Farm System Rankings: Position players
With Spring Training opening and the 2016 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 much further ado, the rankings:
30. Miami Marlins
The Marlins and Angels will feature in the last two spots of a lot of these rankings and, in this opening edition, it's the Fish at the bottom of the barrel. Josh Naylor was taken with the 12th overall pick last year but has generated several questions about his physique and will need to hit a bunch to improve his stock as he's likely stuck at first base. Outfielder Stone Garrett also has featured in the top half of several organizational top 10s after producing a .933 OPS at Class A Short Season Batavia. Still, the system has no position players ranked in any top 100 and will need significant improvements to get anyone close.
29. Los Angeles Angels
The Angels system took a big hit when the organization acquired shortstop Andrelton Simmons from the Braves, but for the purposes of this ranking, the only position player it sent away was veteran infielder Erick Aybar. That doesn't mean there's much to write home about, however. Catcher Taylor Ward, the club's first-round pick last year, looks to be the most promising offensive player after hitting .348/.457/.438 in his first season out of Fresno State, even if his best tools are on the defensive side. Second-rounder Jahmai Jones also could give Angels fans some hope. But those who played some of the 2015 season in the Majors (Kyle Kubitza, Kaleb Cowart, Todd Cunningham) didn't exactly thrive, and there are few, if any, other prospects with realistic Major League impact ceilings.
28. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals system took a hit for good reasons when outfielders Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk graduated during the big club's 100-win season. What's left is mostly pitching, and some good pitching at that. (More on that in a later edition.) Outfielder Magneuris Sierra, shortstop Edmundo Sosa and outfielder Nick Plummer are arguably St. Louis' top three prospects in the field but none in the trio has played higher than Class A Peoria. The Cardinals have a knack for development and won't necessarily be in this spot for long. It'll just take a few years to see their best position player prospects reach the highest levels.
27. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers are the last organization on this list that didn't have a single position player ranked in the top 100 overall prospects lists produced by MLB.com, Baseball Prospectus, ESPN's Keith Law and Baseball America. There are a couple intriguing names though. Steven Moya has shown incredible pop, with 55 homers in the last two Minor League seasons but needs to work on making more consistent contact (30.3 percent strikeout rate at Triple-A in 2015) if he's going to be more than a Quad-A player. Outfielder Derek Hill also has potential, especially on the basepaths, as he enters his second full season after being drafted 23rd overall in 2014, and shortstop Dixon Machado has Major League defensive chops but is stuck behind Jose Iglesias, a defensive wizard in his own right. So there are some potential pieces for Detroit, just not much in the way of elite talent.
26. Baltimore Orioles
Chance Sisco (pictured above) marks our first mentionable fringe top-100 prospect and almost single-handedly bumps the O's up to this spot. The 20-year-old catcher hit .297/.376/.415 at Class A Advanced Frederick and Double-A Bowie last season and, if he can improve his defense, he looks like an in-house replacement should Matt Wieters depart. Third baseman Jomar Reyes and 2015 first-rounders D.J. Stewart and Ryan Mountcastle make for intriguing prospects to watch this season, and while Trey Mancini doesn't have that same prospect sheen, he's building on a season in which he hit .341 with 21 homers and 43 doubles at Frederick and Bowie.
25. San Francisco Giants
Shortstop Christian Arroyo is a much more regular top-100 feature, placing as high as the 60's in rankings by Baseball America and ESPN. The 20-year-old shortstop handled the California League well last season, hitting .304 with an .803 OPS and a career-high nine homers. It'll be his bat that determines how high he climbs, once he reaches the higher levels. The Giants will look to see what they have in shortstop Lucius Fox, who has 70 speed, and first baseman Christopher Shaw, who has 60 power, in their first full seasons in the system. The rest of the farm is dominated mostly by pitchers.
