MLB Franchise Power Rankings: What Teams Are Best Positioned for Future Success?

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistAugust 1, 2013

MLB Franchise Power Rankings: What Teams Are Best Positioned for Future Success?

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    Every MLB team approaches building its roster in a different way. Large-market teams can offer contracts in free agency to help them put together a contender. Small-market teams, on the other hand, must rely on smart investments and homegrown talent.

    As a result, some teams are set up more for future success than others. While some teams go for a quick fix and use their young talent as a way to trade for veterans, others stockpile prospects to make a run at sustainable contention.

    With that in mind, here is a look at where the 30 MLB teams rank as far as their chances at future success are concerned.

    To put this together, I first examined what the team's current core of players looks like. I considered core players to be big leaguers who are key contributors now and will likely remain key contributors three years from now and beyond.

    Next, I looked at the team's farm system and made note of what prospects profile not just as contributors, but as impact big-league players.

    Finally, I looked at the team's long-term commitments as of now, noting anyone that was signed beyond the 2014 season.

    With all of that taken into account, here is a look at where all 30 teams rank for future success.

     

    *Note: Contract information taken from Cot's Baseball Contracts and include buyout totals on player options.

30. Chicago White Sox

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    SP Chris Sale (24)
    SP Hector Santiago (25)
    SP Jose Quintana (24)
    RP Addison Reed (24)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    SP Erik Johnson (Triple-A)
    OF Courtney Hawkins (High-A)
    SS Tim Anderson (Single-A)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    SP Chris Sale ($31.65 million through 2017)
    SP John Danks ($47.25 million through 2016)
    SS Alexei Ramirez ($20.5 million through 2015)

     

    Team Overview

    The White Sox began what may very well be a long and painful rebuilding process with their deadline trade of Jake Peavy, but they have a lot of work to do to get back to a sustainable level of success.

    The Chris Sale extension was a fantastic move, and their young closer, Addison Reed, should continue to climb the ranks of the elite ninth-inning arms in the game, but there's really not much else to build around long-term.

    They'll be out from under some bad contracts at the end of the 2014 season, but salary room may not be enough to turn things around quickly, as they need an influx of young, high-end talent throughout the organization.

29. Philadelphia Phillies

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    1B Ryan Howard (33)
    LF Domonic Brown (25)
    CF Ben Revere (25)
    SP Cliff Lee (34)
    SP Cole Hamels (29)
    SP Jonathan Pettibone (23)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    3B Cody Asche (MLB)
    SP Jesse Biddle (Double-A)
    3B Maikel Franco (Double-A)
    SS J.P. Crawford (Rookie League)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contracts)

    SP Cole Hamels ($130.5 million through 2018)
    1B Ryan Howard ($85 million through 2016)
    SP Cliff Lee ($62.5 million through 2015)
    RP Jonathan Papelbon ($26 million through 2015)

     

    Team Overview

    After a run of legitimate title contention, age has caught up with the Phillies of late, and they're now in a position where they have to start rebuilding as a result.

    They'll have some payroll room freed up by the end of next season, but the farm system is incredibly thin, so rebuilding may not be an easy task.

    Dealing Cliff Lee could net a solid prospect return, and Domonic Brown looks like a piece the team can build around, but it could be a trying next couple years in Philadelphia as they transition to the next era of players.

28. Los Angeles Angels

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    1B Albert Pujols (33)
    LF Mark Trumbo (27)
    CF Mike Trout (21)
    RF Josh Hamilton (32)
    SP Jered Weaver (30)
    SP C.J. Wilson (32)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    3B Kaleb Cowart (Double-A)
    1B C.J. Cron (Double-A)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    1B Albert Pujols ($212 million through 2021)
    RF Josh Hamilton ($107.6 million through 2017)
    SP C.J. Wilson ($55.5 million through 2016)
    SP Jered Weaver ($54.6 million through 2016)
    SS Erick Aybar ($26.25 million through 2016)
    2B Howie Kendrick ($19.55 million through 2015)
    C Chris Iannetta ($10.5 million through 2015)

     

    Team Overview

    With perhaps the worst farm system in baseball and a ton of money tied up in four players through the 2016 season, the Angels are in a tough spot, especially considering how poorly they've played the past two years.

    The team can't keep spending like it has, and it needs high-priced sluggers Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton to earn at least a small portion of their salaries moving forward if it's going to have any chance.

    This past offseason showed that piecing together the back end of a rotation with sub-par starters isn't going to cut it, and they really should have re-signed Zack Greinke rather than signing Hamilton. But hey, Mike Trout is going to be a lot of fun to watch for the next decade, right?

27. New York Yankees

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    2B Robinson Cano (30)
    LF Brett Gardner (29)
    SP CC Sabathia (33)
    SP Ivan Nova (26)
    RP David Robertson (28)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    OF Tyler Austin (Double-A)
    C Gary Sanchez (High-A)
    CF Mason Williams (High-A)
    3B Eric Jagielo (Low-A)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contracts)

    3B Alex Rodriguez ($90 million through 2017)
    SP CC Sabathia ($76 million through 2016)
    1B Mark Teixeira ($69.375 million through 2016)

     

    Team Overview

    The Yankees have virtually nothing in the way of young players to build around moving forward, and their current core of veteran stars has declined significantly.

