With 120 full-season Minor League clubs starting their seasons this week, the MiLB.com staff selects one intriguing team to follow in each farm system.
Atlanta Braves: Double-A Mississippi
This is a close call. Triple-A Gwinnett should boast one of the most impressive Minor League rotations this season, especially with the big league club expected to churn through young arms in an attempt to solidify the starting five. But Mississippi gets the nod here because it'll have its own impressive rotation and perhaps a more well-rounded roster overall. MLB.com's No. 31 overall prospect Ian Anderson headlines a pitching staff that also sports the club's No. 12 prospect Joey Wentz, No. 13 Kyle Muller, No. 19 Patrick Weigel and No. 22 Tucker Davidson in its ranks. The outfield should also be fascinating to watch with No. 35 overall prospect Cristian Pache and No. 84 Drew Waters opening at Double-A. Both have the capabilities to be plus center fielders, but obviously only one can claim the position at a time. When the other takes a corner, they should cover enough ground to get the already talented group of hurlers more outs.
Miami Marlins: Double-A Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp
Any team named Jumbo Shrimp is likely to intrigue, but Jacksonville also has individual players worth following this season. Miami's top two prospects, RHP Sixto Sanchez and OF Víctor Víctor Mesa, are likely to spend time with the club once they recover from injuries. Jacksonville will start the campaign with No. 24 prospect Bryson Brigman, a scrappy infielder who hit .310 last year, and No. 17 Jordan Yamamoto, a right-hander who went 6-1 with a 1.83 ERA while holding the opposition to a .177 average. And to top it off, shortstop and Olympic silver-medalist speed skater Eddy Alvarez will provide veteran leadership.
New York Mets: Class A Columbia Fireflies
Some of the Mets' brightest and youngest future stars will take the field together in the South Atlantic League this season. Five of the organization's Top-10 prospects -- No. 3 Ronny Mauricio, No. 4 Mark Vientos, No. 5 Shervyen Newton, No. 7 Simeon Woods Richardson and No. 9 Thomas Szapucki -- will call Spirit Communications Park home. No. 27 Christian James also will suit up for Columbia, giving New York six of their Top-30 prospects in one clubhouse. Notable returnees include Luc Rennie, who set the club's single-game strikeout record by fanning 14 over seven innings last July 22. Manager Pedro Lopez will have his hands on the controls of not only one of the league's youngest teams, but also its most talented.
Philadelphia Phillies: Double-A Reading Fightin Phils
No. 76 overall prospect Adonis Medina gets his first taste of Double-A as the ace of a rotation that also includes Philadelphia's No. 15 prospect, Mauricio Llovera, a 5-foot-11 power righty; No. 21 David Parkinson, last season's Minor League ERA leader (1.45); and No. 29 Connor Seabold, who posted a 2.79 ERA in 29 innings with the Fightins last August. Plus, three first-round picks will roam the outfield. No. 25 Cornelius Randolph, selected 10th overall in 2015, will look to get back on track after his development stalled with a .241 average in Reading last year. Ninth-ranked Mickey Moniak, 2016's top pick, moves up from Class A Advanced Clearwater, where he found a groove late last season. And No. 3 prospect Adam Haseley, 2017's eighth overall pick, will try to replicate the .316 average he produced in 136 at-bats after being promoted to Reading last July.
Washington Nationals: Class A Hagerstown
Washington has been good at turning low-level prospects into the next stars of the system (or in Juan Soto's case, stars of the Major League club), and the next one to follow the line there might be found in the South Atlantic League. Eighth-ranked prospect Israel Pineda could be an above-average offensive backstop, and he'll get to work on his catching by teaming up with 2018 picks Tim Cate (the club's No. 6 prospect) and No. 17 Jake Irvin. Speaking of which, 10th-ranked Gage Canning, a fifth-rounder last year, has the chance to move quick after breaking out at Arizona State this time last year. In all, seven of the Nationals' top-30 prospects will be Suns to open the season, and more could be coming when fourth-ranked Mason Denaburg is properly built up in his first season and No. 7 Yasel Antuna fully recovers from Tommy John surgery. Follow Carter Kieboom in Fresno and Luis Garcia in Harrisburg, sure, but find the next versions of those guys in Hagerstown.
