Re-Ranking All the MLB Farm Systems After the 2014 MiLB Season
As we put a final bow on the 2014 minor league season, it is a great time to look at the state of the farm systems.
Many of baseball’s top-ranked preseason prospects debuted in the major leagues this season, with promising young hitters such as Oscar Taveras, Javier Baez, Gregory Polanco, George Springer and Joc Pederson each receiving his first taste of baseball’s highest level.
When it comes to impact prospects such as Taveras, Baez or Springer graduating to the major leagues, there’s inevitably a glaring hole left down on the farm.
But which teams are best prepared to replace their top prospects with a new wave of young talent?
Our farm system rankings are based on two criteria: impact potential and depth. Since a team may have more of one than the other, it's therefore necessary that it has more than a couple players that project as quality big leaguers, ideally hitters and pitchers.
As you will see, the systems that rank within the top five are those with multiple impact prospects, other notable talent in upper levels and overall depth from top to bottom.
Young players in the major leagues yet to qualify as rookies by league standards (fewer than 50 innings pitched or 130 at-bats) were treated as regular prospects, though consideration was given to whether they’d exhaust prospect eligibility by season’s end.
We hope you enjoy Prospect Pipeline’s end-of-season farm system rankings.
30. Los Angeles Angels
Graduations: 1B/DH C.J. Cron
The Los Angeles Angels system took a hit when they dealt second baseman Taylor Lindsey, shortstop Jose Rondon and right-hander R.J. Alvarez, three of the organization’s top five prospects at the time, to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Huston Street at the trade deadline.
The few players the Angels seemingly projected as solid to average regulars haven’t panned out, especially third baseman Kaleb Cowart, who turned in his second straight disappointing season at Double-A Arkansas. Second baseman Alex Yarbrough had a strong campaign playing alongside Cowart in the Southern League, but the 23-year-old switch-hitter profiles as more of a utility player than an everyday guy.
The Angels did well with their first two picks in this year’s draft, selecting left-hander Sean Newcomb, who could reach the majors quickly with improved control/command, at No. 15 overall and high-ceiling right-hander Joe Gatto in the second round.
And with few bright spots in the system, this summer has been big for the development of 19-year-old left-hander Hunter Green, the team's first pick in 2013, and 17-year-old left-hander Ricardo Sanchez, who pitched in the Rookie-level Arizona League.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: LHP Sean Newcomb
29. Detroit Tigers
Graduations: 3B Nick Castellanos, SS Eugenio Suarez
The Detroit Tigers have spent the last few years putting all their resources into the MLB club and ignoring the farm system. Therefore, while they’re winning at the highest level, the organization’s lack of impact talent and depth on the farm puts a lot of pressure on its big league roster to stay healthy.
It certainly didn’t help the state of Detroit’s system that it traded arguably its top three prospects before the deadline, with right-handers Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel going to Texas in the Joakim Soria deal and highly touted 19-year-old shortstop Willy Adames going to Tampa Bay as part of the three-team trade for David Price.
However, pitching prospects Jonathan Crawford, Kevin Ziomek and Austin Kubitza, the team’s respective first-, second- and fourth-round picks in 2013, each enjoyed similar success this year as part of Low-A West Michigan’s starting rotation.
Center fielder Derek Hill, the team's top draft pick (No. 23 overall) in 2014, gives the Tigers system some much-needed upside at an up-the-middle position, while second baseman Devon Travis had a strong campaign in Double-A after missing a good chunk of the first half with an injury.
Lastly, left-handed slugger Steven Moya enjoyed a monster year in the Eastern League, clubbing a career-high 35 home runs while pacing the league in most offensive categories. However, the 6’6” left-handed hitter’s swing-and-miss issues continue to fuel questions about whether he’ll make enough contact in the major leagues to utilize his robust power.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: None
28. Milwaukee Brewers
Graduations: RHP Jimmy Nelson
Selected by the Milwaukee Brewers with the No. 27 overall pick in the 2012 draft, Clint Coulter had an impressive professional debut after signing but then struggled mightily last year and battled injuries in what was supposed to be his full-season debut.
However, the 21-year-old made up for the lost developmental year this season by leading the Midwest League in numerous categories, including OPS, home runs and OBP.
In general, the Brewers system has been on a steep decline since the team drafted college pitchers Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley with the Nos. 12 and 15 picks, respectively, in 2011. Jungmann finally made it to Triple-A this season, while Bradley enjoyed an overdue resurgence and reached Double-A for the first time after three seasons at High-A Brevard County.
However, as bad as those picks look in hindsight, the system does have upside at a few spots. Outfielder Tyrone Taylor is a toolsy athlete who can play center field and has above-average raw power, though it mostly comes in the form of doubles at the present. Orlando Arcia projects as a glove-first shortstop at maturity, but his bat was better than expected and could be a sign of good things to come.
Devin Williams, the team's top pick last year, is a projectable right-hander with a power fastball. Outfielder Victor Roache has big-time power but will need to develop a more selective approach in order to improve his contact rate and allow his power to fully translate.
The Brewers took a step in the right direction in this year’s draft, targeting players with a high ceiling even though they're raw and will take a long time to reach their potential.
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 are exceptional athletes with big-time potential with the bat.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: OF Tyrone Taylor, SS Orlando Arcia
27. San Francisco Giants
Graduates: 2B Joe Panik
While the San Francisco Giants system is top-heavy with pitching prospects, many of the organization’s top young arms profile as either either back-end-starter types or guys who don't throw enough strikes to stick in the rotation (read: relievers).
Right-handed hurler Kyle Crick has the highest ceiling in the system, but his control issues continued this season at Double-A Richmond and prevented him from taking the next step toward The Show.
Clayton Blackburn, another right-hander, has the highest probability to reach his ceiling in the big leagues, as he has good command and an above-average fastball-curveball combination. 23-year-old Ty Blach represents basically a left-handed version of Blackburn, as he lacks an overpowering offering but features plus command of three pitches and knows how to execute a game plan.
