Farm System Rankings: Overall (20-11)
Jimenez, Happ keep Cubs stocked; Benintendi ready to roll for Red Sox
By Alex Kraft / MiLB.com
With Spring Training underway and the 2017 season almost upon us, MiLB.com has been looking at the state of all 30 farm systems and ranking them according to certain changing criterion with each edition. Our final series of rankings focuses on the overall quality and quantity of top talent in each system in its current state. Part I of these rankings can be found here.
20. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays are a system on the rise thanks to a number of players who've boosted their stock of late. Third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., right-hander Sean Reid-Foley and shortstop Richard Urena have all forced their way into MLB.com's Top 100, while first baseman Rowdy Tellez and righty Conner Greene aren't far behind. Adding highly regarded catcher Reese McGuire and Colombian outfielder Harold Ramirez from Pittsburgh at last year's trade deadline has helped their talent pool. Though Toronto still doesn't have exceptional depth, particularly when it comes to pitching, it is a system trending in the right direction.
19. Washington Nationals
The Nationals took a big hit when they included Top 100 prospects Lucas Giolito (No. 11) and Reynaldo Lopez (46) in a swap with the White Sox for outfielder Adam Eaton. They held onto promising 19-year-old Victor Robles, however, and the athletic outfielder (No. 7 overall) is by far the most exciting player mentioned in these rankings thus far. Right-hander Erick Fedde (No. 60 overall) is having a solid spring and holds down the fort at the top of the Nats' pitching ranks, but with many of Washington's top prospects in the lower and middle levels, fans hoping to see a significant return from this system may have to wait a year or two.
18. Oakland Athletics
From top prospect Franklin Barreto to Texas League home run king Matt Chapman, the upper levels of Oakland's farm system are highlighted by some offensively potent infielders. Adding right-handers Grant Holmes, Frankie Montas and Jharel Cotton from the Dodgers at the deadline and drafting lefty A.J. Puk in the first round of 2016 went a long way toward solidifying the pitching side of the system. Still, outfield remains a major weakness. Cuban 17-year-old Lazaro Armenteros, one of last year's top international signings, is the only full-time outfielder of note among the club's top 20 prospects.
17. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs continue to churn out talented young position players at such a rate that they barely skipped a beat after trading superstar shortstop Gleyber Torres to the Yankees at the deadline. Eloy Jimenez (No. 13 overall), Ian Happ (No. 28) and Albert Almora Jr. (No. 75) represent the next wave of top-tier talent for the defending champions to choose from and add to their exciting young core. Dylan Cease (No. 77) leads their pitching prospects after a strong year with Class A Short Season Eugene, but a lack of depth, especially in the upper levels, ultimately places this system in the middle of the pack for these rankings.
16. Cleveland Indians
After all the hype that surrounded the Indians' system in 2016 -- from Francisco Mejia's historic hitting streak to Ryan Merritt's playoff heroics to Triston McKenzie's breakout year -- the club finds itself in the exact same spot it held in last year's rankings. A lack of top-tier pitching is primarily to blame, though that could change if 2015 first-round pick Brady Aiken can rediscover his form after returning from Tommy John surgery last season and McKenzie can carry his 2016 results over a full season. Cleveland's position-player contingent is deep and versatile, led by Mejia and five-tool center fielder Bradley Zimmer.
15. Boston Red Sox
It's a testament to the organization's scouting and player development operations that even after all the moves the Red Sox have made this offseason to bolster the big league club, they still have a healthy crop of top-tier talent on the farm. No. 1 overall prospect Andrew Benintendi and slugging third baseman Rafael Devers (No. 17) are the undisputed leaders in that regard, but behind them the system is littered with solid hitters across the diamond. Trading away flamethrowers Michael Kopech and Anderson Espinoza thinned out Boston's high-end pitching talent, however, leaving 2016 first-rounder Jason Groome (No. 41 overall) as the lone standout in that regard.
14. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies provide the extreme example of a system loaded in the field but thin on the mound. The organization placed fifth in our position player rankings on the strength of breakout sluggers Dylan Cozens and Rhys Hoskins as well as top 100 mainstays J.P. Crawford, Jorge Alfaro and No. 1 overall pick Mickey Moniak. Yet Philadelphia landed in 23rd in our pitching rankings, marking the largest differential of any team. Of course, part of that has to do with Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin and Jake Thompson all being big leaguers now. There aren't any pitchers currently in the system that stand out the way that trio did. Position player-wise the Phillies can stack up with just about any system in the game, but their lack of star pitching keeps them from claiming a top 10 spot here.
13. New York Mets
With Amed Rosario (No. 5 overall) and Dominic Smith (No. 63) both knocking on the door to the big leagues, the Mets could have a glut of young hitting talent on their hands with fellow prospects Gavin Cecchini, Brandon Nimmo and T.J. Rivera already seeing time in The Show. On the flip side, the Mets lack a true top-100 arm, athough Robert Gsellman is in the conversation after his Major League performance, and the rest of their top pitching prospects are concentrated in the lower levels. There are still some solid under-the-radar hurlers to look forward to, especially with breakout lefties P.J. Conlon and Thomas Szapucki in the fold and 2016 first-rounder Justin Dunn poised to make his full-season debut.
12. St. Louis Cardinals
Unlike many of the teams listed above, the Cardinals come into 2017 with an impressive array of young pitching, even with top prospect Alex Reyes lost for the season following Tommy John surgery. Luke Weaver (No. 68 overall) leads the pack, while Sandy Alcantara and Jack Flaherty stand out at the lower levels. Breakout seasons from catcher Carson Kelly and outfielder Harrison Bader helped St. Louis' position players close the talent gap a bit (they placed 19th on our list, up from 28th a season ago) and become an even more balanced and formidable system. With Reyes keeping his prospect eligibility, there's a chance the Cardinals could crack the top 10 next season, if they develop a few more bats.
11. Cincinnati Reds
This may be the year the rebuilding Reds start introducing their fans to their future core. Of their four Top 100 prospects, left-hander Amir Garrett, outfielder Jesse Winker and righty Robert Stephenson all played in either Triple-A or the big leagues last year. Nick Senzel, the second overall pick in last year's Draft and the fourth member of that contingent, could reach the big leagues as quickly as anyone in that Draft class. Beyond its big four, Cincinnati has built up a deep and balanced, if not spectacular, supporting cast.