Baseball Prospects: Ranking A.L. Farm Systems: 1-14

Malcolm HamiltonContributor INovember 19, 2008

This is my official offseason rankings of the farm systems in the American League.

My rules for determining if a player retains his prospect status is rather arbitrary. If he was with the major league team for 50 games or more, then he no longer counts as a prospect. I've always felt like two months is a good gauge for something like this.

Here we go.

1.  Tampa Bay Rays

    1.  David Price, Pitcher, 23 years old

    2.  Wade Davis, Pitcher, 23 years old

    3.  Jeremy Hellickson, Pitcher, 21 years old

    4.  Jacob McGee, Pitcher, 22 years old

    5.  Timothy Beckham, Shortstop, 18 years old

The Rays are actually good this year and they are still loaded in their farm system.  Stopping at five was difficult.  Fans have gotten to see what Price is about this post season, but its really just the tip of the iceberg. Price has shot through the system and projects as an ace.

Davis would be the top pitcher in most farm systems, and the Rays should expect to see him at some point next year.  Hellickson is still young and could be a couple more years, but once he reaches the show, he'll be a top flight starter.

It keeps getting said that when McGee reaches the Rays, he'll be converted into the closer. I'm not sure if this will happen because he started this past year, but its something to keep in mind.

Beckham was just selected in the May draft and is only 18, but raw talent alone gets him a spot on this list.  These five really don't even scratch the surface of the Rays talent. 

Off years from shortstop Reid Brignac and outfielder Desmond Jennings haven't hurt their billing too much, as both still represent premier prospects in the system. Jeff Niemann has officially proven all he can in the minors and should get his shot at the majors at the start of next year.

Some other players to look out for are outfielder Ryan Royster, pitcher James Houser, catcher John Jaso and outfielder Justin Ruggiano.

2.  Baltimore Orioles

    1.  Matt Wieters, Catcher, 22 years old

    2.  Chris Tillman, Pitcher, 20 years old

    3.  Brian Matusz, Pitcher, 21 years old

    4.  Jake Arrieta, Pitcher, 22 years old

    5.  David Hernandez, Pitcher, 23 years old

Trying to pick a top five for this club was nearly impossible, as the Orioles system is as deep as anyone's in the league.  The only easy choice was starting the list with Matt Wieters, who after a year in a half, could possibly be the best player in the minor leagues.

The way Wieters is going, it wouldn't be ridiculous to see him in an Orioles uniform in September. Tillman was the hidden gem acquired by the Orioles in the Eric Bedard deal with the Mariners and could very well end up being the most valuable player in that deal. 

Matusz was the Orioles' first round pick in 2008 and while he hasn't played an inning of professional baseball, potential alone grants him the No. 3 spot on this list. Arrieta signed late in 2007 and saw his first action at the start of this year. Arrieta did not disappoint, posting a 2.87 ERA in his first year.

Hernandez went from relative obscurity to one of the Orioles premier prospects this year. He was named the organizational pitcher of the year for the Orioles, beating out guys like Tillman and Arrieta. The Orioles have several guys who would have made the top five list for many other ballclubs. 

Outfielder Lou Montanez hit for the triple crown in the Eastern league and should challenge for a starting job with the Orioles in the spring. Pitcher Troy Patton was the prize of the Miguel Tejada deal but unfortunately missed the entire 2008 season because of shoulder surgery.

Outfielder Nolan Reimold was finally healthy for an entire season, and should be making his big league debut early in 2008. Pither Brandon Erbe bounced back from a horrid 2007 to lead the league in strikeouts.

Off years from pitcher Chorye Spoone, third baseman Bill Rowell and third baseman Scott Moore have hurt their stock slightly, but they still remain promising young talents.

Some other players to watch out for are first baseman Brandon Snyder, third baseman Mike Costanzo, and pitcher Pedro Beato.

3.  Texas Rangers

    1.  Elvis Andrus, Shortstop, 20 years old

    2.  Neftali Feliz, Pitcher, 20 years old

    3.  Blake Beavan, Pitcher, 19 years old

    4.  Michael Main, Pitcher, 19 years old

    5.  Justin Smoak, First Baseman, 21 years old

Andrus was acquired from the Braves in the Mark Teixeira deal and has become the leadoff hitter of the future for the Rangers. With 54 steals, the only thing holding Andrus back is the continued excellence of current shortstop Michael Young. 

