesser extent impact-wise.
Recent drafts have been fairly successful keeping the pipeline operational, though the A’s have had an inordinate amount of pitchers dealing with injuries. Raul Alcantara, Dillon Overton and Bobby Wahl are all in the comeback stages of arm injuries, and young Chris Kohler is dealing with shoulder stiffness this spring. It may just be a product of their wheeling and dealing of anyone who is healthy, but it still bears watching over the next season or two to look for any patterns.
As for the surprise picks on the list, Manaea’s consistency issues drop him down a little bit for me, though I still like his potential in the rotation. Chad Pinder and Rangel Ravelo are both better hitters than most people seem to think in my opinion, while Matt Chapman and Ryon Healy have some things to prove before I’ll really buy into their offensive profiles. Seth Brown is an interesting upside prospect to watch, coming out of nowhere to hit a bunch of homers in college, getting drafted late and continuing to hit well in the low minors.
The Yankees have enviable depth at multiple positions, though it’s their bullpen options that seem to continually be a strength for them each year. This particular group is full of many of them, to the point where it seems the Yankees have an affinity for pitchers with unique deliveries and arm actions. Besides Jorge Mateo being the consensus top prospect, there is a bit more risk in their collection of 50+ FV players than most organizations have, but they make up for any uncertainty with quantity of upside prospects from the next tiers. Perhaps the only real surprise ranking here is Domingo Acevedo taking the number two spot, though he seems to sit comfortably in the top 10 by most people’s standards. His combination of velocity, athleticism and control at a young age was too interesting to rank further down the list.
You’ll notice that many of the Yankees’ recent international signings are found in the Quick Hits section, with the exception of Wilkerman Garcia, Leonardo Molina and Hyo Jun Park. These three represent the prospects I feel have the best chance out of the gate to reach the major leagues, though that doesn’t mean they necessarily have the highest ceilings. Others like Dermis Garcia, Miguel Flames, Juan De Leon and Nelson Gomez all have sizable raw potential, but in terms of 50th percentile outcomes, they are a little too far away to count on just yet. Another year of professional competition will give us the information we need about their physical development and translation to skills.
Other clubs: Angels, Astros, Braves, Brewers, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Indians, Marlins, Mets, Orioles, Reds, Red Sox, Rockies, Royals, Tigers, Twins, White Sox.
You might not know it by listening to talk radio or television discussions about the club, but it’s an awesome time to be a Dodgers fan right now. They continue to use their financial might to bring in a plethora of international and domestic amateur prospects, then proceed to pawn off their international bonus slots for even more prospects. While they’ve gotten a lot of criticism for letting Zack Greinke go and not dishing out any of the bigger contracts this offseason, the reinforcements they have available in their minor-league system are at least a part of the reason why. Not only do they boast one of the deepest major-league rosters, they have ready-made replacements within a couple levels of their parent club, particularly on the pitching side. On top of that, they keep making shrewd mid-level trades and taking some of my favorite upside talents in the amateur draft. At every turn, their process has been consistent and on point.
You could make a case that they’re light on impact offensive prospects outside of the guys who’ll be starting the year in Los Angeles and first baseman Cody Bellinger, but they have enough depth in the next tier down. Outfielders Johan Mieses, Jacob Scavuzzo and Alex Verdugo are close in the outfield, while Willie Calhoun and hopefully a return to form by Micah Johnson give them options in the infield should multiple position players falter this year. Julio Urias and Jose De Leon are two of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, and could handle a promotion in the near future if pressed into duty.
Austin Barnes and Trayce Thompson are in the 50+ FV group here, despite how Barnes is only the club’s second or third option at catcher, and Thompson’s reputation in recent years as a questionable bat who might not make it in the big leagues. Thompson is quicker to explain: I really like the changes he made to his swing and approach. No one ever denied the tools and overall athletic ability, and barring a step back for some reason, he’s positioned to develop into a legitimate starting option in the outfield.
Barnes is much farther out there compared to perception, I’m well aware. He’s not a big power guy, and he doesn’t have big arm strength, both tools that historically are typical of catching prospects. His atypical profile is probably why he didn’t get more of an opportunity in the Marlins organization. Perhaps it’s telling, however, that one of the smartest front offices in baseball targeted him. As a professional, all he’s done is hit, flirt with an on-base percentage over .400, steal some bases and be one of the best pitch framers in the minor leagues — for years now. He makes enough contact and has a good swing, so there’s no reason I can find that he won’t continue to do it against big-league pitching. I don’t see any reason to discount his receiving behind the plate. Watch a Dodgers spring-training game and you’ll quickly notice what makes him so special back there.
Other clubs: Angels, Astros, Braves, Brewers, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Indians, Marlins, Orioles, Reds, Red Sox, Rockies, Royals, Tigers, Twins, White Sox.
With the exception of Steven Matz, this Mets system is a bit short on pitching. That would be a problem if the club didn’t already have one of the best young pitching staffs in the game. Most of their impact bats will probably be coming from the low minors, Desmond Lindsay being the most likely exception. Amed Rosario’s bat is still a few years away, but he’s the kind of talent where if/when things click he’s immediately a stud. Don’t sleep on their mid-level bats either, as guys like Dominic Smith, Eudor Garcia, Jhoan Urena and Wuilmer Becerra have quiet profiles that could erupt as they climb the next few levels.
