Farm system rankings: Overall (15-1)

Braves, Padres, White Sox duke it out for top spot in 2018 ranks

Ronald Acuña Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr. both headline systems that are otherwise flush with arms. (Cliff Welch/MiLB.com, Charlie Neibergall/AP)

By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com | March 21, 2018 10:00 AM

With Spring Training winding down and the 2018 season almost upon us, MiLB.com has looked at the state of all 30 farm systems and ranked them, according to certain changing criterion with each edition. After looking at position player prospects (30-21, 20-11, 10-1), pitching prospects (30-21, 20-11, 10-1) and 21-and-under talent, this edition focuses on the overall talent in each system. Overall rankings 30-16 can be found at that link. Here are the overall rankings, 15-1:

 15. Oakland Athletics

Position players: 18th Pitchers: 12th

The A's got a look at what impact homegrown talent can have when Matt Olson and Matt Chapman became key cogs in the lineup over the latter half of last season. There's more on the way, and it could come quickly. Dustin Fowler, acquired from the Yankees in the Sonny Gray deal, remains in the race to become the Opening Day center fielder. Franklin Barreto and Jorge Mateo should impress up the middle back at Triple-A Nashville and left-hander A.J. Puk could be ready for a Major League debut by the All-Star break after showing flashes of being a top-of-the-rotation starter this spring. That's just the upper-level talent. Jesus Luzardo is healthy and ready for a full season after showing dominant stuff post-Tommy John surgery. Austin Beck and Lazaro Armenteros are armed with multiple tools in the outfield entering their first full campaigns. Sean Murphy is one of the Minors' best defensive catchers. There may not be enough splashy prospects to shoot the A's higher here, but there are plenty of building blocks that a low-payroll organization like Oakland needs.

 14. Washington Nationals

Position players: 6th Pitchers: 21st

In contrast to some other teams in this area, the Nationals get a big push through big names rather than depth. Washington claims two top-30 overall prospects in outfielders Victor Robles (No. 6) and Juan Soto (No. 29). Only the Braves, Padres, Blue Jays, White Sox, Reds and Rays can make a similar claim, and all of them can be found below. The Nationals get an extra push by the presence of Carter Kieboom at No. 90 and, after Soto and Kieboom spent most of 2017 injured, it's possible both youngsters could make aggressive climbs if and when healthy this summer, given their all-around offensive talents. The organization also is excited about the imminent moves of Luis Garcia and Yasel Antuna to the Class A Hagerstown infield. The arms are not nearly as exciting. No. 4 prospect Erick Fedde is moving back to a starting role after flirting with relief, and 2017 first-rounder Seth Romero's pro career is off to a rough start after he was sent home from Spring Training. The fact that the depth becomes questionable from there moves the Nats to this position, but a lot of organizations would love to have their foundation of young talent.

 13. Minnesota Twins

Position players: 11th Pitchers: 17th

The Twins boast four top-100 prospects, and it's no surprise that the most exciting of the bunch is 2017 No. 1 overall pick Royce Lewis. The 18-year-old shortstop wasted no time in pro ball, showing a promising hit tool and plus-plus speed while climbing to Class A Cedar Rapids in the same year he played prep ball. He's now MLB.com's No. 20 overall prospect and it's interesting to wonder how quickly they're prepared to move him again, given how well he took to aggressive assignments. It's that shortstop position at which Minnesota is most loaded. Nick Gordon is MLB.com's No. 80 prospect and will be knocking on the door at Triple-A Rochester. Wander Javier is outside the top 100 and will be much further down the depth chart, but he could make a jump in the rankings if he carries his solid hit tool to a full-season affiliate. Fernando Romero and Stephen Gonsalves give the organization two top-100 arms at the upper levels, and Brusdar Graterol could join them in the rankings if he carries his plus-plus fastball over a larger sample than short-season ball. OutfielderAlex Kirilloff is healthy after missing 2017 with Tommy John surgery and Brent Rooker could put up some eye-popping power numbers in his first full season. This is a system replenished after taking a dip before last year's Draft.

