Bleacher Report's Updated Farm System Rankings at the Start of 2017

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 4, 2017

Bleacher Report's Updated Farm System Rankings at the Start of 2017

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    Shortstop Dansby Swanson headlines a deep and talented Atlanta Braves system.
    Shortstop Dansby Swanson headlines a deep and talented Atlanta Braves system.G Fiume/Getty Images

    We're still over a month away from pitchers and catchers making their way to sunny Arizona or Florida, and the hot stove has cooled considerably, so now seems like the perfect time for an updated look at how all 30 MLB farm system stack up.

    A handful of early offseason trades and a pair of winter meetings blockbusters have provided us with plenty of updating to be done since these rankings were last updated following the conclusion of the MiLB season.

    We'll likely update and tweak the rankings a few times before the start of the regular season, but the following will serve as a baseline for offseason prospect talks going forward.

    The following factors helped determine the rankings of players and teams:

    • Potential (Player): Potential trumps production a lot of the time, especially in the lower levels of the minors and with recent draft picks. Skill set and overall tools are often a better indication of what kind of player a guy will be in the future.
    • Talent (Player): As for guys in the higher levels of the minors who are close to breaking through at the big league level, production and current talent level are the determining factors, as these players are viewed as more complete products.
    • Overall Depth (Team): Having one or two elite prospects is great, but having a deep farm system from top to bottom is the way to build a sustainable contender. The overall depth and level of talent was the biggest factor in ranking each team.
    • High-End Talent (Team): That being said, there is a difference between a prospect who has a chance of making an impact at the big league level and a prospect who could be a star. Elite prospects served as a tiebreaker of sorts when two teams were close in the rankings.

    We've incorporated a tier system to help differentiate between the different levels of talent. Here's a quick explanation: 

    • Tier 1: Prospects who have an elite skill set and legitimate All-Star potential. This is the cream of the crop.
    • Tier 2: Prospects who have a good chance of becoming at least a contributor at the MLB level. This is where most prospects on the following list will fall.
    • Tier 3: Prospects who profile as fringe MLB contributors or young prospects who are still too raw to project any higher. Having one of these players ranked among your top 10 prospects is a good indication of a thin system.

    Along with an updated list of the top 10 prospects for each team, you'll also find some general analysis on each team's top prospects and the outlook of the farm system as a whole.

    A player must not have passed the rookie-eligibility limits (130 AB, 50 IP, 45 days on roster) to be eligible for inclusion in these rankings.

30. Los Angeles Angels (Previous: 30)

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    C Taylor Ward
    C Taylor WardMatt Brown/Getty Images

    Top 10 Prospects

    NameAgeBornProjected LevelETATier
    1. CF Jahmai Jones19imgA20202
    2. 1B Matt Thaiss21imgA+20192
    3. OF Brandon Marsh19imgRk20212
    4. C Taylor Ward23imgAA20182
    5. LHP Nate Smith25imgAAA20172
    6. RHP Alex Meyer27imgAAA20172
    7. SS Nonie Williams18imgRk20213
    8. RHP Keynan Middleton23imgAAA20173
    9. RHP Grayson Long22imgA+20193
    10. RHP Jaime Barria20imgA+20203

             

    Farm System Update

    The Los Angeles Angeles once again check in with the worst farm system in baseball.

    Toolsy outfielder Jahmai Jones takes over as the team's new No. 1 prospect after hitting .302 with an .801 OPS and 20 stolen bases last season. The 19-year-old has a chance to push his way into Tier 1 status if he can duplicate that performance in his full-season debut.

    Virginia slugger Matt Thaiss and Georgia high school outfielder Brandon Marsh were the team's top two picks last June. Thaiss will move as quickly as his bat allows, while Marsh figures to be something of a prospect but one that could be well worth the wait.

    It speaks to the lack of quality arms in the system that 25-year-old Nate Smith and 27-year-old Alex Meyer are the team's top two pitching prospects. Both could see time in the majors in 2017, though neither profiles as much more than a swingman.

    Reliever Keynan Middleton is the name to watch as far as 2017 impact is concerned. He was terrific over three levels last season after making the transition to the bullpen, posting a 3.41 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 12.0 K/9 to earn a spot on the 40-man roster.

29. Arizona Diamondbacks (Previous: 28)

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    LHP Anthony Banda
    LHP Anthony BandaBrace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    Top 10 Prospects

    NameAgeBornProjected LevelETATier
    1. LHP Anthony Banda23imgAAA20172
    2. IF Dawel Lugo22imgAAA20182
    3. OF Socrates Brito24imgAAA20172
    4. RHP Taylor Clarke23imgAAA20172
    5. OF Anfernee Grier21imgA-20202
    6. IF Domingo Leyba21imgAA20182
    7. RHP Jon Duplantier22imgA20192
    8. SS Jasrado Chisholm18imgA-20203
    9. LHP Alex Young23imgAA20183
    10. RHP Jimmie Sherfy25imgAAA20173

                  

    Farm System Update

    With Braden Shipley and Archie Bradley both exhausting their rookie eligibility last season, the Arizona Diamondbacks have a new top pitching prospect and No. 1 overall prospect in left-hander Anthony Banda.

