Updated MLB Farm System Power Rankings Post-Winter Meetings
This year's winter meetings featured everything we love as baseball fans—everything except for a blockbuster deal involving high-ceiling prospects, that is.
The Seattle Mariners stole the headlines when they made Robinson Cano, the top free agent in this year's class, the third-highest paid player in baseball history by signing him to a 10-year, $240 million contract.
Meanwhile, the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Angels matched up to complete the biggest trade at the winter meetings. In the three-team deal, the Diamondbacks landed slugger Mark Trumbo from the Angels, with the White Sox receiving center fielder Adam Eaton from Arizona and the Angels getting left-handers Tyler Skaggs (from the Diamondbacks) and Hector Santiago (from the White Sox).
And though the four-day event passed without a top prospect being traded, the rumor that Seattle could offer a prospect package built around right-hander Taijuan Walker to the Rays for 2012 American League Cy Young award winner David Price helped ease the disappointment.
Now that the hot stove has cooled off in the aftermath of the winter meetings, I thought I'd put out an updated farm system ranking for all 30 teams. Keep in mind that the rankings will definitely change before the start of the 2014 season.
My rankings are based on the following criteria for each individual team:
- Potential impact prospects (those that likely will rank in the top 100 prior to the 2014 season)
- Amount of MLB-ready or near MLB-ready talent
- Risk level
- Each system's greatest strength and weakness
- Overall system depth; depth at each individual position
- Age of talent pool
- Each team's presumed needs at the major league level as it relates to its prospects
So, without further ado, here is Prospect Pipeline's updated MLB farm system rankings post-winter meetings.
30. Los Angeles Angels
Greatest Strength: Infield prospects with Double-A experience
Though the Angels lack a potential impact player on the farm, it’s worth noting that the their top three prospects—third baseman Kaleb Cowart, first baseman C.J. Cron and second baseman Taylor Lindsey—all spent the entire 2013 season at the Double-A level. It’s also worth noting that Lindsey was the only one who progressed from a developmental standpoint. Now if only they all weren’t blocked in the major leagues!
Greatest Weakness: A severe lack of pitching depth
All it takes is a quick glance at a list of Angels’ farmhands to realize the organization is starved for pitching. They never replaced right-handers Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena, who ranked as the team’s top pitching prospects when they were dealt to Milwaukee as part of the Zack Greinke trade in late-2012.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Jose Rondon, SS
29. Milwaukee Brewers
Greatest Strength: Power at the corners
The Brewers don’t have a well-rounded, potential impact prospect like most other teams on this list. What they do have, however, is power—lots of it.
In 2013, the organization had three players hit 20-plus home runs: first basemen Hunter Morris (24 in 546 Triple-A plate appearances) and Jason Rogers (22 home runs in 549 Double-A plate appearances), as well as outfielder Victor Roache (22 home runs in 519 Low-A plate appearances).
Greatest Weakness: Lack of projectable starting pitching
The last Milwaukee pitching prospect drafted in the first round to develop into a quality big league starter was Ben Sheets in 1999. Since then, the organization has struck out repeatedly when drafting pitching prospects in the first round of the draft.
In 2009, the Brewers selected college right-hander Eric Arnett who is now a 25-year-old reliever and yet to graduate from A-ball. The following year they drafted prep right-hander Dylan Covey, who decided not to sign and honored his commitment to the University of San Diego.
And while so many pitchers from the 2011 draft—Jose Fernandez, Gerrit Cole and Sonny Gray for example—have already made an impact in the major leagues, Milwaukee’s pair of first-rounders, college pitchers Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley are both struggling to climb the minor league ladder.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Mitch Haniger, OF
28. Detroit Tigers
Greatest Strength: Near MLB-ready position players
Besides top prospect Nick Castellanos, the Tigers have several position prospects who could see time in the majors next season, such as catcher James McCann, second baseman Hernan Perez and outfielder Daniel Fields.
