Farm system rankings: Position players 20-11

Pirates, Astros prospects excite; Rockies boast impressive infield

Pittsburgh's Ke'Bryan Hayes notched a career-high .819 OPS for Double-A Altoona in 2018. (Andy Grosh/agphotosports)

By Kelsie Heneghan / MiLB.com | February 12, 2019 10:15 AM

With the 2019 season rapidly approaching, MiLB.com is looking at the state of all 30 farm systems over the next month and ranking them in several different ways. The first installment, broken into three parts, focuses on position players and considers the quality and quantity of top talent in each system. The rankings, 20-11:

 20. Arizona Diamondbacks

While the early months of the 2018 season were nothing special, the D-backs system got stronger as the summer progressed. Jazz Chisholm shook off a tough first half, which included a trip to the disabled list, by handling a midseason promotion to Class A Advanced Visalia with ease. In the final 36 games of the season, the 21-year-old hit .329/.369/.597 in the Cal League. The organization got another boost once Rookie Advanced and Short-Season ball started, with 2018 picks Alek Thomas, Blaze Alexander and Jake McCarthy making their debuts. Geraldo Perdomo and Kristian Robinson also made strides in the Pioneer League.

 19. San Francisco Giants

Reminiscent of Buster Posey in 2008, the Giants selected another electrifying catcher in the first round of last June's Draft. Joey Bart made a strong first impression in pro ball, never going more than two games without a hit and tallying 13 homers and a .298 average in 45 games with Class A Short Season Salem-Keizer. Defensively, the backstop put on a clinic, throwing out 42 percent of would-be basestealers. Bart's first-round predecessor, Heliot Ramos, hit some growing pains in his first full season, struggling with plate discipline in his age-18 season. The Giants signed shortstop Marco Luciano in July and look forward to seeing his plus arm and quick bat in his pro debut this summer. Up the ladder, outfielder Chris Shaw should be returning to AT&T Park soon and Heath Quinn could be joining him in September. But most of the Giants' potential resides in the lower levels with Bart and Ramos.


Review Farm system rankings: Position players 30-21 | 10-1


 18. St. Louis Cardinals

Prospects are trending upward in the Cardinals system, starting at the top with Nolan Gorman. The 2018 first-rounder showed plenty of pop in his pro debut last summer, drilling 17 homers in 63 games and rising to Class A. After quick moves to start his career, Andrew Knizner was stuck behind Carson Kelly, but after the former Top-100 prospect was dealt to Arizona, the backstop should find a clearer path for his impressive bat and arm to reach the Majors soon. Switch-hitter and 2016 first-rounder Dylan Carlson displayed improved power and plate discipline, but has yet to hit above .250 outside of the complex. After spending five seasons in the Mexican League, Ramon Urias made a splash with the Cardinals. The 24-year-old infielder hit .300 at the upper levels, and his versatility could prompt an early callup after he was added to the 40-man roster in November. At the trade deadline, St. Louis added outfielders Jhon Torres and Conner Capel. Torres hit the ground running, posting a .321/.409/.535 line in rookie ball. Gorman and Torres turn 19 this spring.

Video: Peoria's Gorman knocks second homer of game

 17. Texas Rangers

This season will be a real test for many of the Rangers' top position players. Outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez spent 2018 transitioning to affiliated ball after being signed for $2.8 million out of Cuba last March. The 22-year-old has five-tool potential, though his speed shines the brightest. Fellow outfielder Leody Taveras was the club's top prospect, but had a tough campaign with Class A Advanced Down East The switch-hitter has plus plate discipline and speed, but still needs to put everything together. Shortstop Anderson Tejeda has had a slow climb through the system -- four levels in seven seasons -- but he did show improvements with his bat and glove after a tough 2017. In December, the Rangers snagged Eli White from the A's in a three-team deal with the Rays. The versatile infielder notched career highs in the Texas League last year and could arrive in Arlington this summer. 2017 first-rounder Bubba Thompson put up solid numbers in his full-season debut and could be prepared to make another jump in 2019. The Rangers have plenty of youthful talent, which could prove exciting in a couple years should everything click.

 16. Baltimore Orioles

Last season featured many interruptions for this crop of Orioles prospects. After outfielder Yusniel Diaz was acquired from the Dodgers in July, he racked up more whiffs and fewer walks. The 22-year-old did tie his career high with 11 homers, however, while repeating Double-A. Third baseman Ryan Mountcastle and outfielder Austin Hays both battled injuries, but also found ways to stand out when on the field with Double-A Bowie. Mountcastle hit a personal-best .297 while Hays showed glimmers of plus power. Outfielder Ryan McKenna got off to a stellar start with Class A Advanced Frederick but had trouble adjusting when joining Hays and Mountcastle in the Eastern League. His stock bounced back with a promising Fall League campaign, however. The club also got aggressive in the Rule 5 Draft by taking two infield prospects in Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. With those two and the others just a few stops away, the Orioles' rebuilding process could bear fruit sooner rather than later.