And don’t sleep on hard-throwing right-handers Keury Mella and Luis Ysla; they don’t have the fanfare quite yet, but another season against full-season hitters should open eyes.
The Giants went after Vanderbilt righty Tyler Beede in the first round (No. 14 overall) of the draft, and, unfortunately, his lack of control/command puts him in the same boat as Crick. However, based on what Crick hasn’t accomplished over the past two seasons, I’d give Beede better odds of reaching his potential.
Dylan Davis is a good college hitter to get in the third round. The right-handed batter has power and a good approach, but his lack of bat speed and long swing could prevent him from tapping into that power.
Christian Arroyo, who was an overdraft in the first round last year, has good bat speed and plate coverage but lacks power and a clean middle infield profile.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: RHP Tyler Beede
26. Tampa Bay Rays
Graduations: RHP Jake Odorizzi, RHP Brad Boxberger, OF Kevin Kiermaier
Former top-prospect right-hander Taylor Guerrieri missed most of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery last July, which made his 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs less of an issue (but not really). Speaking of suspensions, right-hander Alex Colome, who debuted with the Rays in 2013, also began the year serving a 50-gamer, while 2010 first-rounder Josh Sale was hit with his second 50-game ban for recreational drug use in the last three years.
There were bright spots, though.
Second baseman Ryan Brett continued his climb toward the major leagues with a career-best campaign at Double-A Montgomery, while third baseman and teammate Richie Shaffer finally tapped into his raw power to hit 19 bombs.
Catcher Justin O’Conner has always been known for his strong defense and cannon arm, but the 22-year-old finally came into his own at the dish this season and put up solid numbers in challenging leagues. On the mound, 21-year-old left-hander Blake Snell continued to miss more than a bat per inning between both A-ball levels
The Rays’ first-round picks from 2013, catcher Nick Ciuffo and right-hander Ryne Stanek, have struggled to get acclimated to professional baseball, as the latter didn’t even throw his first professional pitch until May.
First baseman Casey Gillaspie (No. 20 overall in this year’s draft) showed good power and an advanced eye in the New York-Penn League, but not much else. Right-hander Cameron Varga is 20 years old coming out of high school and battled arm problems this past spring prior to the draft. Meanwhile, fourth-rounder Blake Bivens has the highest ceiling among the draftees with a plus fastball-curveball combination and some pitchability.
The Rays did land a potential impact player in 19-year-old shortstop Willy Adames, receiving him from the Tigers in the three-team David Price trade, and a strong case can be made that he’s their top prospect heading into 2015.
The Rays system is a shell of what it was just a few years ago and lacks a true impact prospect (at least at the present), but it still features an intriguing and deep collection of prospects, especially in the lower minor leagues.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: SS Willy Adames
25. Miami Marlins
Miami's system is in much better shape now than it was to begin the season, though that’s largely a product of not graduating any prospects while also adding flame-throwing righty Tyler Kolek (No. 2 overall pick) in this year’s draft.
Left-hander Andrew Heaney, who struggled during his only stint in the major leagues this season, doesn't have an overpowering arsenal but commands three above-average pitches well enough to potentially serve as a No. 3 or No. 4 starter. Another lefty, Justin Nicolino has a plus changeup, good delivery and advanced pitchability, and headlined Double-A Jacksonville’s rotation this season.
Second baseman Avery Romero once again hit up a storm this season, batting .320 between both Class-A levels, while catcher-turned-second baseman Austin Barnes’s production picked up in a big way after moving from behind the plate.
Speaking of catchers, J.T. Realmuto had the breakout campaign that seemed inevitable given his perennially strong contact rates, and he seems poised to serve as the Marlins’ backup catcher in 2015.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: LHP Andrew Heaney, RHP Tyler Kolek
24. Baltimore Orioles
Graduations: RHP Kevin Gausman, 2B Jonathan Schoop, C Caleb Joseph
Baltimore’s 2013 prep draft picks opened eyes this season at Low-A Delmarva. Right-hander Hunter Harvey led the way on the mound—before he was shut down for the season with an elbow injury—while his catcher, Chance Sisco, paced the South Atlantic League with a .340 batting average. Left-handed-hitting third baseman Drew Dosch also flashed a promising hit tool, batting .314 with 157 hits in 128 games.
First baseman Christian Walker, a fourth-round pick in 2012, took a huge step forward between the Double- and Triple-A levels by finally tapping into his raw power to hit a career-best 26 home runs. While he wasn’t included in the Orioles’ initial September call-ups, the organization ultimately decided to call him up in the wake of the Chris Davis suspension.
Meanwhile, top prospect Dylan Bundy continued to work his way back from 2013 Tommy John surgery and reached High-A Frederick before succumbing to a lat strain. The 21-year-old right-hander’s numbers were encouraging in his highly anticipated return to the mound, though reports had his velocity barely topping 90 mph.
The Orioles also had a few older pitchability guys take a step forward this year, as left-hander Tim Berry and right-handers Tyler Wilson and Zach Davies headlined a strong rotation at Double-A Bowie.
Unfortunately, the Orioles were forced to part with 21-year-old Eduardo Rodriguez, the organization’s top left-handed pitching prospect, at the trade deadline, sending him to Boston in exchange for reliever Andrew Miller.
However, it’s worth noting that they have a few promising southpaws on the rise in Stephen Tarpley and Brian Gonzalez, the Orioles’ respective third-round picks in 2013 and 2014.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: RHP Dylan Bundy, RHP Hunter Harvey
23. Oakland Athletics
Addison Russell was the only potential star in Oakland's farm system headed into the year, but that obviously is no longer the case after he was dealt in early July to the Cubs in the Jeff Samardzija-Jason Hammel trade. Outfielder Billy McKinney, the A’s first-round pick in 2013, also was shipped out in the trade.
The A’s top prospects spent the season at High-A Stockton, as first baseman Matt Olson led the California League in home runs, while fellow infielders in third baseman Renato Nunez and shortstop Daniel Robertson piled up extra-base hits.