Chicago Cubs: Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach
This is no doubt a down time on the Cubs farm, but there is some hope in the Carolina League. That's where top prospect Miguel Amaya opens up his second full season. The 20-year-old catcher draws praise for his defensive work, and he showed a solid bat last season at Class A South Bend. He'll get to work with some of the organization's more intriguing pitching prospects in No. 12 prospect Alex Lange and No. 18 Paul Richan, and he'll be joined in the lineup by sixth-ranked Aramis Ademan and D.J. Wilson, both of whom have much to prove with the bat after struggling at Class A Advanced in 2018.
Cincinnati Reds: Class A Dayton Dragons
Some of baseball's best prospects reside in the upper levels of Cincinnati's system, but don't sleep on those set to make full-season debuts in Dayton. Lyon Richardson and Jacob Heatherly -- the Reds' No. 11 and 12 prospects respectively -- should slot into the front of the Dragons' rotation. Richardson, the 47th overall pick in the 2017 Draft, converted from the outfield his senior year of high school and can reach 98 mph when healthy. Heatherly, a 6-foot-2 southpaw, has the raw stuff to outperform his ranking. In the outfield, No. 19 prospect Mariel Bautista finally should get a shot after batting at least .320 the past three years in Rookie ball, and seventh-ranked Mike Siani -- a fourth-round pick in the 2018 Draft -- will look to accompany his above-average defense with growth in his balanced approach at the plate.
Milwaukee Brewers: Triple-A San Antonio Missions
San Antonio's infield will be one to watch as top prospect Keston Hiura mans the keystone, fifth-ranked Mauricio Dubón stands at short and No. 8 prospect Lucas Erceg takes reps at the hot corner. Erceg would be a long shot for a 2019 promotion to Milwaukee after a tough 2018 campaign at Double-A Biloxi, but Dubon and Hiura will be the top options if injury strikes the Brewers' middle infield. No. 2 prospect Corey Ray will have the opportunity to build on his 2018 breakout campaign with the Shuckers and brings arguably the Minors' top power/speed combination to the Missions outfield, while sixth-ranked Zack Brown may be the most Major League-ready arm in the organization. The Brewers will likely be fighting for a playoff spot in the competitive NL Central this season, and their newest affiliate is ready to provide reinforcements when necessary.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Triple-A Indianapolis Indians
The cream of Pittsburgh's current crop of prospects will play in Triple-A this season, with Indianapolis featuring top Bucs prospect Mitch Keller, No. 2 Ke'Bryan Hayes, No. 5 Cole Tucker, No. 6 Kevin Kramer, No. 8 Bryan Reynolds, No. 11 Jason Martin and No. 15 Will Craig. Three of those players are first-round picks and three more were selected in the second round. Many of those prospects helped Double-A Altoona to the second-best record in the Eastern League in 2018 and should have second-year manager Brian Esposito's club in contention for the Governors' Cup this season.
St. Louis Cardinals: Triple-A Memphis Redbirds
An organization as well run as the Cardinals often feature far more prospects in Triple-A than the average organization. This year looks to be no exception as a baker's dozen will call Memphis home to begin 2019. Second-ranked Andrew Knizner, No. 4 Elehuris Montero, No. 8 Lane Thomas, No. 9 Génesis Cabrera, No. 10 Ryan Helsley, No. 11 Edmundo Sosa, No. 15 Randy Arozarena, No. 16 Daniel Ponce de Leon, No. 17 Connor Jones, No. 25 Jake Woodford, No. 26 Ramón Urías, No. 27 Max Schrock and No. 30 Evan Mendoza will return to the two-time defending Pacific Coast League champions. Twelfth-ranked Tommy Edman also figures to join the Redbirds, while No. 14 Justin Williams should once he returns from the injured list.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Double-A Jackson Generals
Class A Advanced Visalia was able to reap the benefits last year and now passes the baton to Jackson in 2019. Of course, topping a second league championship in four years might be difficult, but the Generals should be a must-see for D-backs fans this season. A host of Arizona's top prospects will journey to the Southern League, giving Jackson an unquestionable collection of high-end talent nearing the top run of the system. Led by top prospect Jazz Chisholm, the Generals also welcome fourth-ranked Daulton Varsho, No. 15 Drew Ellis, No. 16 Emilio Vargas, No. 17 Pavin Smith, No. 20 Marcus Wilson, No. 27 Dominic Miroglio and the potential return of No. 30 Kevin Ginkel.
