Future Power Rankings: Where Every MLB Team Will Stand 3 Years from Now

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 23, 2017

Future Power Rankings: Where Every MLB Team Will Stand 3 Years from Now

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    With a little over a month to go in the 2017 MLB regular season, a number of teams are already looking ahead to the future after falling out of contention.

    That's exactly what we'll do here.

    Baseball is nearly impossible to predict on a year-in, year-out basis, but what follows is an attempt at projecting how the league will look three years from now.

    Included are a projected lineup and rotation/closer for all 30 teams, a reminder of where each team ranked in our latest farm system rankings, a look at notable upcoming free agents each team stands to lose between now and 2020, and a breakdown of what profiles as the biggest positive and negative for each club.

    Here's how the projected rosters were assembled:

    • Players Under Contract: The obvious starting point was to pencil in the players who are under contract through the 2020 season.
    • Arbitration-Eligible Players: Next up were players who will have not yet reached free agency when 2020 rolls around but have already established themselves as everyday big leaguers.
    • Top Prospects: From there, the rest of the roster was filled in with top prospects in the farm system. These players are the toughest to project, as they have yet to prove anything at the big league level, but homegrown talent is key to building a winner.
    • Free Agents: Free agency plays a major role in reshaping the MLB landscape, but for the sake of this exercise, we made no assumptions as to where players would sign once they hit the open market.
    • Financial Flexibility: While free-agent signing predictions were not made, a team's expected financial flexibility did factor into its spot in the rankings. The New York Yankees are the perfect example, as they will have boatloads of money to spend on the vaunted 2018 and '19 free-agent classes. That had to be taken into account.

    With all of that in mind, a combination of each team's projected roster, overall quality of young talent and financial freedom factored into its final ranking.

30. Los Angeles Angels (Previous: 30)

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    Mike Trout
    Mike TroutAlex Brandon/Associated Press

    Roster Outlook

    2020 Lineup2020 Pitching Staff 
    LF Jahmai JonesSP Alex Meyer
    RF Kole CalhounSP Tyler Skaggs (L)
    CF Mike TroutSP Andrew Heaney (L)
    1B Matt ThaissSP Matt Shoemaker
    DH Albert PujolsSP Jaime Barria
    SS Andrelton SimmonsCL Cam Bedrosian
    3B Kaleb Cowart 
    C Taylor Ward 
    2B David Fletcher 

    Farm System Rank: 30


    Notable Free Agents

    OF Cameron Maybin (2018), 3B Yunel Escobar (2018), RP Bud Norris (2018), SP Garrett Richards (2019), C Martin Maldonado (2019), 3B Luis Valbuena ($8.5 million club option for 2019)


    Biggest Positive: Control over Mike Trout

    What can the Los Angeles Angels do to address the thinnest farm system in baseball?

    Eventually, trading Mike Trout might be the answer to that question, and the fact that he's signed through the 2020 season is the biggest chip in the team's favor at this point.

    He might not have a contract as team-friendly as Chris Sale, but he's the best player in baseball, and it's not at all unreasonable to think the Angels could land a haul of young talent that dwarfs what the Boston Red Sox gave up to land Sale this past offseason.


    Biggest Negative: Starting pitching

    Alex Meyer and Tyler Skaggs have both shown flashes of being quality MLB starters, but the idea of them anchoring the starting rotation comes with some obvious reservations.

    Prospect Jaime Barria should arrive in the majors in short order, and others like Nate Smith, Grayson Long and Jesus Castillo will soon be knocking on the door as well.

    Notably absent from the 2020 projected rotation is rookie standout Parker Bridwell. With a 4.55 FIP accompanying his 2.92 ERA, he still needs to prove he's more than just a flash in the pan.

    Simply put, there's no obvious future ace in the organization right now, and this front office could still be gun-shy when it comes to flashy free-agent signings after the Albert Pujols/C.J. Wilson/Josh Hamilton debacles.