The organization did receive a breakout performances from Jaycob Brugman; the 22-year-old outfielder posted impressive numbers across both Class-A levels and will now likely begin 2015 in Double-A.
However, few (if any) of the team’s pitching prospects progressed as hoped this season, as right-hander Raul Alcantara, Michael Ynoa and Bobby Wahl all spent time on the disabled list. The one guy who did take a step in the right direction, 23-year-old right-hander Seth Streich, also ended up on the shelf.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: SS Daniel Robertson
22. Chicago White Sox
Graduations: RHP Erik Johnson, RHP Daniel Webb, INF Marcus Semien
The Chicago White Sox may not have many big names on the farm, at least other than Carlos Rodon, but they’ve quietly developed a deep system featuring a combination of high-probability and high-ceiling prospects.
Right-hander Tyler Danish, 20, likely projects better as a reliever due to a sidearm delivery, but the uniqueness of his delivery and stuff allowed him to dominate older hitters this season between Low- and High-A. Right-hander Francellis Montas missed part of the season with a knee injury, but he sits in the upper 90s with his fastball and is incredibly difficult to barrel.
Outfielder Courtney Hawkins, the No. 13 overall pick in 2012, rebounded well from an overaggressive assignment to High-A last year with a more consistent performance in his second tour of the Carolina League. That being said, strikeouts are still issue and probably always will be.
The success and development of the team’s middle infielders this season has been a bright spot, as 2013 first-round shortstop Tim Anderson blew past expectations at High-A Winston-Salem, while second baseman Micah Johnson would have been a September call-up if not for a season-ending hamstring injury.
The White Sox landed NC State left-hander Carlos Rodon—the top talent and projected No. 1 overall pick when the season started—with the No. 3 overall pick, and the organization wasted no time putting the 21-year-old on the fast track to the major leagues. Following a similar developmental timeline as ace Chris Sale, Rodon made stops in rookie ball and High-A before finishing his pro debut at Triple-A Charlotte.
Meanwhile, the South Siders also found a potential steal in right-hander Spencer Adams in the second round (No. 44 overall pick), as the first-round talent flashed his huge upside in his pro debut with a 59-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 41.1 innings in the Arizona League.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: LHP Carlos Rodon, SS Tim Anderson
21. Atlanta Braves
Graduations: 2B Tommy La Stella, RHP David Hale
The Atlanta Braves system may be weak, but the cupboard is far from bare, with 20-year-old second baseman Jose Peraza showing exciting tools and an advanced approach this season between High- and Double-A.
Catcher Christian Bethancourt’s bat didn’t develop at Triple-A as hoped and there remain questions about the 23-year-old’s hit-tool potential, but he’s an absolute monster defensively and i capable of taking over full time in 2015.
Right-hander Lucas Sims didn’t miss bats at High-A Lynchburg, but he battled through his struggles and ultimately improved during the second half. Former top prospect J.R. Graham hasn’t looked the same since suffering a shoulder injury in 2013.
2014 first-round pick Braxton Davidson (No. 32 overall) has big raw power and a short swing to make it play, but the left-handed hitter struggled to drive the ball this summer between two rookie levels.
The Braves also lost a quality prospect at the deadline when they dealt catcher Victor Caratini, the team’s second-round pick in 2013, to the Cubs in exchange for James Russell and Emilio Bonifacio.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: 2B Jose Peraza, C Christian Bethancourt
20. Philadelphia Phillies
Graduations: RHP Ken Giles (technically a few innings shy of shedding prospect status)
J.P. Crawford, the No. 16 overall pick in the 2013 draft, was lauded for his offensive potential and ability to remain at shortstop, but no one could have predicted how advanced the hit tool would be when he got in pro ball.
The 19-year-old’s stock took off this season behind a solid batting average and even stronger on-base skills between both A-ball levels. Unfortunately, Crawford's overwhelming early-season success came at the expense of third baseman Maikel Franco's bat. Although, the 22-year-old obviously righted the ship during the second half to earn a September call-ups.
Tools are always important to the Philadelphia Phillies in the draft, which is why they’ve targeted Crawford, Cord Sandberg and Dylan Cozens in recent years. Between those players and the aforementioned arms, the Phillies have an underrated exciting collection of talent, though the majority of their top prospects are below the Double-A level.
In terms of pitching, Aaron Nola, the No. 7 overall pick from this year’s draft, features superb command and feel for everything he throws, while his natural deception and difficult arm angle should help his stuff play up against advanced hitters. The Phillies also grabbed Cal Poly left-hander Matt Imhof in the second round, a high-floor college arm who’s loaded with deception and has some physical projection left.
After that, however, the lack of projectable arms in Philadelphia’s system represents a serious concern in regard to the team’s long-term goals.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: SS J.P. Crawford, 3B Maikel Franco, RHP Aaron Nola
19. New York Yankees
Graduations: C John Ryan Murphy, RHP Dellin Betances, RHP Shane Greene
Undersized right-hander Luis Severino emerged as the Bronx Bombers’ top prospect this season. The 20-year-old has dazzled with a 2.46 ERA and 127 strikeouts over 113.1 innings across three levels and finished the year in Double-A. Meanwhile, left-hander Ian Clarkin, last year's first-round selection, made strides this season in his full-season debut at Low-A Charleston.
Unfortunately, the Yankees’ once highly touted position prospects struggled individually and collectively this season between the High- and Double-A levels, whether it be outfielders Tyler Austin, Mason Williams and Slade Heathcott, catcher Gary Sanchez or first baseman Greg Bird.
That being said, the organization had several prospects make developmental strides this season. Outfielder Aaron Judge proved to be far more advanced than expected this year in his professional debut, as the 6’7”, 255-pound right-handed hitter’s mature approach enabled him to hit for both average and power while getting on base at a high clip.
Beyond Judge, outfielder Jake Cave’s success in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League carried over to Double-A, as did second baseman Robert Refsnyder’s following his promotion to Triple-A.
