Before the season, the baseball world, myself included, likes to rank things. One of the things I spent time ranking in March this year was the farm systems across MLB. For those that don’t remember, Texas topped my rankings, while the Tigers were ranked 24th. And while we are only a month into the season, these things are often evolving. I wanted to take a look at the first month throughout the minor leagues, and mention a few farm systems that have gotten off to a good start, and some that maybe haven’t gotten off to a good start. Essentially, a stock up and stock down for some teams farm systems.
Three On The Way Up:
1. New York Mets
The Mets farm system has been one that has been middling for years. One of the cheaper teams on an annual basis, the Mets actually went out and spent some money last season. Of course, with the new spending restrictions, they won’t be able to do so anymore, but they got a nice class last year. But that isn’t what is necessarily improving their stock so far this season. It’s their existing guys that have started strong. The St. Lucie team has plenty of talent and is getting results.
Wilmer Flores, Wilfredo Tovar, Danny Muno, and Corey Vaughn have all started strongly in a pitchers friendly league. Flores and Tovar in particular are bright young talents at just 20 years old to continue to watch moving forward. OF Cesar Puello, who is just 21, has had a pretty good start as well. Jefry Marte, who is just 20 as well in AA Binghamton, has also hit well so far this season, though he hasn’t shown a ton of power.
Pitching wise, the Mets farm system has been led by Zach Wheeler who has been dominant. In 5 starts in AA, Wheeler has an ERA of 1.75 and 30 K’s in 25 innings. Other strong performances have come from Armando Rodriguez, Domingo Tapia, Jack Leathersich, Tyler Pill, Michael Fullmer, and Corey Mazzoni. Matt Harvey has also shown some flashes of brilliance in 2012 as well.
The Mets farm system might have dealt with too high of expectations last season, especially with regards to their young Latin players. So far, it seems this farm system is taking a step forward, and could push it’s way into the top 15.
2. Cleveland Indians
Not many people thought much of Cleveland’s system coming into the 2012 season. In fact, most seem to consider it a bottom 5 system in all of baseball. And while they might not move up much if rankings were done today, I believe they would probably jump a few spots. It’s due in large part to their Lake County squad, who have a couple potential stars there in my opinion. Francisco Lindor and Luigi Rodriguez are a big part of the offense, that also has LeVon Washington who is looking for a bounce back season, and the young Robel Garcia, who is really talented, but has improvements to make. Bryson Myles can hit, and catcher Alex Lavisky is a quality catching prospect. Pitching wise, Lake County boasts the electric arms of Elvis Araujo and Felix Sterling, both of whom are off to strong starts.
3. Detroit Tigers
I don’t think it can be denied, the Tigers farm system is off to a strong start this season. For the most part. While pitching was considered the strength, and Drew Smyly certainly has shown extremely well, it’s been the position guys doing it for the Tigers. I still don’t think the Tigers are a top 20 system yet, but they are getting close. Nick Castellanos, Avisail Garcia, Rob Brantly, and James McCann have all been pretty darn good for top 10 prospects. Even better than good. They have also gotten guys like Steven Moya and Eugenio Suarez to emerge as well, and all of these guys are either young for their league, or age appropriate.
Pitching wise, Jacob Turner just came back from injury, so besides Smyly, nobody has taken a big step forward. Casey Crosby and Andy Oliver have been about as advertised, while guys like Brian Flynn, Alex Burgos, Tommy Collier, Josue Carreno, and Kyle Ryan have been solid.
Three On The Way Down:
When you are ranked in the top 3 by many services, sometimes a slow start can make your status drop a little. San Diego has gotten some slow starts from some of it’s top prospects. Yonder Alonso hasn’t really been tearing up the bigs, and while Yasmani Grandal has been pretty good, guys like Rhymer Liriano, Donavan Tate, Edison Rincon, Jed Gyorko, and Cory Spangenberg have struggled quite a bit. Couple that with a Casey Kelly injury, who looked like he was making strikes, and you have a farm system that is on the way down.
I imagine people wouldn’t expect to see this team on this side of the list, after all, they have Bryce Harper. However, one man does not a system make, and the Nats system has taken a hit with some injuries. Brian Goodwin and Anthony Rendon haven’t been playing after getting hurt. Matt Purke isn’t pitching in games yet and Alex Meyer isn’t dominating low A by any stretch. Injuries haven’t allowed us to see what these guys can do, so for that reason, this system is trending downward.
The Dodgers entire strength of their system is built on their pitching, and while the results often matter little in player development, it’s been a rough start for many of the Dodgers best pitching prospects. Besides Ethan Martin and Chris Reed, the struggles have been widespread. Over the course of the year, I would expect guys like Zach Lee, Garret Gould, Allen Webster, and Aaron Miller to do a little bit better.