Minor League Ball's 2016 MLB farm System Rankings
If you read too much post-modern philosophy, you may realize that lists like this are fraught with trouble. For example, everyone knows the Braves farm system has more talent than the Tigers farm system. However, the two organizations have adopted very different philosophies, so saying that the Tigers have a "bad" farm system can be somewhat misleading and could imply negative things about their scouts or player development personnel that aren’t true.
In other words, be careful with lists like this. As with everything it is a moving target and the general tiers are more important than exact placement. Also remember that the rankings refer to talent currently in the minor league system, or players on the projected big league roster who are still rookies entering 2016. A team could be in a down phase cycle but still have a good reputation for talent development.
The lists look for a balance between upside and broader depth.
ELITE: These organizations clearly rank as the top group in my opinion, though you could quibble about the exact placements.
1) Los Angeles Dodgers: With three elite prospects (Corey Seager, Julio Urias, Jose De Leon) at the top, considerable depth beyond them, and the ability and willingness to spend gobs of money on player acquisition and development, the Dodgers have built the strongest farm system in baseball. Click here for overview. 2015 Rank: 4th.
2) Atlanta Braves: Except maybe for the Braves. This system was quite thin a few years ago but a series of impact trades and more aggressive drafting improved the situation quickly, with pitching, defense, and speed as particular strengths. They aren’t far behind the Dodgers. Click here for overview. 2015 Rank: 12th.
3) Houston Astros: The Astros have outstanding depth and Jeff Luhnow’s front office has shown they can find players featuring both upside and polish. They draft well, trade well, and sign strong international free agents. Click here for overview. 2015 Rank: 10th
4) Colorado Rockies: Coors Field presents a unique set of player development challenges. Trades, early round drafting, and a consistently solid Latin American program have kept this system in the upper tier. They are particularly strong with position players led by Ryan McMahon, Brendan Rodgers, Trevor Story, and David Dahl: Click here for overview. 2015 Rank: 9th.
5) Milwaukee Brewers: Dramatically improved through drafting of upside talent (which began under the old front office) plus astute prospect trades, the Brewers leap from the "so-so" ranks last year into the elite. There’s a good balance of hitting and pitching here. Click here for overview. 2015 Rank 24th:
STRONG: These organizations may not have quite as much firepower or depth as the top five, but they should be considered very productive with a chance to move into the top group soon.
6) Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox have three excellent hitting prospects at the top with Rafael Devers, Yoan Moncada, and Andrew Benintendi. Pitching is less impressive though Anderson Espinosa is increasingly recognized as an elite arm. There isn’t quite as much depth in mid-range prospects but the Sox are far from weak. Click here for overview. 2015 Rank: 2nd.
7) Texas Rangers: Thinned slightly due to trades and graduations but still one of the strongest in the game, particularly with high-upside position players like Lewis Brinson, Nomar Mazara, and Joey Gallo. More pitching would be helpful. Click here for overview. 2015 Rank: 5th
8) Minnesota Twins: Thinned slightly due to graduations, like the Rangers, but still strong, like the Rangers. Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios and Max Kepler lead the next wave. With a less favorable draft position and smaller bonus pool, it will be interesting to see what happens next. Click here for overview. 2015 Rank: 3rd.
9) Tampa Bay Rays: Impressing pitching depth led by Blake Snell, Taylor Guerrieri, and Brent Honeywell is the headline here. Finding more bats will be key to further improvement but they’ve made strides in the right direction. Click here for overview. 2015 Rank: 19th.
10) Philadelphia Phillies: Another team that has improved quickly due to trades and drafting; the old front office had made good progress even before the turnover. You can make a good case for as high as sixth here. Hitting is ahead of pitching at present. Click here for overview. 2015 Rank: 20th.
SOLID: This is the broad mass of farm systems that are neither extremely strong nor especially weak. Some have good impact talent but need more depth, others have depth but need more potential stars. These systems have nothing to be ashamed of.
11) Cincinnati Reds: This actually feels too low intuitively: the Reds farm system is under-rated and you can make a good case for as high as seventh. Pitching led by Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, and Amir Garrett is quite strong. They could use more bats. Overview. 2015 Rank: 14th.
12) Pittsburgh Pirates: Like the Reds and Phillies, the Pirates have a case for ranking higher. Pitching is the big strength here behind Tyler Glasnow but the system feels a bit short on power bats. Overview. 2015 Rank: 7th.
13) Cleveland Indians: I seem to be repeating myself but the Indians are another club considered as high as sixth. Offense is quite promising with Bradley Zimmer, Clint Frazier, and Bobby Bradley, and there are several under-rated pitching arms. A year from now they could be in the top five. Overview. 2015 Rank: 21st.
14) New York Yankees: The Yankees dumped an enormous amount of money into the international market in 2014. It is too soon to know how that will work out but some of their best recent successes have been with lower-bonus players who took leaps forward. Watch for right-hander Domingo Acevedo this year. Overview. 2015 Rank: 13th.
