2017 Farm System Rankings
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 2017. A team could be in a down phase cycle on the farm but still have a talented young MLB roster (the Cubs) and a good reputation for talent development.
The lists look for a balance between upside and broader depth. This is based on my personal opinion and analysis. All responsibility for good or ill is mine.
ELITE: These organizations clearly rank as the top group in my opinion, though you could quibble about the exact placements.
1) Atlanta Braves: Particularly strong up the middle and in pitching but could use more power bats; in general the depth here is very impressive and the system is greatly improved compared to three years ago. Click here for overview. 2015 Rank: 12th; 2016 Rank 2nd.
2) New York Yankees: Actually have more hitters than the Braves, but pitching isn’t quite as good in upside terms; you can make a case to rank the Yankees ahead. Both are certainly elite. Trades improved depth here. Click here for overview. 2015 Rank: 13th; 2016 Rank 14th
3) San Diego Padres: Dramatic improvement over the last 18 months thanks to trades and heavy Cuban prospect investment with a nice mixture of upside and depth. Click here for overview. 2015 Rank: 25th; 2016 Rank 23rd
4) Chicago White Sox: Another rapid turnaround thanks mainly to trades, with pitching depth the main strength. Click here for overview. 2015 Rank: 23rd; 2016 Rank 24th
5) Pittsburgh Pirates: Another system with impressive pitching led by Tyler Glasnow and Mitch Keller. Click here for overview. 2015 Rank: 7th; 2016 Rank 12th
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) Colorado Rockies: Coors Field presents a unique set of player development challenges. I am higher on the Rockies system than other observers but I like the mix of position players and their pitchers would get more respect if they were heading into a more neutral environment. Click here for overview. 2015 Rank: 9th; 2016 Rank 4th.
7) Milwaukee Brewers: Another system improved dramatically over the last 18-24 months with trades and more robust drafting. Would look even better if not for a few disappointing bats last year. Overview. 2015 Rank 24th; 2016 Rank 5th
8) St. Louis Cardinals: In my opinion this system is under-rated by many observers, despite the loss of Alex Reyes; good mix of hitting and pitching, upside and polish. Overview. 2015 Rank: 15th; 2016 Rank 15th
9) Philadelphia Phillies: Sense a persistent theme here? This is another club that has improved rapidly compared to two years ago; good depth in C+/B- types. Overview. 2015 Rank: 20th; 2016 Rank 10th.
10) Cleveland Indians: Like the Cardinals, the Indians strike me as generally under-rated; a balanced system with a mix of pitching, power bats, and speed. Overview. 2015 Rank: 21st; 2016 Rank 13th
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) Houston Astros: Broad array of talent with outstanding depth. The Astros have a case as high as sixth. Overview. 2015 Rank: 10th; 2016 Rank 3rd.
12) Tampa Bay Rays: Very solid overall, although where you want to rank this system exactly depends on how you view "eye of the beholder" type prospects like Jose De Leon and Casey Gillaspie. Overview. 2015 Rank: 19th; 2016 Rank 9th.
13) Los Angeles Dodgers: Thinned compared to last year due to trades and graduations, but they should recharge quickly. Watch out for Yadier Alvarez. Overview. 2015 Rank: 4th; 2016 Rank: 1st.
14) Cincinnati Reds: A generally solid system with good mid-range depth, though not quite as much impact talent as some of the club ahead of them. Overview. 2015 Rank: 14th; 2016 Rank 11th.
15) Minnesota Twins: Thinned compared to two years ago due to graduations but I think they stabilize here and start moving back up soon. Overview. 2015 Rank: 3rd; 2016 Rank 8th
16) Oakland Athletics: On the upswing over last two years although not as much as some clubs; much depends on how fatigued you are with Renato Nunez and Matt Olson; don’t underestimate the pitching. Overview. 2015 Rank: 27th; 2016 Rank 18th
17) 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. I made the same comment last year but it still applies, as it does every year. Overview. 2015 Rank: 22nd; 2016 Rank 20th
18) Chicago Cubs: Like the Twins, the Cubs should stabilize here and start moving back up the rankings as next wave moves up. Overview. 2015 Rank: 1st; 2016 Rank 16th
19) Toronto Blue Jays: Although ranked 19th this cannot be considered a "below average" system and has a case as high as 12th. Expect impact from Vlad Guerrero Jr and Sean Reid-Foley although overall depth not as broad as some. Overview. 2015 Rank: 8th; 2016 Rank 25th
20) New York Mets: As with the Jays, this shouldn’t be considered an insult; I am quite high on Amed Rosario and Robert Gsellman, but would like to see more impact depth; if Andres Gimenez and Gregory Guerrero thrive as they move up, this will improve quickly. Overview. 2015 Rank: 6th; 2016 Rank 21st
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) Texas Rangers: Good mix of C+ types but not as much impact/upside as typical for the Rangers; I imagine this is cyclical and will improve quickly. Overview. 2015 Rank: 5th; 2016 Rank 7th.
22) Washington Nationals : Big trade with the White Sox tore the top off this farm system. Watch out for Juan Soto, outfielder with excellent bat. Overview. 2015 Rank: 16th; 2016 Rank 17th
23) Seattle Mariners: Good news is improvement from some hitting prospects after disastrous 2015. Max Povse and Robert Whalen over from Braves should make quick impact on mound. Overview. 2015 Rank: 17th; 2016 Rank 26th
24) Boston Red Sox: I love Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers but trades have emptied this system from what it would otherwise be. There's still decent depth in C+ types. Certainly not a weak system but needs some time to recharge. Overview. 2015 Rank: 2nd; 2016 Rank 6th.
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.
25) Kansas City Royals: In my view there is a big drop-off between the Red Sox and Royals. A shadow of what this was before the post-season runs. Overview. 2015 Rank; 18th; 2016 Rank 22nd
26) Detroit Tigers: As usual the Tigers rank low on the farm system list. As usual they have some power arms with several who could fit in pen, as well as depth in potentially good role players. Christin Stewart looks like only impact bat. Overview. 2015 Rank: 30th; 2016 Rank 28th
27) Baltimore Orioles: Like the Tigers, the Orioles usually rank low on these lists and that hasn't changed this year. There are some interesting players like Trey Mancini and Chance Sisco, but when one of your top 10 prospects is a Rule 5 pick, your farm system isn't thriving. Overview. 2015 Rank: 26th; 2016 Rank 27th
28) Los Angeles Angels: This system needed a complete rebuild after years of neglect. There are signs of life, enough to move them out of the basement, Overview. 2015 Rank 28th; 2016 Rank 30th
29) Arizona Diamondbacks: Lacks impact talent and overall depth is disappointing. We all know why. While the system is not completely empty, what happened here was malpractice. Overview. 2015 Rank: 11th; 2016 Rank 19th
30) Miami Marlins: We all know what the problem here is. It starts at the ownership level. If you want hope, there are some viable arms but a disturbing dearth of bats. Overview. 2015 Rank: 29th; 2016 Rank 29th