Ranking All 30 MLB Farm Systems, Post 2014 MLB Draft
As we put a final bow on the 2014 Major League Baseball draft, it is a great time to look at the state of the farm systems. All 30 teams have exhausted weeks and months building toward this weekend and are now prepared to reap the rewards.
The closing of the draft allows us to do an examination of the job MLB clubs have done developing the talent already in the pipeline and gives us a look at how the new draftees impact the farm system rankings.
Even though the season is just two months old, that is enough time to look at which players have taken necessary steps forward or just grown into their bodies, showing the tools that have been waiting to come out.
Rankings are based on two criteria: impact potential and depth. A team may have more of one than the other, but it is necessary to have more than a couple players who project as quality big leaguers to have a good farm system.
Signability was taken into consideration. For instance, if there is a consensus top-100 draft talent who didn't get selected until Day 3—where there's no chance teams can pay the money he wants—there's no reason to include him on this list.
Also, while there are young players in MLB who still retain prospect eligibility, if they are on the active big league roster as of June 7, they are not considered on their team's ranking. For example, Jonathan Singleton's recent call-up by the Houston Astros means he doesn't factor into their farm system.
With all the caveats and explanations out of the way, here is an updated ranking of all 30 farm systems. Preseason rankings are based on Bleacher Report Lead Prospect Writer Mike Rosenbaum's list.
30. Detroit Tigers
Preseason Rank: No. 28
The Tigers have spent the last few years putting all their resources into the MLB club and ignoring the farm system. It was only a matter of time before things bottomed out. They are winning at the highest level, which is the most important thing, but their lack of impact and depth at every level of the minors puts a lot of pressure on their big league roster to stay healthy.
Detroit graduated top prospect Nick Castellanos when the season started, though he's had a difficult time acclimating himself to major league pitching thus far (.271/.315/.409). Corey Knebel, the No. 39 pick last year, also made it to the Motor City at the end of May. He's a reliever in pro ball, which is an area of need for the team.
Derek Hill, the team's top draft choice (No. 23 overall) in 2014, was a much-needed shot of adrenaline and upside, but Detroit largely went back to its roots by taking hard-throwing pitchers who will stay in the bullpen.
29. Los Angeles Angels
Preseason Rank: No. 29
Even though the Angels had a first-round pick for the first time since 2011 thanks to their big-spending ways over the last few years, it's not enough to ignite a farm system that's light on impact and depth.
They did well with their first two picks to get high-probability left-hander Sean Newcomb (No. 15 overall), who could move up quickly, and high-ceiling right-hander Joe Gatto in the second round.
The few players they have who projected as solid-to-average regulars aren't performing well for the current team. Third baseman Kaleb Cowart hasn't hit well for two years, posting an OPS under .600 so far at Double-A.
Second baseman Taylor Lindsey, playing in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, is hitting .233/.324/.368. His strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 1-to-1 is encouraging, but the questions about his ability to drive the ball are only going to get louder.
C.J. Cron, the team's last first-round pick prior to 2014, graduated to the majors and has shown his big, raw power in a small sample size with a .526 slugging percentage. The hit tool has always been the question with him, so we will see how long this hot start lasts.
On the positive side, shortstop Jose Rondon has hit well as a 20-year-old in High-A. He's still got an overaggressive approach at the plate but makes plenty of contact and finds the gap. The Venezuelan has the potential to be a top-of-the-order bat with average defense on the left side of the infield.
This summer will be big for Los Angeles' development staff as Hunter Green, the team's first pick last year, and left-hander Ricardo Sanchez start pitching in short-season games.
28. Milwaukee Brewers
Preseason Rank: No. 30
You can't look at one bad draft as the reason for a farm system falling apart, but it's hard not to examine Milwaukee's 2011 class as one of the great busts in recent memory.
That was the year the Brewers had two first-round picks in a class that was among the best and deepest in recent memory. Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer, Archie Bradley, Jose Fernandez, Francisco Lindor, Anthony Rendon and Javier Baez were just a few names taken in the first round.
The Brewers took college pitchers Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley with the No. 12 and 15 picks, respectively. Jungmann finally made it to Triple-A this season, while Bradley is in Double-A with an ERA around 9.00.
However, as bad as those picks look in hindsight and as barren as the system is overall, there's upside at a few spots that pushes it just out of the bottom spot. Tyrone Taylor is a toolsy athlete who can play center field and has above-average raw power. His approach is getting better, though the contact isn't always solid.
I really liked Milwaukee's approach early in the 2014 draft, going after players with a high ceiling even though they're raw and will take a long time to actualize. Kodi Medeiros (No. 12 overall) is probably a reliever in pro ball but is also a lefty who can touch the mid-90s with deception and a plus slider.
