Each MLB Team's Untouchable Top Prospects Entering 2017
It's risky these days to call any prospect untouchable, as we've seen too many blockbuster deals in recent years to truly believe anyone is 100 percent safe from being moved in the right deal.
After all, who would have guessed that Yoan Moncada would be dealt this winter?
That said, a handful of prospects around the league come awfully close to being untouchable, as their future upside and expected long-term role with their teams make trading them highly unlikely.
Ahead is a look at each MLB team's most untouchable prospect, though a number of teams didn't necessarily qualify for this exercise, as you'll see in the first three slides.
Is this a 100 percent guarantee that none of these players will be traded in 2017? Definitely not, but it would be a shock if any of them were moved.
Note: Players who still have rookie eligibility but are expected to begin the 2017 season on a major league roster were not considered for this article. That notably includes Josh Bell (PIT), Andrew Benintendi (BOS), Jeff Hoffman (COL), Alex Reyes (STL) and Dansby Swanson (ATL).
Rebuilding AL Teams That Won't Be Trading Any Top Prospects
Chicago White Sox (Farm System Rank: 4)
After shipping out Chris Sale and Adam Eaton during the winter meetings for a wealth of prospect talent headlined by infielder Yoan Moncada and right-hander Lucas Giolito, the White Sox are clearly in the market to add prospect talent and won't be subtracting from the system anytime soon.
Kansas City Royals (Farm System Rank: 28)
As the Royals look to trim payroll and retool the roster after World Series trips in 2014 and 2015, they'll be counting on controllable prospect talent to build up the core once again.
Third baseman Hunter Dozier, left-hander Matt Strahm and flame-throwing right-hander Josh Staumont headline the system and all three have a chance to be integral parts of the future.
Minnesota Twins (Farm System Rank: 22)
Shortstop Nick Gordon and left-hander Stephen Gonsalves are the top dogs in a Minnesota system that has welcomed a good deal of talent to the MLB ranks in recent years.
As the team shops second baseman Brian Dozier, it's clear they are still building for the future and in the market to add prospect talent rather than deal it.
Oakland Athletics (Farm System Rank: 12)
Prospects are the lifeblood of the small-market Athletics.
They have quietly built up one of the better systems in baseball and it was further bolstered last summer by the blockbuster deal that sent Josh Reddick and Rich Hill to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a trio of quality pitching prospects.
Never say never with Billy Beane and Co., but it's probably safe to assume they won't be mortgaging any future assets.
Tampa Bay Rays (Farm System Rank: 15)
While the Rays are not necessarily rebuilding, they rely on a steady influx of cheap, controllable talent to remain competitive.
This simply isn't an organization that trades its top-tier prospects.
It's a fairly safe bet that the farm system—headlined by shortstop Willy Adames and right-hander Brent Honeywell—will stay intact through the offseason and beyond.
Rebuilding NL Teams That Won't Be Trading Any Top Prospects
Cincinnati Reds (Farm System Rank: 10)
It's been a quiet offseason for the Reds, and that figures to continue in the weeks leading up to spring training.
Ideally, the team would find a way to dump both Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart, but that's looking less and less likely as the veteran duo stands in the way of the future middle-infield combo of Dilson Herrera and Jose Peraza.
Nick Senzel is the new No. 1 prospect in the system and he's joined by pitchers Amir Garrett and Robert Stephenson as well as outfielder Jesse Winker to form the top tier of the system. None of them will be going anywhere anytime soon.
Milwaukee Brewers (Farm System Rank: 3)
The Brewers have added as much prospect talent as any team in baseball since they committed to rebuilding, and they now boast a farm system that is a consensus top-five group.
Orlando Arcia was the first high-profile prospect to reach the majors, and he figures to be joined by the likes of Lewis Brinson, Josh Hader, Brett Phillips and perhaps a few others this coming season.
The organization has a nice mix of position-player and pitching talent and all the makings of a sustainable contender a few years down the road. There's no reason to think they'll suddenly start wheeling and dealing for veteran talent.
Philadelphia Phillies (Farm System Rank: 8)
The Phillies are a bit further along in the rebuilding process than some of the other teams mentioned here, and they could be ready to make some noise as soon as 2018.
J.P. Crawford remains the marquee name in the system, and he'll reach the majors along with Jorge Alfaro and Nick Williams during the upcoming season.
The team has a ton of money to spend, so expect an aggressive approach in free agency to win out over potentially trading valuable prospect pieces once they're ready to contend.