Don't worry though, if Andrus is ready, he will get a call up soon.

Next, the Rangers have a trio of pitchers to behold. Beavan led the was last season with a 2.37 ERA, followed by Feliz's 2.69 ERA and Main's 2.76 ERA. All three project as top of the line starters but the Rangers tend to have bad luck with its pitching prospects demonstrated by the DVD trio.

Danks is in Chicago, Volquez is in Cincinnati, and Diamond is toiling in mediocrity.  Smoak was the Rangers first round pick in the 2008 draft. In fact, many people believe that he could end up being the best pure hitter in the entire class.

Catcher Taylor Teagarden really struggled in the minors, but after his callup to the majors, he shined, blasting six home runs in 47 at-bats. Catcher Max Ramirez was hitting .354 this year until his season was slowed by injuries. Derek Holland was relatively unknown at the start of the season, but after going 13-1 with a 2.27 ERA, he is officially on everyone's radar. 

Pitchers Eric Hurley and Kasey Kiker took big steps back this season. Kiker, a first round pick in 2006, only managed a 4.73 ERA, but due to the wealth of pitching talent ahead of him, the Rangers can afford to be patient.

Hurley was on the cusp of the Rangers' starting rotation, but after a very disappointing 2008, he will start the season in Triple-A. Outfielder Julio Borbon was dominant this season, splitting time between single and double-A. He stole 53 bases and put up a batting average of .321. 

Outfielder Engel Beltre, acquired from Boston in the Eric Gagne trade, was only 18 this past season and continues to improve, demonstrated by his 31 steals this season. 

Some of the other promising players in the Rangers system are pitcher Tommy Hunter, outfielder John Mayberry Jr., and second baseman Joaquin Arias.

4.  Oakland Athletics

    1.  Trevor Cahill, Pitcher, 20 years old

    2.  Brett Anderson, Pitcher, 20 years old

    3.  Gio Gonzalez, Pitcher, 23 years old

    4.  Chris Carter, First Baseman, 21 years old

    5.  Joey Devine, Pitcher, 25 years old

While the A’s lack any truly can’t-miss prospects, they make up for it with significant depth. The system is led by 20-year-old pitchers Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson.  Cahill, drafted in the second round in 2006, led the A’s system with a 2.61 ERA and was considered by some to be the best pitcher on the US national team in Beijing. 

Anderson, acquired from the Diamondbacks in the Dan Haren deal, posted 118 strikeouts in 108 innings and ended the year in triple-A. Both players should see the A’s rotation soon. Gonzalez was acquired from the White Sox in the Nick Swisher deal, and while he struggled in his major league debut this past season, he still remains a very promising prospect.

It is astonishing that Carter is only 21 years old given the number of teams he has already been on.  Also included in the Dan Haren deal, Carter had his best statistical season this past season, hitting 39 home runs.

Devine is probably best known for his struggles in the 2005 playoffs with the Braves. However, he has reemerged in the A’s system, demonstrated by his 0.59 ERA last season, and looks like he will be the closer of the future in Oakland. 

Second Baseman Adrian Cardenas was acquired from Philadelphia in the Joe Blanton trade and moved up quickly to double-A. The A’s will give him time at shortstop as well as second base, in order to get him to the majors sooner.

Second Baseman Jemile Weeks, younger brother of Rickie Weeks, was chosen 13th overall in the 2008 draft.  Weeks played well after being drafted but had his season shortened by injury.

Outfielder Aaron Cunningham seems to have found a home in Oakland. While not great when he got his chance in the show, Cunningham hit 17 home runs, while batting .329 in the minor leagues.

Pitcher Jerry Blevins looks firmly entrenched in the bullpen and after posting a 3.11 ERA in the majors, look for Blevins to be an effective left-handed specialist down the road.  Also acquired in the Nick Swisher deal, Fautino De Los Santos entered the season with lofty expectations, but early struggles followed by Tommy John surgery have removed him from the fast track. 

Outfielder Corey Brown and First Baseman Sean Doolittle are the most prolific power hitters in the organization behind Carter, hitting 30 and 22 home runs. 