Meanwhile, Luis Torrens showed that he will be a name to follow closely in 2015, as the 18-year-old catcher opened eyes with his promising bat and howitzer arm this season in the Short Season New York-Penn League.
And even though the Yankees didn’t draft until the second round this year, they still walked away with left-hander Jacob Lindgren (No. 55 overall), who arguably was the best reliever in the class and nearly reached the major leagues in his professional debut, and right-handers Austin DeCarr and Jordan Foley.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: RHP Luis Severino, OF Aaron Judge
18. Washington Nationals
Graduations: RHP Blake Treinen, RHP Aaron Barrett
Right-hander Lucas Giolito emerged as arguably the top pitching prospect in the minor leagues this year in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. The 20-year-old absolutely dominated South Atlantic League hitters, and, personally, he was the best prospect I scouted this season.
The team’s former top pitching prospect, hard-throwing right-hander A.J. Cole, didn’t miss as many bats this year as he did in previous seasons, but his mid-90s fastball and improving curveball give him two weapons that could have him working out of the Nats bullpen in September.
The Nationals, likely encouraged by the success with Giolito, took UNLV right-hander Erick Fedde in the first round (No. 18 overall) of this year’s draft. Fedde, 21, was viewed as a top-10 talent in the draft before undergoing Tommy John surgery. The organization also added the best high school catcher, Jakson Reetz, in the third round.
Toolsy center fielder Michael Taylor and the very underrated Steven Souza Jr. both turned in breakout performances this season at Double- and Triple-A, respectively, and both players have rejoined the Nationals for the final month of the regular season.
Meanwhile, things came together quickly for 22-year-old shortstop Wilmer Difo, as he ranked among the South Atlantic Leaguers leaders in most offensive categories and ultimately captured the league’s MVP award.
In general, the Nats system doesn’t have much depth at the present, but the talent at the top remains very strong and can make up for some deficiencies down the list.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: RHP Lucas Giolito, RHP A.J. Cole, OF Michael Taylor
17. Cincinnati Reds
Graduations: OF Billy Hamilton
Cincinnati's farm system is exciting thanks to the sheer volume of hard-throwing right-handers—led by 21-year-old Robert Stephenson—and hitters with projectable power.
It's not a particularly balanced system due to a lack of infield depth, but there are numerous players with realistic futures in the major leagues. Outfielder Jesse Winker is the best hitter in the system, boasting a sweet left-handed swing with an excellent approach and above-average raw power. He could be ready to take over in left field at some point next season. 2013 first-rounder Phil Ervin took a step back at Low-A Daytona, though the 22-year-old outfielder did pick things up during the second half and finished strong.
The team’s top draft pick this year, right-hander Nick Howard (No. 19 overall), was a late riser after showing three above-average pitches this spring and his usual impressive athleticism. Alex Blandino, the No. 29 overall pick, is an advanced hitter who profiles at either second or third base in pro ball, though the Reds will try to keep him at shortstop for as long as possible.
Right-hander Michael Lorenzen was a pleasant surprise this year, as the former two-way player at Cal State Fullerton spent his first full professional season as a pitcher in the Double-A Pensacola’s starting rotation.
A lot of the Reds' top arms lack the command to profile as starters, but Nick Travieso, Jackson Stephens, Ben Lively and Amir Garrett still have plenty of developmental time ahead of them.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: RHP Robert Stephenson, OF Jesse Winker, RHP Michael Lorenzen
16. Cleveland Indians
Graduations: RHP Trevor Bauer, 2B/SS Jose Ramirez
The best way to describe Cleveland's farm system after the 2014 season is sneaky good. Though it's thin on pitching prospects (less so after this year's draft), the Tribe have assembled a promising collection of young hitters, including several who either swing from the left side of the plate or project to remain at an up-the-middle position long term.
Shortstop Francisco Lindor is an absolute wizard with the glove, and after the Tribe moved Asdrubal Cabrera at the trade deadline, the stage is now set for the 20-year-old to take over as the team’s everyday shortstop in 2015. Outfielder Tyler Naquin, the No. 15 overall pick in 2013, continued to silence his skeptics this season with a strong offensive campaign in the Eastern League. The 23-year-old also made strides with his defense in center field, easing some of the concern about his ability to handle the position at higher levels.
The Tribe's top draft pick from 2013, Clint Frazier (No. 5 overall), had an up-and-down full-season debut at Low-A Lake County, but the 20-year-old red-headed outfielder showed improvement during the second half and finished with respectable numbers.
As for this year’s draft class, the Indians added one of the top college bats in outfielder Bradley Zimmer (No. 21 overall), a high-probability left-hander in Justus Sheffield (No. 31), a polished (left-handed) college hitter in Mike Papi (No. 38) and a projectable right-hander in Grant Hockin (No. 61).
They also landed one of the best power bats from the high school class in the third round in first baseman Bobby Bradley, and suffice it to say, the slugger made a strong impression by leading the Rookie-level Arizona League in most offensive categories.
The Indians have received breakout performances from 18-year-old catcher Francisco Mejia, who has some serious raw power and a patient approach, and 23-year-old shortstop Erik Gonzalez, who moved up the ladder one level behind Lindor.
The organization also did a good job getting hitters with realistic MLB futures at the trade deadline, as it received outfielder (and former first-round pick) James Ramsey from the St. Louis Cardinals in the Justin Masterson deal and infielder Zach Walters from the Nats in exchange for Cabrera.
Unfortunately, the Indians’ crop of pitching prospects isn’t nearly as impressive or projectable as their young hitters. Overall, the Tribe’s top arms are back-end types like Cody Anderson, or guys who lack the command/control profile to stick in a rotation, such as Dylan Baker, Dace Kime or Adam Plutko.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: SS Francisco Lindor, OF Clint Frazier, OF Tyler Naquin, C Francisco Mejia
15. Toronto Blue Jays
Graduations: RHP Marcus Stroman
Losing Marcus Stroman to the big leagues put a dent in Toronto's system, but right-hander Aaron Sanchez, who’s currently working out of the big league bullpen, shouldn’t exhaust his prospect eligibility before 2015. Left-hander Daniel Norris recently joined Sanchez in Toronto’s pen, as the 21-year-old dominated across the High-, Double- and Triple-A levels and basically forced the front office to utilize him in September.