San Diego Padres (Farm System Rank: 13)
After a bold attempt at fielding a winner in 2015, the Padres' front office did a quick 180 and set to work rebuilding the farm system after failing to live up to expectations.
Outfielders Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot are the top bats in the system, and they both appear headed for starting gigs on Opening Day, while top pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza was the prize of the Drew Pomeranz trade.
A.J. Preller has been nothing if not unpredictable in his brief tenure as general manager, but it would be a shock if any young pieces are dealt in the foreseeable future.
Weak Farm Systems That Don't Have Any Untouchable Prospects
Arizona Diamondbacks (Farm System Rank: 29)
Breakout seasons from left-hander Anthony Banda and infielder Dawel Lugo have catapulted them to the top of the Diamondbacks' organizational rankings.
With Archie Bradley, Braden Shipley and Brandon Drury all exhausting their prospect eligibility and the team still reeling from the ill-advised decision to trade Dansby Swanson, the cupboard is a bit bare.
Los Angeles Angels (Farm System Rank: 30)
The Angels still have the worst farm system in baseball, and it's still not close.
Athletic outfielder Jahmai Jones and 2016 draft picks Matt Thaiss and Brandon Marsh are the closest thing they have to a top prospect, but none of them warrant the untouchable tag.
Atlanta Braves (Farm System Rank: 2)
|OF Ronald Acuna||Rk/A||179 PA, .312/.392/.429, 48 H, 2 2B, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 28 R, 14 SB|
|SS Kevin Maitan||N/A||No stats, signed July 2, 2016|
The Atlanta Braves farm system is loaded with quality pitching talent, and if the right deal came along, chances are none of those arms would be deemed untouchable.
Despite his proximity to the big leagues, the same can probably be said for middle infielder Ozzie Albies given the fact that he's already expected to be pushed to second base due to the presence of Dansby Swanson.
However, they'll cling tight to a pair of teenage position players with huge upside in Ronald Acuna and Kevin Maitan.
Acuna, 19, has boosted his stock as much as any prospect in the game over the past year after posting a .311 average and .819 OPS in 171 plate appearances as one of the youngest players at the Single-A level.
The development of his power tool will ultimately determine just how good he can be, but he has legitimate five-tool potential and huge upside.
As for Maitan, he was widely regarded as the No. 1 prospect in this past summer's international free-agent class, and the Braves gave the Venezuelan-born infielder a $4.25 million bonus.
"Some see him as a once-in-a-generation type talent and no one would be surprised to see him jump up prospect lists once he gets his pro career going," wrote MLB.com's Prospect Watch.
He has the bat to be a middle-of-the-order run producer, the glove to stick at shortstop and an advanced feel for the game that should allow him to move quicker than most 16-year-old signees.
Baltimore Orioles (Farm System Rank: 25)
|C Chance Sisco||AA/AAA||497 PA, .317/.403/.430, 28 2B, 6 HR, 51 RBI, 57 R, 2 SB|
After eight seasons with Matt Wieters as the team's franchise catcher, the Baltimore Orioles are set to turn over a new page at the position.
Welington Castillo was signed to a one-year, $6 million deal to replace Wieters in the short term and the O's have a $7 million team option on the 29-year-old for next season as well.
The team's preference to sign a veteran on a short-term deal speaks volumes to their long-term plans for top prospect Chance Sisco.
The 21-year-old carries a career .323/.402/.434 batting line in the minors, and he's continued to hit since making the jump to the upper levels of the minors.
It's his defense that needs further seasoning.
Sisco threw out a career-best 24 percent of base stealers last season, but he still allowed 103 stolen bases on the year.
He's made steady progress in his receiving skills and footwork and should be able to handle catching on a regular basis at the next level, but he's not quite there yet.
Another step forward in 2017 could put him in a position to push for the starting job in 2018.
Boston Red Sox (Farm System Rank: 16)
|SP Jason Groome||Rk/A-||0-0, 2.70 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 4 BB, 10 K, 6.2 IP|
Unless a once-in-a-generation trade opportunity came along, Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech both looked to be untouchable when the offseason kicked off.
Then said opportunity presented itself and both players were shipped to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for ace Chris Sale and his three remaining years of club control.
So what's left in the Boston pipeline?
Andrew Benintendi doesn't qualify here since he's locked into an MLB role to kick off 2017, and Rafael Devers has major upside but probably isn't untouchable if a need arose and the right deal came along.