Other promising prospects in the A’s organization include pitcher James Simmons, pitcher Henry Rodriguez and shortstop Cliff Pennington. 

5.  Toronto Blue Jays

    1.  Travis Snider, Outfielder, 20 years old

    2.  J.P. Arencibia, Catcher, 22 years old

    3.  Brett Cecil, Pitcher, 22 years old

    4.  Kevin Ahrens, Second Baseman, 19 years old

    5.  David Cooper, First Baseman, 21 years old

Despite a lack of big name prospects, the Blue Jays have a deceptively strong farm system. The organization is led by Snider who should be ready to break into the Jays starting lineup at some point next season. Another great season in 2008 solidifies the 20-year-old’s spot at the top of the Jays' system.

Arencibia is part of a very strong 2007 draft class for the Blue Jays. Arencibia hit 27 home runs and 105 RBI and should see his major-league debut next season, especially since the Blue Jays are thin at catcher.

Cecil, another 2007 draftee, joins this list as the number one pitcher in the Blue Jays organization. Cecil had another strong season posting a 2.88 ERA while striking out 129 batters.

Ahrens, yet another 2007 draftee, didn’t blow any minds this year with his production, hitting only .259 with five homers. However, being just 19, he remains one Toronto’s most promising young players. Cooper, Toronto’s first round pick in the 2008 draft, really dominated in his first taste of professional baseball.  He hit .333 and appears to be on the fast track in the Blue Jays system. 

Pitcher David Purcey broke into Toronto’s rotation last season after injuries to Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan. Purcey’s 2.69 ERA in the minors this past season should ensure that opens next year back in the Blue Jays rotation.

Pitcher Brad Mills, drafted in the notorious 2007 draft, was excellent in his first full year in the minors. Mills ascended to double-A while posting a 1.95 ERA with 159 strikeouts.  Second baseman John Tolisano, outfielder Eric Eiland and shortstop Justin Jackson, all (you guessed it) drafted in 2007, had some minor struggles in their first full years of minor league baseball, as they hit .229, .233 and .238 respectively. 

Despite these struggles, Jackson still stole 17 bases and Eiland stole 23, while Tolisano boasts huge power potential. Former first-round pick Ricky Romero has progressed somewhat slowly, but with the injuries that have plagued the Blue Jays’ rotation recently, he might get an opportunity to start the year in Toronto. 

Catcher Curtis Thigpen had a miserable season in 2008, hitting .222, but with an empty path ahead of him, he will be given every chance to earn and keep the starting catcher job in Toronto. 

Some of Toronto’s other promising prospects are second baseman Scott Campbell, outfielder Kenny Wilson, first baseman Brian Dopirak and pitcher Marc Rzepczynski.

6.  Cleveland Indians

    1.  Matt LaPorta, Outfielder, 23 years old

    2.  Beau Mills, First Baseman, 22 years old

    3.  Wes Hodges, Third Baseman, 24 years old

    4.  David Huff, Pitcher, 24 years old

    5.  Scott Lewis, Pitcher, 25 years old

The Indians' system is flush with position players but thin when it comes to pitching.  The Indians put their future in the hands of LaPorta when they decided to trade CC Sabathia for him. While far from dominant in 2008, LaPorta still hit 22 home runs and now looks primed to take over one of the corner outfields spots in Cleveland at some point next season. 

Mills, Cleveland’s first rounder in 2007, has jumped to the top of the system, after a season of 21 home runs and 90 runs batted in. Hodges had another excellent season, leading the system with 97 RBI. It won’t be too long until we see Mills and Hodges holding down the corner infield spots in Cleveland. 

Huff joins this list as Cleveland’s top pitching prospect. He really shot up the ranks this past season posting a 2.52 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP.  Huff will definitely get his shot at Cleveland and the rotation at some point next season. 

Lewis appears to be completely recovered from Tommy John surgery that he had in 2006, as he dominated minor league hitting with an ERA of 2.40.  Lewis also got his first shot at the majors last season, and he did not disappoint, posting a 2.63 ERA. 