    After 2014, they'll only be on the hook for Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira, so they could look to make some splash signings then. As far as next season is concerned, though, they could struggle through many of the same issues they have this season.

    Robinson Cano will no doubt get a monster extension this offseason, and there are a handful of high-upside offensive prospects in the system, but the team needs to add to its pitching staff and won't have much wiggle room until 2014.

    The question is, will the Yankees get themselves into the same issues by handing out a bunch of big-money, long-term deals?

26. Milwaukee Brewers

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    C Jonathan Lucroy (27)
    SS Jean Segura (23)
    LF Ryan Braun (29)
    CF Carlos Gomez (27)
    SP Yovani Gallardo (27)
    SP Wily Peralta (24)
    SP Tyler Thornburg (24)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    SP Jimmy Nelson (Triple-A)
    SP Taylor Jungmann (Double-A)
    3B Nick Delmonico (High-A)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    LF Ryan Braun ($117 million through 2020)
    CF Carlos Gomez ($24 million through 2016)
    C Jonathan Lucroy ($9.55 million through 2016)
    SP Kyle Lohse ($22 million through 2015)

     

    Team Overview

    It's been a rough season in Milwaukee, but some good has come of it with the emergence of shortstop Jean Segura and center fielder Carlos Gomez as legitimate stars. The roster, however, is a question mark moving forward.

    How Ryan Braun bounces back from his PED suspension will be a big factor in the Brewers' future success, but figuring out the pitching staff will be perhaps the biggest deciding factor. 

    They've trimmed payroll and could look to move starters Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse in the offseason to free up even more salary room. Either way, with a thin farm system and a rough performance this season, it looks like they're headed for a rebuild.

25. Toronto Blue Jays

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    1B Edwin Encarnacion (30)
    SS Jose Reyes (30)
    3B Brett Lawrie (23)
    RF Jose Bautista (32)
    RP Brett Cecil (27)
    RP Steve Delabar (30)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    SP Marcus Stroman (Double-A)
    SP Sean Nolin (Double-A)
    SP Aaron Sanchez (High-A)
    SP Roberto Osuna (Single-A)
    SP Daniel Norris (Single-A)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    SS Jose Reyes ($82 million through 2017)
    SP Mark Buehrle ($39 million through 2015)
    RF Jose Bautista ($29 million trhough 2015)
    SP R.A. Dickey ($25 million through 2015)
    1B Edwin Encarnacion ($21 million through 2015)
    SP Ricky Romero ($16.1 million through 2015)
    IF Maicer Izturis ($7 million through 2015)

     

    Team Overview

    After going all in this past offseason, the Blue Jays have been a major disappointment this season, and they essentially mortgaged what could have been a bright future for a chance to win now.

    They’ll still have a solid veteran core in place the next couple seasons, so they’ll have a chance to contend if they can play up to their potential, but long-term, the franchise took several steps backwards to improve in the short-term.

    Toronto has a solid crop of pitching talent in the minors, though Aaron Sanchez is the only legitimate ace-caliber arm. But if those guys can develop as expected, the Blue Jays should have some solid building blocks/trade chips to work with. Still, they’re going to need to win now.

24. Texas Rangers

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    2B Ian Kinsler (31)
    SS Elvis Andrus (24)
    SS Jurickson Profar (20)
    3B Adrian Beltre (34)
    CF Leonys Martin (25)
    SP Yu Darvish (26)
    SP Derek Holland (26)
    SP Martin Perez (22)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    SS Luis Sardinas (High-A)
    2B Rougned Odor (High-A)
    C Jorge Alfaro (Single-A)
    3B Joey Gallo (Single-A)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    2B Ian Kinsler ($57 million through 2017)
    SP Matt Harrison ($41.6 million through 2017)
    SP Yu Darvish ($41 million through 2017)
    SP Derek Holland ($24.3 million through 2016)
    3B Adrian Beltre ($35 million through 2015)
    CF Leonys Martin ($8.5 million through 2015)

     

    Team Overview

    The Rangers suffered some major losses last offseason and no doubt have some holes on the roster this season, but they have managed to overcome them to remain competitive in the AL West.

    Offensive staples Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre and Ian Kinsler are getting older, and their farm system is not exactly stockpiled with high-end talent. The team will have to decide how to get Jurickson Profar everyday at-bats, and it could mean moving Kinsler or Elvis Andrus to upgrade somewhere else.

    The pitching trio of Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Martin Perez should be solid long-term, but the team could use another frontline arm. How well it's able to contend moving forward will hinge greatly on what it's able to do in free agency, but its window of legitimate title contention seems to have closed for the time being.

