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Keith Law's opinion of farm systems:
I've done these rankings for the past few years, and I was surprised at how few farm systems there were this year that had both impact and depth, fewer than in any of the previous years in which I've gone through this exercise. Some of that reflects all of the major promotions that took place in 2012, but we've also hit a slightly down period in the cycle of farm system quality.
1. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals have drafted well, fared well in Latin America, traded well and developed well over the past five years, fulfilling the main goals of a farm system: Provide talent for the major league roster, and provide currency for trades to do the same.St. Louis has shown a willingness to use young players in minor roles, with some of them graduating to full-time roles, a process I think will be easier under current manager Mike Matheny -- and it's a good thing, as the system is bursting with players who look like they'll be ready for the majors in the next year and who project as average regulars or more.
There at least five guys in the Cardinals' system -- if we include Tyrell Jenkins, who's coming off a shoulder injury -- who project as mid-rotation starters or better. Two of them -- Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal -- are ready now. They've got the minors' best pure offensive prospect in Oscar Taveras, their usual assortment of unheralded relief prospects and plenty of depth in the type of bat-first college position prospects they've had success with over the past few years, a strategy that helped yield guys like Allen Craig and Matt Carpenter.They're in extremely good position to keep the major league club in contention for another five years without forcing them to ratchet up the payroll, and should produce a few rookie of the year candidates in that period, as well.
2. Minnesota Twins
The Twins placed more players on my top 100 (seven) than any other team, only one of whom was initially signed by another organization, and they added a former top-100 guy, Trevor May, in a trade this offseason. Their system is particularly strong in center field, enough that they're working on converting Eddie Rosario to second base, and has more power arms with a chance to start than it has at any point in the past decade.The major league team is down, and isn't going to turn it all around in a year, but there's a lot of talent coming around which the Twins can build another contender.
3. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays had some setbacks among their highest-profile prospects this past year, but added a top-10 prospect in Wil Myers, a top-100 prospect in Jake Odorizzi and a former top-100 prospect in Mike Montgomery in the James Shields trade. They're deepest in power arms, although many of them are a grade or two of command below where they'll need to be to profile as starters, and right now their next impact bat after Myers would be in low Class A or short-season ball.
4. Houston Astros
The Astros had the second most money to spend in last June's draft and used it extremely wisely, landing the second player on my draft board and four other players off my top 60, while also adding some lower-ceiling talent through trades of the few valuable assets the new front office inherited. Their top two picks from 2010, Delino DeShields Jr. and Mike Foltynewicz, bounced back from disappointing first years to re-establish their prospect value, as well.
5. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs' rebuilding process isn't much further along than the Twins' or the Astros' in terms of time, but they spent extravagantly in the international market before the new CBA's restrictions went into effect last summer, landing the Cuban toolshed Jorge Soler (and the Cuban flop Gerardo Concepcion, but we're not going to talk about him), then later using their international pool money on the Dominican pitcher with an electric arm currently known as Juan Carlos Paniagua, who has gone through more names than the thief known as Parker. The Cubs also scored big in last year's draft, addressing the system's lack of starting pitching candidates while also bulking up its depth in outfield prospects.
6. San Diego Padres
My top system from last year graduated several players to the majors, saw a few significant injuries to top pitching prospects but then added a ton of high school pitching talent through a very strong draft. The system's weakness is in near-ready talent, where only infielder Jedd Gyorko and right-hander Casey Kelly are likely to be significant contributors this year, with lefty Robbie Erlin a possible option for the back of the rotation.
7. Pittsburgh Pirates
Their top two pitching prospects rival any club's at this point, with Gerrit Cole likely to reach the majors this year and Jameson Taillon probably a year behind, while their low Class A West Virginia roster was one of the strongest teams for prospects, including up-the-middle bats, last spring. The knee injury that wiped out nearly all of 2011 bonus baby Josh Bell's season after his awful (tiny-sample) start hurts, as he needed those repetitions at the plate and in the field.
8. Seattle Mariners
The Mariners still have that raft of starting pitching prospects, with Victor Sanchez and Brandon Maurer stepping up as James Paxton took a step back. Their first pick in the draft, Mike Zunino, might be the first position player from that draft class to reach the majors.
9. Texas Rangers They have Jurickson Profar, arguably the top prospect in baseball, three guys in the back half of the top 100, and as much talent from their short-season rosters last year as any organization in baseball, primarily on the position-player side. Their international spending spree had to end under the new CBA, but many of the fruits of those efforts are just now reaching full-season leagues, setting the Rangers up well to maintain their contender status for several more years.
10. New York Yankees
t's a top-heavy system, but the group of position players who started in low Class A Charleston last year, some of whom finished in high-A Tampa, could produce as many as three above-average or better regulars plus several other guys who'll have big league value. They'd rank even higher had they not lost two major starting pitching prospects to season-long injuries, with one, Manny Banuelos, probably out now until 2014.
11. Kansas City Royals
The Royals aren't well represented on my top 100 (although two prospects they just traded are on it), but they've got more sleeper/breakout candidates than any other organization. I could go more than 10 deep and still make good arguments for those prospects to jump on to the list next year, guys like Jorge Bonifacio, Adalberto Mondesi, Miguel Almonte and Kenny Diekroeger. I didn't like the trade for James Shields, but I still really like the overall direction of things in Kansas City when you look from top to bottom.
12. Cincinnati Reds
They have this really fast guy you may have heard of, and actually saw some strong debuts for 2012 draft guys and have three starting pitching prospects already marching up through full-season ball, one of whom, Tony Cingrani, got a cup of coffee in September.