 12. St. Louis Cardinals

Position players: 22nd Pitchers: 7th

This might be the peak of the Cardinals system for a while. All six of the club's top prospects have Triple-A experience and four -- (Alex Reyes, Jack Flaherty, Carson Kelly, Harrison Bader -- have already seen the Majors. It's possible most of the six could graduate from prospect status by season's end. Reyes, preparing for his return to the mound after Tommy John surgery, and Flaherty are the two studs, and both could be key members of the St. Louis rotation this summer. O'Neill and Bader are fighting uphill battles to crack St. Louis' crowded outfield, but both have the tools to be impact Major Leaguers somewhere. Kelly would probably be a starting big league backstop if he wasn't stuck behind franchise cornerstone Yadier Molina. But there are plenty of other interesting names. Catcher Andrew Knizner is coming off a standout Arizona Fall League stint and second baseman Max Schrock will make his organizational debut, preparing to show off his advanced hit tool in Memphis. It shouldn't be a surprise that St. Louis can claim a deep system again.

 11. Toronto Blue Jays

Position players: 2nd Pitchers: 25th

The Jays are in a similar position to the Nationals, except their top two prospects both feature in MLB.com's top 13 overall. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette were the most followed Minor League teammates in 2017 and can expect the same again this summer. Guerrero (No. 3 overall) might have the Minors' most promising bat, with an 80 grade for the tool and a 65 for his power. Bichette is just coming off a season in which he won the Minor League batting title with a .362 average, and he's not shy to say he's looking to do more  in 2018. But as much as anyone would like to talk about Guerrero and Bichette all day, there are other intriguing options here. Anthony Alford looks like his athleticism is translating to the baseball diamond in a big way and should make an impact at the plate and in the field. He'll have his eyes set on a Major League return after a broken hamate bone cut his Toronto time short last season. Nate Pearson gives the Jays another intriguing name with his plus-plus heater and above-average slider. Danny Jansen was the breakout prospect of the 2017 season after hitting .323 with an .884 OPS across three levels. Watch out for Eric Pardinho when the Brazil native shows off his plus fastball and impressive curve for the first time in the Minors. The Jays system might not inspire beyond those names, but it's tough to find a more exciting top crop than the one heading north of the border.

 10. Houston Astros

Position players: 15th Pitchers: 10th

Coming off last year's run to a World Series title, the Astros don't need anyone to remind them that they have talent at any level, but there's certainly enough here to keep the conveyor belt going. Fifty-game suspension aside, Forrest Whitley has the stuff to be considered the best pitching prospect not named Ohtani and backed that up by climbing to Double-A in his age-19 season. Kyle Tucker has done some quick climbing of his own with his move to Corpus Christi as a 20-year-old, and building off a 25-homer season, he only helped his case with a powerful spring. Those two -- both of whom rank among MLB.com's top 16 prospects -- are enough cause for excitement, but 2017 15th overall pick J.B. Bukauskas and outfielder/first baseman Yordan Alvarez bring their own flashiness. Going deeper, J.D. Davis, David Paulino and Rogelio Armenteros all could make their presence felt in Houston in the coming months. There's solid depth. There's top talent. There's not a lot to dislike here, and that's how a top 10 should start.

 9. Los Angeles Angels

Position players: 10th Pitchers: 9th

Look, the organization that signed No. 1 overall prospect Shohei Ohtani was going to get a big boost in the rankings no matter what, and 12 months ago, no farm system needed a bigger boost than the Halos'. But to say this is driven only by the right-hander/designated hitter would be disingenuous. The Angels are particularly close in the outfield, with 2017 No. 10 overall pick Jo Adell (No. 62) and Jahmai Jones (No. 93) representing them in MLB.com's top 100, and Brandon Marsh not far behind after showing off multiple tools at Rookie-level Orem. Michael Hermosillo, a 2013 28th-round pick, also has made himself into a Major League option, thanks to his plus speed. There's a decent stable of arms with right-handers Chris Rodriguez, Jaime Barria and Griffin Canning working on sticking as starters. Also, Kevin Maitan's stock may be down some, but after becoming a free agent because of the Braves' international signings scandal, MLB.com's No. 87 prospect brings big upside to his second system. It's time to stop thinking about the Angels farm as barren and it's time to buy stock in it because even after Ohtani graduates, lots of talent will remain.

 8. Cincinnati Reds

Position players: 9th Pitchers: 14th

The Reds, who haven't had a winning season since 2013, would love for their rebuild to enter the realm of the Braves, Padres or White Sox, and the good news is they've done a good job of restocking through the Draft. They selected each of their top eight prospects in June, and they've done especially well of late. No. 7 overall prospect Nick Senzel was the second overall selection in 2016 and No. 21 Hunter Greene followed in the same spot one year later. Taylor Trammell and Jesse Winker were top-50 picks who also have found their way into MLB.com's top-100 prospect list. But it's not just at the top of the Draft that Cincinnati has found success. No. 84 overall prospect Tyler Mahle was a 2013 seventh-round selection who's finding his way into the Major League rotation five years later. Shed Long, the seventh-ranked prospect in the system, was a 12th-round pick in the same Draft and is one of the Minors' most promising second basemen. Jose Siri, the top ranked Reds prospect not to enter through the Draft, has jumped into the conversation after a season in which he slugged 24 homers, stole 46 bases and produced a 39-game hitting streak. The Reds haven't made the type of blockbuster trade that can add blue-chip prospects, but they can take comfort in building one this strong from the ground up.

