With the 2020 season rapidly approaching, MiLB.com looks at the state of all 30 farm systems and ranks them in several different ways. This second installment, broken into three parts, focuses on pitchers and considers the quality and quantity of talent in each system. The rankings, 20-11.
20. Minnesota Twins
Much of the recent talk involving the Twins and their pitchers has centered around the loss of Brusdar Graterol
in a trade with the Dodgers, but that's not to say Minnesota doesn't have other talented arms left within the system. Lewis Thorpe
already has seen big league time and should continue to vie for a spot in the Majors this year. No. 86 overall prospect Jordan Balazovic
made his second full Minor League season another strong one, moving up to Double-A Pensacola by the postseason and earning a spot at the Futures Game. The 21-year-old right-hander should continue his ascent with an impressive 65-grade fastball at Double-A Pensacola. He'll likely be joined by righty Jhoan Duran
, who's started to come into his own since he was acquired from the D-backs in 2018. Matt Canterino
will make his full-season debut this year after a promising entrance to the professional ranks. There's not a ton of flash within this group, but we won't say there isn't a lot to look forward to.
• Farm system rankings: Pitchers 30-21
19. Chicago Cubs Brailyn Marquez
has emerged not only as one of the best pitchers in the Cubs system, but as one of the best left-handed prospects in the game. After striking out 128 batters over 103 2/3 innings between Class A South Bend and Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach, the 21-year-old should continue to develop with the help of a fastball that regularly reaches triple digits. Injuries slowed the progress of Adbert Alzolay
the past two years, but if he can regain the form that saw him rise quickly in 2017, he can be a valuable asset in Chicago's arsenal. Ryan Jensen
will look to hit the ground running in his first full season after a strong stint with Class A Short Season Eugene last summer. Already possessing a great fastball, Jensen will be an intriguing watch in the Midwest League this year, if he can make strides with his breaking stuff. The development of Justin Steele
also was sidetracked by Tommy John surgery, but he should be an intriguing prospect this spring and as the season unfolds. The dropoff from Marquez and Alzolay is sharp, but there's enough excitement here to keep Cubs fans on their toes in 2020.
18. St. Louis Cardinals
In one of the biggest moves of the offseason, the Redbirds acquired Matthew Liberatore
from the Rays in an effort to boost the system's pitching depth. In bringing in the game's fourth-ranked left-handed prospect, the Cardinals picked up someone with a quality array of pitches, including a plus curveball that can garner plenty of punchouts. Another southpaw, Zack Thompson
, got his feet wet in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast and Class A Advanced Florida State Leagues last year and begins his first full year in the St. Louis system. From the right side, hard-throwing right-hander Junior Fernandez
should make an impact in the Cards bullpen, while Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo
hopes to bounce back after an up-and-down season with Double-A Springfield.
17. Cincinnati Reds
The club is headlined by two Top-100 arms in Hunter Greene
and Nick Lodolo
, both of whom bring promise to this up-and-coming group. Although Greene missed all of last season following Tommy John surgery, his electric fastball should come back into play and remain a consistent weapon for him on the mound. Lodolo got off to a good start after the Reds drafted him seventh overall last June and he'll begin his first full season as a pro in Spring Training with the big leaguers
. Tony Santillan
's fastball has always been his out pitch, but he'll continue to look to improve his secondary offerings as he climbs through the upper echelon of the Cincinnati system. Only 20 years old, right-hander Lyon Richardson
will get another full season under his belt after averaging nearly a strikeout per inning with Class A Dayton in 2019. It'll be interesting to see if this seemingly top-heavy group can get the most out of the prospects beyond Greene and Lodolo.
16. Philadelphia Phillies
Making it through the Florida State League with ease, No. 34 overall prospect Spencer Howard
moved on to the Eastern League and continued his dominant 2019 season, which helped him become an Organization All-Star with a 2.03 ERA and an 0.83 WHIP. The 23-year-old will get a chance to fully establish himself at the upper levels of the Minors as he knocks on the door of the big leagues. Adonis Medina
is also inching closer to The Show and can get there with a 60-grade fastball and strong slider. If he can limit contact (103 hits over 105 2/3 innings at Double-A Reading in 2019), the right-hander will continue to be more effective. Francisco Morales
notched 129 strikeouts over 96 2/3 Sally League frames, but still had a 1.32 WHIP. If he can limit the walks, look for the 21-year-old righty to take some big steps in 2020. Erik Miller
came into the system as a fourth-round pick out of Stanford and finished his first year with a 1.50 ERA across three levels. JoJo Romero
's stuff has never been questioned, but he compiled a 5.82 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP with Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley last season. He should be an intriguing watch heading into his third full season.
