Farm system rankings: Position players (20-11)

Minnesota organization looks to be stacked with infield riches

Royce Lewis and Nick Gordon combined for 61 extra-base hits and 31 steals over 176 Minor League games last year.

By Josh Jackson / MiLB.com | February 27, 2018 10:00 AM ET

With Spring Training opening and the 2018 season almost upon us, MiLB.com will look at the state of all 30 farm systems over the next couple weeks and rank them, according to certain changing criterion with each edition. This opening edition focuses specifically on position player prospects and considers the quality and quantity of top talent in each system in its current state. So without further ado, the rankings, 20-11:

 20. Texas Rangers

If three prospects in particular reach their highest potential, the Rangers have a better system than indicated by this ranking. But there are questions. Will 19-year-olds Bubba Thompson and Leody Taveras grow into hitters with legitimate power without losing any speed? Can Willie Calhoun -- Major League-ready with a bat -- show the range and arm strength to be an asset at a defensive position? Taveras (ranked No. 34 overall) and Calhoun (No. 53) are the organization's only two among MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects, but first baseman Ronald Guzman is a sure and steady hitter. Chris Seise, a 2017 first-round pick out of a Florida high school, is a highly athletic shortstop who can hit. Jose Trevino has won back-to-back Minor League Gold Gloves as a catcher.

 19. Pittsburgh Pirates

Although Austin Meadows (No. 45) is the only Pittsburgh position player to make the Top 100 list, the Pirates' Minor League talent is laden with hitters. Ke'Bryan Hayes, Cole Tucker, Kevin Newman, Kevin Kramer and Colin Moran (acquired from Houston in the January Gerrit Cole trade) have the makings of a decent (if overcrowded) infield with the ability to put up big numbers on offense. Outfielder Lolo Sanchez doesn't turn 19 until April, but he walked (21 times) more often than he struck out (19) and scored 42 runs over 51 Rookie-level games in the Arizona League last summer. The Bucs picked up Bryan Reynolds, another outfielder, from the Giants in the Andrew McCutchen deal, and he profiles as a solid all-around player.


Review Farm system rankings: Position players 30-21


 18. Oakland Athletics

The deadline trade that netted the Yankees Sonny Gray brought Dustin Fowler and Jorge Mateo (along with pitcher James Kaprielian) to the A's, giving the East Bay team a pair of intriguing pieces behind No. 66 overall prospect Franklin Barreto. Fowler, who missed half of last season after a horrific knee injury in his Major League debut, is ready to go in any of the outfield positions at the highest level. Barreto, a slugging middle infielder who got into 25 games in the bigs last year, isn't far behind. Mateo, one of the fastest players in all of baseball, proved capable in two different Double-A stints (one with New York-affiliated Trenton in the Eastern League, the other with Oakland-affiliated Midland in the Texas League) last year. Teenaged outfielders Austin Beck and Lazaro Armenteros add some excitement at the lower levels.

 17. Cleveland Indians

Much of Cleveland's organizational strength lies in baseball's top catching prospect and No. 11 overall prospect Francisco Mejia, who drills the ball all over the field from either side of the plate. When his strong season with Double-A Akron (.297/.346/.490 over 92 games) wrapped up, he got a taste of the Majors at 21 years old, then went on to the Arizona Fall League and Winter Ball in his native Dominican Republic, where he practiced a lot but saw limited action. The backstop got reps at third base during the AFL. His rocket arm is an obvious asset at either position, and his ability to handle both spots will help him get in the lineup every day. Behind the club's only Top-100 prospect, there is some depth, but not a ton. First baseman Bobby Bradley hits the ball very far and with frequency. The left-handed basher went yard 23 times in the Eastern League last year, but he also batted just .176 against southpaws. Nolan Jones, Willi Castro and Yu-Cheng Chang are other promising infielders, and Greg Allen -- who got 35 big league at-bats last year -- and Will Benson are dynamic outfielders.

 16. Milwaukee Brewers

Seen as perhaps the best collegiate hitter available in last year's Draft, Keston Hiura overcame an elbow injury and delivered a fantastic professional debut, hitting .371/.422/.611 across 42 games between the Arizona League and the Class A Midwest League. It made him the No. 56 overall prospect. Lucas Erceg, a second-round pick in 2016, had a strong if inconsistent first full season, mashing 15 homers in the Class A Advanced Carolina League. The third baseman's arm merits a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and he has soft hands and quick feet. After a subpar 2016, outfielder Brett Phillips reestablished himself as a dynamic prospect in 2017, knocking 52 extra-base hits over 105 games in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League and putting up a .351 on-base percentage over 37 Major League games. In Corey Ray's first full season, the outfielder didn't hit up to his lofty potential but still stole 24 bases. Trent Grisham rebounded from a 2016 hamstring injury to steal 37 bases and double 21 times in the Carolina League. Tristen Lutz, taken with the pick after Hiura, gives Milwaukee another outfielder with five-tool potential, although the 19-year-old is unseasoned.