23. Kansas City Royals

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    C Salvador Perez (23)
    1B Eric Hosmer (23)
    3B Mike Moustakas (24)
    LF Alex Gordon (29)
    DH Billy Butler (27)
    RP Kelvin Herrera (23)
    RP Greg Holland (27)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    SP Yordano Ventura (Triple-A)
    SP Kyle Zimmer (Double-A)
    CF Bubba Starling (Single-A)
    SS Adalberto Mondesi (Single-A)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    C Salvador Perez ($5.25 million through 2016)
    LF Alex Gordon ($22.5 million through 2015)
    SP Jeremy Guthrie ($20 million through 2015)
    SP Wade Davis ($7.3 million through 2015)
    SS Alcides Escobar ($6.5 million through 2015)

     

    Team Overview

    The Royals made a franchise-altering move this past offseason when they dealt top prospects Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery to the Tampa Bay Rays for James Shields and Wade Davis, and unless they can make the postseason before Shields' contract is up at the end of 2014, the move will be a big loss for them.

    With Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas falling short of expectations to this point, the offensive core does not look quite as strong as it was expected to be by now. However, catcher Salvador Perez is already a star and was wisely locked up for next to nothing.

    Right-handers Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer should make an impact soon out of the farm system, but aside from that, the Royals don't have much in they way of high-end young talent, whether it's as trade chips or big league contributors. The Rays trade was an all-in type move, and it will be interesting to see where this team stands and what it does at the end of next season.

22. San Francisco Giants

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    C Buster Posey (26)
    1B Brandon Belt (25)
    SS Brandon Crawford (26)
    3B Pablo Sandoval (26)
    RF Hunter Pence (30)
    SP Madison Bumgarner (24)
    SP Matt Cain (28)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    SP Kyle Crick (High-A)
    SP Chris Stratton (Single-A)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    C Buster Posey ($167 million through 2021)
    SP Matt Cain ($90.8 million through 2017)
    SP Madison Bumgarner ($32.55 million through 2017)
    CF Angel Pagan ($31.75 million through 2016)
    2B Marco Scutaro ($13.3 million through 2015)
    RP Jeremy Affeldt ($12 million through 2015)
    RP Santiago Casilla ($10.5 million through 2015)

     

    Team Overview

    It's been a rough season in San Franciso, particularly on the pitching side of things, but the team still has a good core of players in place to contend.

    Locking up Madison Bumgarner was a great move, but the Giants need Matt Cain to live up to the hefty contract they gave him and find a third starter to shore up the staff.

    Re-signing Hunter Pence in the offseason will be a priority, as this team needs to remain in win-now mode with a thin farm system making the future somewhat cloudy. For now, though, it should be able to bounce back and contend in 2014.

21. Cleveland Indians

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    C Carlos Santana (27)
    2B Jason Kipnis (26)
    SS Asdrubal Cabrera (27)
    LF Michael Brantley (26)
    SP Justin Masterson (28)
    SP Zach McAllister (25)
    RP Cody Allen (24)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    SP Trevor Bauer (Triple-A)
    SP Danny Salazar (Triple-A)
    SS Francisco Lindor (Double-A)
    RF Tyler Naquin (High-A)
    OF Clint Frazier (Rookie League)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    1B Nick Swisher ($45 million through 2016)
    CF Michael Bourn ($41 million through 2016)
    C Carlos Santana ($19.55 million through 2016)

     

    Team Overview

    The Indians' core of big league players are all entering their prime now, but the team may not have enough young talent coming up through the minors to reinforce that core and make a legitimate run at a title.

    Cleveland needs to add an impact arm in free agency and have both Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar reach their potential within the next year or so if it's going to make the most of this window of talent.

    Extending Jason Kipnis would be wise, though his double play partner, Asdrubal Cabrera, will hit free agency first. If the Indians were a big-market team capable of buying two or three big-name free agents to fill in the blanks, they may have a chance, but they already spent big last year to add Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn.

20. San Diego Padres

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    1B Yonder Alonso (26)
    2B Jedd Gyorko (24)
    SS Everth Cabrera (26)
    3B Chase Headley (29)
    SP Ian Kennedy (28)
    SP Andrew Cashner (26)
    RP Luke Gregerson (29)
    RP Huston Street (29)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    SP Casey Kelly (Double-A)
    OF Rymer Liriano (Double-A)
    C Austin Hedges (High-A)
    SP Max Fried (Single-A)
    RF Hunter Renfroe (Low-A)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    CF Cameron Maybin ($21.3 million through 2016)
    LF Carlos Quentin ($17.5 million through 2015)
    SP Cory Luebke ($10.25 million through 2015)

     

    Team Overview

    The Padres have as deep a farm system as any in baseball, and while it's somewhat thin on frontline prospects, that depth could be utilized on the trade market moving forward. 

    There is a solid offensive core in place, though the team will need to decide whether or not to extend Chase Headley, and the real question is whether or not it can find enough pitching to be legitimate contenders.