13. Baltimore Orioles
Dylan Bundy emerged as the minors' best pitching prospect in 2012, while their first pick from last year's draft, Kevin Gausman, was one of the hottest names in Florida instructional league in September. They'd rank higher had Manny Machado not lost his rookie eligibility in September.
14. New York Mets
The R.A. Dickey trade really boosted their system, and several Latin American arms had strong years in 2012 to bolster the system's total value. First-rounder Gavin Cecchini could move quickly for a prep kid, as he's pretty advanced for a teenager and doesn't have much blocking him at shortstop.
15. Arizona Diamondbacks
Dealing Trevor Bauer for 50 cents on the dollar didn't help, nor did failing to get any of Atlanta's top six prospects in the Justin Upton trade, but they're still very deep in arms and now oddly deep in shortstops who can field but don't get on base. Infielder Andrew Velazquez and right-hander Ben Eckels, their seventh- and 11th-rounders from last year's draft, both came out strong in rookie ball and could be minor steals, yet neither sniffed the team's top 10.
16. Miami Marlins
An impact bat (Christian Yelich), an impact arm (Jose Fernandez), a couple of above-average guys from Toronto (Justin Nicolino and Jake Marisnick), two quick-moving lefties (Andrew Heaney and Adam Conley) from the past two drafts … this is the best system that Florida taxpayers' money could buy!
17. Boston Red Sox
A lot went right on the farm for Boston this year, with Xander Bogaerts looking like he can stay at shortstop, Jackie Bradley Jr. lighting everyone up with his plate discipline and Matt Barnes and Henry Owens posting very strong full-season debuts. The system's real shortage is in big league ready talent, with right-hander Allen Webster probably the closest.
18. Los Angeles Dodgers
They are a little underrepresented in the top 100, but with a lot of guys who'd either be in the next 50 or who could jump into the top 50 next year. That group is led by Yasiel Puig, who barely played in 2013 before surgery to address a staph infection kept him out of the Arizona Fall League.
19. Cleveland Indians
With Francisco Lindor and Dorssys Paulino, they have some of the best shortstop depth of any organization in baseball right now. They could be primed for a big leap if any of the young pitching they've drafted the past two years comes through in 2013.
20. Atlanta Braves
They actually didn't give up that much in the Upton trade, but they've drafted so poorly the past few years that it's really hurt the system. The 2010 draft probably won't produce much of anything besides Andrelton Simmons (no longer eligible for the list), 2011 looks just slightly better right now and 2009 is likely to end up producing Mike Minor and nothing else. They're not lower because they've made good trades and found value in non-traditional ways, but you can't get this little value from the draft for long without feeling it.
21. Washington Nationals
I love their top five prospects. There's a bottomless crevasse somewhere not far after that.
22. Oakland Athletics
One huge impact guy (Addison Russell), then a ton of depth guys who look like average regulars or mid-rotation starters. Their Arizona Rookie League club was stacked, though, which puts them in position to make a big move up if those guys carry it forward to low-A next year.
23. Colorado Rockies
They had setbacks with several major prospects this year due to injury, poor performance or other factors, although first-rounder David Dahl obliterated the rookie-level Pioneer League as one of its youngest regulars, and the team even saw signs of life from 2009 first-rounder Tyler Matzek, whose stuff has returned and who started throwing strikes again at the end of the season, including the playoffs. I was never a huge Tyler Anderson guy out of the draft, but I think he could move quickly this year and get to the majors faster than the 2012 performance would lead you to believe.
24. Toronto Blue Jays
A top-10 system before the big offseason trades, probably top five, but Alex Anthopoulos pushed his chips to the center of the table, stood up and said "Boo-yah!" … but in the politest way possible.
25. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers have given up a lot of high draft picks over the past few years to sign free agents, understandable given how well the major league team has fared but not a great way to keep a farm system afloat, especially since the new CBA limits how much the team can spend. They might see their top three prospects (Nick Castellanos, Avisail Garcia and Bruce Rondon) all contribute in the majors this year, though, and would rank near the top of systems if we were going just off potential 2013 impact.
26. San Francisco Giants
Several good starting pitching prospects highlight a system that's very light on bats right now. After closer Heath Hembree, the Giants don't have much that's likely to help the major league team in 2013. I could see some of their second-tier arms becoming useful trade chips for them to add a piece in July, though, so they're not without assets, just without many potential stars.
27. Philadelphia Phillies
Their highest-ranked prospect on my top 100 (no team was shut out entirely) is the lowest of any team's highest-ranked prospect. They do, however, have a number of intriguing, high-risk guys from low-A on down, especially on the pitching side.
28. Chicago White Sox
The system is improving, helped by a draft where the team opened up and looked more at prep players up top, and progress from a couple of arms already in the system, including two less-heralded pitchers from the 2011 draft (Erik Johnson and Scott Snodgress).
29. Milwaukee Brewers
This system has one top-100 prospect and a lot of back-end starters or probable relievers. I didn't love their draft in 2012 despite the extra picks, as they didn't manipulate their money to get any players who fell for signability reasons. They took only one player, second-rounder Tyrone Taylor, who has significant upside to become an above-average or better regular.
30. Los Angeles Angels
When you don't pick until the third round and then trade three prospects forZack Greinke, this is something of an inevitable consequence. They did place one player on the top 100 and have a lot of guys who project as big leaguers, but more as role players than everyday guys or better. First baseman C.J. Cron didn't make my top 100, but if he can stay healthy and remain at first base, he could break into impact status.