24. Arizona Diamondbacks
The D-backs would be much higher in this ranking had they not dealt No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson to the Braves and Pioneer League MVP Isan Diaz to the Brewers. But that's the price they paid for Major League talent. (Whether they paid the correct price is a topic for another story.) Instead, Brandon Drury carries the torch as the team's top offensive prospect. Last season, the 23-year-old was particularly impressive at Triple-A Reno, where he batted .331 with 26 doubles in 63 games, even if he did struggle in the Majors. He'll get a chance to show that he can crack the Arizona infield, either at second base or third, this spring. Arizona has other options hoping to break down the door in Peter O'Brien -- who may be an outfielder or may be a catcher but is definitely a slugger -- and outfielder Socrates Brito, who handled the jump from Double-A to the Majors with aplomb.
23. Toronto Blue Jays
Outfielder Anthony Alford didn't rank lower than No. 52 in any of the major prospect lists after posting a .398 OBP and 27 steals across two levels and buoys an otherwise tough Toronto system that was hurt by trades last season. The former college football player is followed by outfielder Vladimir Guerrero Jr., shortstop Richard Urena and first baseman Rowdy Tellez -- each of whom has interesting characteristics but comes with plenty of questions.
22. Seattle Mariners
The Mariners aren't as top-heavy as some of the organizations listed above but have some nice depth to earn this spot. Alex Jackson, the sixth overall pick in the 2014 Draft, saw his stock drop after he hit .207 at Class A Clinton and Class A Short Season Everett, but he remains on the edge of the top 100 in the eyes of most. Behind him, fellow outfielders Tyler O'Neill (32 homers in 2015) and Boog Powell (.385 OBP, 18 steals) are attractive, and first baseman D.J. Peterson may have lost his luster after a rough 2015 but is only a year removed from a 31-homer campaign. Watch out for the full-season debut of shortstop Drew Jackson, who easily won the Northwest League batting title with a .358 average in 59 games.
21. Chicago White Sox
The jewel in the White Sox crown is shortstop Tim Anderson (pictured above), who hits and runs well, as evidenced by a .312 average and 49 steals at Double-A Birmingham last season. Hes a consensus top-50 prospect, but like so many other systems in these rankings, that's about it. Third baseman Trey Michalczewski has some promise after spending his age-20 season at Class A Advanced and 2015 sixth-rounder Corey Zangari could show a good amount of power in his first full season. Outfielder Adam Engel will look to show his Arizona Fall League MVP campaign wasn't a small-sample mirage after he had a .704 OPS as a 23-year-old in the Carolina League.
20. Kansas City Royals
In a couple ways, the state of Royals and White Sox position player prospects is incredibly similar. Like their AL Central counterparts, the defending World Series champions' system is led by an impressive young shortstop in Raul Mondesi, who ranks as high as 16 and as low as 73 on some lists. He didn't hit much as a 19/20-year-old at Double-A Northwest Arkansas (.243/.279/.372) but is fast and plenty good in the field. The Royals recoginized his talent by making him the first player ever to make his big league debut in the World Series. From there, Kansas City's notable farm talent lies in the outfield, led by Jorge Bonifacio and a resurgent Bubba Starling, who likely won't live up to his first-round billing but is looking more and more like a Major Leaguer. Cheslor Cuthbert and Reymond Fuentes already have experience in the bigs, but neither looks like a future starter in Kansas City.
19. Oakland Athletics
Speaking of shorstops, the A's picked up a good one in Franklin Barreto, ranked by MLB.com as the game's eighth-best shortstop and No. 23 overall prospect, in the November 2014 trade for Josh Donaldson. The 19-year-old handled the California League, hitting .302/.333/.500 with 13 homers in 90 games, although he missed significant time with a bruised wrist. Adding to his power is first baseman Matt Olson (.249 average, 17 homers, 37 doubles in 133 games at Double-A Midland), MLB.com's No. 100 prospect, making this our first system with two top-100 entries. In fact, if there's a way to define Oakland's crop of position players, it is powerful with Matt Chapman (23 homers), Renato Nunez (18 homers) and Chad Pinder (15 homers) among the other notable names.
18. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays saw three of their position player prospects receive top-100 consideration in shortstops Willy Adames and Daniel Robertson and first baseman Jake Bauers. Adames, MLB.com's No. 81 prospect, is clearly the best of the bunch and is facing a breakout, but the Rays have depth few others can match around this spot in the rankings. Corner infielder Richie Shaffer is coming off a 26-homer season in the Minors, Justin O'Conner is still considered a top defensive catcher and 2014 No. 13 overall pick Garrett Whitley is average to above-average in each of the five tools. Tampa Bay may not have a clear-cut top-40 prospect, but its depth is desirable.
17. Cincinnati Reds
The Reds have done their share of adding to the prospect pool as part of this offseason's rebuild by adding speedy second baseman Jose Peraza, who is divisive in the prospect community but checks in at the back end of most top-100 lists, and third baseman/2013 first-rounder Eric Jagielo in separate trades with the Dodgers/White Sox and Yankees, respectively. But the cream of the crop remains homegrown talent in outfielder and MLB.com's No. 34 overall prospect Jesse Winker, who hit .316/.426/.516 in the second half of the season for Double-A Pensacola last summer. Catcher and 2015 first-rounder Tyler Stephenson isn't consensus top-100 yet but has the potential to get there if he can translate a 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame into big offensive numbers in his full-season debut.
16. New York Mets
On its face, this ranking feels a bit harsh because there's a lot to like about the state of the Mets system, which is now heavier on hitters after so much pitching graduated to the Majors. First baseman Dominic Smith (pictured above) leads the pack after winning Florida State League MVP honors with a .305/.354/.417 slash lilne in the offense-starved Class A Advanced circuit and could see his stock jump again if he can add a little power to his first base profile. Amed Rosario also earned plenty of top-100 love because of his run and arm tools, while fellow shortstop Gavin Cecchini, who is more of an offensive-minded player, snuck into the 80's on two of the four lists. As good as that core, none of that trio is a consensus top-50 prospect. Outfielder Brandon Nimmo and shortstop Matt Reynolds add to the organization's depth and should be ready if called on at Triple-A Las Vegas.
15. San Diego Padres
The Padres' most talented position player prospects haven't even suited up for the club in a game as outfielder Manuel Margot and shortstop Javier Guerra came over from Boston in the Craig Kimbrel deal. Both may be strongest on the defensive end, but Margot has good speed and excellent bat-to-ball skills and Guerra surprised many by hitting 15 homers last season at Class A Greenville. After a somewhat average campaign at Double-A San Antonio, outfielder Hunter Renfroe is on the right side of the cutoff, but things were looking up for the 24-year-old at the end of the season, when he hit .333 with six homers and a .991 OPS in a 21-game sample at Triple-A El Paso. Breakout prospect Ruddy Giron and speedy outfielder Travis Jankowski also will look to prove that their 2015 seasons were not flukes.
14. Cleveland Indians
There are a lot of organizations on this list that would love to plan their future outfields around back-to-back first-rounders Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier. Zimmer was one of the breakout stars of 2015, when he showed a nice combo of pop (16 homers) and speed (44 steals) en route to becoming MLB.com's No. 26 overall prospect. Frazier slots in one behind him on MLB.com's list, and there's no shortage of believers in the 21-year-old's bat speed and power potential. Speaking of power, Cleveland also boasts Bobby Bradley, a newcomer to most top-100s after he won the Midwest League homer crown with 27, 11 more than anyone else. That trio alone more or less earns the Indians this spot, but don't rule out a possible ascendance of catcher Francisco Mejia and his plus-plus arm in his second full season.