    Max Fried looks like he'll be a frontline arm, and the Padres just traded for Ian Kennedy in hopes he returns to ace form. If they can acquire a third top-tier pitcher, they could make some real noise in the NL West in the near future.

19. Miami Marlins

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    Core Big League Players (age)

    RF Giancarlo Stanton (23)
    OF Marcell Ozuna (22)
    SP Jose Fernandez (21)
    SP Jacob Tuner (22)
    SP Nathan Eovaldi (23)
    SP Henderson Alvarez (23)
    RP Steve Cishek (27)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    OF Christian Yelich (MLB)
    OF Jake Marisnick (MLB)
    SP Andrew Heaney (Single-A)
    SP Justin Nicolino (Double-A)
    SP Adam Conley (Double-A)
    3B Colin Moran (Single-A)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    None

     

    Team Overview

    For as much slack as the Marlins took for blowing things up after a disappointing season last year, the team has put itself in a good position long-term as a result.

    What it winds up doing with Giancarlo Stanton will be as big a decision as the organization has ever faced, but even if it trades him, it looks like it'll have a talented core of players moving forward.

    The Marlins have an abundance of young pitching, led by 21-year-old phenom Jose Fernandez, and they could use some of those arms as trade chips once they approach contention again. That ability to trade, coupled with a ton of payroll room, leaves the Marlins in a much better position than many realize. 

     

18. Houston Astros

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    C Jason Castro (26)
    2B Jose Altuve (23)
    SP Jarred Cosart (23)
    SP Jordan Lyles (22)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    CF George Springer (Triple-A)
    1B Jonathan Singleton (Triple-A)
    SP Mike Foltynewicz (Double-A)
    2B Delino DeShields (High-A)
    SS Carlos Correa (Single-A)
    SP Mark Appel (Single-A)
    SP Lance McCullers (Single-A)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    2B Jose Altuve ($12.5 million through 2017)

     

    Team Overview

    With the trades of Bud Norris and Jose Veras, and Carlos Pena being designated for assignment, the Astros' highest-paid player is now Altuve, who is making $3.1 million this season. There may be no team in baseball history that has completely torn down a roster the way the Astros have.

    It's what the organization needed to do, though, and while it doesn't have much in the way of impact players at the big league level to build around, it has quickly built up one of the top farm systems in baseball through some solid drafting.

    It's going to be a long process, and it could be another couple years before this team even manages to avoid 100 losses, but it's doing things the right way. Once the Astros get back to a level of contention, they should be good for years.

17. Colorado Rockies

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    C Wilin Rosario (24)
    SS Troy Tulowitzki (28)
    3B Nolan Arenado (22)
    LF Carlos Gonzalez (27)
    CF Dexter Fowler (27)
    SP Jhoulys Chacin (25)
    SP Tyler Chatwood (23)
    RP Rex Brothers (25)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    SP Eddie Butler (High-A)
    SP Tyler Anderson (High-A)
    SS Rosell Herrera (Single-A)
    CF David Dahl (Single-A)
    C Tom Murphy (Single-A)
    SP Jonathan Gray (Rookie League)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    SS Troy Tulowitzki ($138 million through 2020)
    LF Carlos Gonzalez ($65.216 million through 2017)

     

    Team Overview

    On offense, the Rockies seem to be set for the future, with superstars Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez both locked up, and youngsters Wilin Rosario and Nolan Arenado looking like future stars as well. 

    Pitching, on the other hand, remains the Achilles heel of this organization, and aside from Jhoulys Chacin, it has no real sure thing moving forward. Tyler Chatwood has been great this season, and it has a trio of high-end pitching prospects led by 2013 No. 3 overall pick Jonathan Gray, but it'll need at least two of those guys to turn into legitimate frontline arms.

    With a stocked farm system and no significant contracts to deal with aside from the lengthy deals of Tulowitzki and Gonzalez, the Rockies are in a great position to trade and sign free agents moving forward. They just have to be smart about how they invest and make sure they focus on the pitching side of things.

16. Minnesota Twins

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    C Joe Mauer (30)
    LF Oswaldo Arcia (22)
    CF Aaron Hicks (23)
    RP Glen Perkins (30)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    SP Kyle Gibson (MLB)
    3B Miguel Sano (Double-A)
    SP Alex Meyer (Double-A)
    2B Eddie Rosario (Double-A)
    SP Trevor May (Double-A)
    CF Byron Buxton (High-A)
    SP Jose Berrios (Single-A)
    SP Kohl Stewart (Rookie League)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    C Joe Mauer ($115 million through 2018)
    RP Glen Perkins ($7.8 million through 2015)

     

    Team Overview

    Outside of their long-term deal to catcher Joe Mauer, which runs through 2018, the Twins have virtually nothing in the way of salary commitments beyond 2014, and they began rebuilding last offseason with the trades of Denard Span and Ben Revere.

    Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton are among the best prospects in all of baseball, and both profile as potential superstars moving forward. They're far from the only young talent in the system, though, as the organization has some of the best young talent in all of baseball.