Colorado Rockies: Class A Asheville Tourists
While Colorado has two of its top four prospects at Triple-A Albuquerque -- shortstop Brendan Rodgers (No. 10 overall prospect) and right-hander Peter Lambert -- Asheville's group features a fascinating mix of storylines. On the pitching staff are three former first-round picks, two of whom need big seasons in 2019. Eighth-ranked Rockies prospect Riley Pint (2016) and No. 29 Mike Nikorak (2015) combined to pitch in just 13 games last year with Nikorak just returning to a professional mound after missing all of 2017 following Tommy John surgery. Their ceilings are still tremendously high, but their careers have lacked substantial progress. Joining them is sixth-ranked Ryan Rolison and last year's first-rounder could climb quickly with a hot start. The Tourists also feature two of the Rockies' most promising young bats in No. 5 prospect Grant Lavigne, a first baseman, and outfielder Coco Montes, both of whom terrorized Pioneer League pitching last year.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Double-A Tulsa Drillers
Four of the Los Angeles' top five prospects are set to start the season with the Drillers. The quartet -- Keibert Ruiz, Dustin May, Gavin Lux and Tony Gonsolin -- all have experience in the Texas League from last year, when Tulsa captured the circuit's title. Only Ruiz spent all of 2018 on the Drillers; the other three earned promotions from Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga in August. So it will be an interesting look at how the highly touted prospects -- all rank in the top 100 except Gonsolin -- perform for an entire season at Double-A. Ruiz, a switch-hitting catcher, turned it on toward the end of last year and traditionally has been solid behind the plate. May and Gonsolin are a pair of righties with electric stuff, while shortstop Lux is a former first-round Draft pick who hit .324 at both levels he played at in 2018. The power-hitting DJ Peters, the club's No. 11 prospect, also comes back for the Drillers.
San Diego Padres: Double-A Amarillo Sod Poodles
Each San Diego affiliate is locked in with deep talent, but the Double-A Amarillo Sod Poodles bring a load of excitement, and not just from their inaugural season or unorthodox team name. The Sod Poodles feature southpaw Adrian Morejon, the No. 48th overall prospect and the sixth-ranked left-hander in baseball. The 20-year-old dominated last year in Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore, where he posted a 3.30 ERA with 70 strikeouts en route to earning a California League midseason All-Star berth. San Diego's No. 15 prospect Hudson Potts dazzled in big league camp and will start with Amarillo after posting a .260/.335/.455 line through two levels in the Minors last year. No. 24 Andres Munoz and No. 29 Reggie Lawson are high-ceiling right-handed arms fans can look forward to, along with No. 17 Buddy Reed, a speedy outfielder, and No. 26 Owen Miller, a shortstop.
San Francisco Giants: Class A Advanced San Jose Giants
The California League is already a fun place to watch hitters, but this year, there will be two particularly exciting bats there in top Giants prospects Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos. Baseball's No. 22 overall prospect Bart tallied a .294/.364/.588 slash line with 13 jacks and 40 RBIs in 51 games during his pro debut. San Francisco aggressively vaulted the No. 2 overall pick in last June's Draft over Class A, given his plus tools and age (22). Fresh off his full-season debut, he's joined by No. 90 overall prospect Ramos. The 2017 first-rounder led Class A Greensboro with 192 total bases as he showcased speed and power with 24 doubles, eight triples and 11 long balls. And if that wasn't enough, Giants No. 24 prospect Camilo Doval and his 70-grade fastball will be leading the San Jose bullpen.