The Blue Jays’ top position prospects—also their highest-ceiling position prospects—center fielder Dalton Pompey and shortstop Franklin Barreto, both opened eyes this season at their respective levels, with Pompey, like Norris, seeing time at three minor leagues levels before joining the parent club in September.
As for the draft, getting right-hander Jeff Hoffman with the No. 9 overall pick, assuming he makes it all the way back from Tommy John surgery, was like adding a top-five draft talent at a bargain price. Meanwhile, catcher Max Pentecost, the No. 11 overall pick, was viewed as the best catcher in the draft class with good potential on both sides of the ball, but he understandably wore down toward the end of his professional debut.
With Sanchez, Norris and Pompey now on the team’s 40-man roster, it’s a safe bet that Toronto will continue auditioning its young talent in the major leagues next season. However, it’ll be interesting to see how aggressive the Blue Jays are with their promising trio without a playoff spot on the line.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: LHP Daniel Norris, RHP Aaron Sanchez, OF Dalton Pompey, RHP Jeff Hoffman
14. St. Louis Cardinals
Graduations: 2B Kolten Wong, OF Oscar Taveras, RHP Carlos Martinez
The once-stocked Cardinals system isn’t as strong as previous years, though that was to be expected after the team graduated Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong and Carlos Martinez.
Outfielder Stephen Piscotty didn't come into the system with a lot of hype but has really turned into an excellent baseball player; dude can flat-out hit, and he’s likely to get his first crack at the major leagues in 2015. Meanwhile, 21-year-old outfielder Rowan Wick slugged his way to Low-A Peoria, while switch-hitting second baseman Breyvic Valera quietly reached Double-A Springfield for the first time.
The system is also loaded with high-ceiling arms in the lower levels of the minors. Alex Reyes, a 20-year-old right-hander, has the best arm in the group behind a projectable 6'3", 185-pound frame, but he’s still learning how to harness his outstanding stuff and throw strikes.
Southpaw Marco Gonzales, the team’s first-round pick in 2013, has breezed through the minor leagues thanks to his plus command and a near-elite changeup, and the Cardinals showed faith in the 22-year-old by calling him up to debut in late June.
Meanwhile, Rob Kaminsky, another undersized left-hander (5'11"), has polish and a hammer breaking ball to complement an above-average fastball, both of which served him well this summer in his full-season debut at Peoria.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: OF Stephen Piscotty, LHP Rob Kaminsky, LHP Marco Gonzales, RHP Alex Reyes
13. Kansas City Royals
Graduations: RHP Yordano Ventura
What makes the Kansas City Royals system so good is the work done by the scouting and development staff in recent years, as the team finds ways to produce both impact talents as well as usable big leaguers.
First-round pick Brandon Finnegan (No. 17 overall) is already in the major leagues and pitching effectively out of the Royals bullpen, but the team is likely to resume his development as a starter next season.
Foster Griffin is a high-floor high school left-hander who throws strikes and mixes his pitches well, while catcher Chase Vallot showcased his raw power this summer in his professional debut.
Kyle Zimmer, should he ever stay healthy for more than a half-season, has No. 1-No. 2 starter upside with athleticism, command and a double-plus fastball-curveball combination.
Sean Manaea took some time to adjust to professional baseball, let alone at the High-A level, but the left-hander eventually found his groove en route to posting gaudy strikeout numbers.
On the other end of the spectrum is 21-year-old Christian Binford, whose plus command helped him climb to Triple-A and has him knocking on the big league door headed into 2015.
As for hitters, outfielder Jorge Bonifacio had a nightmare season in Double-A Northwest Arkansas, though amazingly, he was still very young for the level at 21. Meanwhile, center field Lane Adams enjoyed an under-the-radar breakout campaign alongside Bonifacio at Northwest Arkansas, showcasing an intriguing blend of power and speed while playing plus defense. The 24-year-old was rewarded for his strong performance with a September call-up.
Shortstop Raul Mondesi, 19, impressed by battling through a learning year in the Carolina League, whereas 2011 first-rounder Bubba Starling continued to struggle, once again batting a shade over .200 with a dangerous strikeout rate.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: SS Raul Mondesi, RHP Kyle Zimmer, LHP Sean Manaea, 3B Hunter Dozier, LHP Brandon Finnegan
12. Texas Rangers
Graduations: 2B Rougned Odor, OF Michael Choice, SS/2B Luis Sardinas
Any conversation about the Texas Rangers’ farm system begins with Joey Gallo, the 20-year-old slugger who led all minor league hitters with 40 home runs in 2013 and then broke that mark this season with 42, ultimately falling one shy of Kris Bryant’s MiLB lead.
Catcher Jorge Alfaro continued to flash his offensive upside and reached Double-A, though his defense is still very much a work in progress. 2013 draftee Chi Chi Gonzalez is a high-probability right-hander who pitched better after a midseason promotion to Double-A, and he has the makings of a solid No. 3 starter with his plus fastball movement and deep arsenal.
Outfielders Lewis Brinson, Nick Williams and Nomar Mazara’s tools began to play in games more consistently last season, resulting in the latter two players finishing the year in Double-A.
In this year’s draft, the Rangers stole right-hander Luis Ortiz with the No. 30 overall pick, and they also got one of the class’ best pure athletes in Ti'Quan Forbes (No. 59).
In addition, the organization added two impact arms in the Joakim Soria trade, acquiring right-handers Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel from the Tigers.
