With Spring Training underway, MLBPipeline.com's Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo have not only been rolling out their 2017 Top 30 Prospects lists for each of the Major League teams, they've also been busy ranking their Top 10 farm systems in baseball. The following is a transcript of a segment from this week's episode of their Pipeline podcast with Tim McMaster, in which they discuss which teams look to be on the cusp of breaking into next year's Top 10.
To hear more from the MLBPipeline.com experts, subscribe to the podcast by clicking here.
Tim McMaster: I wanted to move on to systems, good organizations, that aren't quite there as far as being rated in Pipeline's Top 10, but teams that you guys think could get there a year from now. And Jonathan, I'll start with you. You think the Cardinals are headed back in the right direction. It's obviously a place they're pretty comfortable having a deep organization.
Jonathan Mayo: Right. I know it seems strange to pick them given the fact that their No. 1 prospect (Alex Reyes) just went down with Tommy John surgery. But sometimes, and I think Jim will probably agree with this, when you are the one who does a team's Top 30 -- and I do the Cardinals' Top 30 -- you don't even quite realize how much you like a system until you start getting through it. And if you're writing up guys 21-30 and you're enjoying those guys not because they have a good story or background, but because, "Wow, this guy actually is talented. Boy, this guy's got potential." And that's what I felt with the Cardinals.
Now, they're all far away. There's certain risk involved with most of the prospects. But they were really, really active on the international market last July -- they spent over $10 million, which will help stem the tide, with the fact that in this coming Draft, they won't pick for a while. You don't even need all of them to step up, but I think that if a handful of them take the next step -- these are guys that they just signed who haven't started yet, also includes guys like (shortstop) Edmundo Sosa, (outfielder) Magneuris Sierra, pitchers like Sandy Alcantara and Junior Fernandez -- they all have pretty high ceilings. If they all take a step forward in 2017, I'd be shocked if they're not a Top 10 system next year.
McMaster: The Cardinals are a team that obviously rarely drafts highly and always manages to have good young talent coming up through the system. The Astros, Jim, are a team and an organization that for a long time, or for a good stretch of years, was drafting very highly and really loaded up their system and became a great, deep organization. Now a lot of those guys have graduated to the big leagues and they've dropped out of the Top 10, so now they're learning to do it the other way to a degree, right? They haven't had those high, high picks the last couple of years, but it's still a system that's building back up.
Jim Callis: It is, it is. And I'll let the cat out of the bag -- I don't know if I'm saying that them jumping into the Top 10 is any great shocking statement, because they actually came in 11th in our farm system rankings. So they were very close to being in the Top 10 right now, but you're right, Tim. If you look at the number of guys they've promoted to the big leagues -- they've promoted a ton of guys, but you want to start with Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers Jr., all of whom have big-time talent, as well as a bunch of complementary players -- they still have a very deep system. They're going to have a bunch of extra picks this year as well, from the Cardinals hacking scandal -- they picked up a pair of second-round picks, some extra picks at the top of the Draft. But it's still, to me, a very deep system.
And what I like about it is they've kind of acquired the talent in a bunch of different ways. They continue to draft well, even if they're not picking at the top of the Draft. They've used first round and supplemental first round picks on guys like (outfielders) Kyle Tucker and Derek Fisher, who are two of their best position players. But they've also drafted guys like Garrett Stubbs, a catcher, in the eighth round, Ramon Laureano, an outfielder, in the 16th round. So they don't have to rely on those picks where you're picking a Carlos Correa at No. 1, an Alex Bregman at No. 2, to find some Draft guys.
They've really gone all-in internationally. Their best prospect, I think we'll see him on the Top 100 Prospects list after a few graduations, so it will be pretty early in the year, is a Venezuelan right-hander named Franklin Perez. They also last year spent a club record, almost $9 million, on international signees. They got a bunch of really interesting Cubans -- Freudis Nova and Anibal Sierra, a couple of shortstops, left-hander Cionel Perez.
And I think the thing they may do better than anyone else is not just trading for prospects, but trading for prospects who really haven't popped yet. Their two best pitching prospects are Francis Martes and David Paulino. Those guys were in Rookie ball -- Paulino was headed toward Tommy John surgery -- when they traded for those guys. They came out a lot better than people realized. They have a first baseman they got from the Dodgers before he even played in a professional game last summer, Yordan Alvarez. He was a guy that the Dodgers had signed in June, and then they traded him in July to get Josh Fields. Alvarez might emerge as one of the best bats in the Astros system this year. And they also got Jonathan Arauz in the -- I don't know if we're supposed to call it the Ken Giles trade, or the Vince Velasquez trade, or the Mark Appel trade with the Phillies -- but they got a pretty slick infielder named Jonathan Arauz in that deal, too.
So I think their pro scouting department does a really nice job and finds guys. You know, Joe Musgrove, who doesn't count as a prospect anymore -- he's one of those guys who was promoted to the big leagues in the last couple of years -- he was in Rookie ball too when they traded for him. I just can't remember ever seeing a club scour the Rookie leagues as efficiently as the Astros do and then get these guys in trades.
Enjoy this discussion? Hear more each week by subscribing to the Pipeline podcast right here.