 7. Los Angeles Dodgers

Position players: 13th Pitchers: 8th

Yes, Cody Bellinger graduated as a prospect early last season. Yes, Willie Calhoun is with the Rangers. Yet the Dodgers sit comfortably in the top 10 here. No. 12 overall prospect Walker Buehler and No. 33 Alex Verdugo may have gotten longer looks with other Major League clubs late last season and could have accrued enough innings and plate appearances to lose their rookie status. Instead, there was too much talent in the Los Angeles rotation and outfield that both will start 2018 back at Triple-A, hoping they can break down the door to the Majors much quicker this season. Keibert Ruiz gives the system a lot of promise behind the plate as a 19-year-old and Will Smith adds more depth at that spot. Mitchell White, Yadier Alvarez, Dennis Santana and Dustin May have Major League rotation potential. Yusniel Diaz's all-around ability, DJ Peters' power and Jeren Kendall's speed/defense would make them standout outfielders almost anywhere else. How much of this talent will reach Chavez Ravine is to be determined, but there's definite potential here.

 6. Philadelphia Phillies

Position players: 4th Pitchers: 5th

This is where the cream of the crop really begins. The Phillies claim six top-100 prospects, and it's an interesting mix. No. 26 overall prospect Sixto Sanchez and No. 86 Adonis Medina are already looking like potential rotation leaders at the lower levels. No. 88 Mickey Moniak and No. 95 Adam Haseley are outfielders who served as the Phillies' first-round picks in 2017 and 2018. No. 35 Scott Kingery and No. 37 J.P. Crawford paired up in the middle of the Triple-A Lehigh Valley infield for much of 2017 and should be together again in Philly rather quickly. (Crawford will be the club's Opening Day shortstop.) There's diversity among the top talent. But beyond that, there's good depth. Jorge Alfaro is still a prospect, albeit one without options, and will take over as the Phillies' catcher later this month. JoJo Romero and Ranger Suarez only add to the mid- to lower-level pitching talent. Jhailyn Ortiz looks like he could be a fun bopper when he makes his full-season debut. Lehigh Valley could be loaded again if Kingery is joined by the powerful Dylan Cozens, speedy Roman Quinn and the control freak that is Tom Eshelman. A top-25 overall prospect is the only thing keeping Philadelphia from a top-five spot, and that's nothing to cry about.

 5. New York Yankees

Position players: 3rd Pitchers: 4th

The Yankees definitely have some splashy names among their six top-100 representatives. No. 5 overall prospect Gleyber Torres is healthy again after Tommy John surgery and ready to prove that his plus-plus bat and solid power can make him the future of the infield in the Bronx. No. 65 Miguel Andujar looked like he was ready to take over at the hot corner until he cooled off this spring and the Yankees acquired Brandon Drury and Neil Walker. No. 48 Justus Sheffield is one of the Minors' most promising left-handed starters and will be knocking on the door. No. 75 Chance Adams has been productive (2.45 ERA over 150 1/3 innings in 2017), even if his pure stuff may not jump off the scouting report. No. 44 Estevan Florial and No. 74 Albert Abreu may be further away, but they have enough flash to dream on. Outside the top 100, arms like Freicer Perez, Domingo Acevedo and Dillon Tate might be bigger names elsewhere, but with New York, they just provide depth. The Yankees trail only the four organizations below because of the steep dropoff from Torres to Florial at No. 1 and 2 in the system. Otherwise, there are 24 organizations envious of what the AL East contenders have built.

 4. Tampa Bay Rays

Position players: 1st Pitchers: 6th

It was very close -- closer than the pitching version -- but the Rays claimed the top spot in our position player ranks because five of their six top-100 representatives ply their trades at the plate and in the field. But this is an overall ranking and it helps immensely here that Tampa Bay has three of MLB.com's top 25 prospects -- one pitcher in Brent Honeywell (No. 18), one position player in Willy Adames (No. 22) and one of both in Brendan McKay (No. 25). No other team can make a similar claim. It may drop off from a talent standpoint to Jesus Sanchez at 57, Jake Bauers at 64 and Christian Arroyo at 81, but that's still the type of top talent that can be difficult to find elsewhere. It could get even better soon. Wander Franco was one of the top international prospects on last year's market and will make his Minor League debut this summer. Second baseman Nick Solak and left-hander Anthony Banda came over in a three-team deal last month. Banda, in particular, could help head a Durham pitching staff that set a Minor League record for strikeouts en route to the 2017 Triple-A national title. Honeywell's Tommy John surgery puts a damper on things but not by much. This is still the type of farm system the Rays need if they're ever going to contend with their low-payroll model.

