2014 Midseason Minor League System Rankings

Joey Gallo

Joey Gallo, 3B

Following the MLB Draft, MLB.com made wholesale updates to their Prospect Watch, which tracks the top-100 prospects in baseball and then breaks it down further by team, position, and so on. The latest updates account for this year’s crop of amateur talent as well as player performance over the first half of the season.

Players like Joey Gallo, a third baseman in the Texas Rangers’ system, for instance, have been rewarded for their monster seasons in the minors by climbing the list (Gallo is currently up to ninth) while others, like Boston Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez (recently traded from the Baltimore Orioles), have fallen out of the top-100 because of a mundane season in Double-A.

MLB.com’s update made me want to revisit our league’s minor league system rankings, initially published at the beginning of April.

When those initial rankings were posted, systems were ranked based on the top-200 prospects according to Baseball Prospectus. Personally, I prefer their rankings to MLB.com’s (though MLB.com presents theirs very well and I like that they include the individual tool grades for players), but there’s a lot of subjectivity involved anyway, so whatever. I’ve also limited my rankings to using players that fall within the top-100, whereas, obviously, the first batch included a list with an additional 100 names on it.

For the purposes of eliminating my own subjectivity from the order of the rankings themselves, I’ve simply ordered teams by the total number of players they have on the roster that land in the top-100 and, if two teams have the same number, reverted to alphabetical order. Does that technically disqualify these from being “rankings”? Does it even matter?

Here we go…

01. Capital City Impalers
Top Prospect: 3B Kris Bryant, CHC (4)
Prospects in the Top 100: 14
Observations: I’ve listed Bryant as my own top prospect despite Oscar Taveras, an outfielder I picked up in the inaugural draft, ranking higher. Taveras is second overall on MLB.com’s list and Bryant is fourth. I love Taveras, but I give the edge to Bryant because of his ridiculous power and because he plays a position (for now) where options are limited. Francisco Lindor [5], shortstop for the Cleveland Indians, also made MLB.com’s top five.

On the pitching side, I’m probably most excited for the Boston Red Sox’s Henry Owens [24], who I drafted in Round 17 of our inaugural draft. I don’t think he was ranked in the top-100 at all at the time, but he’s risen to 24th overall midway through 2014 thanks to a dominant campaign in Double-A.

02. Beach Bum
Top Prospect: SS Addison Russell, OAK (7)
Prospects in the Top 100: 12
Observations: Beach Bum’s made it toward the top of the league standings thanks to a roster full of aging players (Pujols, Utley, Big Papi, Beltre, Bautista, Colon) but his team is positioned well to succeed even after those guys’ bones have deteriorated and strikeout totals have ballooned. While Russell is clearly his best offensive prospect, it’s his pitching that could emerge into something special. He has Eddie Butler [30], Hunter Harvey [35], Noah Syndergaard [13], Kyle Zimmer [52], and phenom Julio Urias [18] marinating in the minors (he also has Kevin Gausman, who is no longer considered a prospect, in the majors). You’ll notice these aren’t fringe prospects, but rather a collection of talent hovering around the top-50 mark — or soaring way above that line. I like my own pitching depth, but Beach Bum’s got me beat.

Pitching prospects tend to be volatile commodities, but Beach Bum has done a nice job giving himself multiple options, which makes it a little easier to absorb whatever failure rate may come. Even if just two of his young hurlers emerge, he should be in solid position (assuming that aging offense can keep it going a couple more years).

03. Cheating Brew Crew
Top Prospect: SP Archie Bradley, ARZ (12)
Prospects in the Top 100: 7
Observations: In April, Baseball Prospectus had Bradley as their eighth-best prospect. Injuries have quelled the hype a bit — and the Diamondbacks being terrible has put them in a position where they don’t need to rush his development — but Bradley should still be a great long-term option. Grouped with Jonathan Gray [15] and Dylan Bundy [16], Cheating Brew Crew, like Beach Bum, has a really good stable of pitchers waiting in the wings. The concerns here though are that Gray will have to pitch his home games at Coors Field and the jury is still out on whether or not Bundy will fully recover from his Tommy John procedure.

Offensively, Joc Peterson [19] could be a key piece to the future outfield here, but the big question is when and how’ll he’ll eventually get that opportunity in Los Angeles, where the Dodgers have been dealing with a logjam in the outfield for what feels like several years now.

