Ranking the Minor League Systems by Impact: #16-30 by Tony Blengino March 13, 2014 One of the many rites of the baseball offseason is the publication of minor league prospect and organizational rankings. It’s my turn to take a swipe at this process, and I’m going to take a little bit of a different tack. The organizations will be ranked from top to bottom, and a key word that you will see over and over again is “impact”. Each team’s inner core of impact prospects – those that project as likely above average major league regulars – will drive each team’s ranking, though the number of non-impact regulars and the system’s total number of viable future big leaguers will also play a role. Today, systems 16 through 30. Below, each team will have a brief section, containing the following information: – IMPACT – The number of impact prospects currently in the system, followed by their names in alpha order, with top-tier impact guys in ALL CAPS. – Other 2013 Impact – A listing of other players on the team’s prior year impact prospect list, with the positive (in the majors) or negative (downgraded prospect status) reason they are no longer on the impact list. – Strength/Weakness – Self explanatory – Depth Ratio – The number of total viable MLB prospects in the organizations divided by the average number of viable prospects in a system. – One I Like More – A prospect I like more than the industry consensus, and why. – One I Like Less – A prospect I like less than the industry consensus, and why. – Observation – One takeaway, big-picture thought on the organization at this moment in time. A couple of words regarding the methodology used here – a combination of analytical and traditional scouting methods were utilized. A Top 10 or Top 30 organizational list approach can obscure the difference between very strong and very weak systems. Holding all players to the same age and performance thresholds enables one to more easily cut each system’s prospects into tiers. I have seen many of the players discussed below in person, but far from all of them. That’s where video, MILBtv, scouting reports and other forms of research come in. There’s also a healthy dose of gut feel. The older, professional players who never played in a team’s minor league system – the Masahiro Tanakas, the Jose Abreus, etc., were not included in this analysis. Enough of this……let’s get on with the rankings. 16 – Arizona Diamondbacks – IMPACT (2) – RHP ARCHIE BRADLEY, SS Chris Owings – Other 2013 Impact – LHP Patrick Corbin (MLB), 3B Matt Davidson (CWS; non-impact MLB regular), CF Adam Eaton (MLB), LHP David Holmberg (CIN; non-impact MLB regular), LHP Tyler Skaggs (MLB) – Strength/Weakness – Impact talent has been thinned dramatically by trades of Davidson, Eaton, Holmberg and Skaggs over the past calendar year, with the resulting level of improvement of the major league club open to debate. RHP remains an area of strength thanks to Bradley and RHP Braden Shipley, who sits just outside of the impact group. OF and LHP are the system’s leanest areas. – Depth Ratio – 0.93 – One I Like More – RHP Matt Stites – Is dicing through the system as a reliever, with a career ERA of 1.53 and a 150/19 K/BB in 135 IP. Stuff plays up, could find himself in the big league pen sometime this season. – One I Like Less – RHP Jose Martinez – Like the stuff, not sold on the size or lack of performance to date. Still a pup, too early to consider him an impact guy. – Observation – Diamondbacks gambled a significant portion of their impact talent on what would seem to be modest big league gains. Club does retain ready supply of quick-to-majors relief talent in Stites, Jake Barrett and Jimmy Sherfy. 17 – Cincinnati Reds – IMPACT (3) – RF Phillip Ervin, RHP ROBERT STEPHENSON, LF Jesse Winker – Other 2013 Impact – CF Billy Hamilton (non-impact MLB regular) – Strength/Weakness – Outfield depth is solid, infield depth is almost non-existent. Depth of non-impact regular group is fairly weak, though Billy Hamilton is as close to an impact guy as anyone in that category. – Depth Ratio – 1.00 – One I Like More – RHP Jon Moscot – Went an amazing 2-14, 4.59, in the California League last year, albeit with solid peripherals. Was much better at the Double-A level as a 21-year-old in his first full pro season. Projects as a durable mid-rotation starter. – One I Like Less – Hamilton. Must emphasize that I do like Hamilton, but not as an “impact” guy, as there are simply too many questions with the bat. There is Vince Coleman upside here, but Coleman sure did make a lot of outs. – Observation – A very top-heavy system – Stephenson is one of the best pitching prospects in the game, and Ervin can really hit. System is trending downward, as much of its bulk has been moved for major league upgrades in recent seasons. 