Duo of Seager, Urias leads LA to top spot, followed by Braves and Rangers
By Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo and Mike Rosenbaum
What makes an organization rank as one of the top farm systems in baseball? Simply put, it's a combination of quality and quantity. The MLBPipeline.com staff ranked the Top 10 systems in the game by considering which organizations have an abundance of elite-level prospect talent as well as depth, in terms of future big leaguers up and down the system.
Prospect Points are determined by awarding a team 100 points for the No. 1 prospect on the Top 100 list, 99 points for No. 2 and so on, down to one point for No. 100. Points are then tallied by team.
Shortstop Corey Seager, baseball's top prospect, and left-hander Julio Urias, the game's second-best pitching prospect, give the Dodgers a fine head start. But they rank No. 1 on this list because their depth of talent runs so much deeper than it did a year ago. Thanks to breakout players (right-hander Jose De Leon, first baseman Cody Bellinger), fast-developing 2014 draftees (righty Grant Holmes, outfielder Alex Verdugo) and products of a nine-figure 2015 international spending spree (righty Yadier Alvarez, outfielders Yusniel Diaz and Starling Heredia), this system is loaded.
The Shelby Miller deal at the Winter Meetings, the one that brought in 2015 No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson along with Top 100 talent Aaron Blair, is the one that has gotten the most attention. But the Braves front office has made numerous trades that have not only brought in 16 of their current Top 30, but also made it easy to make an argument that they have the best farm system in baseball. There's elite-level talent at the top and a ridiculous amount of depth.
The Rangers had so much depth that they were able to part with three Top 100 Prospects (Jake Thompson, Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro) in the Cole Hamels trade and still manage to come in third in our rankings. No system can match their position player trio of third baseman Joey Gallo and outfielders Lewis Brinson and Nomar Mazara, who could form the heart of Texas' batting order in the near future. The Rangers do as good a job as anyone in mining the international talent market, and with 12 foreign prospects on their Top 30 list, they tie the Nationals for the most in baseball.
The Rockies bolstered an already-solid system last year with a strong Draft that included the prep hitter (shortstop Brendan Rodgers) and pitcher (right-hander Mike Nikorak) with the highest ceilings available, then a Troy Tulowitzki trade that netted a trio of strong-armed righties headlined by Jeff Hoffman. They have good balance with hitters and pitchers as well as short-term and long-term help, and right-hander Jon Gray leads a wave of youngsters who should make an impact in Colorado over the next two years.
The Byron Buxton prospect era may soon come to a close, but one prospect does not a Top 10 organization make. Not only do the Twins have six players in the Top 100, but four of them should make contributions this season. For a team that hung around the playoff race longer than expected in 2015, that kind of boost from a farm system can make all the difference in the world. Beyond that top six, there's a lot of depth, from far-away international signs to power relief arms that could get to Minnesota in a hurry.
Even after a wave of big league promotions and trades, the Red Sox still have plenty of prospect star power. They have arguably the best quartet of prospects in baseball in their Fab Four of second baseman Yoan Moncada, third baseman Rafael Devers, outfielder Andrew Benintendi and right-hander Anderson Espinoza, who played together in low Class A last season. Devers (2013), Espinoza (2014) and Moncada (2015) were Boston's biggest international signings in each of the last three years.
Some farm system rebuilding efforts take a long time. Others happen seemingly at the flip of a switch. The Phillies definitely fit in to the latter category. The big deal, of course, was sending Cole Hamels to the Rangers at the 2015 Trade Deadline. That brought in four current members of the Top 30, three of whom are on the Top 100 list. The Ken Giles deal over the winter brought in two more Top 30 guys, along with recently-graduated Top 100 caliber pitcher Vincent Velasquez. It might be rough in Philadelphia in the short term, but there is help on the way.
Not only do the Pirates have high-level talent, with five in the Top 100, they have more on the way, as outfielder Harold Ramirez and 2015 draftee Ke'Bryan Hayes could easily work their way onto the Top 100 during the 2016 season. If the Pirates are going to keep up with the Cubs and Cardinals in the NL Central, it will have to be via their farm system. A good amount of their talent has reached the upper levels of the system and should help out soon, led by No. 1 prospect, Tyler Glasnow, one of the best right-handed pitching prospects in the game.
The Brewers used the end of their disappointing 2015 season to audition a slew of prospects in the big leagues including pitchers Jorge Lopez and Adrian Houser and outfielder Michael Reed. More significantly, the offseason trade of shortstop Jean Segura officially opened the door for top prospect Orlando Arcia, who has the chance to be a spectacular player on both sides of the ball. Meanwhile, the Brewers' lower levels are rich with young, high-ceiling talents thanks to strong drafting and a slew of shrewd trades over the last year.
Though they graduated or traded all four of their preseason 2015 Top 100 Prospects and also dealt current Top 100ers Brett Phillips and Josh Hader, the Astros still have a farm system with depth and star power. They set a Draft record by spending $19,103,000 on bonuses last summer, including a combined $13.9 million for shortstop Alex Bregman and outfielders Kyle Tucker and Daz Cameron. Houston also has made some astute trades, acquiring its best pitching prospects (Francis Martes, David Paulino and Joe Musgrove) via that route.