 3. Chicago White Sox

Position players: 5th Pitchers: 3rd

The White Sox are one of two systems with seven top-100 prospects, and those seven are divided up pretty evenly between outfielders (Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Blake Rutherford) and right-handed pitchers (Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning). Catcher Zack Collins and right-hander Carson Fulmer -- first-rounders from 2016 and 2015, respectively -- used to be top-100 names, but even though they may have fallen out of favor, they still provide depth to Chicago's rebuild. The graduation of Yoan Moncada keeps the Sox from jumping into the top-two conversation here, but there are plenty of potential blue-chippers still on the farm in Jimenez, Kopech and Robert. If all three can reach their potential and the Sox get a few others to reach their ceilings, times could be much brighter on the South Side by 2019 or 2020.

 2. San Diego Padres

Position players: 8th Pitchers: 2nd

This is an important thing to note with each of the next two systems. Yes, they were both ranked outside the top five in MiLB.com's position-player system rankings, but they were both leaps and bounds ahead when it came to pitching talent. It vaulted them to the top of the overall rankings. To wit, the Padres have seven top-100 prospects and five are hurlers. MacKenzie Gore (No. 19) is baseball's top left-handed pitching prospect and could be the best overall pitching prospect by the end of 2018 if his arsenal of four above-average pitches translates as well as expected to full-season ball. Cal Quantrill, Michel Baez and Adrian Morejon are all top-50 overall prospects who would lead most other organizations, and Anderson Espinoza (No. 89), who could miss all of 2018 following Tommy John surgery, is only 20 years old with tons of potential. That's a full rotation of top-100 prospects, to say nothing of Logan Allen, Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer, who look like more than just depth. While they may not be as deep in the field as they are on the mound, the Padres still boast No. 8 overall prospect Fernando Tatis Jr., coming off a 22-32 season, and No. 36 Luis Urias, who possesses one of the Minors' best hit tools at 20 years old. They also have outfielder Franchy Cordero, who owns plus-plus speed and is becoming a Statcast darling for his exit velocity. The Padres haven't won more than 76 games since 2010, but with some help from signing of Eric Hosmer, they've got the core to turn things around in the not-too-distant future.

 1. Atlanta Braves

Position players: 7th Pitchers: 1st

We'll get to the pitchers. Oh, we'll get to the pitchers. But any discussion of the Braves system has to start with all-world prospect Ronald Acuña Jr., who should be in Atlanta any day now. Most know the resume. Acuña hit .325/.374/.522 with 21 homers and 44 stolen bases across three levels last season. He was named Arizona Fall League MVP. He was recently reassigned to Minor League camp, despite hitting .432/.519/.727 with four homers in 52 plate appearances this spring. The guy hits everywhere. He's also got plus grades for his run, fielding and arm tools. Like Ohtani and the Angels, Acuña alone might push the Braves into the upper half of the rankings. It just so happens that he plays for an organization with a baseball-best eight top-100 prospects, according to MLB.com. And yes, a lot of them are arms. In fact, No. 30 Kyle Wright, No. 31 Mike Soroka, No. 49 Luiz Gohara, No. 51 Ian Anderson, No. 58 Kolby Allard and No. 83 Max Fried make up the 2-7 spots in the Braves ranks -- and they're all hurlers. The Padres may have a future rotation of top-100 arms; the Braves have a six-man version of the same. That's not even mentioning Joey Wentz, Touki Toussaint, Kyle Muller and Bryse Wilson, who have legit futures in a Major League rotation. Back to the hitting side, Austin Riley, Cristian Pache and Alex Jackson give Atlanta future options at third base, center field and catcher, respectively, and it's not hard to see what makes this system so deep, even after the international sanctions. The 2018 season might be the last we talk of a rebuild in Atlanta. Acuña, Gohara and Fried almost definitely will be with the big club this summer, while Wright, Soroka, Allard and Riley won't be too far behind. The game's best system might be ready to turn into one of the Majors' most exciting, young teams by the end of 2018.

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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