That leaves 2016 first-round pick Jason Groome as the one player remaining in the system that would likely be off-limits.
A candidate to go No. 1 overall last June, Groome wound up slipping to the Red Sox at No. 12 where he was given a $3.65 million bonus.
With a durable 6'6" frame, clean mechanics and a terrific three-pitch repertoire that includes a mid-90s fastball, plus curveball and workable changeup he has all the makings of a future front-line starter.
Asking price and a deep crop of high school arms caused him to slip in the draft more than anything and 10 years from now he could easily be the best pitcher from the 2016 class and a top-tier starter.
Chicago Cubs (Farm System Rank: 14)
|SP Dylan Cease||A-||2-0, 2.22 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 25 BB, 66 K, 44.2 IP|
|SP Oscar De La Cruz||Rk/A-/A||1-3, 3.00 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 11 BB, 51 K, 39.0 IP|
|OF Eloy Jimenez||A||464 PA, .329/.369/.532, 40 2B, 14 HR, 81 RBI, 65 R, 8 SB|
The Chicago Cubs may not have the big guns headlining the farm system that they did a few years ago when Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez were working their way toward the majors, but there's still plenty of high-ceiling talent.
The new top dog in the system is outfielder Eloy Jimenez, who was the major expenditure of the team's 2013 international free-agent signing frenzy when he landed a $2.8 million bonus.
The 20-year-old finally turned upside and potential into production last season when he crushed Single-A pitching and put on a show in the Futures Game against mostly older competition.
He has everything you look for in a cornerstone right fielder.
Pitching has been the weak link of the farm system during the team's recent rise to prominence, but that figures to change in the years to come.
Dylan Cease might have gone in the first round of the 2014 draft if not for an arm injury that eventually required Tommy John surgery. He wound up slipping to the Cubs in the sixth round, and they rolled the dice with a $1.5 million above-slot bonus.
"That gamble could pay off big, as he has more upside than any pitcher in Chicago's farm system," wrote MLB.com's Prospect Watch.
Back healthy, Cease flashed the huge arm that made him such a highly-regarded prospect in high school, touching triple-digits with his fastball and backing it with a plus power curve and solid changeup.
Then there's Dominican-born right-hander Oscar De La Cruz who might be the wild card of the system.
The 21-year-old still has plenty of projection remaining in his 6'4", 200-pound frame, and he already touches 97 with good movement.
His off-speed stuff is still raw, but he has good overall command and smooth, repeatable mechanics that should aid in his continued development.
A potential middle-of-the-order slugger and a pair of exciting young arms with front-line upside give the Cubs three untouchable prospects for the fanbase to follow closely.
Cleveland Indians (Farm System Rank: 11)
|LHP Brady Aiken||Rk/A-||2-5, 5.83 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 21 BB, 57 K, 46.1 IP|
|RHP Triston McKenzie||A-/A||6-5, 1.62 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 22 BB, 104 K, 83.1 IP|
|C Francisco Mejia||A/A+||443 PA, .342/.382/.514, 29 2B, 11 HR, 80 RBI, 63 R, 2 SB|
In recent years, the Cleveland Indians have been a franchise that relies on homegrown talent and free-agent bargains to build a contending club.
That changed in a big way last summer when they shipped two of their top prospects—outfielder Clint Frazier and left-hander Justus Sheffield—to the New York Yankees in exchange for relief ace Andrew Miller.
It was a franchise-changing trade and played a significant role in the team's run to the World Series, but it's best viewed as a one-off situation as opposed to a shift in organizational philosophy.
With that in mind, top prospects Francisco Mejia, Triston McKenzie and Brady Aiken should all be staying put for the time being.
Mejia was close to being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers at the deadline in exchange for catcher Jonathan Lucroy, but that deal fell through after Lucroy exercised his no-trade clause.
The 21-year-old is arguably the top catching prospect in the game, and with Yan Gomes no lock to return to form after an injury-plagued season, he looks to be an important part of the Indians' long-term plans.
On the pitching side of things, McKenzie replaces Sheffield as the top arm in the system, and he was nothing short of dominant in his full-season debut with a 104-to-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 83.1 innings.
Still just 19 and with a ton of projection left in his wiry 6'5", 165-pound frame, he has the potential to emerge as one of the game's top young arms in the years to come.
Then there's former No. 1 overall pick Aiken.
The left-hander failed to sign with the Houston Astros after questions about the health of his arm popped up, then underwent Tommy John surgery the following spring. That didn't stop the Indians from taking him No. 17 overall in 2015, though.