13. Washington Nationals
Trea Turner. Trea Turner. Trea Turner. At No. 11 on MLB.com's list, the 22-year-old is the most promising and also most Major League-ready prospect mentioned so far. He doesn't have much else to prove after hitting .322 with 29 steals at Double-A and Triple-A, even if he's likely to start the season back in Syracuse. Beyond him, Victor Robles, a native of the Dominican Republic who reportedly signed for $225,000 in 2013, leaped into every top 100 by hitting .352 with 24 steals in his age-18 season at the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn leagues. What's more, his best tools might be on the defensive end. Likely to join Turner in Washington at some point, infielder Wilmer Difo and catcher Pedro Severino already have Major League experience and may prove to be valuable depth/bench options this year.
12. New York Yankees
The Yankees system is perhaps the best it's been in three seasons, and a big reason is the quality of its bats. Aaron Judge has received the most across-the-board praise after he used the power in his 6-foot-7 frame to hit 20 homers at Triple-A and Double-A last season. There are some evaluators who favor Jorge Mateo, thanks to his 80-grade speed that helped him record a Minor League-best 82 steals. Add the fact he's likely to stay at shortstop and it makes for an exciting profile, even if he'll probably start 2016 two or three steps from the Majors. That said, the Yankees probably don't take this spot if catcher and former top prospect Gary Sanchez hadn't worked himself into form by hitting .274/.330/.485 with 18 homers in the Minors, then leading the AFL in homers (seven) and total bases (55) while proving incredibly tough to run on. Don't rule out second baseman Rob Refsynder as a Major League contributor, even after the acquisition of Starlin Castro.
11. Atlanta Braves
The Braves have arguably the game's best farm system right now because they have so many quality arms waiting to help the big club rebuild. But their unanimous top prospect is a position player -- shortstop Dansby Swanson (pictured above), last year's No. 1 overall pick. The Vanderbilt product is MLB.com's No. 8 overall prospect, doesn't have many, if any, negatives to his game and has a chance to shoot quickly as a polished product following Andrelton Simmons' departure. In fact, Atlanta may have its future middle infield settled with No. 29 overall prospect Ozzie Albies also in the system. The 19-year-old switch-hitter batted .310 with 29 steals at Class A Rome last season and could be a candidate to move over to second, even though his defense at short is fairly solid. Third baseman Austin Riley placed 79th on Baseball Prospectus' list -- the only top 100 in which he appeared -- and could be set to join more if he builds off a .304/.389/.544, 12-homer line over 60 games in his first pro season. Overall, the Braves might not have nearly the same depth of position players as pitchers, but those top position players have higher ceilings.
10. Los Angeles Dodgers
This might come as something of a shock. Yes, the Dodgers have the game's top prospect in Corey Seager and, yes, that's a consensus opinion with all four lists putting the 21-year-old shortstop at No. 1. Such a player carries a lot of weight. In this case, there's enough weight for a spot in the top 10 because after that, it gets kinda iffy. MLB.com didn't rank another Los Angeles position player in its top 100, even though first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger and outfielder Alex Verdugo placed in the 50's elsewhere. So as much as the evaluators agree on Seager, they can't do the same on the others in the system. The Dodgers got more help by picking up prospects with Major League experience in Micah Johnson and Trayce Thompson from the White Sox, but without another decisive top-100 prospect, Seager carries them barely into the top 10.
9. Milwaukee Brewers
Every farm system from here on out should be quite pleased with its stock of positon player prospects, and it's almost splitting hairs to pick some over others. The Brewers have their own riches, starting with MLB.com's No. 6 overall prospect and 2015 MiLBY Breakout Prospect Orlando Arcia. Many believe the 21-year-old has Gold Glove potential at shortstop, and he showed good offensive potential by batting .307 with 52 extra-base hits at Double-A Biloxi. With Jean Segura moving to Arizona, Brewers fans are counting down the days until Arcia is deemed ready, which should come around the Super Two deadline. Outfielder Brett Phillips was picked up from the Astros and is average to plus in all five tools. Drafted 15th overall last June, Trent Clark will build on his offensive potential in his full-season debut as a 19-year-old, with many believing his bat could be a big plus in the future. Milwaukee only got stronger earlier this month by picking up another 2015 breakout star in catcher Jacob Nottingham. Add in the 60-grade power of Gilbert Lara and the yet-to-be-realized multiple tools of Monte Harrison, and you have several reasons to buy stock in the Brewers future.
8. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Bucs have plenty of top-100 depth, with five players appearing on various rankings this offseason. Outfielder Austin Meadows, who checks in at No. 20 on MLB.com's list, is near the top and should be a fun watch to see what happens when his 60-grade hit and 55-grade power tools trade the Florida State League for the better-for-hitters Eastern League. Josh Bell (No. 49, MLB.com) would love to become the club's regular first baseman at some point this summer and, with a .317 average and even K/BB ratio last year, he has the potential to grab it, even if he could use some extra power and defensive work. Catcher Reese McGuire (No. 98) has earned plenty of plaudits for his defense, which should have a good Pittsburgh rotation eager for his arrival by 2017, and Harold Ramirez cracked through Baseball Prospectus' and Baseball America's lists after he hit .337/.399/.458 with 22 steals at Class A Advanced Bradenton. Keith Law considers 2015 first-rounder Kevin Newman to be a top-25 prospect -- no one else has him in the top 100 because of his high contact rate and good speed -- and the University of Arizona product will have the chance to prove ESPN's prospect writer right in his full-season debut. Add in Alen Hanson's speed, Ke'Bryan Hayes' hit tool and Elias Diaz's defensive work behind the plate, and yeah, it's another good Pirates system.
7. Chicago Cubs
The way the game is going, only the Cubs could have graduated the NL Rookie of the Year (Kris Bryant), one of the game's best young shortstops (Addison Russell) and a couple of promising sluggers (Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler) and still have enough position players to finish in the top 10. Shortstop Gleyber Torres showed plenty offensively as an 18-year-old at two full-season stops to take a place among a talented group of shortstops, while catcher Willson Contreras was the Cubs' Minor League story of 2015 with a .333/.413/.478 line at Double-A Tennessee and could be the next young gun to impact the already great Major League roster. Ninth overall pick Ian Happ has drawn praise for his bat and will move to second base this season to maximize his value. Billy McKinney and Albert Almora are both fringe top-100 outfielders but should bring some excitement to Triple-A Iowa and Cuban outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez could make some noise in his first season after signing for $3 million in October. In other words, there's more where that came from.
6. Philadelphia Phillies
The Cole Hamels trade did what big trades should for rebuilding organizations: it turned the Phillies from a struggling system to a very good one. With outfielder Nick Williams (pictured above) and catcher Jorge Alfaro, Philadelphia has six prospects who received mention in a top-100 list. J.P. Crawford is the most promising of the bunch and is considered industry-wide as the game's second-best shortstop prospect behind Seager. (MLB.com has him at No. 5 overall.) Williams has split the industry, ranking anywhere from the 20's to the 70's, and it's a bit of a dropoff to Alfaro, Cornelius Randolph, Roman Quinn and Andrew Knapp; Knapp just snuck into the last five spots of Baseball America's list. All the same, that's a desirable amount of depth in the system and one around which the Phillies can certainly build.
5. Minnesota Twins
For the last couple seasons, the Twins' farm has been dominated by talk about Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. Now it's all about Buxton and Max Kepler after the latter worked his way to the Majors with a Southern League MVP season in which he hit .322/.416/.531 at Double-A Chattanooga. Buxton had his struggles in the Majors, but he showed that his tools can still be loud when he's healthy. That's why he "dropped" to No. 2 in every major prospect list. Don't expect him to be there for long, with the Twins clearing out a spot in center field for him come Opening Day. Jorge Polanco and Nick Gordon have earned plaudits for their work at the plate, on the basepaths (especially so for Gordon) and in the infield, and don't undersestimate the power of Adam Brett Walker II, even if his high strikeout rate keeps him out of top-100 talk. Not since Torii Hunter's heyday has there been more promise for the future in Minnesota.