Greatest Weakness: An all-around lack of impact talent
Detroit’s system thins out in a hurry after Castellanos and lacks projectable talent on both sides of the ball.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Devon Travis, 2B
27. Philadelphia Phillies
Greatest Strength: Near MLB-ready, high-floor arms
Though they lack a potential front-of-the-rotation pitching prospect, the Phillies have an assortment of high-floor arms in the upper levels of their system who should begin to arrive in the major leagues next year.
22-year-old left-hander Jesse Biddle stands out in the group for his mid-rotation potential and knack for missing bats. After Biddle, fellow southpaw Adam Morgan and right-hander Ethan Martin (debuted with the Phillies in 2013) are both candidates to log meaningful innings in the majors next season.
Greatest Weakness: Lack of projectable outfielders
After years of paying and trading for major league talent, the Phillies have struggled to produce serviceable outfielders over the last two years. It’s difficult to envision their scenario changing without re-stocking the system via a trade involving Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Aaron Altherr, OF
26. Chicago White Sox
Greatest Strength: Right-handed hitting prospects
The White Sox have amassed an interesting blend of high-ceiling and high-floor right-handed hitters since the beginning of the 2011 season. While Matt Davidson and Marcus Semien are expected to see significant time in the major leagues next year, the organization is hopeful that Courtney Hawkins and Tim Anderson, their first-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013, respectively, will evolve into something beyond pure raw talent.
Greatest Weakness: A lack of impact arms
With the exception of Chris Sale in 2010, the White Sox haven’t targeted a big-name pitching prospect in the first round of the draft for the last half decade, instead focusing on high-risk, toolsy position players.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Tyler Danish, RHP
25. San Francisco Giants
Greatest Strength: Pitching (and lots of it)
A deep collection of pitching prospects continues to define the Giants’ system. Because prospects Kyle Crick, Edwin Escobar and Chris Stratton tend to receive all the attention, it’s easy to overlook the organization’s impressive crop of less-heralded young arms like Martin Agosta, Ty Blach, Clayton Blackburn and Adalberto Mejia. The Giants' depth on the mound could also pay dividends in the form of a trade during the 2014 season should the need arise.
Greatest Weakness: Lack of projectable infielders
What the Giants have in young arms they lack tenfold in positional talent. The team’s first-round picks in 2010 and 2011, outfielder Gary Brown and infielder Joe Panik, both have regressed considerably at higher levels. However, the organization did address the issue this past June by selecting shortstop Christian Arroyo and third baseman Ryder Jones within the first three rounds of the amateur draft.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Ty Blach, LHP
24. New York Yankees
Greatest Strength: Outfield depth
Besides Gary Sanchez, the Yankees’ best position prospects are outfielders—many of them former high-round draft picks—with significant experience at or above the Double-A level. 24-year-old Zoilo Almonte reached the majors last season as a reserve and could hold a similar role in 2014, and it’s even possible that Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin could be in the mix for a look by the end of the year.
Greatest Weakness: Lack of pitching prospects
The Yankees’ system features some power arms in right-handers Rafael De Paula and Jose Ramirez, however, both pitchers have control problems that will likely force them to the bullpen. It also doesn’t help that former top prospect and 2012 first-round pick Ty Hensley missed the entire 2013 season with injuries.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Bryan Mitchell, RHP
23. Toronto Blue Jays
Greatest Strength: Young, high-ceiling prospects
The Blue Jays' system is highlighted by a slew of teenage prospects including shortstop Franklin Barreto (17) and outfielder D.J. Davis (19), as well as right-handers Roberto Osuna (18) and Alberto Tirado (19). However, because all of those players are still several years away from reaching the major leagues, it may not be wise to say it's their strength. And least not yet.