His numbers weren't great in his return to action, but he could be ready to take off another year removed from the surgery and there's no reason to sell low on him now.
Colorado Rockies (Farm System Rank: 9)
|SS Brendan Rodgers||A||491 PA, .281/.342/.480, 31 2B, 19 HR, 73 RBI, 73 R, 6 SB|
|SP Riley Pint||Rk||1-5, 5.35 ERA, 1.78 WHIP, 23 BB, 36 K, 37.0 IP|
The Colorado Rockies have one of the deepest farm systems in the league, but with the bulk of the talent on the position-player side of things, they're not necessarily loaded with untouchable prospects.
In fact, guys like Ryan McMahon, Forest Wall and Raimel Tapia could eventually wind up as trade fodder in the team's ongoing search for quality arms.
However, one hitter who likely won't be going anywhere is shortstop Brendan Rodgers.
The No. 3 pick in the 2015 draft—immediately following Dansby Swanson and Alex Bregman—Rodgers has a chance to be the best of the bunch.
As the lone high schooler from that trio, he obviously hasn't moved through the minors as quickly, but plus raw power gives him an edge in terms of offensive ceiling and there's no reason to think he won't stick at shortstop defensively.
The 20-year-old could be in the big leagues by 2018 and a middle infield of Rodgers and Trevor Story would offer as much pop as any tandem around.
The other player likely to be off-limits is 2016 first-round pick Riley Pint.
The 6'4" right-hander had the highest ceiling of any prep arm in the class and the Rockies were thrilled to see him fall to them at No. 4 overall.
There's work to do smoothing out his mechanics and refining his command, but there's no ignoring a fastball that touches 102 and a curveball-changeup combination that already flashes plus. He also offers further projection in his 6'4', 195-pound frame.
While he'll be a project and might not see the majors until 2020, it could be well worth the wait if he reaches his ace potential.
Detroit Tigers (Farm System Rank: 26)
|SP Kyle Funkhouser||A-||0-2, 2.65 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 8 BB, 34 K, 37.1 IP|
|SP Matt Manning||Rk||0-2, 3.99 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 7 BB, 46 K, 29.1 IP|
The Detroit Tigers appeared on the "Weak Farm Systems That Don't Have Any Untouchable Prospects" list when we put this article together last season.
While the crop of minor league talent is still relatively thin, they added a pair of intriguing arms in the June draft that figure to headline the system going forward.
The first was No. 9 overall pick Matt Manning, who was signed away from a commitment to play baseball and basketball at Loyola Marymount.
He's the classic Tigers' draft pick as a high school right-hander with power stuff and a wide range between his floor and ceiling.
At 6'6" and 190 pounds there's a lot to dream on as his fastball already touches 97, and there's always the hope that his pitchability will take off once he turns his full attention to the baseball diamond.
"Manning's size, athleticism, stuff and projectability give him top-of-the-rotation potential. Now that he's focusing on baseball only, the sky might be the limit," wrote MLB.com's Prospect Watch.
The wild card of the system is right-hander Kyle Funkhouser.
A candidate to go No. 1 overall last June after rebuffing the Los Angeles Dodgers when they made him the No. 35 pick in the 2015 draft, Funkhouser instead suffered through an inconsistent senior season at Louisville and wound up slipping to the fourth round.
While his overall numbers this past spring weren't great, he finished his college season strong and that carried over into the start of his pro career as he was dominant in short-season A-ball.
With his stuff ticking back up as 2016 wore on, he once again appears to have a middle-of-the-rotation ceiling with workhorse potential.
His full-season debut will be watched closely, and he could emerge as an early candidate for biggest steal of the 2016 draft.
Houston Astros (Farm System Rank: 7)
|SP Francis Martes||AA||9-6, 3.30 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 47 BB, 131 K, 125.1 IP|
Earlier this offseason, the Houston Astros rebuffed the Chicago White Sox request for Francis Martes, Joe Musgrove and Kyle Tucker in exchange for starter Jose Quintana, per MLB writer Peter Gammons.
While Musgrove is an MLB-ready arm with middle-of-the-rotation potential and Tucker is the top position-player prospect in the system, there's a good chance it was the inclusion of Martes that proved to a non-starter.
Most agree that the one missing piece for the Astros right now in their push for title contention is an ace-caliber starting pitcher to anchor the rotation.
Martes could be just that a few years from now.
