Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

Farm system rankings: Overall, 30-21

Brewers bring up rear; Indians, Cubs, Rangers could surge in '20
No. 42 overall prospect Nolan Jones could be the next big infield prospect to reach Cleveland. (David Monseur/MiLB.com)
March 2, 2020

With the 2020 season rapidly approaching, MiLB.com is looking at the state of all 30 farm systems and ranking them in different ways. After looking at position-player prospects (30-21, 20-11, 10-1), pitchers (30-21, 20-11, 10-1) and 21-and-under talent, the fourth and final installment focuses on the overall prospect talent level

With the 2020 season rapidly approaching, MiLB.com is looking at the state of all 30 farm systems and ranking them in different ways. After looking at position-player prospects (30-21, 20-11, 10-1), pitchers (30-21, 20-11, 10-1) and 21-and-under talent, the fourth and final installment focuses on the overall prospect talent level in each organization. Here are the rankings, 30-21:

 30. Milwaukee Brewers


Position players: 30; Pitchers: 30
There's no getting around this one. These are rough times on the Wisconsin farm. Milwaukee was the only organization that failed to land a prospect on MLB.com's Top-100 rankings for the 2020 season. Shortstop Brice Turang -- the club's 2018 first-round pick -- is the likeliest candidate to break into that echelon because of his plus speed and solid defense, and Tristen Lutz provides some excitement as a power-hitting outfielder. But Zack Brown and Corey Ray took steps back in 2019 and there isn't a real power prospect behind that group who looks able to break out. Part of this stems from the success of the big club. After the Brewers took the since-graduated Keston Hiura ninth overall in 2017, their last two picks have been in the 20s. (Ethan Small was drafted 28th overall last June out of Mississippi State.) It's on that Major League success that the Brewers will gladly hang their hat because it might be a while until the next franchise-altering homegrown talent comes through the system.

 29. Colorado Rockies


Position players: 25; Pitchers: 27
Yes, Brendan Rodgers still counts. MLB.com's No. 29 overall prospect is still rookie-elgible after a torn labrum cut his Major League time down to 76 at-bats. He's still big league-ready after torching Triple-A Albuquerque, and the thought in Rockies camp is that he'll be ready to return for good by May, giving Colorado its second baseman of the future right next to Trevor Story at short. That's the good news. The bad news is the system falls off pretty hard after Rodgers. Ryan Rolison has his fans with a solid three-pitch mix, but he struggled with a 4.87 ERA last season at Class A Advanced Lancaster. He's the group's best pitching prospect by far with a big drop to Ryan Castellani or Riley Pint. The rest of the position player group is infield-heavy with Michael Toglia, Ryan Vilade, Terrin Vavra and Colton Welker. Sam Hilliard showed promise with a 1.006 OPS in late Major League action last season, but the expectation is that he'll fall back to earth before long. A bounceback from Rolison could give the group a Top-100 prospect to replace Rodgers' graduation, but until that happens, these are low times on the road to Denver.

 28. Cincinnati Reds


Position players: 28; Pitchers: 17
The Reds claim two Top-100 prospects, both being first-round pitchers in No. 48 Nick Lodolo and No. 53 Hunter Greene. Lodolo is just getting his pro career going with three above-average pitches and impressive control from the left side, while Greene is hoping to show health [and a triple-digit fastball] again after Tommy John surgery knocked him out for all of 2019. Jonathan India -- the fifth overall pick in 2018 -- has seen his stock slip because of a lack of a true plus tool from the hot corner. If there's a player who could jump into the Top-100, it's shortstop Jose Garcia, a $5 million signee out of Cuba who was always gifted defensively but seems to be taking off offensively ahead of his age-22 season. Tyler Stephenson provides intrigue behind the plate. Overall, however, this group lacks guaranteed big league help, at least until Lodolo and Greene can make it through a full season.

 27. Boston Red Sox


Position players: 23; Pitchers: 29
This is a group that got definitively better by picking up No. 44 overall prospect Jeter Downs from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts-David Price deal, though that may not bring much solace to Boston fans. No. 77 Triston Casas gives the Red Sox two Top-100 prospects, and the powerful Bobby Dalbec likely sits just outside that elite group. The speedy Jarren Duran [and his above-average hit tool] will be another bat Sox fans have grown to know. But it's pitching that brings this group down. There have always been high hopes for Jay Groome, but he's yet to pitch anything close to a full season since getting taken in the first round of the 2016 Draft, due to Tommy John surgery and other issues. Noah Song has the ceiling of a strong Major League starter, but he may not be a full-time pitcher until 2022 because of his Navy commitments. Tanner Houck looks more and more like a reliever. Bryan Mata holds most of the water for this group with three above-average pitches, yet even he could end up in a bullpen. There are some pieces to hang their hats on, but with so many question marks even among the top prospects -- Does Downs have a plus tool? Can Casas hit enough to provide value at first base? -- the Sox find themselves down here.