No team bets on tools in the draft and international market more than the Rangers. This strategy does lead them to missing a lot, but it also pays huge dividends when the player hits. Basically, the Rangers system always has something to be excited about, even if the majority of their best prospects are in the lower levels of the minors.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: 3B Joey Gallo, C/1B Jorge Alfaro, RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez, OF Nick Williams, OF Nomar Mazara, RHP Jake Thompson
11. Seattle Mariners
Graduations: LHP James Paxton, LHP Roenis Elias, RHP Dominic Leone
For a system that graduated several key prospects, the Seattle Mariners still have plenty of talent left on the farm.
D.J. Peterson, the No. 13 overall pick in 2013, raked this season between the High- and Double-A levels, eclipsing 30 home runs in his first full professional campaign. Outfielder Austin Wilson, the Mariners’ second-round pick following Peterson, showed off similar raw power during his time at Low-A Clinton.
Taijuan Walker, the Mariners’ top pitching prospect, dealt with a shoulder injury early in the season and ultimately bounced between the minor and major leagues. The 22-year-old right-hander didn’t carve out a role in the team’s rotation as expected, but he still received several starts during the second half as well as the opportunity to pitch out of the bullpen in September.
The team’s international crop looked strong as usual, with outfielder Gabby Guerrero, nephew of Vladimir, flashing his tools and upside in the California League. Meanwhile, 20-year-old shortstop Ketel Marte more than held his own between the Double- and Triple-A levels.
The Mariners added a pair of young power hitters in this year’s draft, selecting prep catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson in the first round, followed by outfielder Gareth Morgan in the second.
However, pitching continues to be the system’s greatest strength thanks to promising young arms such as Tyler Pike, Luiz Gohara, Victor Sanchez and Edwin Diaz, all four of whom are under the age of 21 with upside.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: RHP Taijuan Walker, C/OF Alex Jackson, 3B/1B D.J. Peterson, OF Gabby Guerrero
10. Arizona Diamondbacks
Graduations: SS Chris Owings, RHP Chase Anderson
It was widely believed that top prospect Archie Bradley would spend most of the season in the major leagues, but an elbow injury in late April cut into his development and forced the organization to reassess his timeline. However, the right-hander will have the opportunity to make up for the disappointing season in this year’s Arizona Fall League.
Braden Shipley, the No. 15 pick in last year's draft, proved to be a first-round steal with a plus fastball-changeup combination, impressive athleticism and better than expected command. The team’s Compensation Round A pick from last year, right-hander Aaron Blair, has also been impressive this season, as he dominated at three levels, including Double-A.
The Diamondbacks landed another potential steal this year when Touki Toussaint fell in their lap at No. 16 overall, followed by ultra-athletic outfielder Marcus Wilson in Compensation Round B.
22-year-old Brandon Drury, who was acquired from the Braves in the Justin Upton deal, has a good eye at the plate, makes a lot of contact and has grown into some power. The same applies to 23-year-old third baseman Jake Lamb, who received a promotion to the major leagues in August after raking at Double-A Mobile.
The Diamondbacks also have a pair of promising teenagers in outfielder Justin Williams (19), who led the Pioneer League in hitting this summer, and shortstop Sergio Alcantara (18), who has an incredibly advanced approach for his age.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: RHP Archie Bradley, RHP Braden Shipley, RHP Aaron Blair, RHP Touki Toussaint, 3B Jake Lamb
9. San Diego Padres
Graduations: RHP Jesse Hahn, RHP Kevin Quackenbush
The San Diego Padres farm system doesn't command the same attention as a lot of systems in the top 10, but with some of the best depth among all 30 teams, it definitely should.
Austin Hedges is still the best catching prospect in baseball thanks to his elite defensive chops, but his bat dragged behind the rest of his game this season at Double-A San Antonio.
Outfielder Rymer Liriano returned from Tommy John surgery to light up Double-A this season, and he’s now seemingly entrenched as the Padres' everyday right fielder moving forward. 2013 first-rounder Hunter Renfroe also enjoyed an overall strong first full campaign, though the holes in his approach will need to be cleaned up before he moves up to Triple-A or the major leagues.
And be sure to keep an eye on first baseman Jake Bauers in 2015, an 18-year-old left-handed hitter who demonstrated an advanced approach with consistent in-game power this past season at Low-A Fort Wayne.
There were questions about Trea Turner’s bat (No. 13 overall pick in 2014) when he was drafted, but the speedy shortstop certainly didn’t have any issues hitting Midwest League pitching this summer. Outfielder Michael Gettys gave the Padres excellent value in the second round; he's loaded with tools and top-flight athleticism but is very, very raw and will need considerable time to develop in the minor leagues.
Beyond the 2014 draftees, there's just as much depth in this system as anywhere, especially after acquiring middle infielders Taylor Lindsey and Jose Rondon from the Angels in the Huston Street trade. The team also features a collection of promising young arms in Matt Wisler, Max Fried, Casey Kelly and Joe Ross, though only Wisler made it through the season without an injury.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: C Austin Hedges, RHP Matt Wisler, OF Hunter Renfroe, SS Trea Turner, OF Rymer Liriano, RHP Joe Ross
8. Colorado Rockies
Graduations: LHP Tyler Matzek
The Rockies have a sneaky-good system in that the team's top prospects, with the exception of Jon Gray and Eddie Butler, are so far away that it's hard to put a definite label on it at the moment.
Gray, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 draft, is arguably the top right-handed pitching prospect in baseball, while Butler still has the potential he showed last year despite a disappointing 2014 campaign.
David Dahl made up for his lost 2013 season with an impressive performance across both Class-A levels, while breakout prospects Raimel Tapia and Ryan McMahon both put up monster numbers in the South Atlantic League.
Even Trevor Story, who tanked in his first taste of the California League last year, enjoyed a solid bounce-back campaign, even finishing the season at Double-A Tulsa. Meanwhile, left-hander Tyler Anderson, the Rockies’ first-round pick in 2011, turned in the best season of his career at Tulsa and pitched the Drillers deep into the postseason.