Greatest Weakness: Young, high-ceiling prospects
Even after trading Travis d’Arnaud, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino and Noah Syndergaard last offseason, Toronto’s prospect pool still has considerable upside. However, that also means it has considerable risk.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Mitch Nay, 3B
22. Washington Nationals
Greatest Strength: Hard-throwing right-handed pitchers
It’s not a secret that the Nationals target pitchers who throw hard and miss bats (see Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann). Lucas Giolito, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2012 and prized young arm, has as high of a ceiling as almost any pitching prospect in the game. However, the 19-year-old still is likely two years away form the major leagues after returning from Tommy John surgery late in the 2013 season.
The Nationals will likely receive contributions from right-handers A.J. Cole and Nathan Karns (who reached the major leagues last year) next season. Both pitchers are coming off strong 2013 performances in the high minors in which they missed more than a bat per inning and could be used in either a starting or relief role.
Greatest Weakness: Overall lack of potential major league regulars
The Nationals’ system took a hit last season when it graduated Anthony Rendon to the major leagues. Headed into the 2014 season, the team’s top position prospects are outfielders Brian Goodwin and Michael Taylor. While both players have loud tools and offer something to dream on, neither of them currently projects to be more than a fourth outfielder.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Jake Johansen, RHP
21. Colorado Rockies
Greatest Strength: High-ceiling, right-handed pitching
While Colorado’s current starting rotation isn’t particularly exciting—even after the recent acquisition of left-hander Brett Anderson from the A’s—that could change in a hurry as the 2014 season unfolds.
Flame-throwing right-hander Jonathan Gray, the second-overall pick in the 2013 draft, has the potential to make quick work of the minor leagues next year and reach the majors ahead of schedule. Meanwhile, 2012 first-rounder Eddie Butler and his filthy, bat-missing arsenal is already on the fast track to The Show and a candidate to debut relatively early in the season.
Greatest Weakness: Lack of left-handed pitching
The Rockies have made an admirable effort targeting left-handed pitchers (named Tyler) in the draft that projected favorably at Coors Field. In 2009 they selected prep standout Tyler Matzek in the first round of the draft.
Two years later—with Matzek issuing walk after walk in A-ball—the organization once again tried its luck by selecting Oregon product Tyler Anderson with the 20th-overall pick. The 23-year-old put up solid numbers in the hitter-friendly (High-A) California League this past season, though there’s concern about whether his arsenal—he lacks a true plus pitch—will translate at the highest level.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Ryan McMahon, 3B
20. Atlanta Braves
Greatest Strength: Right-handed pitching
The Braves are another team that always seems to have a bottomless supply of arms on the farm, which also speaks volumes about the organization’s efficiency with scouting and player development.
They finally used that depth to land an impact major leaguer last offseason, sending a player package that included right-handers Randall Delgado and Zeke Spruill to the Diamondbacks in exchange for Justin Upton and Chris Johnson.
And with a prospect pool comprised of projectable right-handed pitchers, the Braves conceivably could be a player in the David Price sweepstakes (or another top-tier starting pitcher) this offseason.
Greatest Weakness: Lack of power
Given their emphasis on developing young arms, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Braves have drafted a pitcher with their first-round pick in four of the last five years. However, the strategy also has resulted in an overall lack of positional depth throughout the system, therefore forcing the organization to be more aggressive with free-agent signings and trades.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Jose Peraza, SS
19. Cincinnati Reds
Greatest Strength: Potential impact outfielders
Billy Hamilton obviously is the first name to come up in any conversation regarding the future of the Cincinnati Reds. However, focusing solely on Hamilton overshadows the fact that the system is rich with outfield talent.
22-year-old Yorman Rodriguez’s prospect stock is on the rise after a long-overdue breakout season in Double-A, as is the stock of 2012 first-rounder Jesse Winker following his impressive full-season debut in Low-A. Last but not least is Phil Ervin, the 27th-overall pick in the 2013 draft, who posted .989 OPS with nine home runs in 200 plate appearances this past summer during his professional debut.