The biggest strength of this group is its shortstop depth. Signing Gregory Guerrero and Andres Gimenez last year only added to an impressive group that will at least give the Mets some high-risk/high-reward trade chips should they need to add to another contender this year. The list goes on with Rosario, Milton Ramos, Luis Carpio, Luis Guillorme… making the defense at every level a nice crutch on which their young pitchers can lean.
The biggest surprises on this list have to start with Guerrero and Guillorme making their way into the top-10. Guerrero is unproven, but I think has the makings of one of the best swings in the system. Guillorme is good enough defensively he only needs to be a man with a bat at the plate to reach the big leagues. Brandon Nimmo is lower here than I have seen elsewhere, and I can’t deny he still has the potential to be an average MLB outfielder. I just don’t see his power showing up enough for his super patient approach to work against big-league pitchers with better command.
Other clubs: Astros, Braves, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Indians, Orioles, Reds, Red Sox, Rockies, Royals, Tigers, Twins, White Sox.
Despite only recently being regarded one of the worst farm systems in the league, the Brewers now have a wealth of talent that can be used to build up the next winner in Milwaukee. They project to have solid pitching and outfield depth for the foreseeable future, while the immediate term will see a sizable influx of quality players hopefully gearing up to fill important roles on the next competitive Brewers team. It may be another year before they can really start expecting to take steps toward the playoffs, but the Brewers have quality depth if not true studs, which can breed a few surprise impact players.
Some of the more bold rankings in this massive system include a few lows and highs. I see Michael Reed as a legitimate starting outfielder whose power is an inevitability, hence he ranks more highly here than anywhere I’ve read. The organization is convinced his power will come around, as well. I also like Josh Hader and Isan Diaz’s chances of reaching the 50-grade threshold. Rymer Liriano makes a surprise appearance in the 45 FV pod. The only thing I can say about it is maybe he won’t pan out, but there’s enough potential there that I don’t know how you essentially cut a guy like that…
Nathan Orf is a hustler who may not seem like much of a pure athlete, but his hit tool carries his value into this list for me. As for some lows, I recognize the potential value Jacob Nottingham and Gilbert Lara possess, but I just don’t have faith in either’s hit tool panning out in the long run. Lara is super young and Nottingham has his raw power, so neither is a lost cause, but I’m looking at it in terms of most likely outcomes.
Other clubs: Astros, Braves, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Indians, Marlins, Orioles, Reds, Red Sox, Rockies, Royals, Tigers, White Sox.
The Twins have done a tremendous job of stockpiling minor-league talent, and currently deserve consideration for top farm system in the league. Even with Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario graduating to the majors, this collection of players has a crazy diverse mix of floor and upside, polish and potential, offense and pitching… there aren’t many weaknesses you could find within it. The worst thing you could say is they don’t have many power bats in their upper minors, but the addition of Byung-ho Park and the rebound of Byron Buxton will limit issues stemming from a lack of immediate offensive help.
There are a few surprises here that you should notice. One is the inclusion of Park to this list, despite having played professionally in Korea. He’s still a relatively unknown quantity, and obviously he hasn’t exhausted his rookie eligibility, so here he is! If you disagree with the decision to include him, close your eyes and scroll past it, or enjoy the “free” content.
One high rank and one snub may bother some readers. LaMonte Wade had a nice half-season debut after being a relatively unknown college pick out of Maryland, but it came against Rookie-ball competition, where college players are supposed to do well. I like enough of what he brings to the table offensively and defensively to think he’s more than just a guy who was placed too low to start his career. Adam Brett Walker sits at the end of the 40+ FV group here, which was kind of a stretch if you take the likely future 35 hit tool grade literally. I just don’t see him making enough contact for his power to work, but I do recognize he could have a future as a platoon or bench bat with some improvements.
Other clubs: Angels, Astros, Braves, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Indians, Orioles, Reds, Red Sox, Rockies, Royals, Tigers, White Sox.
To start off, a brief programming note: I’m going out of alphabetical order here, as inside information trickles in at different rates. I’ll be jumping around to different teams as soon as I get a suitable amount of corroborating sources for each.
With regard to the Marlins, specifically, they don’t have a ton of impact offense waiting in the wings, but there is a plethora of pitching reinforcements — mostly in terms of depth but some with high ceilings — at all levels of the minors. It’s interesting to think about what this group will do in the next few years, having enough potential to turn out a number of surprise contributors but not enough blue-chippers to rank highly among the league’s best farm systems.
Tyler Kolek has struggled a bit as a professional, but his talent makes him the best prospect in the organization. It seems I’m the high guy on Chris Paddack, but his placement only sticks out here because of the lack of certainty among other prospects around him. There aren’t a ton of other surprises elswhere, with a reasonable argument to be made about anyone outside the top-four or -five guys to either be in the top 10 or at the bottom of the list.