System Rankings: 21 and younger (10-1)

Braves take top spot with Maitan, Albies; Dodgers, Yanks full of youth

Signed last July, highly touted 17-year-old Kevin Maitan will make his debut for the Braves this season. (Cliff Welch/MiLB.com)

By Kelsie Heneghan / MiLB.com | March 8, 2017 10:00 AM ET

With Spring Training underway and the 2017 season rapidly approaching, MiLB.com looks at the state of all 30 farm systems and ranks them, according to certain changing criteria with each edition. This week, we focus on prospects who will be 21 or younger on Opening Day and consider the quality and quantity of top talent in each system. Part I can be found here and Part II can be found here. Part III is below:

 10. Colorado Rockies

The Rocky Mountain youth movement is boosted by shortstop Brendan Rodgers and right-hander Riley Pint. Rodgers, MLB.com's No. 15 overall prospect, posted a .480 slugging percentage as he led Class A Asheville with 19 homers in his first full season. After being selected fourth overall in last June's Draft, Pint showed off his 75-grade fastball with Rookie-level Grand Junction, though his control has room for improvement (23 walks in 37 innings). Outside the Top 100, the Rockies have youthful right-handers Ryan Castellani and Peter Lambert, plus third baseman Colton Welker, who turned 19 in October, but the system doesn't have the same young depth as others on this list.

 9. Cleveland Indians

While the Indians don't have quite the power names as the Rockies, they edge them in depth with nine of their top 20 prospects under the age of 22. Along with hitting streak hero Francisco Mejia and Carolina League MVP Bobby Bradley, right-hander Triston McKenzie notched a 1.62 ERA with 104 strikeouts in 83 1/3 innings between the New York-Penn and Midwest leagues. The Cleveland system also includes 18-year-olds Nolan Jones and Will Benson, 19-year-olds Juan Hillman and Willi Castro and 21-year-old Yu-Cheng Chang -- not to mention two-time first-round pick Brady Aiken, who is finally ready for his first full season.

 8. Boston Red Sox

With Andrew Benintendi's prospect eligibility coming to a close soon, 20-year-old Rafael Devers is poised to step into the spotlight for the Red Sox. MLB.com's No. 17 prospect bounced back from a tough first half with Class A Advanced Salem to hit .326 with 42 RBIs after the All-Star break. Boston's top pitching prospect, Jason Groome is considered the second-best southpaw in the Minors after being selected 12th overall last June. Third baseman Bobby Dalbec was picked in the fourth round and quickly adjusted to pro ball, hitting .386 for Class A Short Season Lowell. Righty Roniel Raudes, first baseman Josh Ockimey and third baseman Michael Chavis all showed they are ready for the next level after performing well with Class A Greenville.

 7. New York Mets

There are a lot of talented shortstops in the Minors right now, but the Mets have the one with arguably the best arm in Amed Rosario. MLB.com's No. 5 overall prospect advanced to Double-A last season at the age of 20, and his bat also remained a force as he hit .324 between the Florida State and Eastern leagues. Dominic Smith (No. 63 overall) found his groove with the B-Mets, hitting .302/.367/.457 while setting career highs with 14 homers and 91 RBIs. Class A Short Season Brooklyn featured one of the best pitching staffs in the league, led by 2016 first-rounder Justin Dunn (the team's No. 3 prospect), Thomas Szapucki (No. 4) and Merandy Gonzalez (No. 15). Also, shortstop Andres Gimenez (No. 9) hit .350 as a 17-year-old in the Dominican Summer League.

 6. Chicago White Sox

The South Siders were clearly the big winners this offseason, especially in terms of top young talent. Yoan Moncada  (No. 2 overall), Michael Kopech (No. 16 overall) and Luis Alexander Basabe (Chicago's No. 8 prospect) all joined the White Sox in the trade for Chris Sale on Dec. 6, skyrocketing them in these rankings. After 45 stolen bases, Moncada made the leap from Double-A to the Majors, while Kopech maintained a 2.08 ERA with his 80-grade fastball. White Sox No. 11 prospect Spencer Adams, a second-round pick in 2014, fanned a career-high 100 and walked 53 in 163 frames while advancing to Double-A at the age of 20.