Monte Harrison and Jacob Gatewood have all sorts of potential with the bat. Harrison needs reps and to start using his lower half in his swing, while Gatewood has to prove capable of actually shortening his swing and not trying to kill everything.
Devin Williams, the team's top pick last year, is a projectable right-hander with a power fastball. Victor Roache has intriguing power as long as he can develop some kind of approach. Orlando Arcia projects well as a leadoff hitter with a good glove at shortstop.
All of the talent is in the lower levels of the minors right now, so it's volatile and could go very wrong in a hurry.
27. San Francisco Giants
Preseason Rank: No. 25
The Giants are so pitch-heavy that you wonder where the offense is going to come from in the future. On top of that, the arms they do have are either back-end-starter types or don't throw enough strikes to reach their ceiling.
Right-handed hurler Kyle Crick has the highest ceiling in the system, but finding the strike zone remains an issue for him. He still misses bats at a high rate, though when you're walking nearly a hitter per inning at Double-A, your future prospects don't look bright.
It shouldn't be a surprise that the Giants went after Vanderbilt righty Tyler Beede in the first round (No. 14 overall), since he's basically the college version of Crick: electric arm, no idea where the ball's going.
Dylan Davis is a good college hitter to get in the third round. He has power and a good approach, but there's little bat speed and length to his swing, which prevent him from tapping into that power.
Clayton Blackburn has the highest probability to reach his ceiling in the big leagues, as he has good command and an above-average fastball-curveball combination.
Christian Arroyo, who was an overdraft last year, has some bat speed and plate coverage but not enough power to profile at second base, which is where he will end up. Andrew Susac is the team's best position-player prospect as a catcher with above-average power, but his path is blocked by some guy named Buster Posey.
26. Oakland Athletics
Preseason Rank: No. 27
Addison Russell is the only impact talent in Oakland's farm system, but the group as a whole is very intriguing thanks to the volume of youth in the lower levels. Last year's top pick, Billy McKinney, is holding his own in High-A and has a good left-handed swing with some pop.
Right-handed hurler Raul Alcantara is just 21 and a 6'3", 225-pound man with a plus fastball-changeup combination. Injuries have really hampered the top of Oakland's system with Alcantara, Russell, Michael Ynoa and Bobby Wahl all missing time so far in 2014.
The A's expanded their draft philosophy in 2012 and 2013, going after high-ceiling prep talent more often, but the team reverted back to low-ceiling college players this year. Matt Chapman is an elite defender at third base with power but not enough contact. Virtually all of the top talent is in A-ball or lower right now, so don't expect to see big results soon.
25. Atlanta Braves
Preseason Rank: No. 21
The Braves have never been big spenders in the draft, doing most of their work on the international market, though they have hit with the likes of Freddie Freeman, Mike Minor, Craig Kimbrel and Andrelton Simmons.
That lack of aggressiveness in the draft is hurting the team's farm system now because there isn't a lot of ceiling left with so many graduations in the last two years. They are also dealing with Mauricio Cabrera, owner of the highest ceiling among pitchers in the system, being on the disabled list.
The cupboard certainly isn't bare with 20-year-old shortstop Jose Peraza showing exciting tools and an advanced approach at High-A. Right-hander Lucas Sims isn't missing bats at High-A Lynchburg but has the control to get hitters out.
First-round pick Braxton Davidson (No. 32 overall) has huge raw power and a short swing to make it play. He's also a polished high school hitter who displays good pitch recognition and should have no problem projecting as a first baseman if that's where he ends up due to lack of foot speed.
Victor Caratini still has work to do behind the plate, though his ability to hit for average gives him a high ceiling if the defense develops. It's a good system at the top that thins out very quickly.
24. Tampa Bay Rays
Preseason Rank: No. 24
The Rays' inability to draft and develop their own talent is finally catching up to them at the MLB level in 2014. Matt Moore was the last notable player who grew up in their system, graduating late in 2011.
A team that has to rely on scouting and player development to build a roster can't afford that many years of missing on picks. The Rays do have talent to work with, though it's virtually all in the lower levels, and their draft didn't exactly make things markedly better.
First-round pick Casey Gillaspie (No. 20 overall) has power and a good eye but not much else. Cameron Varga is almost 20 years old as a high-school right-hander and battled arm problems this spring prior to the draft.
Fourth-round pick Blake Bivens has the highest ceiling among the draftees with a plus fastball-curveball combination and some pitchability.
They started out at a disadvantage this year with top-prospect right-hander Taylor Guerrieri having Tommy John surgery last July. He's not likely to pitch in full-season games by the end of 2014 but could appear in some Gulf Coast League contests.