Lewis certainly made a strong case for him to be included in Cleveland’s rotation at the start of the year. Despite mediocre seasons, outfielders Trevor Crowe and Nick Weglarz continue to be promising prospects. Look for Crowe to get significant playing time in Cleveland’s outfield next season, while Weglarz, the younger of the two, continues to develop in the minors. 

Pitchers Adam Miller and Chuck Lofgren undoubtedly had two of the most disappointing seasons out of any prospect on any team. Long considered the next ace for Cleveland, Miller had been the club’s top prospect for four years running. Miller has performed well when healthy, but nagging injuries have stopped him from ever putting two good seasons together.

Success for Miller will not be defined by his numbers, but by his durability.  Because of Miller’s constant injuries, many had anointed Lofgren to be the next great pitcher for Cleveland. He entered 2008 as the No. 2 prospect, behind Miller, and expectations were huge after dominant performances in both 2006 and 2007.

Lofgren’s numbers are actually hard to fathom for a top prospect in double-A. Lofgren went 2-6 with a 5.99 ERA. Lofgren will be an interesting player to watch next year, to see if he can effectively bounce back.

In the first round of the 2008 draft, Cleveland selected second baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, and despite only playing in 68 games, he impressed, hitting .290 with 45 RBI.

Acquired from the Dodgers during the season, catcher Carlos Santana had the most impressive numbers out of anyone in the organization, hitting .326 with 117 RBI.  Santana will be looked at to maintain that kind of production as he moves up the ranks. 

First baseman Jordan Brown took a slight step back last season, only hitting .281 with seven home runs. While Brown had always raked against minor league pitching, injuries and a promotion to triple-A definitely took a toll on Brown’s performance. 

Some of the other top prospects in Cleveland’s system are pitcher Jeff Stevens, outfielder Matt Brown and pitcher Kelvin De La Cruz.

7.  Kansas City Royals

    1.  Mike Moustakas, Shortstop, 20 years old

    2.  Eric Hosmer, First Baseman, 19 years old

    3.  Daniel Cortes, Pitcher, 21 years old

    4.  Daniel Duffy, Pitcher, 19 years old

    5.  Kila Ka'aihue, First Baseman, 25 years old

Despite a mediocre year, Moustakas is still the No. 1 player in the Kansas City farm system. Improvements on defense and consistency were positive signs for Moustakas and he still projects as a shortstop with huge power and there just aren't that many of those around.  Hosmer was the third overall pick in the 2008 draft and was unfortunately caught up in the Pedro Alvarez-Pittsburgh Pirates debacle. 

Still, Hosmer should be on the fast track to the majors. Daniel Cortes was acquired by Kansas City in a deal that sent Mike MacDougal to the Chicago White Sox. Cortes had his breakout year in 2007, and did nothing to hurt his stock in 2008.

Duffy has dominated minor league hitters since he was drafted last year.  His career whip is 1.03. If he keeps pitching this well, the Royals can't keep him down for long.  Ka'aihue came out of nowhere to hit 37 home runs while driving in 100 runs this season. The big thing for Ka'aihue will be maintaining this level of play. He will be given a shot to compete for the first base job in the spring.

Pitcher Matt Mitchell entered the year surrounded by hype, and did not disappoint.  He will be looked at to make a big jump to the top of the Royals prospect list next season.  Pitcher Alex Caldera was named the organizational pitcher of the year for the Royals and posted a 2.89 ERA.

Pitcher Carlos Rosa is another talented young pitcher to go with the Royals seemingly endless crop.  Rosa was fantastic this season posting a 2.73 ERA and should be in a Royals uniform by midseason.

Pitchers Blake Wood and Julio Pimentel had off years, but both, especially Wood, remain significant parts of the Royals plans for the future.  Outfielder Mitch Maier has proven all he can in Triple-A and will challenge for a starting outfield job in spring training. 

Some of the other premier prospects in the Royals system are Chris Lubanski, Derrick Robinson and Blake Johnson.

8.  Chicago White Sox

    1.  Aaron Poreda, Pitcher, 22 years old

    2.  John Shelby Jr. Outfielder, 23 years old

    3.  Gordon Beckham, Shortstop, 22 years old

    4.  Clayton Richard, Pitcher, 25 years old

    5.  Jose Martinez, Outfielder, 20 years old

Poreda leads a much improved White Sox farm system, which was, to my mind, save Houston, the weakest in the league at the start of the year. Poreda, Chicago’s first rounder from the 2007 draft, played well in his first full year of professional baseball, posting a 3.13 ERA. 