Video: Wisconsin's Hiura goes for two

 15. Houston Astros

A 2015 first-round pick, Kyle Tucker enters the year rated as the No. 16 prospect. The outfielder batted .274/.346/.528 with 25 homers and 21 steals between Class A Advanced and Double-A ball at age 20. Although his AFL campaign didn't produce great numbers (he was hitless in eight of his 22 games), he put on a couple of very fine performances there. Another compelling outfielder whose stock skyrocketed after a standout 2017 split between two levels -- Yordan Alvarez -- came into the system from the Dodgers in an Aug. 1, 2016 trade for Josh Fields. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound native of the Dominican Republic should have no trouble producing with the bat, but on defense he may not have the arm to belong at a corner nor be quick enough to be a strong first baseman. By contrast, 18-year-old Freudis Nova has the makings of a slick defensive shortstop. If his development goes smoothly, Nova could hit for average and power and be something of a nuisance on the bases. J.D. Davis is a power-hitting third baseman who got into 24 big league games last year.

 14. Colorado Rockies

True, No. 14 overall prospect Brendan Rodgers' Double-A performance in the second half of last year didn't live up to the .400/.419/.700 slash line he produced in the Class A Advanced California League in the first half, but it would have been ridiculous to expect it to. The 21-year-old middle infielder, who's in Major League camp in Arizona, is undeniably the pride of the system, but the Rockies have a few other exciting pieces. The best of them -- Ryan McMahon -- will lose his prospect status soon, but in the meantime is ranked No. 3 in the system. Ryan Vilade and Garrett Hampson add a nice bit of depth in the middle of the infield, and Colton Welker and Tyler Nevin do the same on the corners.

Video: Hartford's Rodgers rips walk-off homer

 13. Los Angeles Dodgers

Outfielder Alex Verdugo, who stands to be ready to play every day in the big leagues long before Los Angeles has a spot for him, and wunderkind catcher Keibert Ruiz are the headliners here, but several other players in the deep system are riskier bets with star potential. Outfielder Yusniel Diaz could become an excellent big leaguer even if he never hits for a ton of power. Backstop Will Smith may not be quite as smooth a receiver or a natural hitter as Ruiz, but he's still skilled at both and has a better arm. Outfielder DJ Peters -- a 2016 fourth-rounder -- followed a dominant Pioneer League campaign with an MVP season in the Cal League. He has remarkable power, stellar speed for a big man and a strong arm. It's possible advanced pitching will reveal some problems with his long swing, but he has shown an ability to take his walks. Shortstop Gavin Lux had a miserable first half at the dish in his first full season, but he batted .336 in August, which suggest his hitting may catch up to his impressive glove. Corner infielder Edwin Rios may never qualify as a defensive whiz, but his 51 homers and 60 doubles over the past two seasons can't be ignored.

Offseason MiLB include

 12. Miami Marlins

The Marlins have taken some heat this offseason, but their moves are the reason the system looks as good as it does in terms of position players. In the Jan. 25 Christian Yelich trade with the Brewers, they got No. 27 overall prospect Lewis Brinson, No. 71 Monte Harrison and power-hitting middle infielder Isan Diaz (as well as right-hander Jordan Yamamoto). Magneuris Sierra, a scorching fast 21-year-old outfielder with a bit of big league experience, came over from St. Louis in the Dec. 14 Marcell Ozuna swap. Shortstop Chris Torres -- who has a touch of power, a lot of speed and a terrific arm -- was a solid get in the Dec. 7 Dee Gordon deal with Seattle. Outfielder Braxton Lee, who came into the system in last summer's Adeiny Hechavarria trade with the Rays, is also fast and he's demonstrated an ability to hit for average. Homegrown third baseman Brian Anderson played well at Double-A, Triple-A and in the Majors last year and could crack through for good early in 2018. James Nelson -- who turned 20 in October-- and 2017 CBA pick Brian Miller raked for Class A Greensboro.

 11. Minnesota Twins

With Royce Lewis (No. 20) and Nick Gordon (No. 80), Minnesota has two shortstops in the Top 100. The former is the club's top prospect and hit .279/.381/.407 with 18 steals and 15 extra-base knocks across two levels after being drafted out of high school in the first round last year. The latter celebrated his 22nd birthday four months ago and is close to big league-ready. The son of Tom Gordon and brother of Dee, he had 29 doubles, 13 steals and a .341 OBP in the Double-A Southern League last year. He saw a little time at second base, but more than held his own at short. What's more, the player ranked directly behind Gordon in the Twins system is Wander Javier, another young shortstop with tools to dream on. Outfielder Alex Kirilloff missed last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but he should make an impact this year. Brent Rooker is an advanced hitter who may stay in the outfield or move to his college position of first base. Infielder Travis Blankenhorn, a 2015 third-rounder, turned heads with his 2017 campaign in the Midwest League.

Josh Jackson is a contribu,tor to MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @JoshJacksonMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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