The 21-year-old came to the Astros in the six-player deal that sent Jarred Cosart to the Miami Marlins at the deadline in 2014, though it was Colin Moran and Jake Marisnick who were the key return pieces for Houston at the time.
That changed in 2015 when Martes dominated in his full-season debut, going 8-3 with a 2.04 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 98 strikeouts in 101.2 innings while climbing three levels to reach Double-A.
It was more of the same in a full season with Double-A Corpus Christi, and he's pushed his way into the league's top tier of pitching prospects in the process.
Big 6'7" right-hander David Paulino and 2016 first-round pick Forrest Whitley both have huge upside and it would take a lot to pry them loose, but the one player in the organization that truly looks to be untouchable is Martes.
Los Angeles Dodgers (Farm System Rank: 5)
|SP Yadier Alvarez||Rk/A||4-3, 2.12 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 21 BB, 81 K, 59.1 IP|
|1B Cody Bellinger||AA/AAA||477 PA, .271/.365/.507, 17 2B, 26 HR, 71 RBI, 66 R, 8 SB|
|SP Walker Buehler||Rk/A||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 3 BB, 6 K, 5.0 IP|
Here's about all you need to know about which prospects the Los Angeles Dodgers consider to be untouchable, from Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports:
It’s no surprise that some suggest the Dodgers are being “stingy” with their top prospects in talks for veteran players, as LA values their top minor leaguers high. They made the right calls to keep NL Rookie of the Year Corey Seager and lefty phenom Julio Urias.
But they are willing to part with righty Jose De Leon for (Brian) Dozier. They are not willing to include top first base prospect Cody Bellinger or top young pitchers Walker Buehler or Yadier Alvarez along with De Leon.
Buehler may seem like the surprise name of that group, but there was a time he was considered the best MLB prospect on a Vanderbilt team that included Dansby Swanson and Carson Fulmer, per MLB.com.
Injury issues during his junior season and subsequent concerns about a potential future Tommy John surgery caused him to slip to No. 24 overall in the 2015 draft, and he ended up undergoing the operation that August.
He returned strong last season, though, and again looks to have the polish and front-line potential to be worthy of an untouchable distinction.
The other two are considerably less surprising.
Alvarez landed a $16 million bonus as part of the 2015 international class and absolutely dominated in his pro debut with an 81-to-21 K/BB ratio over 59.1 innings. He's now the top overall prospect in the system and a potential future ace.
As for Bellinger, he's long been considered the heir to Adrian Gonzalez at first base.
That being said, he has the athleticism to play the outfield in the interim and could be ready to make an impact at some point during the upcoming season after reaching Triple-A down the stretch in 2016.
Even with those three chips seemingly off the table, the Dodgers still have a ton of talent to deal from, starting with the aforementioned De Leon, outfielder Alex Verdugo and the big bat without a position Willie Calhoun.
Miami Marlins (Farm System Rank: 27)
|SP Braxton Garrett||-||No stats, did not pitch after signing.|
The Miami Marlins have one of the thinnest farm systems in baseball.
While right-hander Luis Castillo and third baseman Brian Anderson both have decent upside, the one prospect with truly elite value is 2016 first-round pick Braxton Garrett.
Here's what I wrote about Garrett leading up to the 2016 draft:
Braxton Garrett does not have the same ceiling as Jason Groome and a few other prep arms like Matt Manning and Ian Anderson. However, he's the most polished high school pitcher on the board and has as high a floor as any prep arm in recent years.
His fastball sits in the 88-94 mph range, and that should improve as he continues to fill out his 6'3", 190-pound frame.
He backs his heater with a curveball that is already a plus pitch—and arguably the best in this year's class—and he has a good feel for his changeup.
Garrett throws all three of his pitches for strikes, and his advanced pitchability should allow him to move quicker than most pitchers his age.
A relatively safe pick who still boasts considerable upside is exactly the type of player the prospect-starved Marlins had to target.
It's not out of the question to think he could be pushing for a rotation spot by 2019, and the Marlins would be wise to hold onto their best young asset as the future outlook of the pitching staff is anything but rosy.
New York Mets (Farm System Rank: 23)
|SS Amed Rosario||A+/AA||527 PA, .324/.374/.459, 24 2B, 5 HR, 71 RBI, 65 R, 19 SB|
If the right deal came along, the New York Mets might be willing to part with Dominic Smith given his somewhat limited value as a first-base-only prospect.
The same goes for MLB-ready prospects Gavin Cecchini and Brandon Nimmo, who are ready to make an impact but don't have a clear path to playing time.