Greatest Weakness: Lack of shortstops and third basemen
There will come a time when Cincinnati is no longer content with Zack Cozart and Todd Frazier on the left side of the infield. When that happens, the Reds will be forced to pursue an upgrade on the trade market due to a lack of internal options. And after moving Hamilton to the outfield during the fall of 2012, the Reds are overdue to add infield depth.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Yorman Rodriguez, OF
18. Cleveland Indians
Greatest Strength: Up-the-middle prospects
The Indians don’t have many projectable young hitters. However, the ones they do have, namely Clint Frazier, Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin, all play up-the-middle positions.
Greatest Weakness: Left-handed pitching prospects
The organization has added several intriguing right-handed pitchers over the last two years through the draft and trades, but it still lacks a southpaw with even marginal major league upside.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Dylan Baker, RHP
17. Miami Marlins
Greatest Strength: High-floor, left-handed pitching
The Marlins possess arguably the best collection of left-handed pitching prospects in baseball, with four young hurlers who have already experienced success at or above the Double-A level. While 2012 first-rounder Andrew Heaney has the upside of a No. 3 starter, the team’s other southpaws—Justin Nicolino, Adam Conley and Brian Flynn—are better suited for a role in the back of a rotation.
Greatest Weakness: Lack of power
The Marlins’ system didn’t have a lot of power to begin with, so needless to say, it took a hit last season with the graduation of Christian Yelich to the major leagues. Replacing him on the list is fellow big leaguer (but still technically a prospect) Jake Marisnick, who has plenty of raw power but lacks ability to apply it within games.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Nick Wittgren, RHP
16. Oakland Athletics
Greatest Strength: Teenage position players
Since emerging as a perennial contender in the AL West, the A’s have started tapping into their farm system’s depth to procure major league players. As a result, their prospect pool is a shell of what it was a few years ago. Still, thanks to youth-oriented drafts in 2012 and 2013, the A’s have quietly put together a promising collection of teenage position players, led by a potential superstar in Addison Russell.
Greatest Weakness: Left-handed pitching
Though the A’s never seem to be short on pitching, especially young, cost-controlled pitching, their farm system is currently going through a turnover on the mound. As a result, the organization is unusually thin on pitching prospects at the moment and completely lacks a left-hander with big league potential
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: B.J. Boyd, OF
15. Los Angeles Dodgers
Greatest Strength: High-floor starting pitching in upper levels
After selecting a pitcher with their first-round pick for seven consecutive years before taking Corey Seager in 2012 draft, the Dodgers should finally see some of their better arms reach the major leagues next season.
Zach Lee, Chris Reed and Ross Stripling spent a majority of the year (if not the entire year) at Double-A and will enter the 2014 season on the big league radar. Meanwhile, the organization’s first- and second-round picks, right-hander Chris Anderson and left-hander Tom Windle, both have a chance to move quickly due to their college backgrounds.
Greatest Weakness: Lack of infield prospects
Even though Seager has the potential to be an above-average major league infielder—and generally has a bright future in the game—his presence in the system isn’t enough to compensate for the Dodgers’ overall dearth of projectable infielders.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Julio Urias, LHP
14. Seattle Mariners
Greatest Strength: Near MLB-ready prospects in upper levels
The Mariners began to see the fruits of their labor last season, with highly regarded prospects Nick Franklin, Brad Miller and Mike Zunino each graduating to the major leagues.
The team’s wave of the future isn’t over either; while top pitching prospects Taijuan Walker and James Paxton are poised to join the rotation after debuting last year as September call-ups, the Mariners should also receive contributions from high-floor position prospects Chris Taylor and Stefen Romero.
Greatest Weakness: Lack of projectable outfielders
The Mariners have produced an impressive number of big leaguers in recent years, especially on the mound and at both middle infield positions. However, the aforementioned Romero is the team’s only outfield prospect capable of contributing next season.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Edwin Diaz, RHP
13. Baltimore Orioles
Greatest Strength: Projectable young pitching
Baltimore’s prospect pool is top-heavy with a host of impressive arms, including a trio of right-handers in Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2013, as well as up-and-coming left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez.
