It’s that time of year again. Time to give this prospect junkie his fix. Last year, I did farm system rankings for all of baseball, and so I wanted to do so again. As I explain with any farm system rankings, this is a completely subjective business. I do watch minor league baseball, I do a lot of research on the players, and I do talk to people who do talent evaluation in baseball. I certainly don’t have the clout in the prospect world that the guys at Baseball America have, nor do I care to. This is meant to be fun for me, and hopefully fun and informative for the reader. At the very least it should allow for some debate from other teams’ fans, as well as allow Tigers fans a glimpse into other organizations farm systems, so when the Tigers make a trade, there may be some knowledge of who they are getting. Last year, the Texas Rangers took the top spot. Who will it be this year?
*This is where the rankings get tough, because starting with the Cubs, these systems are very good to elite. I have gone back and forth on multiple scenarios, but hey, it’s not life and death, it’s just some pretty awesome farm system rankings.
1. Jose Fernandez (SP)- Fernandez had plenty of talent when he was drafted by the Marlins in the first round of the 2011 draft. However, I’m not sure they even expected what they got from him in 2012. One of the game’s elite pitching prospects, Fernandez has a varied arsenal. He owns a four seam fastball that sits mid 90’s and touches more, a two seam in the low 90’s, a hard curve in the mid 80’s, a slider, and a change. His whole arsenal has the chance to be plus.
2. Christian Yelich (OF)- Yelich is a top notch prospect in his own right and has a chance to be top center fielder down the road. His best tool is his hit tool where Yelich projects to be a guy who competes for batting titles. His smooth stroke is highlighted by quick hands that allow him to adjust nicely and barrel balls consistently. While he doesn’t project for a bunch of power, some believe he will hit 20 homers annually. Defensively, he uses his good speed well, and tracks balls well into the gaps. Yelich owns just an average arm.
3. Justin Nicolino (SP)- I’m a huge fan of Nicolino’s. I think he has #2 starter potential which may be a bit aggressive, but I believe he can get even more out of his fastball. His fastball is already solid, sitting 89-91 from the left side, but his frame suggests he could get a bit more. He teams his fastball up with a solid curve ball as well as a plus change up. His ability to pitch is advanced for his age, and his command helps all of his pitches play up.
4. Andrew Heaney (SP)- Heaney is a tick behind Nicolino in terms of ceiling for me. While he has a bit more on his fastball, and his breaking ball is sharper, his change up isn’t nowhere near as effective, and neither is the command profile despite throwing strikes. Heaney looks like a solid three or four to me unless he can refine his mechanics to consistently throw quality strikes and strengthen his change up.
5. Jake Marisnick (OF)- I’ve had the opportunity to see Marisnick plenty, and while he is impressive physically, there are concerns with his approach at the plate which might not allow his considerable tools to come into play. Marisnick has good speed, and some potential to hit for power. Defensively, he could be an above average to plus defender in CF.
6. Marcell Ozuna (OF)- Ozuna is another toolsy outfielder who profiles to work in the RF corner thanks to a plus arm. With the bat, Ozuna has 20 plus home run power annually, and maybe more if he continues to refine his pitch recognition and approach. Ozuna runs well also.
7. Adam Conley (SP)- Conley has a low to mid 90’s fastball, that he pairs with a solid change up that shows nice armside fade. His breaking ball is loopy and not all that effective at this point. His command can waver on him, but may get better as he gets stronger and improves his stamina.
8. Mason Hope (SP)- Hope has an ideal pitchers frame that has a bit of projections still left on it. As, is he pounds the zone with a heavy fastball that sits in the low 90’s and occasionally hits 94-95. His curve ball has above average potential, but suffers from inconsistency from time to time. His change up is developing and could become a solid offering as well. Has mid rotation potential.
9. Austin Brice (SP)- Brice has a good physical frame that still has a bit of projection on it. He already sits low to mid 90’s with his fastball, and it isn’t out of the question he sits 94-96 down the road. He pairs the potential plus fastball with an equally potentially plus hammer curve. His change is a work in progress with a lot of work. So is his command. Could be a high end reliever if starting doesn’t work out.
10. Rob Brantly(C)- Brantly is someone I am familiar with as an ex-Tigers prospect. Brantly shows a good hitting stroke at the plate that is more suited for gap power and line drives. His well refined approached could lend him to hitting .270 or even better. Defensively, Brantly shows solid athleticism and a good arm, but he struggles at times blocking pitches and with the nuances of catching.
11. Adeiny Hechavarria (SS)- Hechavarria is a plus defender at SS who some still believe has a chance to hit a little bit as well. He does have some pop, but it’s really the defensive prowess that is important. I am going to have to see the bat get better before I’m sold on him though.
12. Jose Urena (SP)- Urena’s calling card is arm strength. He sits in the mid 90’s with his fastball, and can touch higher with some projection left on a skinny frame. His secondaries at this point are essentially non-existent though he shows an occasional good slider.
13. Derek Dietrich (SS)- Dietrich is interesting in that he could provide above average power from a middle infield position. However, that isn’t going to be SS with the Marlins because of Hechavarria. He is solid enough to play short, but Dietrich likely ends up at 2B or 3B in the end. His lack of plate discipline is going to stall him as a hitter a bit, but the power and solid defensive ability should allow him to play second every day.
14. Jesus Solorzano (OF)- Solorzano is a guy who has made some slow progress, but things seemed to come together a bit for him in 2012. He isn’t as toolsy as some of the other outfielders in the Marlins system, but he is solid across the board. He will probably have to get more selective to let his power show up more in games, but he is on his way.
15. Avery Romero (2B)- Romero is a guy that is going to have to make a living off of his bat. Reports on his defense are rough at best. Romero does have the power potential to hit 20-25 home runs a year.
Just Missed The List:
Copeland is an athletic outfielder that has to learn how to play baseball. Realmuto has potential as an every day catcher if the bat comes along. Silverio is a Rule 5 pick that has a chance to stick because of solid across the board potential. Lowell is a big lefty that throws hard but has to command better.
Esch is still relatively raw since he didn’t pitch a ton at Georgia Tech, but he does have quality arm strength and generates lots of ground balls with a good pitchers frame. Perio was a top 10 Marlins prospect heading into 2012 and I could see bounce back from the physical second baseman.
There is a good mix of pitching and hitting in this system that was obviously helped out by the trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. I am a little more skeptical of Jake Marisnick probably than most and Ozuna’s plate discipline could be much better, but I like some of the Marlins second tier arms quite a bit like Hope, Conley, and even Charlie Lowell. If starting doesn’t work out, Brice, Urena and Esch could form a heck of a back end of a bullpen in the future as well.
Obviously, it’s a very good system and should get better with a high draft pick in 2013.