However, it doesn't sound like there's any scenario where they'd entertain the idea of moving shortstop Amed Rosario.
"One Mets official said the team is pretty much open to talking about any of their young players except for top prospect, shortstop Amed Rosario," wrote Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
Veteran Asdrubal Cabrera is currently locked into the starting shortstop job and he enjoyed a strong debut with the Mets last season, posting an .810 OPS with 30 doubles, 23 home runs and 62 RBI.
He's set to earn $8.25 million this coming season with an $8.5 million team option for 2018, giving the Mets plenty of flexibility as far as when they turn things over to Rosario.
The 21-year-old should enter 2017 as a consensus top-25 prospect in the league after a breakout season at the plate.
He actually put up better numbers following a midseason promotion, hitting .341/.392/.481 with 21 extra-base hits in 54 games after joining Double-A Binghamton.
That jump in offensive production, coupled with all the skills necessary to be a standout defensive shortstop, makes him an obvious untouchable for the Mets.
New York Yankees (Farm System Rank: 1)
|OF Clint Frazier||AA/AAA||520 PA, .263/.335/.447, 27 2B, 16 HR, 55 RBI, 75 R, 13 SB|
|SP James Kaprielian||A+||3 GS, 2-1, 1.50 ERA, 0.61 WHIP, 3 BB, 22 K, 18.0 IP|
|SS Gleyber Torres||A+||547 PA, .270/.354/.421, 29 2B, 11 HR, 66 RBI, 81 R, 21 SB|
After years of gutting the farm system for the sake of padding the roster with veteran talent, the New York Yankees have finally committed to building up the minor league ranks.
The result is a group that currently ranks as the No. 1 farm system in the game.
While the Yankees have given no indication which prospects they view as untouchable and which they might be willing to move down the road, the three listed above appear to have the most long-term value.
Gleyber Torres is the clear No. 1 prospect in the system after a dynamite showing in the Arizona Fall League.
The 20-year-old hit .403/.513/.645 with more walks (14) than strikeouts (8) to claim MVP honors in a league that featured some of the best young talents the game has to offer.
He was the prize of last summer's Aroldis Chapman trade, and the Yankees won't be looking to flip him anytime soon.
Outfielder Clint Frazier was also a deadline addition as part of the Andrew Miller deal. With some of the best raw power in the minors, he could join Gary Sanchez in the middle of the lineup for years to come.
As for right-hander James Kaprielian, he was viewed as perhaps the most polished college arm in the 2015 draft and was lights out in three High-A starts to kick off the 2016 season before elbow issues sidelined him for the remainder of the year.
The 22-year-old returned strong in the AFL and could now push for the title of top arm in the system with a breakout performance.
The Yankees will no doubt want to see what they have in 2016 first-round pick Blake Rutherford and breakout pitching prospect Chance Adams, among others, but they're not quite untouchable.
Pittsburgh Pirates (Farm System Rank: 6)
|SP Tyler Glasnow||AA/AAA||8-3, 1.93 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 68 BB, 144 K, 116.2 IP|
|SP Mitch Keller||A/A+||9-5, 2.35 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 19 BB, 138 K, 130.1 IP|
The Pittsburgh Pirates will be leaning heavily on young arms this coming season and that's a trend that doesn't figure to change anytime soon.
Tyler Glasnow and Mitch Keller are two of the top pitching prospects in the organization and in all of baseball for that matter, and they could join Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon to form a dynamic homegrown rotation.
Glasnow has absolutely dominated minor league hitters with a career 2.03 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 645 strikeouts over 500 innings.
The 6'8" right-hander has electric stuff, but he still needs to smooth out his mechanics and dial in his command (5.2 BB/9 in 2016) in order to reach his front-line potential.
He'll likely head back to the minors to begin 2017, but he will need to play a significant role this coming year if the team is going to contend.
As for Keller, he's relatively new to the top prospect scene and has quickly become one of the game's most promising young arms.
A second-round pick in 2014, he missed most of the 2015 season battling a forearm injury but returned with a breakout performance in his full-season debut.
With a mid-90s fastball, plus curveball and developing changeup all from a strong 6'3", 195-pound frame the 20-year-old has everything you look for in a middle-of-the-rotation arm with the potential for significantly more.
Shortstop Kevin Newman received some consideration for this list as well after his breakout 2016 season.
However, with the Pirates discussing an extension with Jordy Mercer, per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, he may not be as integral to the team's long-term plans as one might think.