Greatest Weakness: Lack of impact position players
Jonathan Schoop represents the team’s only notable position prospect, and he’s likely to spend a chunk of the 2014 season in the majors as a utility infielder. At this point, the organization would need to trade one of its top assets, such as Matt Wieters, in order to replenish their system with meaningful bats.
Prospect To Watch in 2014: Michael Ohlman, C
12. Tampa Bay Rays
Greatest Strength: Pitching prospects
Tampa Bay’s pipeline of pitching prospects is bottomless. Alex Colome, Jake Odorizzi and Enny Romero each pitched in the majors at some point during the 2013 season and will take on a more serious role next year. The team also has a trio of former college right-handers (Jeff Ames, Jesse Hahn and Ryne Stanek) that should start to move up the minor league ladder in 2014.
Greatest Weakness: Lack of power hitters
The Rays thought they were getting a power-hitting corner infielder in 2012 first-round Richie Shaffer, but he’s been slow to fulfill that prophecy. That being said, the 22-year-old still features the most projectable power in the system.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Jesse Hahn, RHP
11. Arizona Diamondbacks
Greatest Strength: Overall depth
The Diamondbacks continue to boast one of the more impressive and well-rounded systems in the game. They have a potential front-line starter in Archie Bradley as well as a potential No. 2/No. 3 starter in 2013 first-rounder Braden Shipley. Both Zeke Spruill, who debuted in the majors last season, and Andrew Chafin are medium-floor guys who should offer value as a spot starters and/or middle relievers next year.
Middle infielder Chris Owings is the cream of the crop among the team’s position prospects, while third basemen Jake Lamb and Brandon Drury both have the potential to surpass expectations and emerge as at least second-division regulars.
Finally, the Diamondbacks have a trio of relievers with closer potential in right-handers Jake Barrett, Matt Stites and Jimmie Sherfy, and it wouldn't surprise me if all three guys were in the majors by the end of the year.
Greatest Weakness: Left-handed starting pitching
At this time last month, the Diamondbacks’ system wasn’t as right-handed-heavy as it appears now. On Dec. 3, they dealt 22-year-old David Holmberg to the Reds as a means of eradicating Heath Bell’s contract from their payroll. However, the big blow came last week during the winter meetings when they traded Tyler Skaggs, widely considered to be Arizona’s top prospect headed into the 2013 season, to the Angels as part of the three-team trade for Mark Trumbo.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Jake Lamb, 3B
10. New York Mets
Greatest Strength: Near MLB-ready talent
The Mets offered a glimpse of their bright future last season with the promotions of Travis d’Arnaud, Wilmer Flores and Zack Wheeler to major leagues. While Wheeler was the only one to enjoy success, the experience that d’Arnaud and Flores—both of whom are still considered prospects—gained during their time in The Show last season should pay huge dividends towards their respective performances in 2014.
On the farm, right-hander Noah Syndergaard is knocking on the door of the major leagues after his outstanding 2013 campaign between High- and Double-A. Meanwhile, 23-year-old command freak Rafael Montero should be ready to join the rotation (if need be) by midseason.
Greatest Weakness: Lack of projectable outfielders
The Mets’ outfield situation over the last two years has been laughable, with the organization exploring every semi-logical internal option before finally overpaying for Curtis Granderson earlier this month. The Mets also are still patiently waiting on 2011 first-rounder Brandon Nimmo to become something more than guy who hits a ton of singles.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Michael Fulmer, RHP
9. Kansas City Royals
Greatest Strength: High-ceiling pitching prospects
Just a few years ago, the Royals system was considered the best in baseball thanks to the presence of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Wil Myers. Now, the system stands out for its pitching prospects; the team has a pair of near MLB-ready arms in Kyle Zimmer and Yordano Ventura, as well as prospects Miguel Almonte and Sean Manaea, who both have huge upside but lack professional experience.