    The Twins still need to find a veteran starter or two to front their staff, but the future looks bright in Minnesota, and a couple years from now, they could have a legitimate shot at contention once again. 

15. New York Mets

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    3B David Wright (30)
    SP Matt Harvey (24)
    SP Zack Wheeler (23)
    SP Jon Niese (26)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    2B Wilmer Flores (Triple-A)
    SP Noah Syndergaard (Double-A)
    C Travis d'Arnaud (Double-A)
    OF Cesar Puello (Double-A)
    OF Brandon Nimmo (Single-A)
    1B Dominic Smith (Rookie League)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    3B David Wright ($127 million through 2020)
    SP Jon Niese ($21.65 million through 2016)

     

    Team Overview

    The Mets have unloaded a ton of payroll over the past couple seasons and will be out from under Johan Santana's $25.5 million salary at the end of the season as they begin to push back toward contention.

    With captain David wright locked up long-term, and the young pitching trio of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and prospect Noah Syndergaard set to lead the staff long-term, there is plenty of reason for optimism.

    Hitting prospects Wilmer Flores and Travis d'Arnaud are both close to making an impact at the big league level, but the team will need to add a bat or two. It'll have the money to spend in free agency, though, and by 2015, it could be in a position to contend for a while.

14. Detroit Tigers

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    1B Prince Fielder (29)
    3B Miguel Cabrera (30)
    CF Austin Jackson (26)
    SP Justin Verlander (30)
    SP Max Scherzer (29)
    SP Anibal Sanchez (29)
    RP Drew Smyly (24)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    LF Nick Castellanos (Triple-A)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    SP Justin Verlander ($168 million through 2020)
    1B Prince Fielder ($160 million through 2019)
    SP Anibal Sanchez ($71.2 million through 2017)
    3B Miguel Cabrera ($44 million through 2015)

     

    Team Overview

    The Tigers are built to win now, and depending on whether or not they re-sign Miguel Cabrera, they could have roughly $70 million committed to three players through the end of the 2018 season. Add in a likely extension for Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez's contract, and you could have five guys making over $100 million per season.

    Veterans like Torii Hunter, Jhonny Peralta and Victor Martinez are already on the decline, and aside from outfielder Nick Castellanos, the team really has nothing in the way of prospects capable of stepping in to make an impact in the big leagues.

    The Tigers among the most talented teams in all of baseball right now and should be legitimate title contenders for the next couple years, but after that, they may have a hard time filling out the roster given their likely payroll commitments.

13. Baltimore Orioles

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    Core Big League Players (age)

    C Matt Wieters (27)
    1B Chris Davis (27)
    3B Manny Machado (21)
    CF Adam Jones (28)
    SP Chris Tillman (25)
    SP Wei-Yin Chen (28)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    SP Kevin Gausman (Triple-A)
    2B Jonathan Schoop (Triple-A)
    SP Dylan Bundy (Double-A)
    SP Eduardo Rodriguez (Double-A)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    CF Adam Jones ($76.67 million through 2018)

     

    Team Overview

    The Orioles have done a fantastic job cultivating homegrown talent, and the Erik Bedard trade that brought them Adam Jones and Chris Tillman just keeps on giving, but their pitching staff will continue to be the question mark moving forward.

    With only Jones under contract through 2014, they'll have some big decisions to make about what to do with their payroll flexibility. Extensions to Matt Wieters, Chris Davis and perhaps even Manny Machado—if they can lock him up for relatively cheap—will eat up some of that money.

    What the team really needs is for top prospects Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy to realize their vast potential and lead the staff alongside Tillman. The offensive core is there, but the O's just need the pitching to back it up, and those two guys have the potential to be special.

12. Oakland Athletics

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    SS Jed Lowrie (29)
    3B Josh Donaldson (27)
    LF Yoenis Cespedes (27)
    SP Jarrod Parker (24)
    SP A.J. Griffin (25)
    SP Tommy Milone (26)
    SP Dan Straily (24)
    RP Ryan Cook (26)
    RP Sean Doolittle (26)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    OF Michael Choice (Triple-A)
    SP Sonny Gray (Triple-A)
    SS Addison Russell (High-A)
    SP Michael Ynoa (High-A)
    1B Matthew Olson (Single-A)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contracts)

    LF Yoenis Cespedes ($21 million through 2015)

     

    Team Overview

    It comes as no surprise that the Athletics aren't locked into any long-term deals, as they continue to be among the best teams in baseball at developing talent and flipping it for prospects before they have to pay them.

    Their farm system has some high-end talent, and outfielder Michael Choice and right-hander Sonny Gray are both close to making a big league contribution. They also have some pieces in the minor leagues that they could look to move in an effort to add some veteran talent to their young roster.

    The young pitching staff is the strength of the team and should only get better as they continue to develop. Expect this team to keep doing what it's been doing for the past several years and to remain in contention in the process. 

