Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

Toolshed: Futures of farm systems

O's, Giants prepared to trend up; White Sox, Astros pointing down
Marco Luciano produced a .981 OPS over 47 games split between two levels during his first Minor League season. (Jared Ravich/
March 6, 2020

Preseason farm system rankings are static. They're snapshots. They're encased in internet amber.Farm systems themselves are the exact opposite. This week, completed its Farm System Rankings series with the Overall groupings. Spoiler: the Rays grabbed the top spot, followed closely by the Padres and Dodgers. But it's worth pointing out

Preseason farm system rankings are static. They're snapshots. They're encased in internet amber.
Farm systems themselves are the exact opposite. 
This week, completed its Farm System Rankings series with the Overall groupings. Spoiler: the Rays grabbed the top spot, followed closely by the Padres and Dodgers. But it's worth pointing out that's how we see things right now, going into the 2020 season. Lots can -- and will -- change throughout the campaign, or even beforehand. There will be prospects who break out. There will be prospects who slump. There will be trades. There will be Major League graduations. There will be, unfortunately, injuries. There will be a 2020 First-Year Player Draft. All of that will affect how good and bad farm systems look in the months to come. Some of those stock changes we can't predict. But some of them we probably can.
These are the five farm systems we expect will improve in stature in 2020 and the five we expect will slip this season:

