I thought about how I would lead into this, the ranking of teams’ farm systems, but don’t have a good way to do it, other than say it is something that I like to tackle every year. Obviously, in the grand scheme of things my rankings aren’t going to make waves with Keith Law, John Sickels, or the staff at Baseball America. However, these rankings by any outlet are rather arbitrary in nature, and I like any of them, will try to give everybody some reasoning behind them. Scouting and prospects are a big part of the game. We can see that by how teams are clinging onto them in a lot of cases this year, instead of dealing them away for proven players. A lower ranked system doesn’t necessarily correlate to a bad team, and a highly ranked system doesn’t mean it’s a good major league team. It just gives us all a look at organizations who might get healthy in a few years, and which ones are going to have to find other means.
Anyway, this is supposed to be fun, so if you want to discuss, let’s do so….
This is starting to get a little bit tougher at this point, and where a little bit of personal preference comes in. I’ve changed the order of this 5 more than I care to admit, mostly because of a few of these organizations lack multiple top 100 guys, but have a bunch of upside and talent in their systems. A couple have some top players, but lack the depth.
20. Philadelphia Phillies
I personally like the way the Phillies have attacked the draft in the last 5 years or so, and of course in the past have ranked them much higher. The past couple of years, the Phillies have traded away a lot of that talent for big league success, but there is still plenty of players left. The Phillies top prospect now is probably Trevor May. May is a power right handed starter that come on strong last season, but as a top prospect has some question marks. He was joined in a Clearwater rotation that included Julio Rodriguez, Brody Colvin, and Jonathan Pettibone. All have some talent, though Rodriguez in particular has a limited ceiling, and Colvin is mechanically challenged. Jesse Biddle is the 2nd best pitcher in the system at this point, but the lefty looks like a mid-rotation guy at best to me. Two of his teammates in Lakewood in Lisalberto Bonilla and Ervis Manzanillo have strong arms and are developing well. 2011 draftees Austin Wright and Adam Morgan could provide the Phillies with solid back of the rotation lefties down the road. Position wise, the system is led by catcher Sebastian Valle, who looks like a future solid starter. After that, the pickings get a little slimmer, where I would rate OF Jiwan James and 3B Maikel Franco as the next two best position guys. James is still more athlete than baseball player, and Franco has a long way to go. There are plenty of relief options in this system at various levels where Phillip Aumont and possibly Austin Hyatt (current starter), could provide the most value.
Biggest strength: Athletes. Philadelphia is loaded with physically gifted high ceiling guys, a lot of which aren’t looking like they will reach those ceilings. Freddy Galvis gets mentioned in their top 10 circles, but I’m not buying him at this point. Aaron Altherr, Kelly Dugan, Anthony Hewitt, Zach Collier, and Kyrell Hudson are just a few of the tremendous athletes in the Phillies system.
19. Cincinnati Reds
This ranking should explain the fragility of farm systems in a nutshell. Cincinnati had what I considered a top 10 farm system just one season ago, and now I have them dropping to 19. Part of it is due to trades, but part of it is I was expecting a couple young guys to step forward that didn’t like Ismael Guillon and Yorman Rodriguez. There is some quality depth here, and some high ceiling potential still, but their pitching leaves something to be desired for me personally. Their top prospect is Devin Mesoraco, and the catcher is likely to spend 2012 with the Reds providing solid defense and above average offense. After trading Yasmani Grandal and Yonder Alonso, it leaves Billy Hamilton as the 2nd best prospect. Hamilton’s calling card is speed, and there is some question as to whether he will hit as he moves up. Todd Frazier should have a solid big league career, and SS Didi Gregorious has some athleticism. Neftali Soto has big time power. 2B Henry Rodriguez has done nothing but produce offensively. At lower levels, the ultra talented Yorman Rodriguez has struggled with maturity, and Juan Duran shows flashes. Pitching is a little bit lacking for the Reds. Their top pitcher at this point is probably Daniel Corcino and he doesn’t have a prototypical starters body. J.C Sulbaran is a talented lefty, who racks up a tremendous amount of strikeouts. 2011 1st rounder Robert Stephenson has good potential, as does 3rd rounder Tony Cingriani.
Biggest strength: Honestly, there is talent in this system. I’m not down on it, just isn’t a standout strength for the Reds that I can see. Maybe middle infielders. Gregorious, Frazier, Rodriguez, Hamilton and Ryan Wright can all play up the middle.
18. Minnesota Twins
The Twins are just a slight nod above the Phillies to me. They are a little more top heavy, but I believe they have a few more athletes in their system than they are given credit for. Their pitching isn’t impressive, but they do offer the same middle of the rotation candidates that the Phillies do. Let’s start with numero uno and that is Miguel Sano. Sano has the potential to develop into a tremendous offensive weapon, and began doing so in 2011. He has power potential, and I think is a better athlete than is given credit for. Not far behind is Eddie Rosario. It seems they are moving the youngster with a good power/speed combo to 2B for 2012, which is interesting considering they have Nico Goodrum, Tyler Grimes, and Levi Michael as potential 2nd baseman as well. Aaron Hicks has been slow in developing, but he is still a top 100 candidate overall. OF Oswaldo Arcia can hit and will get top 100 consideration as well, giving the Twins 4 postion players worth top 100 consideration. Pitching isn’t quite as good, but the Twins boast solid middle of the rotation candidates in Kyle Gibson, Liam Hendricks, Pat Dean, Alex Wimmers, Adrian Salcedo and Manuel Soliman. Relievers include Carlos Guittierez and two 2011 draftees, Madison Boer and Matthew Summers. The 2011 draft produced a couple of other talented selections as well in pitcher Hudson Boyd and 3B Travis Harrison.
Shortstop Brian Dozier is a guy to watch as well.
Biggest strength: Position guys. The Twins typically produce good offensive players, and although they are at lower levels, guys like Dozier and Joe Benson should contribute until the next wave is ready.