11. Atlanta Braves

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    C/OF Evan Gattis (26)
    1B Freddie Freeman (23)
    SS Andrelton Simmons (23)
    3B Chris Johnson (28)
    RF Jason Heyward (23)
    SP Julio Teheran (22)
    SP Mike Minor (25)
    SP Kris Medlen (27)
    RP Craig Kimbrel (25)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    SP Alex Wood (MLB)
    C Christian Bethancourt (Double-A)
    SP J.R. Graham (Double-A)
    SP Lucas Sims (Single-A)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    CF B.J. Upton ($62.2 million through 2017)
    LF Justin Upton ($29.166 million through 2015)
    2B Dan Uggla ($26.4 million through 2015)

     

    Team Overview

    The Braves have a terrific reputation for cultivating pitching talent, and a trio of homegrown arms in Mike Minor, Kris Medlen and Julio Teheran will likely lead the way for the next several years. The offensive core, on the other hand, is a bit of a question mark.

    First baseman Freddie Freeman looks like a superstar in the making, and Andrelton Simmons is already the best defensive shortstop in the game, but what else do they have? Jason Heyward has been a flop to this point, though there's still plenty of time to turn it around, and the team may have a future star at catcher in Christian Bethancourt, but there are still a few pieces missing.

    That is, unless the Upton brothers can turn things around and start living up to expectations, but the B.J. Upton deal in particular looks like it will haunt this team for its duration. Still, the Braves are among the best in the business at drafting and cultivating, and they should have some money to work with in the years ahead, so expect them to remain competitive.

10. Cincinnati Reds

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    1B Joey Votto (29)
    2B Brandon Phillips (32)
    RF Jay Bruce (26)
    SP Mat Latos (25)
    SP Homer Bailey (27)
    SP Mike Leake (25)
    SP Tony Cingrani (24)
    RP Aroldis Chapman (25)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    CF Billy Hamilton (Triple-A)
    SP Robert Stephenson (High-A)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    1B Joey Votto ($225 million through 2023)
    2B Brandon Phillips ($50 million through 2017)
    RF Jay Bruce ($34.626 million through 2016)
    RP Jonathan Broxton ($17 million through 2015)
    RP Sean Marshall ($12 million through 2015)

     

    Team Overview

    With the trio of Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce all locked up through 2016, the Reds will likely turn their attention to extending right-handers Mat Latos and Homer Bailey to join that core of hitters moving forward.

    The farm system is among the weakest in baseball, and as a result, any significant additions this team makes will likely have to come through free agency. The team could potentially wind up where the Phillies are right now if it's not careful, with a handful of star players taking up the majority of the payroll and little room to work once those guys start to decline.

    For now, however, the Reds look to have all the pieces to be contenders for the next several years. If Billy Hamilton can develop into the table-setter they hope he'll be and Robert Stephenson can join Tony Cingrani and the aforementioned duo of Latos and Bailey to form a solid young staff, they should be in good shape.

9. Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    1B Adrian Gonzalez (31)
    SS Hanley Ramirez (29)
    LF Carl Crawford (31)
    CF Matt Kemp (28)
    RF Yasiel Puig (22)
    SP Clayton Kershaw (25)
    SP Hyun-Jin Ryu (26)
    SP Zack Greinke (29)
    RP Kenley Jansen (25)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    OF Joc Pederson (Double-A)
    SP Zach Lee (Double-A)
    SS Corey Seager (Single-A)
    SP Julio Urias (Single-A)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    CF Matt Kemp ($130 million through 2019)
    SP Zack Greinke ($128 million through 2018)
    1B Adrian Gonzalez ($110.285 million through 2018)
    LF Carl Crawford ($85.928 million through 2017)
    RF Andre Ethier ($71.5 million through 2017)
    RF Yasiel Puig ($25.356 million through 2017)
    RP Brandon League ($17 million through 2015)

     

    Team Overview

    With a seemingly endless flow of money, the Dodgers have managed to purchase themselves a legitimate contender this season, as they've been as hot as any team in baseball over the past month.

    Age may start to catch up to this group once they reach the back end of these contracts, and they could be in real trouble by the 2016 season. But for now, they have a good collection of stars to work with. 

    Locking up Clayton Kershaw will likely cost them another $200 million, and they still need to move one of their high-priced outfielders to free up an everyday spot for Yasiel Puig, but it's clear the time for this franchise to win is now.

8. Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    1B Paul Goldschmidt (25) 
    SS Didi Gregorius (23)
    RF Gerardo Parra (26)
    SP Patrick Corbin (24)
    SP Wade Miley (26)
    SP Trevor Cahill (25)
    SP Tyler Skaggs (22)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    CF Adam Eaton (MLB)
    3B Matt Davidson (Triple-A)
    SP Archie Bradley (Double-A)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    1B Paul Goldschmidt ($30.8 million through 2018)
    C Miguel Montero ($50 million through 2017)
    2B Aaron Hill ($35 million through 2016)
    3B Martin Prado ($33 million through 2016)
    SP Trevor Cahill ($20.4 million through 2015)
    RF Cody Ross ($20 million through 2015)

     

    Team Overview

    The Diamondbacks have a solid young core at the big league level right now, and they don't have too much money tied up long-term in the veterans they do have.