    He may not have overpowering stuff, but he proved his low-minors success was for real with a terrific season split between Double-A and Triple-A, and he could get a long look for a rotation spot this spring.

    Dawel Lugo entered the 2016 season with 17 career home runs over four minor league seasons. He had doubled that total before the year was over, posting a .311/.339/.492 line and not missing a beat when he was promoted to Double-A. Originally a shortstop, his future now appears to be a third base and his bat should play.

    Outfielder Socrates Brito, starter Taylor Clarke and reliever Jimmie Sherfy should all see time with the big club during the upcoming season, while polished left-hander Alex Young is not far behind.

    However, none of those players—aside from Brito if all the pieces fall into placehave all that high of a ceiling, and the D-Backs system as a whole is sorely lacking in impact talent.

28. Kansas City Royals (Previous: 26)

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    LHP Matt Strahm
    LHP Matt StrahmEd Zurga/Getty Images

    Top 10 Prospects

    NameAgeBornProjected LevelETATier
    1. RHP Josh Staumont23imgAA20182
    2. 3B Hunter Dozier25imgAAA20172
    3. LHP Matt Strahm25imgMLB20172
    4. LHP Eric Skoglund24imgAAA20172
    5. OF Jorge Bonifacio23imgAAA20172
    6. C Chase Vallot20imgA+20192
    7. RHP Kyle Zimmer25imgAA20172
    8. RHP Scott Blewett20imgA+20193
    9. 1B/OF Ryan O'Hearn23imgAAA20173
    10. RHP Jake Junis24imgAAA20173

                

    Farm System Update

    You just can't teach a 102 mph fastball.

    Josh Staumont still has a lot of work to do in the control department, evidenced by his 104 walks in 123.1 innings last season, but if he can harness his electric stuff, the sky is the limit.

    "There's nobody we have that throws the ball as easy and as hard as he does," assistant general manager J.J. Picollo told Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com. "Even when he's throwing 98 it looks like he's just playing catch."

    Former first-round pick Hunter Dozier finally lived up to his lofty draft status with a breakout season in 2016, and he's ready to make an impact at the MLB level. Whether he's viewed as the heir to Mike Moustakas at third base or settles in at a corner outfield spot remains to be seen.

    Matt Strahm will get a crack at winning a rotation spot this spring after thriving in a relief role last season. The left-hander debuted on July 31 and posted a 1.23 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 12.3 K/9 with six holds in 21 appearances.

    All three of those players could push into the Tier 1 level with another step forward, but there's a steep drop-off behind them in the system.

27. Miami Marlins (Previous: 27)

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    LHP Jarlin Garcia
    LHP Jarlin GarciaBrace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    Top 10 Prospects

    NameAgeBornProjected LevelETATier
    1. LHP Braxton Garrett19imgA-20201
    2. RHP Luis Castillo24imgAA20182
    3. RHP Tyler Kolek21imgA-20202
    4. 3B Brian Anderson23imgAA20182
    5. OF Thomas Jones19imgRk20212
    6. LHP Dillon Peters24imgAAA20172
    7. LHP Jarlin Garcia23imgAAA20172
    8. OF Isael Soto20imgA+20203
    9. OF Austin Dean23imgAA20183
    10. OF Stone Garrett21imgA20193

             

    Farm System Update

    The Miami Marlins system is propped up by left-hander Braxton Garrett, who was taken with the No. 7 overall pick last June and immediately slotted in the organization's No. 1 prospect spot.

    With a strong 6'3" frame and a polished three-pitch repertoire that is highlighted by a plus curveball, he could move quicker than most high school arms.

    That's good news considering Luis Castillo will still need to prove his breakout season in the lower levels of the minors was the real deal, while hard-throwing Tyler Kolek continues to recover from Tommy John surgery.

    Third baseman Brian Anderson is trending upward after hitting .273/.360/.506 with five home runs and 12 RBI in the Arizona Fall League.

    Lefty Dillon Peters stands just 5'9" and lacks elite velocity, but he's also a prospect on the rise after posting a 2.38 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 105 strikeouts in 128.2 innings between High-A and Double-A.

26. Detroit Tigers (Previous: 25)

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    OF Christin Stewart
    OF Christin StewartMark Cunningham/Getty Images

    Top 10 Prospects

    NameAgeBornProjected LevelETATier
    1. RHP Matt Manning18imgA20211
    2. OF Christin Stewart23imgAA20182
    3. RHP Beau Burrows20imgA+20202
    4. RHP Kyle Funkhouser22imgA20192
    5. RHP Joe Jimenez21imgAAA20172
    6. LHP Tyler Alexander22imgAA20192
    7. OF Michael Gerber24imgAAA20172
    8. 3B/OF JaCoby Jones24imgMLB20172
    9. OF Derek Hill21imgA+20203
    10. OF Jose Azocar20imgA+20203

                   

    Farm System Update

    Just like the Miami Marlins system, the Detroit Tigers received a shot in the arm last June when they grabbed a talented high school arm that now slots in as their No. 1 prospect.