04. Fighting Banana Slugs
Top Prospect: SS Javier Baez, CHC (6)
Prospects in the Top 100: 7
Observations: It’s almost impossible to find a decent shortstop, but Fighting Banana Slugs has a few options. Baez, obviously, is his premier prospect at the position. But he’s also got Mookie Betts [14], who will gain outfield eligibility too, as well as the unranked amateur draftee Trea Turner and Trevor Story. Like Beach Bum, he’s put himself in a favorable position to eventually develop a really good shortstop even if one or two players flame out.

Starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson [53] and outfielder Jorge Soler [54] are a couple of other nice assets, but there’s one potentially deceiving prospect in his system: San Diego Padre catcher Austin Hedges [26]. Despite being a top-30 prospect, Hedges value comes primarily from his defense behind the plate. He’s posting a slash line of .236/.278/.354 in Double-A this year and what little power he does have will be tempered by Petco Park.

05. Lafayette Hill Haters
Top Prospect: SS Corey Seager, LAD (17)
Prospects in the Top 100: 7
Observations: I have it on good authority that the Haters view Seager as “untouchable,” which speaks not just to his individual ability, but again, highlights the scarcity of shortstops in general. Along with Austin Meadows [50], Garin Cecchini [62], and Hunter Dozier [93], there are the pieces here to evolve into a really nice offense. Because he’s been relying on Jimmy Rollins to hold down the fort at shortstop though, it really all comes back to Seager.

Lafayette Hill had also better hope Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez [40] pans out, because he’s the team’s lone pitching prospect in the top-100.

Carlos Correa, SS

Carlos Correa, SS

06. Pottstown IronMen
Top Prospect: SS Carlos Correa, HOU (3)
Prospects in the Top 100: 7
Observations: It says a lot about a player when they can snap their leg in half and still be considered one of the three best prospects in baseball. But such is the case for Correa, whose development has been stalled by a broken leg but who still figures to be a big-time hitter for a long time at shortstop. Correa’s scout grades according to MLB.com: 60 hit, 70 power. Yes, please.

On the pitching front, Pottstown is home to a couple of interesting prospects in former first overall pick Mark Appel [46] and Jameson Taillon [32], who underwent Tommy John surgery in April. Appel’s development has gone horrendously, thus the precipitous drop in ranking, while there’s always room for caution with players coming off surgery. Both players strike me as wildcards. Personally, I don’t want anything to do with Appel.

My personal favorite player in this system: Kyle Schwarber [79], who the Cubs picked fourth overall in this year’s amateur draft. He currently has eligibility at catcher, first, and the outfield, which adds to his allure, but you have to figure he’ll eventually find a permanent home closest to the ivy in Wrigley (in the outfield). If he can stick as a catcher though — and there are plenty of reasons the Cubs may want him to — look out. Also, I’m calling it now: he’ll be top-50 on prospect lists by midseason next year, if not sooner.

07. You Down With OBP?
Top Prospect: OF Byron Buxton, MIN (1)
Prospects in the Top 100: 7
Observations: This is where it’s important to remind that I ranked based on how many guys each team had in the top-100 and that, in the event teams had the same number of players, I just used alphabetical order (hooray rankings that aren’t exactly rankings at all!). If I’d personally ranked based on subjectivity, You Down With OBP? would get bonus points — they’d certainly be above Lafayette Hill and Pottstown — if only for having Buxton, baseball’s top prospect.

The thing is, there’s more talent here than just Buxton. Luis Severino [70], Aaron Blair [87], Kevin Plawecki [67], Michael Conforto [86], and Jacob Lamb [98] all have the potential to develop into really good fantasy assets, and that goes without mentioning savvy waiver pick-up Kennys Vargas, the Twins first baseman who didn’t crack the top-100. Pretty much his only tool is power, but he’s got it in excess. If he ends up being a 30 home run guy, even just as a designated hitter, I’ll be mad at myself for not picking him up, as OBP did.

08. You’re Flippin’ Out
Top Prospect: SP Alex Meyer, MIN (31)
Prospects in the Top 100: 7
Observations: You’re Flippin’ Out’s minor league system is interesting in that, while there’s pretty good quantity, the quality leaves a little to be desired. To put it a better way: Meyer’s great (as a Nationals fan, I wish we still had him), but as your keystone prospect, there’s reason to pause. With guys like Buxton or Correa or Seager, there’s as much chance of failure as anyone, but there’s also more room to hope that that player will develop into something transcendent. It’s easier to dream on Buxton being the next Griffey than it is on Meyer being the next Kershaw, which is part of the fun of prospects to begin with. I feel like with Meyer, you’re just hoping for consistency, not necessarily superstar performance.