 15. Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers finished 2018 with nine position players among their Top 10 prospects. That strong crop of hitters begins with Keston Hiura, the top second base prospect in baseball and No. 20 overall. The 2017 ninth-overall pick suffered no sophomore slump while advancing to Double-A in his first full season. Hiura and his potentially plus-plus hit tool joined 2016 fifth-overall pick Corey Ray in Biloxi, where the outfielder showcased his power and speed, collecting 27 homers and 37 stolen bases. Beyond that, infielder Mauricio Dubon raked in 27 Triple-A games before suffering a season-ending injury, catcher Jacob Nottingham got his first taste of The Show, outfielder Tristen Lutz and first baseman Jake Gatewood showcased plus power in the middle levels while shortstop Brice Turang and outfielder Joe Gray prepare for their first full season this year. Milwaukee should have a lot of lineup options in a few years, but it all starts with Hiura.

 14. Colorado Rockies

The Rockies' crowded infield opened up slightly with DJ LeMahieu going to the Yankees, but they have plenty more options in the pipeline, starting with Garrett Hampson, who played 24 games in Colorado last season. In time, Coors Field will play home to the club's top prospect of the past three and a half years: Brendan Rodgers. MLB.com's No. 10 overall prospect had growing pains in his first taste of Triple-A, but his ceiling remains high with the potential to hit for power and average. Coming off a scorching 2017, Colton Welker kept it going with a .333 average, 82 doubles and 32 doubles in the hitter-friendly California League last year. Infielder Tyler Nevin also raked with Class A Advanced Lancaster while first baseman Grant Lavigne, a first-round pick, did the same in rookie ball. Add in shortstop Ryan Vilade, who could move around the infield next year, and the Rockies will have the enviable problem of too many infielders for years to come.

Video: Rodgers makes diving snag for EL East All-Stars

 13. New York Mets

Few Minor Leaguers had a better 2018 than Peter Alonso, who led all prospects with 36 homers and 119 RBIs. The club's top prospect shined in the All-Star Futures Game and the Arizona Fall League, providing even more proof that he could hang at Citi Field. Aside from Alonso, the Mets system draws the most interest on the left side of the infield with shortstops Andres Gimenez, Ronny Mauricio and Shervyen Newton, along with third baseman Mark Vientos. Gimenez climbed to Double-A with his plus left-handed bat while Mauricio, Newton and Vientos made strides for the Rookie Advanced Kingsport lineup. Mauricio has quick bat speed and raw power from both sides of the plate, and doesn't even turn 18 until April. The Mets have a fun combination of a big name coming up now and plenty of potential talent for the future.

 12. Houston Astros

Outfielder Kyle Tucker has been in the Astros' spotlight since being selected fifth overall in the 2015 Draft, but last year, he really broke out. MLB.com's No. 8 overall prospect had a career-best .332/.400/.590 line with 93 RBIs while slugging 24 homers, leading to his first call to The Show. While Tucker had trouble finding his rhythm -- going 9-for-64 -- it shouldn't be long before he returns to Minute Maid. Left-handed hitters Yordan Alvarez and Seth Beer also made waves in 2018. Alvarez excelled at Double-A and eventually got comfortable at Triple-A in his second full season. After being selected in the first round of the Draft, Beer cruised from Class A Short Season to Class A Advanced, displaying power and good plate discipline. In Rookie ball, shortstop Freudis Nova consistently made solid contact, producing a .308 average. Like Tucker, outfielder Myles Straw and catcher Garrett Stubbs should be making impacts in the AL West this summer.

 11. Pittsburgh Pirates

Like the Brewers, the Pirates finished 2018 with nine position players among their Top 10 prospect -- eight of them first- or second-round picks. Third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes displayed plus hit, arm and fielding tools while also showing more patience at the plate at Double-A. Outfielder Travis Swaggerty reached full-season ball following his 10th overall selection in June, showcasing solid plate discipline and above-average speed. Switch-hitters Cole Tucker and Bryan Reynolds made strides at Double-A while infielders Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer got their first tastes of the Majors after raking at Triple-A. Outfielder Lolo Sanchez swiped 30 bases -- five behind Tucker for the system lead -- and teammate Calvin Mitchell showed a lot of promise from the left side of the plate. After being dealt from the Dodgers at the 2017 trade deadline, Oneil Cruz settled in with the Pirates as a full-time shortstop, though at 6-foot-6, he might eventually move to the outfield. But because of his power and plus-plus arm, he's still become a Top-100 prospect -- Pittsburgh's third position player to do so behind Hayes and Swaggerty. At all levels, the system has a lot of exciting bats and gloves on the horizon.

Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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