Last year's first-round picks, catcher Nick Ciuffo and right-hander Ryne Stanek, are just getting acclimated to professional baseball. It's going to be a process bringing this system back into the top tier, but the front office is always aggressive drafting and making deals to add talent.
23. Chicago White Sox
Preseason Rank: No. 26
Most teams wouldn't celebrate being among the bottom 10 farm systems, but the White Sox ignored the minors for so long that moving up to 23rd since starting their rebuilding efforts just about two years ago is a huge, positive step.
Being able to land left-hander Carlos Rodon—the top talent when the season started and 1A with No. 1 overall selection Brady Aiken at the time of the draft—with the No. 3 pick had to feel like Christmas in July. Then they were able to get Spencer Adams, a first-round talent, with the 44th pick.
It will cost a lot of money to sign those two players, which is why the rest of the draft class is just OK, but those are two high-ceiling pitchers who can lead a farm system.
They've also done well to trade overrated MLB assets (Addison Reed) for young, controllable assets (Adam Eaton, Matt Davidson). Of course, Davidson is getting destroyed by Triple-A pitching with a strikeout rate of nearly 39 percent.
The signing of Jose Abreu looks like one of the decade's great heists already. He has had no problems adjusting to MLB pitching, which was my big concern when the signing was first announced.
There's not much in the pitching pipeline, even with the addition of Rodon. Chris Beck is a command/control right-hander with average stuff; Andrew Mitchell isn't throwing strikes in Low-A; and Tyler Danish projects better as a reliever due to a sidearm delivery.
It's still not a good farm system, though it's getting better. Courtney Hawkins, the No. 13 pick in 2012, has rebounded well from an overaggressive push to High-A last year with an OPS over .800 this season.
22. Toronto Blue Jays
Preseason Rank: No. 23
Graduating Marcus Stroman to the big leagues put a dent in Toronto's system, which was already thin at the top, but the team's aggressiveness in the draft combined with two first-round picks help soften the blow.
Getting Jeff Hoffman at No. 9, assuming he makes it all the way back from Tommy John surgery, is like adding a top-five draft talent at a bargain price. Max Pentecost is the best catcher in the draft class with good potential on both sides of the ball.
The Blue Jays continued to shoot for ceiling throughout the draft, as they tend to do, with Sean Reid-Foley in Round 2 and Nick Wells in Round 3. Time will tell if they can sign all of those players, but even two of them will help out a young crop.
The great mystery in the crop is right-hander Aaron Sanchez, who will show three plus pitches in a given start. His mechanics have changed in the last year, as he finishes upright and doesn't get the same extension out front to drive the ball down in the zone.
Daniel Norris, a second-round pick in 2011, is throwing strikes and picking apart High-A with a 1.12 ERA and 66-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He is a mid-rotation starter who should arrive in Toronto by the end of 2015.
In a system with so many athletes—on the mound and in the field—the Blue Jays have the potential to take huge strides in the next two years. However, it's such a fine line to walk because it's virtually all in the lower levels.
21. New York Yankees
Preseason Rank: No. 22
The Yankees didn't have the opportunity to add impact talent in this draft with no first-round pick, but they were able to find quality depth to complement a solid stable of position players.
Top pick Jacob Lindgren (No. 55 overall) has three above-average pitches to get MLB hitters out, but he is also just 5'11" and is most effective out of the bullpen.
As you can see watching the MLB team, especially in light of injuries to starters CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda, New York's pitching depth in the minors is terrible. Ian Clarkin, last year's first-round selection, is the best arm in the system, and he's in Low-A.
Compounding the problem is New York's top position players are still struggling to adjust against Double-A pitching. Gary Sanchez has 19 extra-base hits but doesn't consistently drive the ball to hit for average or get on base. Mason Williams isn't doing anything with the bat. Tyler Austin isn't hitting for power.
And in the surprise of all surprises, Slade Heathcott is hurt again. It's frustrating to watch these young hitters struggle, because the raw ability is there to play in the big leagues. Nothing has clicked for one of them yet, leaving New York's system largely in a state of flux.
20. Cincinnati Reds
Preseason Rank: No. 15
Cincinnati's farm system is exciting thanks to the sheer volume of hard-throwing right-handers—led by Robert Stephenson—and hitters with projectable power. It's not well-balanced because the infield depth is terrible.
Even with that caveat, the Reds are ahead of many teams because you can always find a spot to put a bat. Jesse Winker is the best hitter in the system, boasting a sweet left-handed swing with an excellent approach and above-average raw power.
Top pick Nick Howard (No. 19 overall) was a late riser after showing three above-average pitches this spring and excellent athleticism. Alex Blandino is a fantastic hitter for average who will have no problem sticking at second or third base in pro ball.