Poreda appears to be on the fast track to Chicago so look for him to make his big league debut in 2009. Shelby Jr. exploded onto the scene in 2008, displaying five-tool potential that is so rare in baseball. Shelby Jr. had 15 home runs and 80 RBI and also swiped 33 bases. 

Shelby Jr’s position change from second base to outfield should keep him down in the minors for a while longer while he adjusts, but his ability to hit won’t be able to keep him down for long. Beckham, the eighth overall pick of the 2008 draft, has the talent to be a star for the White Sox.

His .310 average in his pro debut did not disappoint the White Sox faithful. Richard was dominant in the minors in 2008 and earned himself a call-up with his 2.47 ERA. Richard made the White Sox's postseason roster and should fight for a spot in the rotation or bullpen in spring training.

Outfielder Jose Martinez was having a nice season before injuries ended it in May.  He had been hitting .306 before he went down, and will be looked at to make a speedy recovery in 2009.  Second baseman Chris Getz hit .302 this season in the minors and was called up in September.  Getz will compete for a starting job in Chicago in spring training. 

Pitchers Lance Broadway and Jack Egbert were both disappointing in 2008. Broadway had an ERA of 4.66, while allowing opposing hitters to hit .292 against him. Egbert fared slightly better, posting a 4.58 ERA, while striking out 121. Both will be looked at for improvement as they will be candidates for spot starts as well as a spot in the rotation in Chicago. 

Pitcher Jeff Marquez, newly acquired from the Yankees in the Nick Swisher deal, will look to turn things around with a new ballclub. First baseman Branden Allen rose from relative obscurity to have a very impressive 2008 season.  Allen hit 29 home runs with 75 RBI, and added 17 stolen bases. 

Pitcher Kyle McCulloch took a step back in 2008 after a strong 2007. McCulloch could only manage eight wins and a 4.65 ERA this season.  Pitcher Kanekoa Teixeira dominated as a closer split between single and double-A in 2008, as he had 21 saves with a 1.33 ERA. 

Teixeira could be up to help Chicago’s bullpen at some point in 2009. 

Some of Chicago’s other big prospects are pitcher Carlos Torres, pitcher Adam Russell, third baseman Brent Morel and outfielder David Cook.

9.  Minnesota Twins

    1.  Ben Revere, Outfielder, 20 years old

    2.  Tyler Robertson, Pitcher, 20 years old

    3.  Kevin Mulvey, Pitcher, 23 years old

    4.  Deolis Guerra, Pitcher, 19 years old

    5.  Wilson Ramos, Catcher, 21 years old

Revere certainly earned the top spot in Minnesota’s organization after leading all of the minors in batting average in 2008. Revere hit .379 and stole 44 bases despite being only 20 years old. 

Robertson looked on his way to an excellent season but his season ended early after injuring his shoulder. Robertson had a 2.72 ERA in the games that he played last season. Mulvey, acquired from the Mets in the Johan Santana deal before the season, had another productive year in the minors, putting up a 3.77 ERA while striking out 121 batters.

Guerra, another player acquired for Santana, really struggled in his first year with the Twins with an ERA of 5.47. However, Guerra is only 19 years old and he has so much potential that the Twins believe he is an integral part of their future.

Ramos had a very impressive season, hitting .288 with 78 RBI.  Ramos’ major issue is not production, but rather the presence of Joe Mauer ahead of him in Minnesota.  Ramos might need to change position if he wants to see time in the show.

Pitcher Mike McCardell was arguably the organizations best pitcher this year. He had an ERA of 2.86 and a strikeout-to-walk ration of 11:2. Outfielder Joe Benson was highly touted entering the 2008 season and did not live up to his expectations. He was only hitting .248, when a back injury ended his season.  Despite his struggles, Benson was still able to swipe 17 bases in an injury shortened season. 

