Farm System Rankings: Overall (10-1)
Swanson, Braves capture top spot; Moncada leads White Sox rebuild
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 focuses on the overall quality and quantity of top talent in each system in its current state. Part I can be found here and Part II can be found here. The top 10 are below:
10. Houston Astros
An already deep system for pitchers got even deeper when the Astros selected right-hander Forrest Whitley with the 17th overall pick in last year's Draft. Houston's pitching corps is loaded with talent at every level, from 19-year-old Whitley to 30-year-old Pacific Coast League All-Star closer James Hoyt with right-handers Francis Martes (baseball'sNo. 20 overall prospect) and David Paulino (No. 54) the best of the bunch. With Alex Bregman and A.J. Reed now in Houston, the Astros' best position players are primarily in the outfield, led by 2015 first-rounder Kyle Tucker (No. 35 overall). It's not a spectacular hitting group (in fact, it placed 20th in our rankings), but the pitching is good enough to lift Houston into the top 10 here.
9. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays have quietly built a formidable system. A talented group of upper-level pitchers, led by screwballer Brent Honeywell, got even deeper when they added dominating righty Jose De Leon to the mix in the Logan Forsythe trade with the Dodgers. Don't sleep on their position players, either, especially if 20-year-old star shortstop Willy Adames can build on his stellar 2016 season. Tampa Bay also addressed a glaring weakness in its outfield when they added Joshua Lowe, Jake Fraley and Ryan Boldt in the first two rounds of the Draft.
8. San Diego Padres
It's been quite a turnaround for the Padres, who engineered the third-largest improvement of any system by ascending from the No. 21 spot in last year's overall rankings. The acquisition of Anderson Espinoza from Boston and Josh Naylor and Chris Paddack from Miami at the trade deadline provided a big boost. Before that, the club had landed highly touted international prospects Adrian Morejon and Jorge Ona and selected pitcher Cal Quantrill in the first round of the Draft. Coupled with standout seasons from California League MVP Luis Urias and Pacific Coast League MVP Hunter Renfroe -- not to mention top prospect Manuel Margot (No. 23 overall) -- the future is suddenly very bright in San Diego with four Top 100 prospects and perhaps several others on the cusp.
7. Colorado Rockies
The best word to describe the Rockies system is solid. Top prospect Brendan Rodgers could be a star one day, and 2016 fourth overall pick Riley Pint has the stuff to be in that conversation as well. That pair is backed by a number of steady performers, both in the field and on the mound, some of whom (Jeff Hoffman, Raimel Tapia and German Marquez) -- already have had a cup of coffee in the big leagues. Colorado's system doesn't really have a glaring weakness, and while its ceiling may not be as high as the organizations below, its floor probably is.
6. Los Angeles Dodgers
Since finishing atop these rankings a year ago, the Dodgers lost one of their top pitching prospects in the aforementioned De Leon trade with Tampa Bay and two of baseball's top prospects -- Corey Seager and Julio Urias -- to the big leagues. Yet Los Angeles avoids a big drop here, thanks to the rise of Cody Bellinger, Alex Verdugo and Willie Calhoun. All three forced their way into spots on the top 100 prospects list after forming a stellar trio in the middle of Double-A Tulsa's lineup. Though both are younger and less experienced, righties Yadier Alvarez and Walker Buehler could fill the holes left on the mound by Urias and De Leon.
5. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers' system runs as deep as anyone's on this list. No. 18 overall prospect Lewis Brinson, acquired at the deadline from the Rangers in the Jonathan Lucroy trade, may look like their only prospect with off-the-chart tools, but first-rounder Corey Ray, top pitching prospect Josh Hader and standout infielder Isan Diaz give plenty of reasons for excitement. Beyond the big names, the Brewers own arguably the deepest assortment of non-top 100 talent around, led by newly acquired infielder Mauricio Dubon, steady righty Brandon Woodruff and 2016 second-round pick Lucas Erceg.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
Unlike the Brewers, the Pirates are loaded at the top. Pittsburgh is one of two teams -- Atlanta is the other -- to carry two top-10 overall prospects in right-hander Tyler Glasnow and outfielder Austin Meadows. Beyond that duo is an enviable second tier featuring solid-hitting first baseman Josh Bell and a pair of former high Draft picks: right-hander Mitch Keller and infielder Kevin Newman, who put up eye-popping numbers in 2016. The talent slips a bit farther down the ladder, but few teams can match the Pirates' top-end players.
3. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox claim the title of "most improved system" after climbing 17 places from No. 20 in last year's edition. Of Chicago's top 10 prospects, all but Carson Fulmer have been added in the last year. The biggest splashes came in blockbuster deals with the Nationals and Red Sox in December. Those moves undoubtedly strengthened the club's pitching with Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Michael Kopech joining the mix, and picking up second overall prospect Yoan Moncada was a boon for the future of the lineup. If the White Sox can deepen the rest of their system beyond this new foundation, they could force their way into the conversation with the next two teams on this list.
2. New York Yankees
Gleyber Torres is the new face of the Yankees' youth movement. MLB.com's top-rated shortstop prospect headlines baseball's deepest group of position players, with Clint Frazier, Blake Rutherford, Aaron Judge and Jorge Mateo all claiming spots on MLB.com Top 100 list. Although its top five prospects are all position players, New York has well-rounded pitching that falls a bit short of the team in the top spot on this list. The potential for a healthy season from 2015 first-round pick James Kaprielian gives New York hope for a future top-of-the-line starter, while Justus Sheffield and Albert Abreu should also cause some excitement in the Bronx.
1. Atlanta Braves
The Braves played runner-up to the Dodgers in the battle for the top spot in our rankings last season, but it would be hard to deny them this year. As detailed in our pitching rankings, Atlanta has by far the deepest collection of arms of any organization. That group only got deeper when the Braves added righty Ian Anderson with the third overall pick in 2016 and traded for Mariners lefty Luiz Gohara. Even with all that pitching, the Braves' top three prospects are dynamic young infielders Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies and 17-year-old international signee Kevin Maitan. Atlanta checks every box for a winning farm system: balance, star power, youth, experience, versatility and depth.