Greatest Weakness: Lack of projectable outfielders in high minors
The Royals have been attempting to develop an impact outfielder for the better part of a half decade, and they would have finally done so last year if not for the offseason trade of Wil Myers to the Rays. I’m still optimistic that Jorge Bonifacio has a future as an everyday player, but beyond him, the system has a dearth of outfield talent in its upper levels.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Elier Hernandez, OF
8. Texas Rangers
Greatest Strength: Teenage prospects with monster ceilings
The Rangers possess arguably the most intriguing collection of teenage prospects among all 30 teams. The organization has made a killing in recent years in the international realm by aggressively signing top amateur free agents such as Jairo Beras, Ronald Guzman and Nomar Mazara. Similarly, they also have been increasingly willing to gamble on raw, high-ceiling players in the early rounds of the draft.
Greatest Weakness: Lack of potentially serviceable starting pitchers
The Rangers’ depth on the mound was tested in 2012 due to a rash of early-season injuries to members of the starting rotation. As a result, the team was forced to rely on contributions from prospects Justin Grimm, Martin Perez and Nick Tepesch. Of the organization’s current prospect pool, only 2013 first-rounder Chi Chi Gonzalez projects favorably as a starter at the highest level.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Nick Williams, OF
7. San Diego Padres
Greatest Strength: High-ceiling arms
The Padres are loaded with potential impact arms after three straight strong drafts. Right-handers Burch Smith, Keyvius Sampson and Matt Wisler are likely to contribute at the major league level in 2014, and it’s a reasonable assumption that left-hander Max Fried, the seventh overall pick in the 2012 draft, will follow in their footsteps the following year.
Plus, the organization has to feel good knowing its young arms will be working with defensive wizard Austin Hedges once they reach the major leagues.
Greatest Weakness: Lack of power
The Padres have been unable to replace Adrian Gonzalez’s power after they traded the first baseman to Boston before the 2012 season. That being said, the organization has addressed the issue over the last year. First, they selected outfielder Hunter Renfroe in the first round of the draft in June, targeting the right-handed hitter for his plus raw power and middle-of-the-order upside.
The Padres also acquired outfielder/first baseman Alex Dickerson from Pittsburgh this offseason. The 2012 Florida State League Player of the Year had had a strong follow-up performance at Double-A Altoona this past season, posting an .832 OPS with 56 extra-base hits (17 home runs) in 491 plate appearances.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Joe Ross, RHP
6. Boston Red Sox
Greatest Strength: Near MLB-ready prospects in upper levels
Most of Boston’s top prospects are either ready for an everyday role in the major leagues (Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr.) or will be by the end of the 2014 season (Henry Owens, Matt Barnes). On top of that, the front office has assembled another wave of talent that should arrive in 2015.
Greatest Weakness: Lack of a future ace
Boston’s strong rotation obviously played a major role in the team’s World Series-winning 2013 season. However, none of its starters are younger than 29, and only Clay Buchholz is signed beyond the 2014 season. If the Red Sox want to survive the next rollover in their system (without breaking the bank on free agents), they'd benefit by grooming one of their young starters, probably Owens, to be their next ace.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Blake Swihart, C
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
Greatest Strength: High-ceiling, right-handed pitching
Even after graduating Gerrit Cole to the major leagues last season, the Pirates still boast a deep collection of impact pitching prospects. It shouldn’t be long until right-hander Jameson Taillon, the second overall pick in the 2010 draft after Bryce Harper, joins Cole in the Pirates’ starting rotation. And after a breakout season between High- and Double-A, Nick Kingham isn’t far behind either.