Baltimore Orioles: Double-A Bowie Baysox
The main returns from the Manny Machado trade last year will start the season in the Eastern League. Top Orioles prospect Yusniel Díaz hopes to right the ship during his second go-round with the Baysox, and all signs are pointing in that direction -- he batted .333 during Spring Training. Ninth-ranked Dean Kremer enjoyed a strong showing upon his arrival to Bowie in 2018 and he'll start this season there. Another piece from that trade, No. 23 Rylan Bannon, is expected to man second base. No. 6 Keegan Akin, the reigning Eastern League Pitcher of the Year, will be back and the lefty will be looking to replicate his success from a year ago, while No. 18 Dillon Tate, the righty who came to Baltimore in the deal with the Yankees for Zack Britton, also rejoins the rotation. Some of these names may not be long for Bowie, moving to Triple-A Norfolk and beyond, the Baysox are definitely worth keeping an eye on to start the year.
Boston Red Sox: Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox
In a system lacking depth, the highest rung of the ladder will feature top-ranked prospect Michael Chavis trying to bash his way to The Show. No. 3 Bobby Dalbec -- arguably an even more thrilling hitter than Chavis -- could go directly from Double-A Portland to Fenway, but it's possible the pair of them will be rocketing back-to-back dingers out of McCoy Stadium for some stretch of the summer. Rusney Castillo, who led the International League with a .319 average and was tied for third with 31 doubles last year, figures to again look like a Major Leaguer trapped in the Minors for contract and luxury tax reasons. Righty Travis Lakins and lefty Bobby Poyner return after solid stints with the PawSox last year, and each could be plying his trade in the Majors before long. Look for No. 13 Mike Shawaryn to try to prove he belongs in the rotation.
New York Yankees: Class A Charleston RiverDogs
The Yankees are loaded with big arms in their system, and six of those flamethrowers will likely make up the RiverDogs' rotation to start the season. No. 10 prospect Roansy Contreras, No. 13 Luis Gil, No. 14 Luis Medina, No. 17 Matt Sauer and No. 29 Tanner Myatt are right-handers who consistently light up radar guns -- with Medina, Gil and Myatt able to flash triple digits. Alexander Vizcaino is expected to round out Charleston's staff, and his heater is consistently clocked in the mid- to high-90s. Last year's second-round Draft selection, Josh Breaux -- the club's No. 15 prospect -- will be behind the plate, where he may want to invest in some extra padding for his mitt. Breaux will share catching duties with veteran backstop Eduardo Navas. No. 25 Josh Stowers -- acquired in a trade with the Mariners in January -- will open the year in the RiverDogs' outfield.
Tampa Bay Rays: Double-A Montgomery Biscuits
Three of the Rays' top-10 prospects will start the season in Montgomery, including two of their top five. Two-way player Brendan McKay (No. 3) is set to begin his second full season as a professional, and his first no longer playing in the field. The No. 29 overall prospect has been more successful on the mound than at the plate thus far, so the Rays hope by removing his defensive duties he'll be able to focus more on improving his offensive numbers. He'll be joined in the top of the lineup by the No. 38 overall prospect Jesús Sánchez, who has hit .306 across four seasons in the Minors, and the club's No. 10 prospect Lucius Fox, who has stolen 84 bags in his three years as a pro. No. 15 Josh Lowe and No. 28 Tristan Gray also will open the year as Biscuits, providing the team a pair of strong, versatile defensive weapons.
Toronto Blue Jays: Triple-A Buffalo
Baseball's top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. should arrive when he's fully recovered from his oblique injury, and even if he's only in the International League for a brief time, that's enough to make the Bisons worth following. By the way, they also lay claim to No. 11 overall prospect Bo Bichette, who would be the most exciting prospect in most other systems with his plus-plus bat and good power potential. With Blue Jays No. 10 prospect Cavan Biggio also getting the bump to the Minors' highest level, the trio of sons of former Major Leaguers is back together after playing a big role in Double-A New Hampshire's run to an Eastern League title last season. There are other interesting assignments in the system (fourth-ranked Nate Pearson in Dunedin and No. 6 Jordan Groshans in Lansing), but each night, Toronto fans should be checking the Buffalo box score first to see how the next generation is progressing.