Pitcher Phillip Humber, also acquired from the Mets in the Santana deal, was expected to challenge for a rotation spot in Minnesota, but instead struggled in triple-A. Humber will be 26 next season and needs to turn it around quick if he wants to figure into the Twins’ future.

Pitchers Anthony Slama and Rob Delaney were both closers and were two of the bright spots for the Twins this past season. Slama posted an ERA of 1.01 with 25 saves, while Delaney had 18 saves with an ERA of 1.23. Outfielder Aaron Hicks was the Twins’ first-round pick in 2008 and he did not disappoint.

Hicks hit .318 while stealing 12 bases in 45 games. Pitcher Jose Mijares posted a 2.70 ERA in the minors and earned a promotion to the majors where he had a 0.89 ERA. 

Should Mijares keep up this level of play, the Twins will have to find playing time for him. Some of the other good, young players in the Twins’ organization are pitcher Jeff Manship, first baseman Chris Parmelee and outfielder Angel Morales.

10.  New York Yankees

    1.  Austin Jackson, Outfielder, 21 years old

    2.  Jesus Montero, Catcher, 17 years old

    3.  Ian Kennedy, Pitcher, 23 years old

    4.  Dellin Betances, Pitcher, 20 years old

    5.  Zach McAllister, Pitcher, 20 years old

Jackson leads all Yankees prospects based on pure, untapped potential. Jackson is a guy with five-tool talent, demonstrated by his .285 average, nine home runs and 19 steals last season. 

Montero is the best at what has become a very deep position for the Yankees.  Montero excelled at the age of 18 this season, hitting .326 with 17 home runs.  Despite his struggles at the major league level, Kennedy continues to dominate minor league hitters.

Kennedy just needs to figure out how to translate his minor-league success to the majors. With the Yankees poised to go on a huge spending spree for pitching this offseason, Kennedy may have some more time to work on his game in the minors. 

Betances continues to pitch very well despite his young age, 18. He struck out 135 batters while posting a 3.67 ERA. 

McAllister really shot up the ranks for the Yankees with his play this season. But you can be he’s on everyone’s radar now after a season with 14 wins and a 2.09 ERA. 

Pitcher Mark Melancon had an ERA esee6of 2.27 this season and looks to be the closer in waiting for when Mariano Rivera steps down. Outfielder Brett Gardner earned a promotion to the majors with his strong play last season, demonstrated by his 50 steals  between the minors and majors.

Gardner should get an opportunity to play for a starting outfield role during spring training. Pitcher Alan Horne really struggled in 2008, posting a 5.63 ERA before his season was ended by injuries.

Catchers Austin Romine and Francisco Cervelli combine with Montero to give the Yankees a wealth of talent behind the plate. Romine hit .300 in 2008, while Cervelli hit .309.

Pitcher Phil Coke burst onto the scene at the age of 26, but his strong play did not go unnoticed as he got a call up to the Yankees in September and had a 0.69 ERA in 14 games.

Coke may have earned himself a spot in the Yanks’ bullpen at the start of 2009.

Some the Yankees’ other talented young prospects are pitcher George Kontos, first baseman Juan Miranda and pitcher Eric Hacker.

11.  Boston Red Sox

    1.  Lars Anderson, First Baseman, 21 years old

    2.  Michael Bowden, Pitcher, 22 years old

    3.  Josh Reddick, Outfielder, 21 years old

    4.  Daniel Bard, Pitcher, 23 years old

    5.  Ryan Kalish, Outfielder, 20 years old

Anderson was very impressive this season, hitting .317, with and OPS of .934. His strong play should make it difficult for the Red Sox to keep down in triple-A. Despite being only 20 and having several veterans blocking his way, Anderson will be in Boston sooner rather than later.

Bowden leads the Red Sox pitching prospects on this list, as he had a 2.33 ERA and a .199 batting average against in 2008.  Bowden should be in Boston for good at some point in 2009.

Reddick shot up three levels of the Red Sox system as well as the organizational prospect ladder. Reddick hit .317 with 23 home runs and 91 RBI, solidifying his spot as a can’t-miss prospect. Bard bounced back from a miserable 2007, to pitch very well in 2008.

In his move to relief, Bard had a 1.51 ERA, as well as a .158 batting average against. He looks to have found his home in the bullpen, and as a result will move up the ranks quickly. 