In the lower levels of the Pirates’ system, 6’7” right-hander Tyler Glasnow absolutely dominated this year during his full-season debut, holding opposing hitters to a worthless .142 batting average while piling up 164 strikeouts in 111.1 innings for Low-A West Virginia.
Suffice it to say that the future is very, very bright for the Pirates.
Greatest Weakness: Lack of a potential shortstop
The Pirates’ system is loaded with upside at nearly every position—except shortstop. 21-year-old Alen Hanson has held his own there as a professional despite amassing 72 total errors in the last two seasons, but his fringy arm strength and accuracy will likely result in him moving to second base before reaching the major leagues.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Josh Bell, OF
4. Houston Astros
Greatest Strength: High-ceiling prospects with All-Star potential
The Astros have assembled one of the more impressive farm systems over the last several years. In addition to adding potential All-Star-caliber players such as Mark Appel, Carlos Correa and George Springer through perennially strong amateur drafts, the organization has also done a commendable job creating depth and competition through under-the-radar trades.
Greatest Weakness: Lack of catching prospects
After All-Star catcher Jason Castro’s All-Star breakout performance this past season, the Astros catching situation seemingly has resolved itself. In theory, this will give the team time to develop his potential replacement. First, however, they have to find that player.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Vincent Velasquez, RHP
3. Chicago Cubs
Greatest Strength: Four position prospects that have legit All-Star potential
Though expectations should always be tempered with Cubs prospects, the team’s farm system is something all baseball fans should be excited about. The organization boasts an elite collection of position prospects in Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler, who each have the upside of an All-Star player and could be a fixture in the Cubs' lineup by the end of the 2015 season.
Greatest Weakness: Projectable starting pitching
The Cubs have added several potential back-end starters since the beginning of the 2012 season, acquiring right-handers Kyle Hendricks and Neil Ramirez via trades and adding Paul Blackburn and Pierce Johnson through the draft.
The only high-ceiling arm in the Cubs’ system is C.J. Edwards—acquired from Texas in the Matt Garza trade last summer—and he’s still considered a risky prospect and likely two years away from reaching the major leagues. It’ll be interesting to see in the coming years whether Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein tap into the team’s minor league depth to trade for a front-line starter.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Arismendy Alcantara, SS-2B
2. St. Louis Cardinals
Greatest Strength: MLB-ready position players
Stating that the St. Louis Cardinals have several highly touted prospects poised to make an impact in the major leagues next season is almost obligatory at this point. In 2014, however, it will be especially true, as the organization has a potentially elite outfielder in Oscar Taveras ready to replace Carlos Beltran in the lineup.
Furthermore, second baseman Kolten Wong is likely to open the year at Triple-A or on the bench as a reserve but could hit his way into an everyday role by the end of season. Lastly, there’s also a chance that two of their 2012 draft picks, left-hander Tim Cooney and outfielder Stephen Piscotty, will make their respective debuts with the Cardinals next season.
Greatest Weakness: None
Sure, I could nitpick and find a few flaws in the Cardinals’ talent pool, but the reality is the organization simply knows how to cultivate major league regulars from seemingly marginal prospects. It’s just what the Cardinals do, not to mention the reason they’re considered the model organization of Major League Baseball.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Alex Reyes, RHP
1. Minnesota Twins
Greatest Strength: The finest collection of prospects in the minor leagues
Thanks to comprehensive international scouting, shrewd trades and strong drafts, the Twins now boast the best farm system in baseball. More importantly, it won’t be long until the club begins to reap the benefits at the major league level, with Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano set to debut in the next two years—possibly as early as late-2014—along with several other notable prospects.
Greatest Weakness: Collective risk level of top prospects
It’s hard to knock Minnesota’s farm system, because how do you knock the system that has everything? But for the sake of the exercise, one concerning aspect of its impressive system is the collective level of risk among its top prospects. However, that’s more of a consequence for targeting such high-ceiling talent.
One Prospect To Watch in 2014: Lewis Thorpe, LHP