Chicago White Sox: Double-A Birmingham Barons
The rebuild for the White Sox is in full bloom, and the best place to get a glimpse of the bright future ahead for the South Siders may be in Birmingham this year. The Barons roster will most likely contain 13 of the organization's Top 30 prospects -- either to start the season or soon thereafter. Last year's first-round selection, Nick Madrigal, the fifth-ranked White Sox prospect, and No. 4 Luis Robert made cases to open in the Southern League after flashy showings at Spring Training. No. 8 Micker Adolfo, No. 9 Blake Rutherford, No. 10 Luis González, No. 12 Zack Collins, No. 17 Laz Rivera and No. 18 Gavin Sheets are coming off strong 2018 campaigns and should start the year with the Barons. Starters Alec Hansen (No. 15) and Jimmy Lambert (No. 19) and relievers Zach Thompson (No. 24) and Tyler Johnson (No. 28) will boost Birmingham's pitching staff. Seventh-ranked Luis Alexander Basabe will join the squad when he returns from injury in mid-May.
Cleveland Indians: Class A Lake County Captains
The Indians system is full of lower-level talents, with 15 of the club's top 30 prospects still awaiting their full-season debut. While many of those players will start the season in extended spring training, it is very likely they end up in the Midwest League. But Lake County fans won't have to wait that long to see big names with Indians No. 3 prospect Tyler Freeman and No. 4 Bo Naylor getting the Class A assignments. Freeman led all non-complex Indians with a .352 average while Naylor notched a .381 on-base percentage. Joining them will be Jose Fermin (No. 23), Will Benson (No. 25), Quentin Holmes (No. 27) and Marcos Gonzalez (No. 28). Plus, perhaps one of the most intriguing names in the Minors -- Brady Aiken. The 2014 first overall pick is returning to Lake County after spending all of 2018 on the injured list for no official reason.
Detroit Tigers: Double-A Erie
There's some pretty good dispersal across the Tigers system from fifth-ranked Daz Cameron in Triple-A Toledo to No. 12 Wenceel Perez in Class A West Michigan. But for the best concentration of talent, look no further than the Double-A affiliate in Erie. Coming off his 154-strikeout season, No. 51 overall prospect Matt Manning returns to the SeaWolves and will be joined by Detroit's No. 10 prospect Alex Faedo, No. 16 Logan Shore and No. 24 Anthony Castro in the rotation. That crew will throw to No. 13 Jake Rogers, one of the Minors' best defensive catchers, who will be out to prove his bat can play in his second Double-A turn. Fourth-ranked Isaac Paredes and No. 15 Sergio Alcántara highlight the system's middle-infield strength. Of course, the arrival of 2018 first overall pick Casey Mize looms large, and he should join the club from Class A Advanced Lakeland once it gets a little warmer across the Eastern League. There's plenty of talent to focus on until his arrival, though.
Kansas City Royals: Class A Advanced Wilmington Blue Rocks
If you want to see the next generation of Royals baseball, look no further than the Blue Rocks. Seven of the club's top-10 prospects will start in Wilmington, including four of the top five. Kansas City's top prospect Brady Singer (No. 53 overall) headlines the rotation and will be joined by fellow 2018 draftees Daniel Lynch (No. 4) and Jackson Kowar (No. 7). Third-year players MJ Melendez (No. 3) and Nick Pratto (No. 5) anchor the lineup, and sixth-ranked Seuly Matias and No. 10 Kyle Isbel will follow while roaming the outfield. Royals brass made it clear they're trying to establish a timeline in which this "new wave" hits the big leagues in the early 2020s; this looks like the first glimpse of that.
Minnesota Twins: Double-A Pensacola
The Twins have three Top-100 prospects. Two of them will begin the season in the Southern League, and the other probably isn't that far behind. No. 9 overall prospect Alex Kirilloff and No. 67 Brusdar Graterol will be Blue Wahoos to open 2019. Kirilloff opens on the injured list with a slight wrist injury, but he should be back soon. Meanwhile, 2017 top overall pick Royce Lewis, who combines with Kirilloff to form arguably the Minors' best prospect duo, will begin at Class A Advanced Fort Myers, but Minnesota's top prospect played 46 games there in 2018 and might just be back for a little extra seasoning. No. 17 Luis Arraez and No. 18 Jorge Alcala add some intrigue to the lineup and pitching staff respectively, but this mainly will be a top-heavy team in a top-heavy farm system.