Kalish wasn’t able to maintain the superb play that he had shown in 2007, but 2008 was a productive season for the young outfielder. Kalish swiped 19 bases, while hitting .273. The Red Sox will really look for him to make a big jump in 2009. 

Pitcher Nick Hagadone’s 2008 season was pretty much a wash, as he was injured for all but three starts.  He should be healthy by 2009 and will be looked at to emerge as one of Boston’s top pitching prospects.

Shortstop Oscar Tejada had somewhat of a down year in 2008, but he is only 19, so the Red Sox will continue to give him chances in A ball. 

Pitcher Charlie Zink and his knuckleball were terrific in the minors, as Zink had a 2.84 ERA. Unfortunately, Zink got absolutely rocked in his one major league start, and at the age of 29, Zink needs to produce now.

Shortstop Casey Kelly was the Red Sox first round pick in 2008. Despite struggles in his debut, Kelly’s defense and makeup should put him on the fast track through the Red Sox system.

Some of the Red Sox other good prospects are outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, first baseman Aaron Bates and pitcher Kris Johnson.

12.  Los Angeles Angels

    1.  Jordan Walden, Pitcher, 21 years old

    2.  Hank Conger, Catcher, 20 years old

    3.  Peter Boujos, Outfielder, 21 years old

    4.  Sean O'Sullivan, Pitcher, 21 years old

    5.  Mark Trumbo, First Baseman, 21 years old

Walden leads a thinner than usual Angels’ farm system. Walden was really the lone pitching bright spot in the Angels’ organization, as he struck out 141 batters with an ERA of 2.76.

Conger continued his productive ascension through the Angels’ system in the 2008 season. The 20 year old hit .303, and if not for a shoulder injury, Conger could have been excellent this year.  He should reach triple-A next season and if he produces, the likes of Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis will not keep him down. 

Bourjos really figured out how to utilize all his talent in 2008. His 50 steals was made all the more impressive by his 48 extra-base hits. O’Sullivan somehow joins this list at fourth, despite his 4.73 ERA. But it wasn’t all bad as he led the organization with 16 wins and pitched much better in the second half of the season than in the first half. 

Trumbo was really impressive in 2008 after struggling in the years prior. His 32 home runs and 93 RBI led the entire Angels’ farm system. The 2008 season for the Angels' farm system was really defined by the struggles of pitchers Nick Adenhart and Nick Green. 

Adenhart and Green entered the year as two of the Angels’ top pitching prospect, with Adenhart leading that group. Green posted a 5.32 ERA, while allowing opposing hitters to hit .292 against him. Adenhart had a 5.76 ERA, while opposing hitters hit .306 against him.

Much of of how successful the Angel’s organization is in 2009 will depend on how these two players bounce back.  Third baseman Matt Brown really shot up the ranks for the Angels after hitting .320 with 21 homers and 67 RBI in an season shortened by his appearance in the Olympics. 

Probably most surprising this season was the play of first baseman Roberto Lopez.  Drafted in May, Lopez entered professional baseball sprinting, hitting .400 with 14 homers and 72 RBI in 67 games.

Shortstop Andrew Romine had an up and down season, as he hit only .260, but stole and incredible 62 bases. Some of the Angels’ other promising young players are shortstop Hainley Statia, pitcher Trevor Reckling and third baseman Freddy Sandoval.

13.  Detroit Tigers

    1.  Rick Porcello, Pitcher, 19 years old

    2.  Jon Kibler, Pitcher, 22 years old

    3.  Scott Sizemore, Second Baseman, 23 years old

    4.  James Skelton, Catcher, 23 years old

    5.  Will Rhymes, Second Baseman, 25 years old

The trade for Miguel Cabrera by the Tigers basically decimated their farm system, but there are still some exciting young players in the Tigers organization. The farm system is led by superstud Rick Porcello, probably best known for plummeting in the 2007 draft because of his high bonus demands.

Porcello performed very well in his first full year, posting a 2.66 ERA, while dealing with huge expectations. Kibler truly came out of nowhere to put up dominant numbers this season. His 1.75 ERA led all Tigers starters, and he will enter next season with very lofty expectations.