18 – San Francisco Giants – IMPACT (5) – LHP Ty Blach, RHP Clayton Blackburn, RHP KYLE CRICK, LHP Edwin Escobar, LHP Adalberto Mejia – Other 2013 Impact – None – Strength/Weakness – Exceptional high-end pitching depth, especially from the left side. Position player depth is almost nonexistent, and there are few future MLB regular contributors beyond the impact group. – Depth Ratio – 0.93 – One I Like More – Blackburn. Perennially underrated by most evaluators, likely due in part to his doughy frame, but Blackburn has carried the load and dominated both A-ball levels. His stuff is solid, and his command is better. Success at the upper levels in 2014 will advance his case. – One I Like Less – RHP Chris Stratton – 2012 1st rounder was fairly pedestrian at Low-A Augusta last season, and just hasn’t been the same before or after his draft year at Mississippi State. – Observation – We’re getting down to only truly flawed systems at this point. The Giants have a genuine strength in impact-level starting pitching depth, and have come a long way since their system hit rock-bottom two or three years back. There just aren’t many future potential everyday position players on hand, however. 19 – Detroit Tigers – IMPACT (5) – 3B Nick Castellanos, LHP Robbie Ray, RHP Bruce Rondon, RHP Jake Thompson, 2B Devon Travis – Other 2013 Impact – None – Strength/Weakness – As usual, the Tigers possess more than their fair share of hard throwers, especially bullpen types. Middle infield depth is adequate, but overall position player depth is quite lacking. There aren’t many potential regulars behind the impact group. – Depth Ratio – 0.89 – One I Like More – Ray. While I am not about to suggest that I approve of the Doug Fister trade from the Tigers’ perspective, I will say that Ray is legit, and has a bright MLB future, most likely as a starter. He should slide into Drew Smyly’s 2013 role before long. – One I Like Less – UT Hernan Perez – Simply cannot see him hitting. Projects as an Eduardo Escobar type, a fringe utilityman. – Observation – I’m probably higher on this system than most, and believe that they are on the right track after a few years near the bottom of such rankings. Expect them to graduate most of their impact guys to the big leagues in 2014, likely lowering their 2015 ranking. 20 – New York Yankees – IMPACT (1) – C Gary Sanchez – Other 2013 Impact – RF Tyler Austin (non-impact MLB regular) – Strength/Weakness – With Sanchez, JR Murphy and Peter O’Brien, the Yankees possess solid catching depth, though one or two may need to move off of the position in the majors. There may not be a single future MLB regular starting pitcher in the system at present. – Depth Ratio – 1.13 – One I Like More – O’Brien. A future position switch is likely, but his power is very real and plays anywhere if he can make a bit more consistent contact. – One I Like Less – CF Mason Williams – Hasn’t hit a lick since undergoing shoulder surgery in 2012. A big leaguer, yes, thanks to his defensive ability, but can’t buy him as an impact guy or even as a regular until he shows more with the bat. – Observation – This system would rank even lower if not for a glut of interesting talent that toiled in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2014 – remember the names of SS Thairo Estrada, SS Abiatal Avelino, 3B Miguel Andujar and 2B Gosuke Katoh – and expect one or more to take a step forward this season. The Yanks are also primed to spend big bucks internationally this year to get their ranking up to snuff. 21 – Philadelphia Phillies – IMPACT (4) – LHP Jesse Biddle, SS JP Crawford, 3B Maikel Franco, RHP Severino Gonzalez – Other 2013 Impact – None – Strength/Weakness – No real areas of depth here, ranking is salvaged by a solid impact group. In fact, the ranking would be much lower if not for the drafting of stud SS prospect Crawford in the 1st round last season, coupled with Franco’s breakout season. There are few projected MLB regulars beyond the impact group, particularly among starting pitchers. – Depth Ratio – 0.82 – One I Like More – S.Gonzalez. He smoked three levels in 2013, finishing up with a solid AA outing at age 20. His VSL numbers evoke the Mariners’ Erasmo Ramirez, another extreme strikethrower with surprisingly good stuff, and Gonzalez got more done in his first year stateside. – One I Like Less – RHP Ethan Martin – Martin is what he has always been – a big arm just feeling his way pitching-wise. See him as a 6th-7th inning reliever at best, not an impact guy. – Observation – Another top-heavy system, but I cannot emphasize enough how much I like JP Crawford – think Jimmy Rollins. 