Houston Astros: Triple-A Round Rock
Round Rock, which served as the top Rangers affiliate for eight seasons, returns in 2019 to the Astros organization for the first time since 2010, and the roster is loaded with some of Houston's highest-ranked prospects. Five of the top six Astros prospects -- No. 1 Forrest Whitley, No. 2 Kyle Tucker, No. 3 Yordan Alvarez, No. 5 Corbin Martin and No. 9 Cionel Pérez will begin the season with the Express alongside No. 14 Garrett Stubbs, No. 16 Myles Straw, No. 20 Dean Deetz and No. 24 Rogelio Armenteros. Houston's 2017 first-round pick Whitley, 21, is considered the best right-handed prospect in the game and the No. 7 overall prospect entering 2019. Tucker, a 22-year-old outfielder who batted .332 with 24 homers and 93 RBIs last season, enters 2019 as the No. 8 prospect in the game. Straw returns to the PCL after leading all of professional baseball with 70 stolen bases in 2018.
Los Angeles Angels: Double-A Mobile BayBears
At first glance, the easy answer here may be Triple-A Salt Lake, where six of the Angels' top-30 prospects will open the season. The likes of second-ranked Griffin Canning (No. 62 overall), No. 5 Jose Suarez and dual-threat standout Jared Walsh (No. 21) will start the season with the Bees. However, the BayBears also open with six of the club's top 30: No. 3 Brandon Marsh, No. 4 Jahmai Jones, No. 12 Patrick Sandoval, No. 23 Jesus Castillo, No. 24 Jack Kruger and No. 25 Jeremy Beasley. What ultimately tips the scales for Mobile is that all indications point to the organization's top prospect, Jo Adell (No. 14 overall), rejoining the BayBears when he returns from an injury he suffered during Spring Training. Anaheim's 2017 first-rounder climbed three levels of the Angels system last year and finished the season in the Southern League for 17 games. Adell is expected back at the end of May.
Oakland Athletics: Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators
While the top two A's arms aren't healthy to start the 2019 season, they should be helping to christen the new Las Vegas Ballpark when they get back on the mound. Lefty Jesus Luzardo, the No. 12 overall prospect, was shut down with a shoulder strain during Spring Training, and fellow southpaw A.J. Puk, No. 41 overall, is still on the comeback trail from Tommy John surgery last year. Given their stopping points the past two seasons, both are likely to see substantial time with Vegas this year. It isn't just the arms who are exciting in Sin City either. Catcher Sean Murphy -- No. 44 in the game -- will enter the final stage of his developmental track at the Minor Leagues' highest level, having finished 2018 there. Eighth-ranked Jorge Mateo and No. 9 Sheldon Neuse manned the left side of the infield at Triple-A last year and will do the same to begin this season.
Seattle Mariners: Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers
Despite their hot start to the 2019 season, the Mariners are still very much in the rebuilding process. After reshaping their Minor League ranks over the offseason, many of their most interesting pieces will get tested in the Pacific Coast League. Seattle's new top prospect, southpaw Justus Sheffield, is headed to Tacoma to start the year and form a one-two punch in the rotation with fellow acquisition Justin Dunn, a righty ranked third in the system. On the position player side, No. 11 Braden Bishop (outfielder) and No. 12 Shed Long (second baseman) should primarily spend time in Triple-A, and the dynamic duo of fourth-ranked Evan White (first baseman) and No. 7 Kyle Lewis (outfielder) could join them there with strong showings at the Double-A level.
Texas Rangers: Class A Hickory Crawdads
Former first-round Draft pick Bubba Thompson put together a solid season for the Crawdads in 2018, but he'll move up this season, opening a spot for another highly ranked prospect to make his full-season debut. Second-ranked Rangers prospect Julio Pablo Martinez will begin the year with the club after the outfielder spent last season in the Dominican Summer League and with Class A Short Season Spokane. No. 1 Hans Crouse, the 20-year-old right-hander who debuted in the Southern League last season and made five starts for Hickory, will start off back in the South Atlantic League. Other intriguing names include No. 12 Chris Seise at shortstop, No. 21 Sam Huff (catcher) and 2018 third-rounder Jonathan Ornelas (No. 18). It's also possible 2018 first-rounder Cole Winn, Texas' No. 3 prospect, will make his way to the team later in the season, much like Crouse did a year ago.