    The contract they gave Paul Goldschmidt looks like it will be an absolute steal, and they are loaded with young pitching talent. This year's breakout star, Patrick Corbin, should be joined by Archie Bradley and Tyler Skaggs atop the staff for years to come. They should have plenty of trade chips to work with as a result.

    Young pitchers Randall Delgado David Holmberg, Zeke Spruill and Andrew Chafin as well as shortstop Chris Owings could all be used as trade bait, and the team looks as though it'll be in a good position to fill needs both in free agency and on the trade market.

7. Washington Nationals

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    C Wilson Ramos (25)
    2B Anthony Rendon (23)
    SS Ian Desmond (27)
    3B Ryan Zimmerman (28)
    LF Bryce Harper (20)
    CF Denard Span (29)
    SP Stephen Strasburg (25)
    SP Gio Gonzalez (27)
    SP Jordan Zimmermann (27)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    SP Taylor Jordan (MLB)
    OF Brian Goodwin (Double-A)
    SP A.J. Cole (Double-A)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    3B Ryan Zimmerman ($114 million through 2019)
    RF Jayson Werth ($85.282 million through 2017)
    SP Gio Gonzalez ($32.2 million through 2016)
    LF Bryce Harper ($4.4 million through 2015, rookie deal)

     

    Team Overview

    Entering the season, it looked like the Nationals had no real holes on their roster, but a lack of offensive production and struggles at the back end of the rotation have led them to be one of the biggest disappointments of the season.

    Still, they have a fantastic core in place, with superstar Bryce Harper and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman leading the offense and a trio of frontline starters in Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann all in their prime.

    The double-play combination of Anthony Rendon and Ian Desmond should be a great one moving forward, and the team may be just a few complimentary pieces in the offseason away from reaching its expectations. The farm system is weak, so expect the Nationals to continue to do what they can to win now.

6. Boston Red Sox

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    Core Big League Players (age)

    2B Dustin Pedroia (29)
    CF Jacoby Ellsbury (29)
    SP Clay Buchholz (28)
    SP Felix Doubront (25)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    SS Xander Bogaerts (Triple-A)
    CF Jackie Bradley (Triple-A)
    SP Allen Webster (Triple-A)
    SP Matt Barnes (Double-A)
    SP Anthony Ranaudo (Double-A)
    3B Garin Cecchini (Double-A)
    SP Henry Owens (High-A)
    SP Trey Ball (Rookie League)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    2B Dustin Pedroia ($110 million through 2021)
    RF Shane Victorino ($26 million through 2015)
    SP Clay Buchholz ($20.445 million through 2015)

     

    Team Overview

    It's staggering to look at how different the Red Sox look right now compared to how they looked heading into the 2012 season. The front office has done a phenomenal job turning things around and managed to avoid the long-term, big-money deals that weighed the team down in the past.

    They don't have much in the way of a big-league core of players, but they may have more high-end pitching talent in the minors than any team in baseball, and shortstop Xander Bogaerts looks like a legitimate superstar in the not-so-distant future.

    With money to spend and prospects to trade, the Red Sox have as much team-building freedom as any team in baseball, and general manager Ben Cherington looks like the right guy to handle a very important next couple years for Boston.

5. Chicago Cubs

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    C Welington Castillo (26)
    1B Anthony Rizzo (23)
    SS Starlin Castro (23)
    SP Jeff Samardzija (28)
    SP Travis Wood (26)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    3B Mike Olt (Triple-A)
    SS Javier Baez (Double-A)
    2B/SS Arismendy Alcantara (Double-A)
    RF Jorge Soler (High-A)

    CF Albert Almora (Single-A)
    3B Kris Bryant (Low-A)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    1B Anthony Rizzo ($40.25 million through 2019)
    SS Starlin Castro ($41.015 million through 2018)
    RF Jorge Soler ($17.3 million through 2018)
    SP Edwin Jackson ($39 million through 2016)

     

    Team Overview

    The front office duo of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer has worked quickly to blow up the big league team since taking over, and in the process, they have built up one of the best farm systems in all of baseball.

    Prospects Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Albert Almora and Kris Bryant all have the potential to be stars, and alongside Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, the team has an offensive core that ranks among the most promising in all of baseball.

    Pitching will determine how quickly the Cubs can get back to contention, but with a ton of freed up payroll space and a handful of valuable trade assets in the minors outside of their core, everything is in place for them to contend by 2015. For now, though, they're an incredibly promising team that still has a few questions to be answered.