San Francisco Giants (Farm System Rank: 19)
|IF Christian Arroyo||AA||517 PA, .274/.316/.373, 36 2B, 3 HR, 49 RBI, 57 R, 1 SB|
It might be a stretch to call anyone in the San Francisco Giants' farm system untouchable, but it's hard to see them parting with Christian Arroyo.
The No. 25 pick in the 2013 draft, Arroyo turned in a breakout season offensively in 2015 when he hit .304/.344/.459 with 40 extra-base hits in 409 plate appearances with High-A San Jose.
He didn't fare as well in Double-A this past season, though a strained oblique undoubtedly played a role.
A middle infielder by trade, Arroyo is blocked at the MLB level by Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford, and he'll likely make the full-time move to third base for the upcoming season.
That should put him in a position to push Eduardo Nunez and Conor Gillaspie for the starting job at some point in 2017.
"l’ll go into spring training hoping Christian continues to show progress in his defensive role and with the bat," GM Bobby Evans told Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area. "I anticipate him starting next year in the minor leagues."
There's a good chance Nunez played over his head for much of 2016 and postseason heroics aside Gillaspie has a 95 OPS+ average over seven MLB seasons, so it's not out of the question to think Arroyo could push his way into the picture early on if both struggle.
Outfielder Bryan Reynolds, who was a steal in the second round last June, may also be deserving of a spot on this list and could cement his untouchable status with a strong first full pro season.
Seattle Mariners (Farm System Rank: 20)
|OF Kyle Lewis||A-||135 PA, .299/.385/.530, 8 2B, 3 HR, 26 RBI, 26 R, 3 SB|
|OF Tyler O'Neill||AA||575 PA, .293/.374/.508, 26 2B, 24 HR, 102 RBI, 68 R, 12 SB|
The weak links in an otherwise loaded Seattle Mariners lineup appear to be in the outfield.
That figures to change in the near future with Tyler O'Neill and Kyle Lewis headlining an otherwise mediocre minor league system.
O'Neill announced himself as a prospect to watch when he slugged 32 home runs at the High-A level in 2015, but there were some legitimate questions about his approach and his hit tools as a whole.
That's enough to make him one of the top outfield prospects in the game and a potential impact rookie to watch in 2017 as he won't have any trouble pushing his way into the lineup if he gets off to a hot start in Triple-A.
Lewis was scooped up with the No. 11 overall pick this past June after a stellar junior season at Mercer in which he hit .395/.535/.731 with 20 home runs and 72 RBI in 61 games.
He got off to a strong start after signing but suffered a torn ACL in July that led to season-ending surgery.
The 21-year-old has the hit tool, raw power and sound approach to move quickly through the system, provided he can put that knee injury behind him.
St. Louis Cardinals (Farm System Rank: 18)
|C Carson Kelly||AA/AAA||362 PA, .289/.343/.395, 17 2B, 6 HR, 32 RBI, 43 R, 0 SB|
As a whole, the St. Louis Cardinals place more value on drafting, developing and keeping their own in-house talent than most clubs.
With that in mind, it's unlikely they would entertain the idea of trading prospects like Luke Weaver, Harrison Bader, Sandy Alcantara, Magneuris Sierra and several others unless the perfect trade opportunity presented itself.
However, if there's one player they might deem untouchable in any situation, it's catcher Carson Kelly.
Kelly doesn't have the same ceiling as those players listed above, but all signs point to him being the catcher of the future and successor to Yadier Molina.
Originally drafted as a third baseman, Kelly quickly developed into the top defensive backstop in the system, but his bat lagged behind.
Case in point, he hit just .219/.263/.332 with 27 extra-base hits in 419 plate appearances with High-A Palm Beach in 2015.
That didn't stop the Cardinals from promoting him to Double-A to begin 2016, and he rewarded them with a breakout offensive season, raising his OPS 144 points and earning a spot in the Futures Game.
Molina is signed through the upcoming season with a $15 million team option for 2018, after which time he'll be 36 years old and the Cardinals might be ready to move in a different direction.
That direction appears to be Kelly, and that makes him the most important prospect in the system.
Texas Rangers (Farm System Rank: 24)
|SP Yohander Mendez||A+/AA/AAA||12-3, 2.19 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 41 BB, 113 K, 111.0 IP|
|OF Leody Taveras||Rk/A-||333 PA, .271/.324/.366, 14 2B, 1 HR, 33 RBI, 42 R, 18 SB|
It's risky to call any prospect in the Texas Rangers system untouchable given all the prospect talent they've shipped out in recent years.