Right-hander Michael Lorenzen is 6'3" with a power fastball and solid control who projects well as a mid-rotation starter, though this is just his first year not pitching in the bullpen.
A lot of the Reds' top arms lack the command to profile as starters, but Nick Travieso and Jackson Stephens still have plenty of development time ahead of them. It's not unreasonable to think one of them could make a Stephenson-like leap in a year.
19. Seattle Mariners
Preseason Rank: No. 19
The Mariners are in a very precarious position down on the farm. Their 2014 draft was good because they had a top-10 pick and were able to get the guy they wanted all along—Alex Jackson at No. 6— but they have been hit hard with graduations and injuries in the last 12 months.
Taijuan Walker just recently started pitching in games again, though his stock took a hit last season when his mechanics looked off. He used to get more drive and extension off the rubber but now stays more upright through the finish and puts more stress on his arm.
D.J. Peterson, last year's top pick, has good rate stats in High-A, but he's also striking out a lot for a guy who was supposed to be a polished college hitter with a good approach. He could be selling out for power, which isn't the worst thing in the world.
A lot of the top talent after Walker is in the lower levels of the minors—including Jackson, whenever he signs—and has a long way to go. But the international crop looks strong. Gabriel Guerrero, nephew of Vladimir, is showing the hitting potential he's always had and could end up as the top prospect in the system by the end of 2015.
Pitching is still a strength of the system with Tyler Pike, Luiz Gohara and Edwin Diaz. All three of those arms are under the age of 21, with Pike and Diaz already showing power stuff in A-ball.
18. Cleveland Indians
Preseason Rank: No. 16
The best way to describe Cleveland's farm system right now is interesting. It's not good enough to be one of the better groups in baseball, but the ceilings of players in the lower levels could push the franchise up significantly in the next couple of years.
Of course, Francisco Lindor's presence still makes the upper levels of the minors worth watching. He doesn't have one superstar tool like Chicago's Javier Baez, but he does everything so well that stardom seems inevitable.
Last year's top pick, Clint Frazier, is still adjusting to full-season ball with a strikeout rate over 33 percent. Don't be discouraged by the lack of power thus far, as the Midwest League has a habit of destroying a young hitter's pop.
The Indians had a fantastic first day of the draft, adding one of the top college bats in Bradley Zimmer at No. 21, high-probability left-hander Justus Sheffield at No. 31, polished college hitter Mike Papi at No. 38 and a projectable right-hander in Grant Hockin at No. 61.
They also added one of the best power bats from the high school class in Bobby Bradley and may have a steal in eighth-rounder Micah Miniard, a 6'7" right-hander, if they can sign him.
Trevor Bauer was a huge question mark coming into the year but pitched so well that hopefully he doesn't have to see Triple-A again. That's a good thing for this club, which lacks power arms that project as starting pitchers.
Most of Cleveland's top arms were back-end types like Cody Anderson or don't have the command/control profile to stick in a rotation (Mitch Brown, Dylan Baker) before the draft, so Sheffield and Hockin are critical for this system.
17. Washington Nationals
Preseason Rank: No. 17
Everything in the system starts with Lucas Giolito, who continues to dazzle in his return from Tommy John surgery less than two years ago. He's pitching at Low-A right now with 41 strikeouts and just 25 hits allowed in 35.1 innings. The arm is still electric, and his athleticism is dazzling for a 6'6", 225-pound 19-year-old.
Giolito is complemented on the mound by A.J. Cole. Another power right-hander, he's not missing bats at the same rate and doesn't have Giolito's command, but the mid-90s fastball and power curveball give him two weapons that can get MLB hitters out in the future.
The Nationals, likely encouraged by the success of Giolito's surgery, took right-hander Erick Fedde in the first round. He was a top-10 talent in the draft prior to the injury, so he represented excellent value at No. 18.
They also added the best high school catcher, Jakson Reetz, in the third round. It wasn't a deep draft class, but those two players are good enough to make it a success.
Left-hander Sammy Solis is currently on the disabled list but shows good control of an average four-pitch mix that can play in the back of a rotation when he's healthy.
Outfielder Brian Goodwin remains an enigma capable of getting on base against Triple-A pitching but not hitting for average or any kind of power to provide substantial value.
There's not a lot of depth in Washington's system right now, but the talent at the top remains very strong and can make up for some deficiencies down the list.
16. Miami Marlins
Preseason Rank: No. 20
It's been my feeling, despite the implications it had off the diamond, that the best thing the Marlins did was the trade with Toronto in the winter of 2012. They got rid of expensive deals with Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson while adding quality talent to the system.