Lastly, the Rockies’ 2014 draft picks, first-rounder Kyle Freeland (No. 8 overall) and comp-rounder Forrest Wall, were highly impressive in their respective pro debuts. Wall raked in the Pioneer League, while Freeland dominated hitters in the SAL.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: RHP Jon Gray, RHP Eddie Butler, OF David Dahl, OF Raimel Tapia, LHP Kyle Freeland, 3B Ryan McMahon, 2B Forrest Wall
7. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers system stands out for its mix of projectable depth and potential star-caliber talent. In fact, it’s so balanced with high-ceiling/floor position players that the organization should be in a position to succeed for years to come.
In terms of arms, 18-year-old left-hander Julio Urias, 22-year-old right-hander Chris Anderson and 2014 first-round pick Grant Holmes give the Dodgers an impressive crop of arms to build around. Even Alex Verdugo, the team's second-round pick, who is beginning his career as an outfielder, projects favorably as a high-floor pitcher if the whole position-player thing doesn’t work out.
2012 first-rounder shortstop Corey Seager enjoyed a historically good 2014 campaign, batting nearly .350 and pacing the minors in doubles while reaching Double-A Chattanooga for the first time.
Center fielder Joc Pederson, who became the first Pacific Coast League player since 1954 to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season, was included among the Dodgers’ September call-ups, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the team’s preferred center fielder heading into 2015.
Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention 23-year-old outfielder Scott Schebler, as his outstanding showing at Double-A this season proved that his power and overall consistent production in 2013 weren't simply a California League fluke.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: SS Corey Seager, LHP Julio Urias, OF Joc Pederson, RHP Grant Holmes
6. Chicago Cubs
Graduations: IF/OF Arismendy Alcantara, SS/2B Javier Baez, RHP Kyle Hendricks, 3B Mike Olt, RHP Neil Ramirez
Following the graduations of Arismendy Alcantara and Javier Baez, the fact that the Chicago Cubs still rank within the top six without a high-end pitching prospect speaks both to the quantity and quality of bats left in their system.
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft, Kris Bryant blew past all reasonable expectations this season with his performance at the Double- and Triple-A levels, as the 22-year-old slugger paced the minor leagues with 43 home runs and ranked among the league leaders in every other important category.
The Cubs added another impressive bat in Kyle Schwarber with the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft, and he rewarded the organization by reaching High-A Daytona in his professional debut. Furthermore, drafting Schwarber and signing him to an under-slot bonus allowed the team to grab several promising arms in later rounds, such as Jake Stinnett, Carson Sands, Justin Steele and Dylan Cease.
The Cubs also received a drool-worthy prospect haul from the A’s in exchange for Samardzija and Hammel, netting a top-10 overall prospect in shortstop Addison Russell as well as 2013 first-rounder outfielder Billy McKinney. Apparently, the fresh start was what the doctor ordered for Russell, as the 20-year-old put up monster numbers at Double-A Tennessee over the second half of the season.
And while none of the team’s pitching prospects dominated this season, several young arms, namely Pierce Johnson and Jen-Ho Tseng, did take a step forward developmentally. Tseng was particularly impressive, as the 19-year-old right-hander breezed through the Midwest League in his stateside debut.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: 3B Kris Bryant, SS Addison Russell, OF Jorge Soler, OF Albert Almora, C/OF Kyle Schwarber
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
Graduations: OF Gregory Polanco, RHP Brandon Cumpton
The Pittsburgh Pirates' ranking has taken a slight hit because Jameson Taillon missed the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Luckily, fellow right-handers Tyler Glasnow and Nick Kingham picked up the slack in his absence, with the former posting video-game numbers during his time in the Florida State League.
The most encouraging sign was switch-hitter 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 22-year-old was finally healthy this year and showcased the hitting ability that made him sought after three years ago en route to a late-season promotion to Double-A
2013 first-rounder Austin Meadows’ season was delayed by a hamstring injury, but the 19-year-old outfielder made an immediate impact upon his return to action and ultimately fared well against South Atlantic League pitchers. Meanwhile, another 2013 draft pick, shortstop JaCoby Jones, opened eyes with his display of power and speed at Low-A West Virginia, though it is less impressive considering he was older than most players in the league.
Beyond that, the Pirates’ first- and second-round picks from 2014, shortstop Cole Tucker and right-hander Mitch Keller, both received positive reviews for their performances in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: RHP Tyler Glasnow, OF Josh Bell, RHP Jameson Taillon, OF Austin Meadows, RHP Nick Kingham, SS/2B Alen Hanson
4. New York Mets
Graduations: C Travis d’Arnaud, INF Wilmer Flores, RHP Jeurys Familia, RHP Jacob deGrom
The Mets graduated Travis d'Arnaud, Wilmer Flores and Jacob deGrom to the major leagues this year, but they've built such a deep crop of talent that their system actually is stronger now than it was headed into the season.
Besides big-name pitchers Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero, left-hander Steven Matz has emerged as one of the more underrated pitching prospects in the minors, while right-hander Marcos Molina might be the guy everyone’s talking about by season’s end.
The Mets’ offensive prospects took a step forward this season, individually and collectively. Brandon Nimmo's approach is among the best in the minors, and his play in center field has improved to the point where he might be able to stick at the position.
The team also has a pair of promising young middle infielders on the rise in shortstop Amed Rosario and second baseman Dilson Herrera, who was promoted to the major leagues in late April after opening the season in High-A.
And don’t sleep on catcher Kevin Plawecki just because d’Arnaud has begun to realize his potential; the 23-year-old doesn’t offer much home power, but he has a knack for making hard contact and collects his share of doubles.