15. Chicago White Sox
You might have forgotten because it's been some time, but the White Sox still have Michael Kopech
. And, yes, he's still a prospect. The right-hander and his 80-grade fastball should make an impact again on the South Side after undergoing Tommy John surgery in September 2018. More on the Minor League side, Dane Dunning
also should be returning from elbow ligament replacement surgery after missing all of last season. The fifth-ranked White Sox prospect split the 2018 campaign between Class A Advanced Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham, putting up a 2.71 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP with 100 strikeouts over 86 1/3 innings. In terms of non-rehabbing arms, Jonathan Stiever
went from Kannapolis to Winston-Salem last year, and his ERA actually improved from 4.74 to 2.15. Third-round pick Andrew Dalquist
embarks on his first full season after throwing three innings in the Rookie-level Arizona League last summer, while Konnor Pilkington
struggled a bit after climbing from the South Atlantic to the Carolina League last May (4.99 ERA, 1.44 WHIP with Winston-Salem).
14. Seattle Mariners Logan Gilbert
made three stops in 2019, but wherever he went, he was one of the best pitchers in the Minors. Ending the year with Double-A Arkansas, the 22-year-old right-hander compiled a 2.13 ERA, a 0.95 WHIP and 165 strikeouts across 135 innings. The 2018 first-round pick is getting a look this spring at big league camp
in Arizona. Behind the game's No. 38 overall prospect, there's Justin Dunn
, who made his big league debut in September after coming over from the Mets. Although he dealt with control issues in Seattle, the 24-year-old found success in the Texas League with 158 strikeouts over 131 2/3 innings. No. 100 overall prospect George Kirby
, drafted 20th overall last June, will try to follow Gilbert's ascent in his first full season, while second-rounder Isaiah Campbell looks forward to his professional debut. Justus Sheffield
was all over the map a season ago and his ERA ballooned to 6.87 in the Pacific Coast League. He still has tools in his repertoire and should feature in the Seattle rotation at varying points this summer. A solid mix of ceiling and Major League-ready talent puts Seattle into the top half of these rankings.
13. Pittsburgh Pirates
Ranked as the No. 39 overall prospect to begin the season, Mitch Keller
leads the charge for Pittsburgh -- with good reason. The right-hander made his big league debut last year and still managed to record 123 strikeouts in 19 starts with Triple-A Indianapolis. He has all the stuff to become a frontline starter, which the Pirates hope he can be in the near future, even if his 7.13 ERA in the Majors last season looks scary on paper. Quinn Priester
was taken with the 18th overall pick in last year's Draft and averaged 10 strikeouts per nine innings while posting a 3.19 ERA between the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues. With an impressive fastball-curveball combination, there's a lot of promise for the 19-year-old right-hander. The Pirates essentially have two first-round arms after acquiring
teenage righty Brennan Malone
from the D-backs in the Starling Marte
deal. He brings a 65-grade fastball and a 60-grade slider, two plus pitches that'll make him a fun watch. Also, Tahnaj Thomas is expected to make his full-season debut after fanning 59 in 48 1/3 innings at Rookie Advanced Bristol. With a plus fastball and above-average slider, the 6-foot-4 right-hander is capable of giving Pittsburgh another Top-100 prospect when Keller inevitably graduates. It's that level of upside that makes Pittsburgh pitchers worth buying going into 2020.
• Farm system rankings: Position players 30-21
, 10-1 »
12. New York Yankees Deivi Garcia
made an impressive climb in 2019, beginning the season with Class A Advanced Tampa and ending it at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He begins this year as the No. 92 overall prospect after averaging 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings, although his ERA climbed to 5.40 in the International League. Luis Gil
used his fastball-curveball combo to dominate hitters in the South Atlantic League, racking up 112 strikeouts over 83 frames, though control has always been a problem. Former first-round pick Clarke Schmidt
gives New York two Top-100 prospects. He was solid in a cameo with Double-A Trenton and should make an impact at the Minors' higher levels this year. Albert Abreu
should be there with him, while 20-year-old right-hander Yoendrys Gomez
will look to get his legs under him in his first full Minor League season. Elsewhere, Luis Medina, Michael King, Roansy Contreras and Alexander Vizcaino are hard-throwing right-handers, providing a lot of depth beyond the top two.
11. Kansas City Royals
Just missing the top 10, the Royals still boast a strong crop of hurlers that starts with No. 59 overall prospect Brady Singer
. After posting a sub-2.00 ERA with Class A Advanced Wilmington, he got a shot in the Texas League and held his own with a 3.47 ERA. Right behind him is No. 61 Daniel Lynch
, who was limited to 96 1/3 innings by injury last season, but posted a 3.10 ERA in 15 starts for the Blue Rocks. Kris Bubic
led all Minor Leaguers with 185 strikeouts last season while putting up a 0.97 WHIP and holding opponents to a .199 batting average. He was even better in the playoffs as Wilmington won the Carolina League championship. Former first-rounder Jackson Kowar
has been remarkably consistent the past two years (3.53 ERA, 3.51 ERA) and appears set to climb to Triple-A Omaha. Add in other 2018 picks Austin Cox and Zach Haake, and Kansas City fans shouldn't have to squint too hard to see a potential Major League rotation built entirely out of homegrown arms coming in the next few years.
Andrew Battifarano is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, @AndrewAtBatt.