I must admit, I do love the MiLBYs that MiLB.com does at the end of the season. If you aren't aware of what they are, they are emblematic of what makes Minor League Baseball great, honoring everything from the best promotion to the best photograph. In between, they touch on some really good players and farm systems.
They revealed their Best Farm System results recently, with the staff vote going to the New York Yankees and the fan vote going to the Philadelphia Phillies. It's hard to argue with those two, but there are others that will be in the mix. The winter meetings haven't even begun yet, meaning several systems could still be reshaped, so it may be entirely too early to name 2017's best farm system, but where's the fun in waiting?
So, who has your vote?
The Phillies are certainly a force to be reckoned with. The have the best catching prospect in the game (Jorge Alfaro) backed up by a top ten catching prospect (Andrew Knapp). They have arguably the best shortstop prospect in the game in J.P. Crawford. Most importantly, they have depth, with names like Franklyn Kilome and Cornelius Randolph having nice seasons in the SAL, and Mickey Moniak looking every bit the part of a first round pick. The will also have some fun power to watch at Triple-A next season in Rhys Hoskins and Dylan Cozens. Some question how big league ready their bats truly are (especially with Cozens hone/away splits in Reading's hitter friendly confines), but they will be exciting in Lehigh Valley nonetheless.
The Yankees are without a doubt the most improved farm system in the game. Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, Justus Sheffield, Dillon Tate all came over via deadline deals and Blake Rutherford was an absolute steal at No. 18 in this year's draft. Those five pieces alone will likely be part of a very impressive top ten prospects. While Torres and future double play mate Jorge Mateo are at least a year (likely a bit more) away, Yankees fans hope to see names like Frazier, Jordan Montgomery, Chance Adams, Dietrich Enns and of course, Aaron Judge contribute at the big league level in 2017. There is a lot of talent, and like the Phillies, it runs deep with James Kaprielian, Rutherford, Torres and Mateo just touching the surface.
The Atlanta Braves farm system is pretty sick. They honestly may not have anything but A and B grade prospects in their Top 20. The problem is, most of their prospects are at least a year away, if not more. As many of you know, I had the honor of covering the SAL Champion Rome Braves this past season. That rotation alone (Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Touki Toussaint, Ricardo Sanchez and Patrick Weigel) is enough to get a farm system high praise. Throw in Austin Riley, and under-the-radar guys like Ray Patrick Didder and Devan Watts, this system is much deeper than the buzz around Ozzie Albies' imminent big league debut and the elite left-handed arm of Sean Newcomb.
I remember when I wrote about the strength of the Indians Top Ten prospects at midseason (before they traded some away) and a commenter (GoldenSpikes24) made a remark that stuck with me. He said he didn't care how deep your six through ten prospects were if you didn't have a few absolute studs at the top (there was more to his analysis, but that's the abbreviated version). That would make the Boston Red Sox a contender for best farm system, right? Yoan Moncada and Andrew Benintendi are arguably the two best prospects in the entire game, and the Red Sox will likely have both in 2017. Throw in Rafael Devers, Michael Kopech and Mauricio Dubon along with the hype behind Jason Groome, and this organization has enough star power to make every team jealous. The one thing to be cautious of is that the Red Sox have shown in the past they aren't afraid to deal elite prospects for veteran help, so this system could change come January.
How about the Milwaukee Brewers? They made some big changes at the deadline as well and their Top 10 prospects present exciting possibilities. Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz, Phil Bickford and the drafting of Corey Ray make this farm system infinitely better than it has been in some time. If the Ryan Braun trade rumors are true, these guys could get better and boost themselves into top spot consideration.
Of course the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, and St. Louis Cardinals still have deep farm systems. For all the high-priced (or is it over-priced?) talent the Dodgers have on the big league level, they still always have some exciting prospects, don't they? Are Willie Calhoun, Alex Verdugo, Cody Bellinger and Yadier Alvarez (amongst many others) enough to boost them to the top? Is the Southern League MVP season of Tyler O'Neill and breakout of Luiz Gohara enough to get the Seattle Mariners some votes? And how good is the Indians pipeline, despite trading away some big time names? Bobby Bradley, Bradley Zimmer, Francisco Mejia and Triston McKenzie aren't a bad mix at the top, and then they have Brady Aiken working his way back as well.
So, what do you think? Who has the best system for 2017?