Meanwhile, the addition of a polished college bat in this year’s draft, such as outfielder Michael Conforto, who can get on base and hit for power, makes the system even more impressive heading into the offseason.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: RHP Noah Syndergaard, C Kevin Plawecki, OF Brandon Nimmo, LHP Steven Matz, 2B Dilson Herrera, RHP Marcos Molina, OF Michael Conforto
3. Boston Red Sox
Graduations: 2B/OF Mookie Betts, UTIL Brock Holt, SS Xander Bogaerts, C Christian Vazquez, OF Jackie Bradley Jr., RHP Brandon Workman, RHP Allen Webster
Despite graduating a host of players to the big leagues this season, the Boston Red Sox still boast one of the finest collections of talent in the sport thanks to an aggressive draft strategy and outstanding player development.
Mookie Betts breezed through the Double- and Triple-A levels en route to an earlier-than-expected arrival in the major leagues, and he’s served as the team’s hottest hitter since assuming an everyday role in mid-August. Meanwhile, second baseman Sean Coyle benefited from Betts’ rapid ascent, as it allowed him to put up eye-opening power numbers at Double-A Portland.
The Red Sox’s core of pitching prospects continued their steady climb of the organizational ladder, as right-handers Anthony Ranaudo and Matt Barnes reached the major leagues after strong showings in Triple-A, while 22-year-old left-hander Henry Owens, the team’s top pitching prospect, furthered his impressive professional career with strong, consistent performance across Double- and Triple-A.
Switch-hitting catcher Blake Swihart also thrived in his first taste of the high minors, as the 22-year-old hit for both average and power while playing phenomenal defense. Third baseman Garin Cecchini is back in the major leagues despite an overall disappointing campaign at Triple-A.
All that being said, 2014 will be remembered as the year Boston’s next wave of international prospects put themselves on the prospect radar. 17-year-old third baseman Rafael Devers showcased arguably the highest ceiling in the system with his excellent performance between the Dominican Summer and Gulf Coast Leagues, though 19-year-old outfielder Manuel Margot also made a strong case with his power/speed combo between both Class-A levels.
The Red Sox’s draft this year once again featured a good mix of high-ceiling, high–floor talent. Shortstop Michael Chavis, the team's first-round pick at No. 26 overall, is a player who does a lot of things well—including a short swing and advanced approach—without dazzling in one area.
Right-hander Michael Kopech is a projectable right-hander who has touched the high 90s with his fastball. Second-round pick Sam Travis, a right-handed-hitting first baseman, 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.
Boston also added some fresh faces before this year’s trade deadline, acquiring left-hander Edwin Escobar and right-hander Heath Hembree, who is currently working out of the team’s big league bullpen, from the Giants in the Jake Peavy deal and then left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez from the Orioles in exchange for Andrew Miller.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: LHP Henry Owens, C Blake Swihart, 3B Rafael Devers, OF Manuel Margot, 3B Garin Cecchini, LHP Eduardo Rodriguez
2. Houston Astros
Graduations: OF George Springer, 1B Jon Singleton, OF Jake Marisnick
Even with the promotions of George Springer and Jonathan Singleton this season, as well as the organization’s failure to sign draft picks Brady Aiken and Jacob Nix, Houston's system is still loaded with high-end talent in the upper and lower levels of the minors.
Carlos Correa, the No. 2 overall prospect in baseball, once again opened eyes with his bat this season, posting a .926 OPS with 20 stolen bases in 62 High-A games before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in late June that required surgery. The 19-year-old has the makings of a future MVP candidate, and I have little doubt as to whether he’ll remain at shortstop.
Mark Appel, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft, endured a (very) rough season at High-A Lancaster, but the right-hander fared considerably better and ended his season on a positive note with a strong showing at Double-A Corpus Christi.
Third baseman Rio Ruiz and outfielder Teoscar Hernandez both thrived in the California League this season, while left-hander Josh Hader took home honors as the league’s top pitcher. Domingo Santana received his first taste of the major leagues, and speedster Tony Kemp and outfielder Preston Tucker might not be far behind.
Hard-throwing right-handers Michael Feliz and Vince Velasquez both flashed their high ceilings this season, though the latter struggled to stay healthy and move up the ladder.
As if the Astros system wasn’t already stacked, the team acquired a pair of notable prospects from the Marlins shortly before the July 31 deadline in outfielder Jake Marisnick (who graduated) and third baseman Colin Moran, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2013 draft.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: SS Carlos Correa, RHP Mark Appel, RHP Michael Feliz, RHP Mike Foltynewicz, 3B Rio Ruiz, OF Domingo Santana
1. Minnesota Twins
Graduations: SS/OF Danny Santana, 1B/DH Kennys Vargas, RHP Trevor May
The Minnesota Twins hang on to the No. 1 spot heading into the offseason for one main reason: They didn't graduate any of their top prospects.
Center fielder Byron Buxton, who was widely considered the sport’s top prospect entering the season, lost most of his highly anticipated campaign with a wrist injury and, more recently, a concussion. However, the 20-year-old is expected to be fully healthy for this year's Arizona Fall League and should pick up where he left off in his ascent toward stardom.
The loss of slugging third baseman Miguel Sano for the season following Tommy John surgery was a blow to the system, though it hasn't affected his projection as an All-Star corner infielder with 30-plus-home run power.
The Twins’ first-round pick this year, Nick Gordon (Dee Gordon's brother and Flash Gordon's son), has a high ceiling as a true shortstop with a natural feel for hitting and the underrated strength to put the ball in gaps. The club also added several potential late-inning power arms in the draft in Nick Burdi, Michael Cederoth, Sam Clay and Jake Reed.
Beyond that, the Twins have an intriguing mix of high ceilings and depth on the mound, highlighted by hard-throwing right-handers Alex Meyer and Jose Berrios, both of whom are likely to reach the major leagues in 2015. Beyond that, the organization also had youngsters Kohl Stewart, Lewis Thorpe and Stephen Gonsalves take significant steps forward this season at Low-A Cedar Rapids, though all three hurlers noticeably wore down during the second half of the season.
Potential Top 100 Prospects for 2015: OF Byron Buxton, 3B Miguel Sano, RHP Alex Meyer, RHP Jose Berrios, RHP Kohl Stewart, SS Nick Gordon