29. Kansas City Royals (Previous: 28)

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    Danny Duffy
    Danny DuffyBen Margot/Associated Press

    Roster Outlook

    2020 Lineup2020 Pitching Staff 
    2B Whit MerrifieldSP Danny Duffy (L)
    CF Khalil LeeSP Ian Kennedy
    LF Hunter DozierSP Jake Junis
    DH Ryan O'HearnSP Foster Griffin (L)
    C Salvador PerezSP Eric Skoglund (L)
    RF Jorge SolerCL Josh Staumont
    1B Samir Duenez 
    3B Cheslor Cuthbert 
    SS Raul Mondesi        

    Farm System Rank: 29


    Notable Free Agents

    1B Eric Hosmer (2018), 3B Mike Moustakas (2018), OF Lorenzo Cain (2018), SP Jason Vargas (2018), SS Alcides Escobar (2018), OF Melky Cabrera (2018), RP Kelvin Herrera (2019), RP Mike Minor (2019), SP Jason Hammel (2020), OF Alex Gordon ($23 million mutual option for 2020)


    Biggest Positive: Financial flexibility

    Assuming Alex Gordon has his $23 million mutual option for 2020 declined, the Royals will only have three guaranteed contracts on the books—Ian Kennedy ($16.5 million), Danny Duffy ($15.25 million) and Salvador Perez ($14.2 million).

    That gives the relatively small-market club plenty of wiggle room to make outside additions and to explore potential in-house extensions if anyone emerges as worthy.

    Nothing is more damning to a financially conscious team than bad contracts, and having money to spend will allow the front office the freedom to work toward rebuilding a contender.


    Biggest Negative: A lack of high-end young talent

    The Royals used a series of high draft picks in the late 2000s to build up an impressive homegrown core and then they rode that group to consecutive World Series appearances.

    However, the next wave of young talent simply never arrived.

    More recent early picks like Christian Colon, Bubba Starling and Kyle Zimmer have not panned out, and the pipeline of impact talent has run dry.

    On the plus side, the team should have an abundance of early picks in next year's draft, assuming they extend qualifying offers to Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain and low-level prospects like Khalil Lee, Seuly Matias and 2017 first-round pick Nick Pratto who have provided some reason for optimism.

28. Detroit Tigers (Previous: 24)

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    Michael Fulmer
    Michael FulmerTony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Roster Outlook

    2020 Lineup2020 Pitching Staff 
    CF Michael GerberSP Michael Fulmer
    1B Jeimer CandelarioSP Justin Verlander
    RF Justin UptonSP Beau Burrows
    DH Miguel CabreraSP Daniel Norris (L)
    LF Christin StewartSP Kyle Funkhouser
    3B Dawel LugoCL Joe Jimenez
    C James McCann 
    2B Dixon Machado 
    SS Sergio Alcantara 

    Farm System Rank: 24


    Notable Free Agents

    2B Ian Kinsler (2019), DH Victor Martinez (2019), SS Jose Iglesias (2019), SP Anibal Sanchez ($16 million option in 2019), 3B Nicholas Castellanos (2020), RP Alex Wilson (2020), RP Bruce Rondon (2020)


    Biggest Positive: Offense

    The projected 2020 lineup you see above is assuming Justin Upton doesn't opt out of his contract following this season and that a 37-year-old Miguel Cabrera, who has already shown signs of declining this year, is still a capable middle-of-the-order bat.

    Those are two fairly large assumptions.

    Jeimer Candelario was a nice addition in a deadline trade with the Chicago Cubs and outfielder Christin Stewart has shown some intriguing pop throughout his time in the minors, but overall this team is severely lacking in young impact position players.


    Biggest Negative: Starting pitching

    Justin Verlander has a $22 million vesting option for 2020 that requires a top-five finish in Cy Young voting in 2019; otherwise, it becomes a team option. That leaves his status as part of the 2020 rotation murky at best.

    Luckily, Michael Fulmer has shown all the makings of a future ace and he should be ready to over as the leader of the staff by 2020, if not sooner.

    Beyond that, prospects Beau Burrows and Kyle Funkhouser look like future rotation fixtures, while lefties Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd already have valuable MLB experience under their belts.

    Mid-level prospects like Tyler Alexander, Gregory Soto and Sandy Baez provide further depth, and the front office should have the money to replace Verlander with another veteran presence if that becomes a clear need.