4. Seattle Mariners

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    C Mike Zunino (22)
    2B Nick Franklin (22)
    SS Brad Miller (23)
    3B Kyle Seager (25)
    DH Jesus Montero (23)
    SP Felix Hernandez (27)
    SP Brandon Maurer (23)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    SP Taijuan Walker (Triple-A)
    SP Danny Hultzen (Triple-A)
    SP James Paxton (Triple-A)
    3B D.J. Peterson (Single-A)
    SP Tyler Pike (Single-A)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    SP Felix Hernandez ($156 million through 2019)
    SP Danny Hultzen ($3.4 million through 2015, rookie deal)

     

    Team Overview

    Over the past few season, the Mariners have built up one of the best minor league systems in baseball, and they are beginning to reap the rewards of that patience this season.

    They may need to add a run producer at some point to anchor their lineup, but their young pitching staff should grow into one of the best in baseball with top prospect Taijuan Walker profiling as a second ace alongside Felix Hernandez, who was locked up long-term in the offseason.

    The team may still be a few years from contending, but it should make a run at a winning season next year with one of the youngest rosters in all of baseball.

     

3. Tampa Bay Rays

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    3B Evan Longoria (27)
    CF Desmond Jennings (26)
    RF Wil Myers (22)
    SP Matt Moore (24)
    SP Chris Archer (24)
    SP Jeremy Hellickson (26)
    SP Alex Cobb (25)
    RP Alex Torres (25)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    SP Jake Odorizzi (Triple-A)
    SS Hak-Ju Lee (Triple-A)
    SP Alex Colome (Triple-A)
    SP Enny Romero (Double-A)
    SP Taylor Guerrieri (Single-A)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contrat)

    3B Evan Longoria ($130 million through 2022)
    SP Matt Moore ($11.8 million though 2016)

     

    Team Overview

    Even with James Shields traded last offseason and ace David Price not likely a part of the team’s long-term plans, the Rays still have a ton of young pitching talent, and that should continue to be one of their strenghs. 

    Outfielder Wil Myers was a great pickup, and he looks like he’ll be the second frontline run producer the team has been searching for alongside Evan Longoria.

    The Rays will never be a big spending team, but they do more with less than perhaps any other team. They could still use another bat moving forward, and it will be interesting to see what they can get in return for David Price if they opt to move him. Expect them to be in the running for the AL East title for both the short and long-term.

2. Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    2B Neil Walker (27)
    3B Pedro Alvarez (26)
    LF Starling Marte (24)
    CF Andrew McCutchen (26)
    SP Gerrit Cole (22)
    SP Jeff Locke (25)
    RP Mark Melancon (28)
    RP Justin Wilson (25)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    SP Jameson Taillon (Double-A)
    OF Gregory Polanco (Double-A)
    SS Alen Hanson (Double-A)
    SP Tyler Glasnow (Single-A)
    OF Austin Meadows (Rookie League)
    C Reese McGuire (Rookie League)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contracts)

    CF Andrew McCutchen ($46.082 million through 2017)
    RF Jose Tabata ($12.25 million through 2016)

     

    Team Overview

    The Pirates are right in the thick of contention this season thanks to a ton of homegrown talent leading the way, and there is more high-end, in-house talent getting ready to move up. 

    If top prospect Jameson Taillon can join Gerrit Cole in leading the staff moving forward, and fellow prospects Gregory Polanco and Alen Hanson can live up to their potential, the team could be loaded with players under 30 and contending for a division title.

    The Pirates could also look to deal some of their top prospects to acquire some high-end veteran talent in the near future if that's the route they choose to go. Either way, the coming years look great in Pittsburgh.

1. St. Louis Cardinals

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    Core Big-League Players (age)

    C Yadier Molina (31)
    1B Allen Craig (29)
    1B Matt Adams (24)
    2B Matt Carpenter (27)
    LF Matt Holliday (33)
    SP Adam Wainwright (31)
    SP Shelby Miller (22)
    SP Lance Lynn (26)
    RP Trevor Rosenthal (23)
    RP Seth Maness (24)

     

    Potential Impact Prospects (level)

    SP John Gast (MLB)
    OF Oscar Taveras (Triple-A)
    SP Michael Wacha (Triple-A)
    SP Carlos Martinez (Triple-A)
    2B Kolten Wong (Triple-A)

     

    Long-Term Contracts (remaining contract)

    SP Adam Wainwright ($97.5 million through 2018)
    C Yadier Molina ($58.8 million through 2017)
    1B Allen Craig ($29.25 million through 2017)
    LF Matt Holliday ($52 million through 2016)
    SP Jaime Garcia ($17.75 million through 2015)
    RP Randy Choate ($6 million through 2015)

     

    Team Overview

    The Cardinals have turned drafting and developing players into an art, and on top of having a terrific core of players in place right now, they have a ton of high-end prospect talent on the cusp of big league contribution.

    Locking up Allen Craig long-term was a great move, and by not re-signing Albert Pujols, they were also able to lock up Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright long-term.

    They should continue to rank among the top teams in baseball for the foreseeable future, with money to spend on free agents and a wealth of young pitching talent to shop on the trade market as well. They’re the team to beat moving forward and should be World Series contenders for the next several years.