Stock pointing up
Detroit Tigers, 8th overall: Start with the obvious. Detroit doesn't figure to be in contention at any point in 2020. So while the likes of Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal, Joey Wentz and Alex Faedo figure to open the season at Double-A Erie or Triple-A Toledo, it's far from a guarantee that the Tigers will see the benefit of giving several (or any) of them long enough of a Major League look this summer to enable them to graduate. Add the potential for growth from the first full season of Riley Greene, the No. 31 overall prospect, and it's possible Detroit still looks strong, despite having so many advanced pitchers. Here's the biggest kicker, though: Detroit owns the No. 1 overall pick in June. Imagine bringing Arizona State slugger Spencer Torkelson or Georgia right-hander Emerson Hancock into this group. That alone would send the system's stock skyrocketing, and that's just from one pick. Detroit claims two more picks among the top 63 and will have one of the signing pools of this year's Draft. Even if Mize or Manning or Skubal graduate, there are plenty of promising reinforcements on the way.
Baltimore Orioles, 10th: Going from one rebuild to another, the Orioles have the second overall pick in this year's Draft, one of three in the top 39 (thanks to a selection in Competitive Balance Round A). Whichever top talent Detroit passes on at No. 1 will be gobbled up by Baltimore. What's more, the Orioles system already has last year's first overall pick Adley Rutschman, the club's No. 1 prospect who instantly became the cornerstone of Baltimore's youth movement. Even though the Oregon State product is quite advanced offensively and defensively, the switch-hitting catcher is a long shot to see Charm City this summer. A strong first full season could make him a candidate for the No. 1 overall prospect spot, however. Sure, Ryan Mountcastle and Austin Hays seem likely to accrue enough at-bats for graduation, but the pitching side still will be equally strong with Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall likely to open at Class A Advanced and Double-A respectively. Even with a solid system as is, there's a feeling that even brighter days are ahead in Baltimore.
San Francisco Giants, 11th: This has a lot to do with Marco Luciano, to be honest. The shortstop signed for $2.6 million out of the Dominican Republic in July 2018, was pushed stateside for his first Minor League season and proceeded to put on a monster campaign in 2019. Luciano batted .322/.438/.616 with 21 extra-base hits (including 10 homers) and eight steals over 38 games in the Rookie-level Arizona League. He won't turn 19 until September, yet he feels likely to open at Class A. Luciano, the No. 35 overall prospect, shows plus power potential and an above-average bat, and if he keeps that bat going from April to September, he'll be an easy top-10 prospect by the end of the summer. There are other teenage breakout candidates as well in Alexander Canario, Luis Toribio and Luis Matos, and out of the other four Top-100 prospects in the system, Joey Bart seems likely to be the only one with a big chance of getting enough Major League time to graduate. Even if he does, replacing him with a more experienced Luciano could be, at worst, a lateral move.
Arizona Diamondbacks, 13th: The D-backs enter this season with five Top-100 prospects following a resurgent 2019, and four of them are 20 or younger -- Kristian Robinson (19), Alek Thomas (19), Geraldo Perdomo (20) and Corbin Carroll (19). All are likely to open at Class A or Class A Advanced, meaning they still have a long ways to go before graduating. But because of their youth, there will also be ample opportunities for growth. Robinson and Carroll, in particular, will be embarking on their first full seasons in the Minors and have the loud tools to leave marks on the Midwest League and above. More sustained performance and additional experience should only help this group. Mix in the fact that No. 76 overall prospect Daulton Varsho isn't a guarantee to graduate behind Carson Kelly and Stephen Vogt on the catching depth chart, and there's every chance Arizona could boast several top-50 overall prospects by the time of's midseason update. 
New York Yankees, 18th: Jasson Dominguez is already the top prospect in pinstripes, and he's yet to play a Minor League game. That's how good his potential is as a 17-year-old switch-hitting, five-tool outfielder. Imagine what will happen to his stock if all of those tools show up in games this summer. He's ranked No. 54 overall right now but has every chance to jump several spots when the results roll in. Elsewhere, "volatility" is the buzzword of this system, which is normally a bad thing but could work out well here. The Yankees have a history of getting improved velocity out of their young pitchers, and there are tons of candidates to click like Deivi Garcia did in 2019. With control improvements, Luis Gil or Luis Medina could find their ways into the Top 100, as could Alexander Vizcaino, if he can build on his velo jumps from a season ago. That volatile nature of the system also could mean the Yanks go the other way, but between Dominguez and the young arms, there are enough reasons to believe the best is yet to come on the way to the Bronx.
Stock pointing down
Chicago White Sox, 6th overall: This is pretty simple. The club's top prospect, Luis Robert, is expected to be Chicago's Opening Day center fielder. Third-ranked Michael Kopech is coming back from a missed season due to Tommy John surgery, but is only 35 2/3 innings short of prospect graduation. No. 4 Nick Madrigal should be crowned as the starting second baseman in short order. It's possible all three graduate in the first half of the 2020 season, and that would leave 2019 first-rounder Andrew Vaughn as the club's only Top-100 prospect. Because Vaughn turns 22 on April 3, he didn't qualify for our 21-and-under talent rankings, and without him, the Sox placed 30th in that group. Let's get one thing straight -- prospect graduations are a good thing, especially when the club is going for it in the way Chicago is in 2020. But once this Minor League cupboard is bare, it's going to take a while to restock. Thankfully, a quality Major League team could provide a good payoff on the South Side.
Oakland Athletics, 16th: One could make the case this one is even simpler. All three of the A's Top-100 prospects -- No. 12 Jesus Luzardo, No. 33 Sean Murphy and No. 60 A.J. Puk -- figure to open the season in the Majors. (Note: Puk's chances have dimmed slightly due to a shoulder strain this spring, but barring another setback, he's due to resume his throwing program shortly.) All three already have Major League experience, shortening the at-bats and innings pitched they'll need to graduate. Once they do, it's difficult to make the case that the club's No. 4 prospect Robert Puason will jump right into the Top 100 to replace them ahead at just age 17. Even if he does, that's just one player. The A's farm will need serious breakouts in 2020 to match this robust a top-prospect trio.
Los Angeles Angels, 17th: It's not a matter of if but a matter of when Jo Adell will make his Major League debut. When he does, it'll be because the Halos fully believe the No. 6 overall prospect is ready to show off his multiple tools on the big stage. It's fully possible -- perhaps even likely -- that he reaches the 130 at-bats needed for graduation before the All-Star break. When that happens, the Angels will be left with only one Top-100 prospect in No. 79 Brandon Marsh -- an impressive young outfielder that doesn't quite have the full potential of Adell. What's more, pitching is already a weakness in Orange County, and that group will take another hit when Patrick Sandoval -- the top Angels pitching prospect -- graduates after only 11 2/3 more frames with the big club. The Angels system has been down before, and young players like Jordyn Adams, Jeremiah Jackson and Kyren Paris bring their own versions of flash. It just won't be quite the same thing without Adell. The good news: Adell was the 10th overall pick in the 2017 Draft. The Angels' Draft position in June: 10th overall.
Houston Astros, 25th: This is already a down system with only one Top-100 prospect in Forrest Whitley, and he and three of the next four highly ranked prospects -- Jose Urquidy, Abraham Toro and Bryan Abreu -- figure to be Major League contributors in 2020. (Urquidy is slated to move right into the Houston rotation and needs only nine more innings to graduate.) What's more, relief won't come from the Draft. The Astros lost their first- and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 Drafts as part of the punishment for their 2017 sign-stealing scheme. Their new top pick won't come until No. 73 this June, and they'll have a smaller signing bonus pool to go with the limited picks. Barring a big international signing or a major trade that brings in a top prospect, it could be some time before a player of Whitley's caliber comes through the Houston system.

Washington Nationals, 26th: The Nats have a World Series title and a top prospect slated to slide right into the Majors. They'll be fine in general. But when it comes to the state of the system, it's fairly clear which direction the group will head in 2020, barring some breakouts. No. 21 overall prospect Carter Kieboom is in big league camp trying to win the starting third base job. Even if he doesn't, the 22-year-old slugger will likely be up quick enough and play enough of a role for Washington this season to graduate at some point in the summer. That would leave No. 97 Luis Garcia as the group's top prospect, coming off a season in which he produced just a .617 OPS as a 19-year-old at Double-A. Without significant improvement at the upper Minors, he's liable to slide out of the Top 100. Of course, he could go the other way and prove his rough go was a result of his youth. Still, it's no easy task replacing a top-25 prospect, and considering Washington still has to compete in the loaded National League East, don't be surprised if it drains the farm even more around the trade deadline in its quest to repeat as world champs.

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.