Even though the Marlins pretended to be a big-market team two years ago, their only path to success is building through the farm system. They should also be commended (yeah, I said it) for promoting top prospects when they feel they're ready (Jose Fernandez, Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton, etc.) and not waiting like some teams for Super Two status to go away.
That's a long preamble to say that Miami's system is in much better shape now, especially with the addition of flame-throwing righty Tyler Kolek (this year's No. 2 overall pick), than it was two years ago.
Left-hander Andrew Heaney doesn't have an overpowering package but commands three above-average pitches so well that he could be a No. 2 starter. Justin Nicolino is a lefty with a plus changeup and good delivery. Trevor Williams was a steal in last year's draft and is throwing well in High-A.
Depth is still an issue for the Marlins, but they're strong at the top and will get contributions soon from Heaney, Nicolino and Jake Marisnick to supplement a solid MLB roster.
15. Arizona Diamondbacks
Preseason Rank: No. 14
The Diamondbacks have done a good job adding impact pitching to their system, even if some of it has come at the expense of position players. They did give up on Tyler Skaggs too soon and graduated Chris Owings to the big leagues, but there's enough depth to keep the system hovering around the middle of the pack.
There was some hope that right-hander Archie Bradley would pitch in the big leagues this season, but an elbow injury has kept him out of action since April 26. Zach Buchanan of AZCentral.com reported it's not serious, though elbows tend to be tricky in every situation.
Braden Shipley, the No. 15 pick in last year's draft, looks like a first-round steal with a plus fastball-curveball combination, and better command and athleticism. He's earned a promotion to High-A and made his first appearance in Visalia on June 1.
They struck gold when Touki Toussaint fell in their lap at No. 16 this year, and Marcus Wilson is a good athlete with the ability to hit at the top of a lineup.
Even though we've had a lot of fun at general manager Kevin Towers' expense with some of the trades he's made, acquiring Brandon Drury from the Braves in the Justin Upton deal takes some of the sting away. The 21-year-old has a good eye at the plate, makes a lot of contact and has grown into some power, though the California League does skew some of his current production.
There's quality talent at the lower levels of the minors with Stryker Trahan showing some pop and defensive chops behind the plate, and toolsy shortstop Sergio Alcantara showing an excellent approach as a 17-year-old in rookie ball last year.
14. St. Louis Cardinals
Preseason Rank: No. 6
Even though the fall from sixth to 14th seems steep, consider the Cardinals have promoted Kolten Wong and Oscar Taveras this season to go along with Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, Matt Adams, Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha from last year's prospect list.
That's a ton of talent to lose in such a short amount of time, yet it's also an indication of how well the Cardinals have stocked their system, having suffered such a substantial blow and still ranking in the top half of baseball.
Their draft didn't light my world on fire, because Luke Weaver (No. 27 overall) is a reliever due to below-average command and no swing-and-miss pitch. Ronnie Williams and Andrew Morales are undersized right-handers.
Jack Flaherty has the potential to be a standout from this particular class with athleticism, repeatable mechanics and a good feel for four pitches.
Outfielder Stephen Piscotty didn't come into the system with a lot of hype but has really turned into an excellent baseball player. There's nothing special about his tools other than just knowing how to hit. Carson Kelly isn't likely to stay behind the plate, though there's enough raw power in the bat to profile at third base.
The system is also loaded with high-ceiling arms in the lower levels of the minors. Alex Reyes, a 19-year-old right-hander, has the best arm in the group and a projectable 6'3", 185-pound frame. He's still learning to throw strikes consistently but has huge upside.
There are also safe bets on the pitching side with Marco Gonzales showing plus command and an even better changeup. Rob Kaminsky is an undersized left-hander (5'11", 191 pounds) who has polish and a knockout breaking ball to complement an above-average fastball.
13. Baltimore Orioles
Preseason Rank: No. 11
The Orioles put themselves at a disadvantage in this draft by forfeiting their first two picks to sign Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz. I have a feeling they don't mind the latter deal, considering how out of his mind Cruz has been playing (.307/.376/.649, 21 HR).
As a result, the Orioles were really only able to add system depth. That doesn't significantly hurt their ranking, nor does the promotion of Kevin Gausman to the big leagues for a spot start, because the top of their system is still so good.
Hunter Harvey continues to look like one of the great steals from last year's draft, dazzling at High-A with an ERA under 2.00, 31 hits allowed and 64 strikeouts in 53.2 innings. He will end up in Double-A by the end of this year with an outside shot of making it to the bigs at age 20 next year.
The most important news for the system is Dylan Bundy has started throwing (per Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun) in extended spring training following Tommy John surgery last year. It's a steep drop for the Orioles after their top six prospects.
