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. Oscar Taveras (OF)- Taveras looks the part of an All Star performer for years to come. He has plus potential with the bat, hitting for both average and power, as well as solid athleticism and defensive ability. I believe he winds up in RF, and could do so by the end of this season.
2. Shelby Miller (SP)- I’ve been on the Miller bandwagon since he was drafted, and still continue to do so despite some struggles from time to time. Miller finished 2012 strong, and has the top of the rotation repertoire you look for. Has an explosive fastball, potential plus curve, and solid change. Needs to command a bit better, but even that came along at the end of 2012.
3. Carlos Martinez (SP)- Martinez has an excellent repertoire, but his question mark lies in his small stature. He is the owner of a plus fastball that sits 95-96 comfortably, as well as an above average curve and change. I would let him start until he shows he can’t.
4. Trevor Rosenthal(SP)- Rosenthal might have the best fastball/curve combo of the first three pitchers on this list. His change lags a bit behind though and might be too intriguing to pass up as a reliever, making his value a little less than the previous two pitchers. It’s not a knock on Rosenthal, even without a solid change, he has mid rotation potential because of the blazing upper 90’s fastball and sharp breaking curve.
5. Michael Wacha (SP)- Wacha has made his professional transition seem like an easy one so far flashing a tremendous K rate. Wacha owns a fastball that sits nicely in the 92-94 range with some sink. He throws a breaking ball that shows some potential, and also a change up that could be above average as well. I still want to see him after a year of starting in pro ball. His results have all been out of the pen where his fastball can play up a bit.
6. Tyrell Jenkins (SP)- There is no denying Jenkins’ arm strength. He touches the mid 90’s regularly, shows aptitude for an above average curve and change up. He does have a long arm action which can give him trouble with consistency on his pitches and command.
7. Kolten Wong (2B)- I don’t believe that Wong is a top 100 player like a lot of other outlets, however, he is a solid guy across the board, but to me doesn’t have any standout tools. While his ceiling isn’t high, he does look like a guy that should be a big leaguer for years to come.
8. Patrick Wisdom (3B)- Wisdom is a classic corner guy at 3B in that his power is his carrying tool. The big question mark will be whether Wisdom can show enough contact skills to get to his 25 homer a year type power. Defensively, he is an above average third sacker with a strong arm.
9. Matt Adams (1B)- Adams has pretty good offensive capability, showing ability to hit for average as well as for power. He generates good bat speed from a compact swing, but can have trouble with good breaking stuff. Defensively he is limited to an average at best first base.
10. Anthony Garcia (OF)- Garcia isn’t the best athlete around, so he is going to have to be a corner outfielder down the line, which puts the pressure on his bat. He has really good power and makes loud contact, though he is going to have to work on his plate discipline to allow it to play in games going forward.
11. Starlin Rodriguez (2B)- While Wong is a safer bet, I think Rodriguez could end up being the better player. Rodriguez shows above average athleticism, good hand eye coordination, and barrels enough baseballs to believe he could have moderate pop down the road. He runs at an above average clip as well.
12. James Ramsey (OF)- Ramsey struggled a bit in his debut in 2012, but he does carry solid tools across the board to the table. He should be good enough defensively to stick in center field, and does show a good idea at the dish, willing to draw some walks. He does have trouble with good breaking balls, so there is some swing and miss, but Ramsey will max out his tools because of effort.
13. Carson Kelly (3B)- This is one guy that I know I have lower than almost anyone. He’s got a profile of a first baseman or a low range third baseman, so the bat will have to carry him. I wonder if he is going to be able to get to his raw power enough in games because of a good amount of swing and miss.
14. Charles Tilson (OF)- Tilson is an athletic CF who has the potential to hit for some average and moderate pop at the top of an order. His biggest issue facing him thus far is actually getting him on the field to display the skills that got him drafted in the 2nd round a couple years ago.
15. John Gast (SP)- Gast is what we would call a solid across the board starting pitcher. He doesn’t wow you with his velocity, sitting mostly in the upper 80’s with some low 90’s thrown in, and doesn’t have anything more than a solid breaking ball. But his change is an above average pitch for him, and he mixes well. His command is solid, though if he wants to be a big league starter it could be a tick better.
16. Stephen Piscotty (UT)- Piscotty doesn’t project to have a real defensive home, as he shows pretty rough at the hot corner, so I could see him being turned into a corner outfield utility guy. His bat is nice, Piscotty has a line drive stroke, shows a discerning eye, but lacks the power necessary to be a big league regular at a premium offensive position.
17. Seth Maness (SP)- Maness is a guy that is going to have to continue to prove it at every level, I just wonder with all of the Cardinals pitching if he will get the chance at the big league level. Maness has exceptional command of a low 90’s, high 80’s fastball that has a bunch of sink on it. His curve and change are average pitches at this point.
18. Seth Blair (P)- Blair has had some issues since being drafted a couple of years ago, namely a tumor in one of his fingers that shut him down for most of 2012. When healthy, Blair shows an average fastball, an above average curve ball, and a fringe change. His role ultimately could be in the bullpen where the fastball could play up a bit.
19. Michael Blazek (RP)- Blazek is a former starter that seems to fit in the pen a bit more because his starter upside isn’t nearly as high as others in the system. He hits the mid 90’s with his fastball, and has a curve, slider and change as well, though none of the pitches stands out as more than average.
20. Breyvic Valera (2B)- Valera is just 20 years old, but already shows good potential with the bat. He has a nice line drive stroke, and a discerning eye at the dish. He is a good athlete, and while he is still a bit rough around the edges defensively, he does show the skills where he could be a good player there in the future.
Just Missed The List:
Cleto has an explosive fastball, but struggles to find the zone. Swagerty would be in the top 20 normally, but he has to show he can bounce back from Tommy John. De Leon is a young right hander with good stuff, but is still developing and learning to pitch. Reyes has a promising fastball and change already, and will need to develop a breaking ball.
Garcia is a projectable right hander that generates a ton of ground balls, and shows strong command at 21. Llorens is a power reliever who could move quickly with a good fastball and killer slider, he has good command of both as well.
The professional prospect rankers out there pretty much all have St. Louis as the number one farm system. I didn’t rank them third just to be disagreeable. Nobody is really better at the top than St. Louis. Taveras, and then the five pitchers are top notch. To me though, the top two systems that I will be doing have comparable to sixes, but it’s the 8-20 slots where I sour slightly on St. Louis. There isn’t as much sizzle to those guys that I personally like in rankings. I am not nearly as big a fan of their position players as a lot of people, though I do have to admit the Cardinals do as good a job as anyone developing what look like solid prospects into more than that at the big league level.
I don’t want people to get the wrong impression though, I do believe this is an excellent system. It’s deep, and there is top tier talent. Those power arms are an embarrassment of riches.