t’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. Max Fried (SP)- Fried has everything you look for in a starting pitching prospect. His delivery is smooth, he has the potential for three plus pitches, and he has a bit of projection remaining on his frame. Right now he sits in the low 90’s with his fastball, but could get more as he improves his strength and stamina.
2. Austin Hedges (C)- Hedges already grades out as a plus defensive catcher. The question about him concerned how much he was going to hit. He showed well with the bat in his first season in pro ball flashing good power, and showing good athleticism.
3. Rymer Liriano (OF)- Liriano is the most impressive and physically gifted player in the Padres system. He can run, has a good arm, and has power potential. His aggressiveness at the plate and penchant for expanding the strike zone holds him back a bit, but you can’t help believe in him if you’ve seen him play.
4. Matthew Wisler (SP)- Wisler has progressed into one of the more impressive pitchers in the system. He has an effective two seam fastball that sits in the low 90’s, and a big bending curve ball that he throws in the mid 70’s. He also shows good feel for a change up as well. Wisler throws strikes with his repertoire, while showing a tremendous feel for pitching.
5. Jedd Gyorko (3B)- Gyorko is blocked at third base by Chase Headley, so he may end up at 2nd if he is going to play in San Diego soon. His bat is good enough to be on the diamond, but he lacks the athleticism to be a plus defender at the position. On the other hand, he should hit for average and a fair number of doubles and homers as well, so average defense would suffice.
6. Robbie Erlin (SP)- Erlin is your typical lefty in a sense that he is mostly successful because of an aptitude to locate and mix his pitches. The fastball is average, sitting in the high 80’s, but he locates it well. The curve is a swing and miss pitch for him and shows above average most of the time. And his change shows good fade as well.
7. Casey Kelly(SP)- Kelly gets a bigger nod in rankings from most people, but I find him to be a mid rotation guy at best. He possesses a three pitch mix, with an average fastball in the low 90’s, a better than average curve ball and a solid change. He is athletic and shows ability to locate. Will benefit from pitching in San Diego.
September 27, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Casey Kelly (49) throws during the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
8. Joseph Ross (SP)- Ross actually has a bit more upside than the two guys ranked above him, but has things to work on to get there. Ross owns a mid 90’s fastball and a power curve that can be plus pitches down the road. He does have a bit of feel for a change up, but needs to throw with more conviction. Command is a work in progress.
9. Zach Eflin (SP)- Eflin is a big righty with some projection remaining on him. He already sits low 90’s and shows ability to hit the mid 90’s. His change has potential for a second plus pitch for him, and his curve is beginning to improve. Could be a #2 when all is said and done.
10. Walker Weickel (SP)- Weickel has probably a bit more projection that Eflin does, but his current pitch mix isn’t as sharp. Still his frame suggests a guy that works in the low to mid 90’s in the future, with a good breaking ball and change up.
11. Keyvius Sampson (SP)- My ranking of Sampson doesn’t reflect necessarily what I think of him. I’m pretty high on the guy. His fastball is a top notch. A low to mid 90’s moving fastball. He pairs that fastball with what I consider a plus change up and an average curve ball. Command is an issue, but at the very least, he could be a two pitch dynamo out of the pen.
12. Adys Portillo (SP)- Portillo made progress in 2012 and became more of a pitcher. His arm strength is what gets him ranked, sitting comfortably in the mid 90’s. His breaking ball got a bit better in 2012 as did his change. His command is still an issue, and may always be, taking away some of the shine off his prospect status.
13. Travis Jankowski (OF)- Jankowski is an athletic player that is going to be an above average defender at the center field position. Offensively, he is a gap to gap hitter, but lacks the premium bat speed and leverage to hit for power. He has top of the order potential and should swipe a few bags as well.
14. Cory Spangenberg (2B)- Spangenberg’s profile is much the same as Jankowski’s. He may be a slightly better hitter, but defense matters and Jankowski plays the more premium position and does it better.
15. Donn Roach (SP)- Roach doesn’t have a dominant fastball in terms of velocity. It works high 80’s to low 90’s most of the time, but it has dominant sink. Roach is a ground ball machine, and also has a solid breaking ball and splitter. He has a Derek Lowe profile to me, and that has quite a bit of value.
Just Missed The List:
Peterson is an athletic guy that hit pretty well in the Midwest League in 2012. Stites has potential back end of the bullpen ability with his plus fastball and solid breaker. Barbato also owns a plus fastball and breaker combination that can work late in games. Same with Boxberger who is the closest to the bigs out of the bunch.
Baltz is a big kid that will likely wind up in LF. Has ability to hit, and has plus power potential, while showing decent athleticism currently. Guerrero has a ton of arm strength and not much else right now. Hits mid 90’s regularly, and has touched 100 reportedly.
San Diego has a system with tremendous depth of solid prospects, but lacks the high end players that top most really good farm systems. The strength is in pitching, where guys like Joe Ross, Weickel, Eflin and even Michael Kelly could turn out high end later on to go with the mid to back of the rotation types like Kelly, Erlin and Joe Weiland. Austin Hedges, Liriano, and Gyorko are quality enough position guys to have a chance at solid big league careers at least, but maybe be even more than that. Spangenberg, Janksowski, and Peterson are all impressive athletes that have a chance to contribute, if not be regulars.
Depending on what San Diego lands in the draft, and how big a step their lower level pitching takes forward, San Diego could see a bit of a rise this time next year.