12. Texas Rangers
Preseason Rank: No. 13
No team bets on tools in the draft and international market more than the Rangers. Just look at the money they spent on Nomar Mazara ($4.95 million), Jairo Beras ($4.5 million) and Ronald Guzman ($3.5 million) in the last three years.
This strategy does lead them to missing a lot, but it also pays huge dividends when the player hits. Case in point is Joey Gallo, a 2012 draftee with a world of power and no approach to speak of. Two years later, he's already got more than 20 homers in less than 60 games at High-A and, most importantly, a vastly improved eye at the plate.
Gallo's always going to swing and miss a lot, but the fact that he's walking more and still hitting bombs at an alarming rate bodes well for his future.
They stole Luis Ortiz at No. 30 and got one of the 2014 draft's best pure athletes in Ti'Quan Forbes at No. 59.
Texas has had to dip into the prospect pool sooner than expected because of all the injuries at the MLB level, promoting Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas, but there's still all sorts of talent. Jorge Alfaro has star potential behind the plate; Alex Gonzalez is a high probability right-hander who should be in Double-A by the end of the summer. Lewis Brinson's tools are starting to play in games with an OPS close to .750 this season.
It's always an exciting system to watch, even if the majority of Texas' best prospects are in the lower levels of the minors.
11. Philadelphia Phillies
Preseason Rank: No. 18
My overall enthusiasm for Philadelphia's farm system has waned in recent years, thanks largely to the team's insistence on trading away assets to help the MLB club win. General manager Ruben Amaro still isn't aware that the Phillies aren't title contenders, but the system is getting better.
Seventh overall pick Aaron Nola has great command and feel for everything he throws, deception and should move quickly. The rest of the draft was largely uninspiring, though Matt Imhof is intriguing as a college left-hander with some physical projection left.
J.P. Crawford was lauded for his potential with the bat and ability to stay at shortstop in last year's draft, but no one could have predicted how advanced the hit tool would be when he got in pro ball. The 19-year-old is tearing up the South Atlantic League with an OPS hovering around .850 with an incredible 31-29 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Crawford's ascent has come at the expense of Maikel Franco's bat, which has looked soft this year after a stellar 2013 campaign. He's never been the most patient hitter or a great athlete, though his bat speed and ability to make consistent hard contact made him project as an average hitter with plus power. It's still early enough to think things will turn around, not to mention he's just 21 in Triple-A.
On the pitching side, Jesse Biddle and Nola represent the Phillies' future rotation. Biddle is throwing more strikes this year than he ever has and is missing more than one bat per inning at Double-A. He could be a late-season arrival if this pace continues.
Tools are always important to the Phillies in the draft, which is why they landed Crawford and Cord Sandberg last year. It gives them an exciting collection of talent to watch, though the majority of the top prospects are in the lower levels.
10. Colorado Rockies
Preseason Rank: No. 10
The Rockies have a sneaky-good system in that the top-level talent, with the exception of Jonathan Gray, is either so far away that it's hard to put a definite label on the role, or it projects as good but not great.
Eddie Butler isn't eligible for this particular list after getting called up to start this weekend, yet there's still tremendous depth at every level for the Rockies to build around. Gray's taken over the mantle as the top right-handed pitching prospect in baseball with Archie Bradley hurt and not throwing well when he was playing.
David Dahl has come back from his lost 2013 season and is playing well, though Asheville has a habit of inflating offensive numbers. Rosell Herrera and Raimel Tapia could end up being the top two prospects in the system by the middle of next season, as they are loaded with tools and some are starting to actualize.
Their 2014 draft picks, including first-rounder Kyle Freeland (No. 8 overall) and compensation-rounder Forrest Wall, aren't high-ceiling guys but have the ability to be solid big leaguers for a long time. That's the kind of talent you find throughout the system.
9. Kansas City Royals
Preseason Rank: No. 8
The Royals had a top-10 system before the draft and didn't really do much to move forward. First-round pick Brandon Finnegan (No. 17 overall) has reliever written all over him with a delivery that requires a lot of effort and inconsistent command. Foster Griffin is a low-ceiling high school left-hander who throws strikes and mixes his pitches well.
What makes the system so good is the work done by the scouting and development staff in recent years. Kyle Zimmer has No. 1-2 starter potential with athleticism, command and a plus-plus fastball-curveball combination.
Sean Manaea is still adjusting to pro ball with an ERA over 5.00, but the lefty has 58 strikeouts in 40.2 innings. Miguel Almonte is pounding the strike zone in High-A and will start to see better results soon.
They've got depth and ceiling at the plate and on the mound. Jorge Bonifacio is still growing into his power. Raul Mondesi is 18 years old, playing in High-A and loaded with tools. The one really bad thing to say about this system right now is the Bubba Starling experiment appears to be dead.