27. Baltimore Orioles (Previous: 27)

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    Dylan Bundy
    Dylan BundyGail Burton/Associated Press

    Roster Outlook

    2020 Lineup2020 Pitching Staff 
    SS Tim BeckhamSP Dylan Bundy
    CF Cedric MullinsSP Kevin Gausman
    DH Trey ManciniSP Keegan Akin (L)
    1B Chris DavisSP Hunter Harvey
    RF Austin HaysSP Zac Lowther (L)
    C Chance SiscoCL Mychal Givens
    2B Ryan Mountcastle 
    LF D.J. Stewart 
    3B Jomar Reyes        

    Farm System Ranking: 16

    Notable Free Agents

    SP Chris Tillman (2018), OF Seth Smith (2018), SP Ubaldo Jimenez (2018), SS J.J. Hardy ($14 million club option in 2018), 3B Manny Machado (2019), CF Adam Jones (2019), RP Zach Britton (2019), RP Brad Brach (2019), C Welington Castillo (2019), 2B Jonathan Schoop (2020), DH Mark Trumbo (2020)


    Biggest Positive: Emerging prospect talent

    The O's farm system outlook has improved as much as any team in baseball this season, thanks to the emergence of guys like Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle, Tanner Scott, Cedric Mullins and Zac Lowther.

    Add to that a stellar rookie season from Trey Mancini, the impending arrival of the perceived catcher of the future Chance Sisco and the deadline addition of Tim Beckham, and suddenly there's a fairly respectable young core in place.

    Extending Jonathan Schoop this offseason would be a smart move, especially with Manny Machado all but certain to bolt for greener pastures in free agency.


    Biggest Negative: Starting pitching

    Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman both have the stuff to be top-of-the-rotation starters, but to this point in their respective careers, they've yet to show the consistency required to take that next step.

    Oft-injured prospect Hunter Harvey also has major upside if he can put his arm issues in the rearview and he's still only 22 years old. That's a major if, though.

    From there, the team will be counting on an arm or two to emerge from a fairly deep pool of mid-level pitching prospects that includes Keegan Akin, Zac Lowther, Cody Sedlock, Michael Baumann and Alex Wells in order to fill out the rotation.

    Striking out on the Ubaldo Jimenez and Yovani Gallardo signings could also deter them from looking outside the organization.

26. Oakland Athletics (Previous: 26)

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    Sean Manaea
    Sean ManaeaJulie Jacobson/Associated Press

    Roster Outlook

    2020 Lineup2020 Pitching Staff 
    2B Franklin BarretoSP Sean Manaea
    RF Dustin FowlerSP A.J. Puk (L)
    DH Ryon HealySP Jharel Cotton
    3B Matt ChapmanSP Grant Holmes
    1B Sheldon NeuseSP Kendall Graveman
    C Sean MurphyCL Blake Treinen
    SS Marcus Semien 
    LF Renato Nunez 
    CF Jorge Mateo 

    Farm System Rank: 8


    Notable Free Agents

    IF Jed Lowrie (2019), RP Santiago Casilla (2019), OF Matt Joyce (2019), OF Khris Davis (2020), RP Liam Hendriks (2020)


    Biggest Positive: A deep farm system

    If there's one thing the Oakland Athletics have excelled at in recent years, it's turning established MLB talent into farm system depth.

    This trade season was no exception as they flipped Sonny Gray, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Yonder Alonso to further bolster what was already one of the better farm systems in the league.

    Ryon Healy and Matt Chapman have shown intriguing power since arriving in the majors, Franklin Barreto should take over an everyday role in 2018, catching prospect Sean Murphy looks like the real deal, and 2017 deadline pickups Sheldon Neuse, Dustin Fowler and Jorge Mateo all look like potential long-term pieces.

    That's a good collection of young position-player talent to start building around.


    Biggest Negative: Starting pitching

    Notably absent from that above rundown of prospect talent is pitching.

    Left-hander A.J. Puk looks like a solid bet to join incumbent Sean Manaea as a long-term rotation piece, but neither profiles as a true ace and the rest of the rotation is a question mark.

    Kendall Graveman has been a serviceable starter and will still be under team control through 2020, while 2016 deadline additions Jharel Cotton and Grant Holmes also profile as big league rotation pieces.

    Logan Shore, Jesus Luzardo and a healthy James Kaprielian could also be in the mix by 2020, but overall the future of the staff is very much up in the air and lacking in top-tier talent.

25. Miami Marlins (Previous: 21)

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    Giancarlo Stanton
    Giancarlo StantonLynne Sladky/Associated Press