 26. Washington Nationals


Position players: 18; Pitchers: 24
A tale as old as baseball itself -- the defending World Series champion has a down farm system. It happens. Washington will gladly take the graduations of Juan Soto, who's still only 21, and Victor Robles over the last two seasons that helped them win the Commissioner's Trophy last fall. Infielder Carter Kieboom is the next obvious candidate to join those two in the capital, coming off his spot as a Pacific Coast League end-of-season All-Star. Pay little attention to his brief time in the Majors in 2019. MLB.com's No. 21 overall prospect brings an impact bat to the table and finds at opening at third base following the departure of Anthony Rendon. Elsewhere, No. 97 Luis Garcia holds on to his Top-100 status, but he'll have much to prove coming off a down season in which he was aggressively challenged in Double-A at age 19. There's hope that Jackson Rutledge could gain Top-100 status in his first full season after getting drafted in the first round last June, and the 6-foot-8 right-hander will have to show improved control in the pros to make that happen. After that trio, it's tough to find obvious impact players with depth a serious issue, especially once Kieboom graduates in 2020. Late Draft picks will make that top-level depth difficult to replenish in 2020, but the Nats will take the championship tradeoff. 

 25. Houston Astros


Position players: 29; Pitchers: 10
Having just one Top-100 prospect isn't great. Having it be No. 19 Forrest Whitley isn't the worst thing in the world. Sure, Whitley faces many questions, particularly in the command department, after a lost 2019 season that was supposed to see him in the Majors, but anyone would be hard-pressed to find as good an overall arsenal as the one owned by the right-hander, who'll be only 22 for almost all of the coming campaign. Meanwhile, Jose Urquidy already looks prepared to slot right into Houston's rotation, while Abraham Toro and Bryan Abreu have shown enough to impact the Major League as role players, at least, in 2020. Cristian Javier and Brandon Bielak might not be far behind. That said, it could be a bit of drought at the lower levels, with Freudis Nova and Korey Lee leading the next tier having not played above Class A. Astros fans should be happy to see Urquidy, Toro and Abreu [and perhaps Whitley] get enough time to graduate from prospect status this summer. They may not want to look at what the system possesses afterwards and, with no first- or second-round picks the next two years, it's going to get worse before it gets better.

 24. New York Mets


Position players: 17; Pitchers: 25
It's a youth movement on the road to Queens. The Mets placed four prospects among MLB.com's Top 100 -- Ronny Mauricio (No. 62), Francisco Alvarez (No. 63), Andres Gimenez (No. 84) and Brett Baty (No. 93) -- and none is older than 21. That won't change if third baseman Mark Vientos (20) or right-hander Matthew Allan (18) jumps into the Top 100 anytime soon. The upper levels will be where New York finds itself especially thin, with Thomas Szapucki and David Peterson providing only slight sparks of excitement. Even with the talented youth, the system takes a hit for not having a player in the top half of the Top 100. Given their ages and potential for growth, the four in the back half certainly are capable of making those jumps in 2020, particularly Mauricio and Alvarez. If they do, expect this group to climb out of the bottom 10 next year.

 23. Texas Rangers


Position players: 16; Pitchers: 23
What to make of the Rangers system. On one hand, it boasts only two Top-100 prospects. Josh Jung (No. 55) and Sam Huff (No. 74) certainly could feature in the middle of the Texas lineup some day because of their offensive potential, and the concept of Huff forming a power partnership with Joey Gallo is tantalizing. But two among that group is certainly below average. On the other hand, Leody Taveras has his fair share of fans going into what is just his age-21 season and Nick Solak and Joe Palumbo are basically Major League-ready as top-10 prospects in the system. Throw in former Top-100 prospect Hans Crouse, up-and-comer Sherten Apostel and a faraway player like Maximo Acosta, and it's a fairly diverse mix of young talent coming through the pipeline. A top-tier prospect or a few more Top-100 names would make this group look a lot better, and the Rangers just might fill those quotas in the coming months.

 22. Chicago Cubs


Position players: 19; Pitchers: 19
This is an improved system from a year ago, when Chicago slotted in 29th in these rankings. Breakouts by No. 68 overall prospect Brailyn Marquez and No. 78 Brennen Davis helped push the Cubbies higher. Marquez, who pumps into the triple digits and features an above-average slider, is starting to look the part of a solid Major League starter, while Davis scores above-average to plus grades on all five of his tools, with his power potentially coming in the loudest. Elsewhere, No. 51 Nico Hoerner overcame injuries to push to the Majors last September and his incredible ability to make contact has him in the running for the open spot at second base. No. 95 Miguel Amaya rounds out the Cubs' Top-100 contingent, thanks to his all-around potential behind the plate. The depth is lacking after this group, and that keeps Chicago from jumping out of the bottom 10, but the arrow is pointing up.

 21. Cleveland Indians


Position players: 15; Pitchers: 21
It's easy to say that the 21st-best farm system is the one to bet on among the bottom 10, but the Tribe has all the ingredients to surge much higher a year from now. The club boasts only two Top-100 prospects in Nolan Jones (No. 42) and Tyler Freeman (No. 96), yet if there is a strength here, it's in young high-ceiling talent. Outfielder George Valera and middle infielders Brayan Rocchio and Aaron Bracho all have their backers coming off seasons at Class A Short Season, and all three will be teenagers this year. Right-handers Daniel Espino and Ethan Hankins both have Top-100 potential as first-round picks and just need experience to show off their arsenals in the Minors. Triston McKenzie was once the top prospect in this group before a back injury sidelined him for all of 2019. A full-time return to the mound could send him right back into the mix. Bo Naylor has shown potential on both sides of the ball, entering his second full season as a Minor League backstop. Don't sleep on Cleveland just because it has only two names among the Top 100 -- it could have a few more by the midseason Top-100 update. Until that happens, however, No. 21 will have to do.

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