8. Los Angeles Dodgers
Preseason Rank: No. 12
It was tempting to elevate Los Angeles' system simply for drafting Grant Holmes at No. 22 in the first round, but that's not how this whole thing works. As impressive as the young right-hander is, with power stuff and more command than an 18-year-old should have, this is a terrific system that keeps getting better.
Even Alex Verdugo, the team's second-round pick, projects well as a high-floor high school pitcher if the Dodgers put him on the mound.
They're so balanced with ceiling, floor, position players and pitching that it's almost not fair to most teams in the National League West. Julio Urias, Zach Lee, Chris Anderson and Holmes form a nice stable of arms to build around.
Corey Seager, Joc Pederson, Alexander Guerrero and Jesmuel Valentin are a good nucleus of hitters to start with.
It's a system with depth and star power at the top. Now all the Dodgers have to do is find room for some of these guys at the MLB level.
7. San Diego Padres
Preseason Rank: No. 9
It doesn't command the same attention as a lot of systems in the top 10, likely because San Diego isn't a baseball hotbed in the eyes of mainstream America, but the Padres continue to have some of the best depth in the sport.
No. 13 pick Trea Turner wasn't my favorite player in the draft, because I don't think he will hit, but he can play shortstop and add value on the bases. Michael Gettys was an excellent value in the second round, as he's loaded with tools and has premium athleticism. He's raw and will need a lot of development, but his ceiling is tremendous.
Beyond the 2014 draftees, there's as much depth in this system as anywhere. It lacks star potential, but you will be hard-pressed to find another group that will produce more quality big leaguers.
Austin Hedges is the best catching prospect in baseball with elite defensive tools and the ability to hit for average and above-average raw power. Rymer Liriano has returned from Tommy John surgery to light up Double-A with his dynamic all-around skills.
There's a ton of pitching on the way with Matt Wisler, Max Fried, Casey Kelly and Joe Ross all well on their way to San Diego within two years.
6. Pittsburgh Pirates
Preseason Rank: No. 2
The Pirates' ranking has taken a hit because Jameson Taillon is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Tyler Glasnow's control hasn't gotten better (26 walks in 37.2 innings) and Nick Kingham isn't missing bats at the same rate.
We will see whatever happens with Gregory Polanco, who was rumored to be on his way to Pittsburgh over the weekend, per Tim Williams of PiratesProspects.com (via CBSSports.com), but he apparently still has too much to work on in Triple-A. (That is, of course, until the Pirates decide that they've waited long enough to delay his Super Two status.)
It's telling how deep Pittsburgh's system is, which now includes this year's top pick, Cole Tucker (No. 24 overall), that it can have those top-tier prospects take a step back and still remain in the top 10.
The most encouraging sign is Josh Bell's performance. He was the big bonus baby as a second-round pick in 2011, but he struggled out of the gate with injuries and got surpassed by other players in the system. The 21-year-old is healthy now and showing the hitting ability that made him sought after three years ago (.819 OPS in High-A).
Reese McGuire, one of Pittsburgh's two first-round picks last year, is showing a good approach at the plate in Low-A and playing his usual solid defense behind it. Austin Meadows has yet to debut this season due to a hamstring injury, but the ceiling remains incredibly high for the 19-year-old.
Even though the MLB team has regressed this season, help is very much on the way.
5. Chicago Cubs
Preseason Rank: No. 4
It appeared the Cubs were going to come out of the draft in a similar spot to when they entered it, with all sorts of offensive talent and not a lot of pitching. Then Day 2 saw them grab high-ceiling arms like Carson Sands, Justin Steele and Dylan Cease.
The front office will have to get creative to sign those three young arms, but it should get friendly under-slot deals from Day 1 picks Kyle Schwarber (No. 4 overall) and Jake Stinnett (No. 45).
Even if they hadn't gotten those arms, the Cubs would still be a top-five system. Their position-player depth and star power is the best in baseball. Kris Bryant is tearing it up at Double-A, though the strikeouts are troublesome. Javier Baez still doesn't have an approach, but you can see how easily the ball comes off his bat when contact happens. Albert Almora and Arismendy Alcantara are as steady as it gets without explosive tools.
Jorge Soler is hurt again, which is starting to become an unfortunate trend, but he's got incredible physical gifts.
Times are tough in Chicago right now. Patience is a virtue Cubs fans have been blessed with. It won't be much longer before the team is competing for a playoff spot.
4. New York Mets
Preseason Rank: No. 7
Even though the Mets graduated Travis d'Arnaud and Wilmer Flores this year, they've built such a deep stable of talent that it actually looks better overall today than it did three months ago.