 5. Pittsburgh Pirates

A couple stints on the disabled list couldn't keep Austin Meadows down last season -- MLB.com's No. 9 overall prospect made his way to Triple-A Indianapolis and found his power stroke. Across three levels, the outfielder tallied career highs with 12 homers, 11 triples and 25 doubles in his fourth pro season. On the mound, Mitch Keller (No. 48 overall) refined his above-average fastball for 138 punchouts and just 19 walks in 130 innings, mostly with Class A West Virginia. Outside the Top 100, third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes and shortstop Cole Tucker are ready to put injuries behind them, while righties Gage Hinsz and Luis Escobar continue to display their plus fastballs.

 4. Houston Astros

While the names aren't as shiny, there's a bevy of young talent in Houston with nine of the Astros' Top 15 prospects at 21 years old or younger. No. 20 overall prospect Francis Martes fooled Texas League hitters with his well-above-average fastball, recording 131 strikeouts in 125 1/3 innings, while No. 37 overall prospect Kyle Tucker reached the California League at age 19. Astros No. 5 prospect Forrest Whitley held his own at 18 in his pro debut after being selected 17th overall last June, notching 26 strikeouts and wallking six in 18 2/3 innings. Additionally, right-hander Franklin Perez, infielder Miguelangel Sierra, outfielder Gilberto Celestino and first baseman Yordan Alvarez all made impacts last season before turning 20.

 3. New York Yankees

The Yankees don't have many top prospects under the age of 22, but the ones they do have more than make up for the lack of quantity. Third overall prospect Gleyber Torres adjusted to his new organization with ease, then went on to become the youngest ever Arizona Fall League MVP -- all before turning 20 in December. No. 37 overall prospect Blake Rutherford went from being the 18th overall Draft pick to hitting .351 in Rookie ball, infielder Jorge Mateo (No. 21 overall) led the Yankees system with 36 stolen bases and Justus Sheffield (No. 79 overall) maintained a 3.09 ERA across two organizations and three leagues. Outside the Top 100, 21-year-old right-hander Albert Abreu quietly shined with 115 strikeouts in 101 2/3 frames before the Astros dealt him in November's Brian McCann trade.

 2. Los Angeles Dodgers

The City of Stars shines brightly when it comes to youth, and it starts at the very top of the system. No. 12 overall prospect Cody Bellinger boasts 70-grade fielding and, at times, an equally impressive bat. Yadier Alvarez (No. 49 overall) has a 75-grade fastball, and Alex Verdugo (No. 61) shows a 70-grade arm from the outfield to ignite the organization. (And those are just their plus-plus tools.) Gavin Lux, Omar Estevez, Starling Heredia and Keibert Ruiz have room to grow as teenagers ranked in the system's top 15, while 36th overall pick/right-handed starter (and brother to Yanks' Justus) Jordan Sheffield will still only be 21 come Opening Day. What pushes the Dodgers into this spot this week is the fact that of their prospects with high ceilings (and there are quite a few), all of them fit our age parameter for these rankings. The favorites to win the NL West for the fifth straight season probably didn't need a young core ready to help, but they have one anyway.

 1. Atlanta Braves

This series talks a lot about big names vs. depth, but to be at the top, a team needs to have both. Case in point: the Braves. Atlanta claims five prospects in the Top 100 under the age of 22, then adds six more young studs to round out its own Top 15. At 19, Ozzie Albies was punishing pitchers with a hot bat and his plus-plus speed, and Cristian Pache was debuting his 70-grade speed in Rookie ball at just 17. Austin Riley, Atlanta's 2015 CBA pick, came into his own last season to lead the system with 20 homers and rank second with 80 RBIs, while 2016 CBA pick Joey Wentz adjusted well to Rookie ball with a 3.68 ERA in 44 innings. Also, 18-year-olds Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson and Ronald Acuna cruised through the lower levels last season. The Braves snagged lefty Luiz Gohara and his above-average fastball from the Mariners in January, while 2014 first-rounder Touki Toussaint continued to flash his high-upside potential at the age of 20. But perhaps the biggest name of all hasn't even played yet. Atlanta signed Kevin Maitan, who turned 17 in February, last July and the organization has high hopes for the shortstop with a plus arm. Already ranked as the No. 32 prospect in baseball, Maitan will make his pro debut this season.

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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