15) St. Louis Cardinals: Although not as deep as a few years ago, this is still a solid system with several very intriguing pitching arms and a standard Cardinals emphasis on strong college performers in the middle rounds. Overview. 15 Rank: 15th.
16) Chicago Cubs: This system is down considerably from a year ago but for all the right reasons: the best prospects graduated and led to a massive improvement at the major league level. The farm is in a recharging mode at this point but remains respectable. Overview. 2015 Rank: 1st.
17) Washington Nationals : Quite intriguing at the top with Lucas Giolito, Trea Turner, and A.J. Cole ready to help now. There are additional high-upside players like Victor Robles and Anderson Franco who need full-season experience and could push this system much higher up the list next year if they develop well. Overview. 2015 Rank: 16th.
18) Oakland Athletics: A mid-range system improved from a year ago thanks to development of power bats and some trades; new wave of position players like Matt Olson, Chad Pinder, Matt Chapman, and Renato Nunez will be ready soon with Franklin Barreto not far behind. Overview. 2015 Rank: 27th.
19) Arizona Diamondbacks: Mid-tier system thinned some due to trades and graduations, still features a group of live arms and intriguing potential role players but needs more impact talent. Overview. 2015 Rank: 11th.
20) San Francisco Giants: The Giants never seem to rank highly on lists like this but they churn out players year after year and have a knack for getting the most out of Grade C+ type prospects. While not as deep in high upside players as some clubs, it is hard to knock their approach. Overview. 2015 Rank: 22nd.
SO-SO: These are systems that have weaknesses but are not hopeless. Some could improve into solidness soon; others are reputable systems in a temporary down phase.
21) New York Mets: Graduations thinned this system quickly compared to last year, but as with the Cubs that’s a good thing. Lack of impact offense will need attention. Overview. 2015 Rank: 6th.
22) Kansas City Royals: Rather thin at present, though the 2015 draft brought in some very intriguing live arms. Lack of impact bats is a significant issue going forward. Sharp split between tools and skills with many of their prospects. Overview. 2015 Rank; 18th.
23) San Diego Padres: Considerable turnover in this system due to trades but they still rank about the same as they did a year ago. Could look much better a year from now if Javier Guerra and Ruddy Giron thrive as a DP combo; also watch for pitchers Jacob Nix and Logan Allen. There is raw material here, we just need to see how it shakes out. Overview. 2015 Rank: 25th.
24) Chicago White Sox: As usual, the White Sox offer some live pitching arms (led by Carson Fulmer this year) and a nice group of athletes learning to play the game, with Tim Anderson the most advanced, but lack of hitting depth is a concern. Overview. 15 Rank: 23rd.
25) Toronto Blue Jays: Thinned by recent graduations, this system offers potential impact bats Anthony Alford, Richard Urena, and Rowdy Tellez but beyond them the best hopes are guys at the very lowest levels such as Vlad Guerrero Jr. Depth declines quickly behind the top group. Overview. 2015 Rank: 8th.
THIN: These systems have a weaker current minor league talent base than the ones ahead of them and will take more time and focused effort to recharge.
26) Seattle Mariners: Something went very wrong with many Mariners hitting prospects last year and it remains to be seen if the new front office can change that. There’s some pitching ov note but most of it won’t be ready quickly, right-hander Edwin Diaz being the main exception. Overview. 2015 Rank: 17th.
27) Baltimore Orioles: This system isn’t totally empty but is well behind the rest of the division. They really need to find a way to keep their best arms healthy. Bats like Jomar Reyes, Chance Sisco, and Trey Mancini are interesting but they need more. Overview. 2015 Rank: 26th.
28) Detroit Tigers: The Tigers usually rank low on these lists yet they always seem to have someone that other teams want in trades. We’ll have to see if the changes in the front office alter that but I don’t think anyone has ever blamed the scouts; the Tigers had a specific strategy and executed it well for years. There is some potential here for rapid improvement if 2015 draftees Beau Burrows and Christin Stewart live up to their early performances. Overview. 2015 Rank: 30th.
29) Miami Marlins: Like the teams immediately above them, the Marlins aren’t totally hopeless compared to the Angels but that is damning with faint praise. There are some interesting talents here like Stone Garrett, Brett Lilek, and Josh Naylor, but the disappointing season from Tyler Kolek was a blow. Overview. 2015 Rank: 29th
UGHHHH: The Angels get a special category of badness all their own.
30) Los Angeles Angels: The best Angels prospect, catcher Taylor Ward, wouldn’t be a top ten guy in most systems. Trades gutted an already very weak system and this is now a complete from-the-ground-up rebuild project. There’s no way to spin it: this may be the worst system in recent memory. Overview, click at your own risk. 2015 Rank: 28th