Of course, Rafael Montero's presence in the minors also helps. He got a brief tryout in the big leagues before moving back to Triple-A. In what can only be described as a huge relief to all involved, Noah Syndergaard's shoulder problems have been attributed to a sprained A/C joint, per Mike Vorkunov of The Star-Ledger.
Their stable of hitters is getting better with each passing month. Brandon Nimmo's approach is among the best in the minors. Dominic Smith is being humbled by the brutal hitting environment that is Savannah, yet he has a respectable 33-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Adding a polished college bat with the 10th pick like Michael Conforto, who can get on base and hit for power, only makes things better. Third-round pick Milton Ramos is a defensive wizard at shortstop who has real problems hitting.
This system gets better and better the more you break it down, so don't be surprised to see the Mets flirting with contention soon because of what they can use.
3. Minnesota Twins
Preseason Rank: No. 1
You might assume because they dropped two spots that the Twins' system has lost some excitement, but that's far from the case. There are just two clubs that have taken steps forward, while Minnesota has stayed largely in place.
Of course, when you have Byron Buxton at the top of your system, it's hard to say that stagnation is a bad thing. Losing Miguel Sano for the season following Tommy John surgery does cloud his future some, though he still profiles as an All-Star at first base if the elbow doesn't play at third anymore.
First-round pick Nick Gordon (No. 5 overall) is the only notable 2014 draftee with any kind of ceiling. He's a true shortstop with a natural feel for hitting and the underrated strength to put the ball in gaps. They did add a lot of bullpen help (Nick Burdi, Michael Cederoth, Sam Clay, Jake Reed) on Day 2, so at least they won't have to spend money in free agency in that area.
There's still tremendous potential and depth in the system, including right-handers Alex Meyer and Kohl Stewart. Max Kepler is an underrated hitter. Eddie Rosario still has a world of talent, he just needs to make better decisions off the field after being suspended for 50 games.
It's still the most exciting collection of high-upside talent in baseball, so don't be worried by the fact that the Twins "only" rank third on this list.
2. Houston Astros
Preseason Rank: No. 3
Even with the promotions of George Springer and Jonathan Singleton, Houston's system is still stacked with high-end talent in the upper and lower levels of the minors. It also helps that the Astros were able to add Brady Aiken, the top talent in the draft, with the No. 1 overall pick.
Their other Day 1 picks, Derek Fisher and A.J. Reed, are solid high-floor guys who might come a little cheaper since they are college juniors. Right-hander Jacob Nix (fifth round) has a great arm and flashes two average off-speed pitches. He could be difficult to sign away from UCLA at that spot.
Carlos Correa continues to dazzle with the bat, posting an OPS near .900, though the California League can inflate numbers. He's a superstar offensively with better-than-expected skills at shortstop, though third base will eventually be his home.
It's been a rough season for last year's top pick, Mark Appel, including a May 31 start where he gave up 10 hits and 10 runs in 1.1 innings, but there's nothing wrong with the stuff. He's just struggling to command it all. There seems to be a rush to give up on him, even though this is his first full season in pro ball.
Mike Foltynewicz still brings the heat, though he's starting to look more like a reliever with inconsistent command and a fringy breaking ball. The biggest mover in the system is Rio Ruiz, who just turned 20 and is tearing it up in High-A with an advanced approach and developing power.
1. Boston Red Sox
Preseason Rank: No. 5
The system lost Xander Bogaerts to the big leagues, but the Red Sox have built the best collection of talent in the sport thanks to an aggressive approach in the draft and a stellar player development staff.
Their draft was top-notch with a good mix of ceiling and floor. Michael Chavis, the team's first-round pick at No. 26, is a guy who is best described as a baseball player, which sounds reductive because it doesn't say much. He's just someone who does a lot of things well—including a short swing and advanced approach—without dazzling in one area. Michael Kopech is a projectable right-hander who has touched the high 90s with his fastball.
Second-round pick Sam Travis got lost behind Kyle Schwarber at Indiana, but his bat is very good with above-average pop, and he has a good idea of what to do in the box. Jake Cosart is a 20-year-old junior college right-hander with big velocity and projection in his 6'3", 175-pound frame.
Mookie Betts, the diminutive second baseman, has been the talk of the minors since the season started with a great approach, high-contact rates, a feel for the game and speed to create problems on the bases.
Left-hander Henry Owens still has some command issues, but a 6'6" southpaw with control and three above-average pitches is a valuable asset. He's already destroying Double-A (2.24 ERA, 43 hits allowed in 72.1 innings) at the age of 21.
There's so much depth for the Red Sox to build around that they can promote Bogaerts and Garin Cecchini without skipping a beat.
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