22 – Oakland Athletics – IMPACT (2) – CF Billy McKinney, SS ADDISON RUSSELL – Other 2013 Impact – 3B Miles Head (no longer projects as a regular), RHP Dan Straily (MLB) – Strength/Weakness – Addison Russell is the system’s primary strength – without him this is a bottom-five system for sure. There are few future MLB regulars in the system, though the A’s solid track record in getting the most from their prospects’ talent offers hope. Beyond 2013 1st rounder McKinney, there is very little OF help. – Depth Ratio – 0.87 – One I Like More – LHP Chris Kohler – Really like the A’s 2013 supplemental 3rd rounder. Well-proportioned lefty with three now MLB offerings, dominated the hitter-friendly AZL rookie ball environment and should move up quickly. – One I Like Less – RHP Michael Ynoa – He’s finally healthy and showing flashes of the talent that got paid $4.25 million, but still has a very long road ahead. A solid lottery ticket, but not an impact prospect in my opinion. – Observation – Russell is the key to the system, he represents as much of a system’s total value as any prospect in the game. You can’t rank a system with a top-tier, premium position guy too close to the bottom of the pile. 23 – Tampa Bay Rays – IMPACT (2) – SS Hak-Ju Lee, RHP Jake Odorizzi – Other 2013 Impact – RHP Chris Archer (MLB), RHP Taylor Guerrieri (Inj; non-impact MLB regular), CF Wil Myers (MLB) – Strength/Weakness – As usual, the Rays’ starting pitching depth is solid, with RHPs Guerrieri, Alex Colome and recently acquired Matt Andriese behind Odorizzi. Beyond CF Andrew Toles, there is limited MLB regular quality OF. Longball power is not an organizational strength. – Depth Ratio – 1.13 – One I Like More – Andriese. Acquired from the Padres in a rare five-for-two prospect challenge trade, Andriese projects as an inning-eating, ground ball machine starter, and isn’t far away. – One I Like Less – LHP Enny Romero – I do like him, but he has posted poor K/BB ratios the last two seasons, and he doesn’t possess the contact management skills to overcome this. See him as more of a potential low-end starter. – Observation – The Rays system had reached its recent low-water mark, so they made that interesting depth-building deal with the Padres that should help both clubs. Still, it feels odd to see their system ranked so low, despite their many early-round draft whiffs in recent years. A David Price deal could shake things up a bit. 24 – Toronto Blue Jays – IMPACT (2) – RHP Roberto Osuna, RHP Marcus Stroman – Other 2013 Impact – RHP Aaron Sanchez (non-impact MLB regular) – Strength/Weakness – Starting pitching depth is solid, position player depth very lean behind SS Franklin Barreto. – Depth Ratio – 0.87 – One I Like More – Osuna. Yes, he had Tommy John surgery last summer, but this guy is electric. His large frame is somewhat of a concern, but he was on his way to becoming one of the game’s premier pitching prospects prior to his injury. – One I Like Less – CF DJ Davis – Sure, he can fly and flashes surprising pop, but he’s as raw as they come and struggles to make consistent contact. The ceiling is high, but his status as even a future MLB regular is far from certain at this point. – Observation – Not too long ago, this was an emerging top-tier system. Then they went all-in on 2013, made the Jose Reyes–Mark Buehrle trade with the Marlins, as well as a couple smaller win-now deals, and here we are. Their position player portfolio ranks among the game’s leanest, though the top handful of pitchers still offer plenty of hope for Jays fans. 25 – Chicago White Sox – IMPACT (1) – SS Marcus Semien – Other 2013 Impact – RF Courtney Hawkins (non-impact MLB regular) – Strength/Weakness – This system has actually made a solid step forward with the acquisition of 1B/3B Matt Davidson, who resides just outside the impact group, and a strong 2013 draft that netted them SS Tim Anderson, RHP Tyler Danish and CF Jacob May in the first three rounds. That said, the impact talent level is low, as even Semien barely rises to that level. – Depth Ratio – 1.09 – One I Like More – Semien. A gut feel guy here. He’s just a baseball player, good at everything, though not always looking pretty doing it. The type of guy who tends to find himself on the winning side. – One I Like Less – RHP Chris Beck – Though he fared better after a late-season promotion to AA, I just can’t wrap my head around his poor High-A K rate (57 in 119 IP). See him as a future pen guy. – Observation – After a long fallow period, this system is showing signs of life. Besides the mostly “performer” types listed above, traditional tools guys like 2B Micah Johnson and 2012 1st rounder Hawkins also offer hope for the future. 26 – Miami Marlins – IMPACT (3) – LHP Andrew Heaney, CF Jake Marisnick, 3B Colin Moran – Other 2013 Impact – RHP Jose Fernandez (MLB), LHP Justin Nicolino (non-impact MLB regular), CF Christian Yelich (MLB) – Strength/Weakness – Beyond the two impact hitters, there is nothing resembling a future MLB regular among the position players. On the other hand, pitching depth is quite solid, with Nicolino and fellow lefties Brian Flynn and Adam Conley lined up behind Heaney. RHP depth isn’t nearly as strong. – Depth Ratio – 0.82 – One I Like More – RHP Nick Wittgren – Has never overwhelmed stuff-wise, but it has always played up, to the tune of a 110/15 K/BB ratio in 89 IP as a pro, with an 0.91 ERA. A quick mover. – One I Like Less – 2B Avery Romero – A 2012 3rd round high school draftee at age 19, he has amassed just 34 full-season league at-bats since, with just five hits. Nothing to hang your hat on, tools-wise. Could fall through the cracks with another uneventful season. – Observation – Tough to be too hard on the Marlins, as their total pre-2013 teardown pushed a bunch of interesting prospects to the majors prematurely. They need to reload, particularly on the position player side, where pickings are slim behind Moran and Marisnick. 