    Matt Manning is the classic hard-throwing, projectable right-hander that the Tigers have made a habit of targeting over the years, and the two-sport star could take off with his full attention now turned to the baseball diamond.

    Christin Stewart is right on the fringe of Tier 1 status after posting a .903 OPS with 30 home runs last season. His lack of other tools outside of his bat and a drop-off in production after a late promotion to Double-A hold him back for now, though.

    Kyle Funkhouser returned to Louisville for his senior season after going No. 35 overall in the 2015 draft and wound up slipping to the fourth round after an up-and-down spring. However, he finished his collegiate career strong and followed it up with an impressive pro debut so the Tigers may have walked away with one of the steals of the draft.

    Considering the lack of quality depth at the plate and on the mound in the system, they could use a draft steal here and there.

25. Baltimore Orioles (Previous: 29)

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    1B Trey Mancini
    1B Trey ManciniJustin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Top 10 Prospects

    NameAgeBornProjected LevelETATier
    1. C Chance Sisco21imgAAA20171
    2. RHP Cody Sedlock21imgA20192
    3. SS Ryan Mountcastle19imgA+20192
    4. 1B Trey Mancini24imgMLB20172
    5. LHP Keegan Akin21imgA20192
    6. LHP Chris Lee24imgAAA20172
    7. 3B Jomar Reyes19imgA+20192
    8. RHP Ofelky Peralta19imgA+20202
    9. OF D.J. Stewart22imgAA20183
    10. LHP Alex Wells19imgA20203

                  

    Farm System Update

    The Baltimore Orioles climb a few spots thanks to catcher Chance Sisco jumping up to Tier 1 after he enjoyed a breakout season at the plate in 2016.

    There's still work to do defensively, and the team's decision to sign Welington Castillo means Sisco won't need to be rushed. He's right there alongside Francisco Mejia (CLE) and Jorge Alfaro (PHI) in the conversation for top overall catching prospect.

    The stalled development of Hunter Harvey drops him out of the top 10 for the time being as he'll need to prove he can get and stay healthy to reclaim his top prospect status.

    That leaves 2016 draft picks Cody Sedlock and Keegan Akin as the team's top pitching prospects, while 6'5" teenager Ofelky Peralta is one to watch if his secondary stuff comes around after he struck out 101 in 103.1 innings in his full-season debut.

    Big seasons from young slugger Jomar Reyes and on-base machine D.J. Stewart after fairly disappointing 2016 campaigns would be a nice boost to the system.

24. Texas Rangers (Previous: 22)

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    LHP Yohander Mendez
    LHP Yohander MendezOtto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Top 10 Prospects

    NameAgeBornProjected LevelETATier
    1. LHP Yohander Mendez21imgAAA20161
    2. OF Leody Taveras18imgA-20202
    3. RHP Ariel Jurado20imgAA20182
    4. 1B Ronald Guzman21imgAAA20172
    5. 2B Andy Ibanez23imgAA20172
    6. LHP Cole Ragans19imgA-20202
    7. RHP Alex Speas18imgA-20212
    8. IF Anderson Tejada18imgA20202
    9. LHP Brett Martin21imgA+20182
    10. IF/C Josh Morgan21imgAA20182

                       

    Farm System Update

    With Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz and Dillon Tate shipped out at the trade deadline and Joey Gallo finally exhausting his rookie status, the upper tier of the Texas Rangers farm system has thinned considerably over the past year.

    Yohander Mendez was one of the breakout prospects of 2016, and he now takes over as the team's No. 1 prospect, though he could be pushed by teenager Leody Taveras.

    Mendez began the season at the High-A level and closed it out with two appearances out of the MLB bullpen, as he went 12-3 with a 2.19 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 113 strikeouts in 111 innings in the minors.

    As for Taveras, he landed a $2.1 million bonus as one of the top international prospects in the 2015 class and quickly lived up to the hype while making his way stateside in his pro debut. He has a long way to go, but the ceiling of a future All-Star.

    Ariel Jurado gives the team another quality pitching prospect, albeit one with little projection remaining in his 6'1", 180-pound frame. He has the highest floor in the system.

    Ronald Guzman and Andy Ibanez should both be ready for a crack at the majors down the stretch in 2017. Guzman could wind up being the long-term answer at first base, while Ibanez may wind up being trade bait given the crowded middle infield situation.

23. New York Mets (Previous: 20)

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    SS Amed Rosario
    SS Amed RosarioMark Cunningham/Getty Images

    Top 10 Prospects

    NameAgeBornProjected LevelETATier
    1. SS Amed Rosario21imgAA20181
    2. 1B Dominic Smith21imgAAA20171
    3. RHP Justin Dunn21imgA20192
    4. OF Desmond Lindsay19imgA20202
    5. SS Gavin Cecchini23