His ability to maintain those great numbers will dictate how quickly he moves through the system. Despite losing a significant part of his season to injuries, Sizemore was able to play consistent defense and hit .286. Provided he stays healthy, look for Sizemore to reach Detroit soon, and be their No. 2 hitter of the future.

Skelton lacks any semblance of power, but he more than makes up for it with decent speed and a great ability to hit for average. Skelton’s .303 average and 15 steals last season ensure that he’ll be lots of attention, especially a system starved of catchers. 

Rhymes, like Kibler, wasn’t on the radar for most people, but a second half where he hit .356 is enough to grab anyone's attention. Rhymes will have to deal with constant question about his 2008 being a fluke, but look for him to get a promotion to Detroit at some point next season. 

First basemen Jeff Larish and Ryan Strieby both have huge power, hitting 23 and 29 home runs respectively. However, neither is consistent enough with the bat to warrant significant playing time in the majors.

Shortstop Cale Iorg was decidedly average at the plate this season, but since it was his first full season since his two year hiatus for a mormon mission, it was expected.

He will be looked at to make big strides next season. Second baseman Michael Hollimon had a devastating season.  Early struggles followed by shoulder surgery will have Hollimon out until the middle of 2009. 

While he still remains a part of the Tigers future, he won’t be back in the show anytime soon.  Pitcher Ryan Perry, selected by the Tigers in the first round of the 2008 draft out of Florida, had a productive first taste of professional baseball, posting a 3.29 ERA. 

Outfielder Brent Clevlen had a nice bounce back season and his 22 home runs last season should help him compete for a job in Detroit in the spring. 

Pitcher Duane Below led the Tigers with 126 strikeouts, but control problems led to an inflated ERA. Below will need to keep home runs and walks down if he wants a shot at the Detroit rotation. Some of the other prospects in the Tigers system are pitcher Jonah Nickerson, outfielder Wilkin Ramirez, and pitcher Brandon Hamilton.

14.  Seattle Mariners

    1.  Phillippe Aumont, Pitcher, 19 years old

    2.  Carlos Triunfel, Shortstop, 18 years old

    3.  Greg Halman, Outfielder, 21 years old

    4.  Adam Moore, Catcher, 24 years old

    5.  Michael Pineda, Pitcher, 19 years old

While the Mariners lack any big-league-ready prospects, they have several talented youngsters stashed throughout their system. The young group is led by the 19 year old Aumont. Aumont was plagued by injuries this past season, but performed well when he played, posting a 2.75 ERA in single-A. 

While Triunfel’s numbers were not spectacular, they are certainly enhanced by the fact that he is only 18. His 30 steals last season is a nice statistic to build on as he enters double-A next season.

Halman had a very productive season, scattering 29 home runs between two levels of the minor leagues. Moore had another great year, hitting .319, with a .396 OBP, but it is likely that he will move positions. His defense is suspect and Jeff Clement is ahead of him on the depth chart, so a position change would be the best way to get his bat to the majors. 

Pineda was probably the most impressive player in the Mariners organization this past season, posting a 1.95 ERA. It has yet to be seen whether Pineda can keep this pace, given the fact that he is only 19 and last season was his first in the United States. 

Third Baseman Matt Tuiasosopo continues to progress slowly through the minors. Last season brought another productive but average season for Tuiasosopo, as he hit .281 with 13 home runs.

Outfielder Michael Saunders and pitcher Nick Hill both took steps back this season, struggling to meet the lofty expectations that they entered the season with.  Saunders regressed in almost every statistical category and ended the year with underwhelming numbers. 

Hill posted a 4.93 ERA and even a strong finish couldn’t save his season. However, both players remain prominent members of a thin Mariners farm system. Pitcher Juan Ramirez continued to impress at only 20 years of age with a 4.14 ERA along with 113 strikeouts. 

Pitcher Shawn Kelley began the season as a relative unknown, but after moving quickly through the system, his 1.88 ERA in relief this season has caught some eyes. Kelley’s great year was one of very few bright spots for the Mariners organization this year. 

Some other prominent prospects in the system are first baseman Bryan LaHair, outfielder Carlos Peguero and outfielder Dennis Raben.

Coming soon: Ranking N.L. Farm Systems 1-16


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