27 – Atlanta Braves – IMPACT- RHP Lucas Sims – Other 2013 Impact – RHP Julio Teheran (MLB) – Strength/Weakness – RHP is the closest thing to a strength in the system. There is very little offensive punch, as their two best position player prospects, C Christian Bethancourt and SS Jose Peraza, are both defensively oriented. – Depth Ratio – 0.89 – One I Like More – Peraza. Though his defense is ahead of his bat, he’s far from a zero offensively, hitting .288-.341-.371 with 64 steals as a teenager in a full-season league last season. Another such year makes him an impact guy. – One I Like Less – RHP JR Graham – Missed most of 2013 with a shoulder injury, and hasn’t logged an inning above AA at age 24. A ground ball guy, my guess is that he winds up in the pen as a 6th-7th inning type, not an impact type. – Observation – Can’t be too hard on the Braves either, as their collection of young, entrenched MLB talent ranks among the very best in the game. Their next high impact homegrown MLB hitter might not even be in their system yet, however. 28 – Washington Nationals – IMPACT (2) – RHP AJ Cole, RHP Lucas Giolito – Other 2013 Impact – CF Brian Goodwin (non-impact MLB regular), 2B Anthony Rendon (MLB) – Strength/Weakness – Two really good pitching prospects, including one potential stud in Giolito at the top, but quite possibly not a single other MLB regular anywhere else in the system. – Depth Ratio – 0.87 – One I Like More – SS/3B Zach Walters – Had a very odd offensive line in 2013, batting .253-.286-.517 with 29 HR and a poor 134/20 K/BB ratio. If he can smooth out the rough edges, that kind of power that can spot in the middle of the field will play at the MLB level. – One I Like Less – LHP Sammy Solis – Has been a medical train wreck going back to his amateur days, and has pitched all of 160 relatively ordinary innings in four years as a pro. The stuff has gone backward as well – I’m not counting on an MLB future for Solis. – Observation – The Nats swing for the fences in the draft, and value quality over quantity in their system, and it has served them well, as they turned high picks into Strasburg/Harper/Rendon/Giolito. Now that they’re picking lower, they need to find an alternate path to success. 29 – Milwaukee Brewers – IMPACT (0) – Other 2013 Impact – None – Strengths/Weaknesses – From the above two blank lines it is apparent that a lack of premium talent is the Brewers’ chief weakness. That said, they have made some recent strides in adding future non-impact MLB regular talent, with 2013 2nd round RHP Devin Williams a potential near-term graduate to the impact class. – Depth Ratio – 0.82 – One I Like More – Williams. Taijuan Walker immediately comes to mind when discussing Williams – both were raw, athletic, low-mileage, high-ceiling power guys when drafted. Williams is not in Walker’s class, but he can become this lean system’s top prospect in short order. – One I Like Less – RHP John Hellweg – Huge body, huge arm, running it up into the upper-90’s at times, but has simply never taken even a moderate step forward command-wise. Even his K rates have taken a hit in the upper minors. – Observation – The Brewers need to grow their own impact talent, and they simply do not have it on hand in the minor leagues at present. The addition of Williams and SS Orlando Arcia, 19, already a vet of a full year in a full-season league, are baby steps in the right direction. 30 – Los Angeles Angels – IMPACT (1) – RHP RJ Alvarez – Other 2013 Impact – None – Strengths/Weaknesses – Not much to discuss strength-wise, as their only impact prospect is a reliever. There may not be a single future regular MLB starting pitcher in the system. In Taylor Lindsey and Alex Yarbrough, they do possess a pair of 2B prospects who could eventually start in the major leagues. – Depth Ratio – 0.87 – One I Like More – Alvarez. He may be a reliever, but he’s a dominant one. He had 79 K in 49 High-A IP last season, and pushes 100 MPH with his heater. He’s a quick return on investment guy who could force his way to Anaheim quite soon. – One I Like Less – 1B CJ Cron – He’s an all-or-nothing masher whose utter lack of plate discipline has hindered him from reaching his power upside. Lacks a true position, and has a lengthy injury history. – Observation – Not much to see here, but drafting Mike Trout after over two-thirds of the teams in the game passed buys you an awful lot of mulligans. They have drafted some other solid guys in recent years – Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs, to name two – but have moved them to bolster their major league club.