4. Houston Astros
The Astros arrived earlier than expected, securing one of the AL's Wild Card spots, thanks in big part to the arrival of shortstop Carlos Correa. While that was happening in the Majors, A.J. Reed was busy leading the Minors in several major categories, Colin Moran was showing why he was a top-10 pick in 2013 and Derek Fisher was hitting 22 homers in his first professional season. Meanwhile, the organization played the Draft signing pool rules incredibly well by taking and signing shortstop Alex Bregman and outfielders Kyle Tucker and Daz Cameron, each of whom ranks in MLB.com's top 75. For all their options -- say what you will about Reed's bat, but he has limitations as a first baseman -- the Astros system lacks a shiny top-10 prospect, which is why they fall here. But considering they just graduated Correa, they won't lose any sleep.
3. Texas Rangers
This comes down to three prospects and three prospects only: Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson. Each consistently ranks in the top 20s on prospect lists, thanks to different skill sets. Gallo's power is the stuff of legend in the Minors, Brinson (.332 average, 20 homers, 18 steals) showed off every offensive tool possible last year and Mazara has the hit and arm tools of which multi-All-Stars are made. That's a trio any other organization, including the two below, would envy. And if you assigned a points system to rankings, the Rangers' trio would be enough to give the organization the most top-100 points. But the system falls short in the depth department, with no other position player in the discussion for any top 100. If there's someone who could rise in 2016, it's center fielder Eric Jenkins, who used plus speed to steal 28 bases in 56 games after being drafted in the second round last June.
2. Boston Red Sox
Like the Rangers, the Red Sox have a heck of a trinity in Cuban sensation Yoan Moncada, third base phenom Rafael Devers and 2015 Golden Spikes winner Andrew Benintendi. After some initial struggles, Moncada was looking more and more like a $63 million man over the second half at Class A Greenville, where he hit .310 with a .915 OPS, seven homers and 45 steals in 56 games. On the same team, Devers showed few problems as an 18-year-old at a full-season level and projects as a big-time slugger at the hot corner. Benintendi showed his Arkansas sophomore breakout wasn't a fluke by hitting .313/.416/.556 with 11 homers in 54 games across two levels. Where Boston has the advantage over Texas is what follows those three: first baseman Sam Travis isn't quite the hitter his fellow Hoosier Schwarber has been, but he's got plenty of offensive potential, and shortstop Deven Marrero is ready defensively for the Majors, where he's blocked by Xander Bogaerts. The Sox will rely on their depth until Moncada, Devers and Benintendi show they're ready for Fenway.
1. Colorado Rockies
You already think offense when you think the Rockies. That should be especially true of their farm system, which earns the top spot because of its combination of top talent and depth. Colorado got its top prospect when it took shortstop Brendan Rodgers, considered by some to be the Draft's top talent, with the third overall pick last June. Rodgers already landed in the top 20 on most top-100 lists. Among those who were already in the system, outfielder David Dahl (pictured above) showed enough in all five tools to be a top-50 prospect even after losing his spleen, and third baseman Ryan McMahon moved into several top 50's by showing a good amount of power, even by Cal League standards. Outfielder Raimel Tapia and second baseman Forrest Wall aren't consensus top-100 selections but have enough fans to appear on multiple lists, and even offensive-minded catcher Tom Murphy popped up at No. 97 on Baseball America's rankings. Not to be forgotten, infielders Trevor Story and Cristhian Adames don't have the ceilings of their Rockies counterparts but have hit well enough at the upper levels that their Major League bona fides shouldn't be questioned. When it comes to position player prospects, this system is both top-heavy and deep.
Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.