Over the past two seasons, the Texas Rangers have traded away several players that ranked among the top 10 prospects in the organization, per Baseball America:
- 2015: SP Jake Thompson (No. 2), C Jorge Alfaro (No. 3), OF Nick Williams (No. 5) and SS Luis Sardinas (No. 7)
- 2016: OF Lewis Brinson (No. 2), SP Luis Ortiz (No. 4) and SP Dillon Tate (No. 5)
That turnover in high-end pitching talent could be exactly why they opt to hold onto left-hander Yohander Mendez.
Mendez began the season ranked as the No. 24 prospect in the Texas system, per Baseball America, and pitching at the High-A level.
By season's end, he was one of the breakout prospects of 2016 and had made his MLB debut with a pair of appearances out of the Rangers' bullpen.
The 21-year-old has seen his stuff improve considerably since signing back in 2011, and there's still projection remaining in his 6'5", 200-pound frame.
The other player who figures to be a long-term piece of the puzzle is outfielder Leody Taveras.
The 18-year-old put together an impressive U.S. debut and his first year of full-season ball could vault him into the upper tier of prospects league wide.
Given a hefty $2.1 million bonus out of the Dominican Republic, Taveras already has an advanced hit tool and plus speed that should allow him to stick in center field.
His approach still needs work and it's unclear just how much power he'll develop, but his ceiling is high enough that the Rangers will want to find out.
Toronto Blue Jays (Farm System Rank: 17)
|3B Vlad Guerrero Jr.||Rk||276 PA, .271/.359/.449, 12 2B, 8 HR, 46 RBI, 32 R, 15 SB|
Noah Syndergaard, Franklin Barreto, Jeff Hoffman, Kendall Graveman, Daniel Norris, Travis d'Arnaud, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino, Sean Nolin, Miguel Castro and Alberto Tirado.
That's just a sampling of the prospect talent the Toronto Blue Jays have traded away in recent years.
There's zero chance Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will be added to that list anytime soon.
Still just 17 years old and with the bloodlines to dream big, Guerrero Jr. made his U.S. debut in 2016 and did nothing to lessen the excitement about his vast potential.
"Much like his father, Vlad Jr. has an explosive right-handed swing and can put the barrel on almost any pitch he swings at. His combination of bat speed and physical strength produces effortless raw power, and his hand-eye coordination and barrel control should allow him to get to it in games consistently," wrote MLB.com's Prospect Watch.
He's not quite the all-around athlete his father was when he first broke into the league with the Montreal Expos, but he has the hit tool and plus power potential to make a similar impact in the middle of the lineup if everything falls into place.
The Blue Jays gave Guerrero Jr. a $3.9 million bonus, and you can bet they'll wait to see how that investment plays out.
Washington Nationals (Farm System Rank: 21)
|OF Victor Robles||Rk/A/A+||504 PA, .280/.376/.423, 17 2B, 9 HR, 42 RBI, 75 R, 37 SB|
Victor Robles is sort of the last man standing in what was once a vaunted Washington Nationals farm system.
With Trea Turner graduating to the majors and Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning all shipped out in a trade for Chicago White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton, the top tier of the system has taken a considerable hit.
Right-hander Erick Fedde is still a top-100 arm, 2016 picks Carter Kieboom and Sheldon Neuse have some intriguing upside and guys like Austin Voth, Pedro Severino, Juan Soto and Koda Glover all have obvious potential.
Still, there's no question Robles is the best of the bunch and the one player the Nationals will try their hardest to hold onto.
After hitting .352/.445/.507 with 20 extra-base hits and 24 stolen bases in 261 plate appearances while getting a taste of Low-A ball in 2015, he backed up that breakout performance with a strong showing as a teenager in full-season ball.
"Beyond the athleticism and physical tools, the Nats love Robles' makeup and overall baseball aptitude, both of which make him a leader in the clubhouse. He might still be a few years away from reaching the Major Leagues, but there is reason to be excited about the kind of player he could become," wrote MLB.com's Prospect Watch.
The Nationals offered up Robles in their pursuit of Chris Sale, but have been unwilling to discuss him in any other trade scenarios, per Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post.
Unless another Sale-type situation presents itself, which seems unlikely, Robles is untouchable.
Farm system rankings referenced in the piece refer to Bleacher Report's latest update, which was published on Jan. 4.