Anyway, he’s also got Jose Berrios [38] on the pitching front, but it’s really the offense here that’s the strength. Shortstops Nick Gordon [42] and Tim Anderson [89] give him depth at a key position and Colin Moran [72] could become a contributor at third base soon now that he’s in Houston. The hope here, I suppose, is that Gordon rolls in the minor leagues and becomes one of those prospects you can begin looking at as a future cornerstone player.

09. Clown Question Bros.
Top Prospect: SP Taijuan Walker, SEA (8)
Prospects in the Top 100: 6
Observations: The team named for Bryce Harper got a lot better recently by adding starting pitcher Kyle Crick [51] in a trade with Pottstown, but mainly it’s about Walker reaching expectations. The Clown Question Bros. have a formidable pitching staff as-is, but it’s also one that features a lot of players on the wrong side of 30. If Walker, Crick, and maybe recently drafted Jeff Hoffman [97] develop, they’ll be set up with a nice second wave of pitching talent.

Blake Swihart [28] is like Hedges, but apparently he can actually hit (.305/.358/.493 in 372 Double-A plate appearances this season).

10. Homerun Mafia
Top Prospect: SP Tyler Glasnow, PIT (20)
Prospects in the Top 100: 6
Observations: It seems like Pittsburgh’s done nothing but churn out pitching prospects in recent years and now Glasnow appears to be the next bullet in the chamber for them, at least since Taillon’s injury setback. For Homerun Mafia, Glasnow settles into a solid crop of young starters that also includes Boston’s Anthony Ranaudo [82], who’s been accelerated to the majors in lieu of Boston’s trade deadline activity, and Carlos Rodon [23], arguably the most big league ready of this year’s draft class.

The question mark here is the hitting prospects. Jesse Winker [45] and Clint Frazier [49] are pretty much the only tools in the shed. And the latter is still probably at least two years away from debuting for the Indians.

Alex Guerrero, a Cuban defector who signed with the Dodgers in the off-season, couldn’t win the starting job at second, and eventually had his ear chomped off by teammate Miguel Olivo, could eventually contribute, though he isn’t ranked as a prospect.

Miguel Sano, 3B

Miguel Sano, 3B

11. Who’s Your Haddy?
Top Prospect: 3B Miguel Sano, MIN (10)
Prospects in the Top 100: 5
Observations: Haddy doesn’t have a lot to work with, but at least his system makes the most of it with three guys in the top-30: Sano, and pitchers Andrew Heaney [22] and Daniel Norris [29].

While he lacks top-100 guys, Haddy’s done an interesting job of supplementing his minors with lottery tickets, particularly Cuban outfielder Yasmani Tomas, who offers tremendous power but has yet to defect, 16-year-old shortstop Adrian Rondon, an international talent who could be a star but will occupy a roster spot for probably four or five seasons minimum, and Dermis Garcia, who… well… who is basically in the same boat as Rondon. As someone that has also invested fairly heavily in international talent, I at least like Haddy’s style. Also, kudos for beating me (and others, including You Down With OBP?) to Tomas.

12. Philadelphia Phlartners
Top Prospect: SP Robert Stephenson, CIN (21)
Prospects in the Top 100: 4
Observations: Stephenson should begin contributing out of the Reds rotation in 2015, but he’s not without his concerns despite the high ranking. Since our league penalizes so heavily for allowing home runs, consider that his home park, The Great American Ballpark, is surrendering the second most homers per game of any ballpark this year (1.519/game, just behind Coors Field at 1.560). Also, look at Stephenson’s minor league track record and you’ll see a player who has consistently hovered around 1.0 HR/9 or more over the last couple years. That’s a little worrisome.

The Phlartners’ pitching depth is rivaled by only a few teams and given our scoring system, it’s possible to go a long way on dominant pitching and mediocre offense. But it’s a tad troubling that the team’s only hitting prospect in the top-100 is first baseman Dominic Smith [88], a 19-year-old who may be two years away. In 626 minor league plate appearances, he’s also only hit six home runs. For a first baseman — a position where power is expected — that strikes me as pretty bad.

13. Unicorns & Glitter
Top Prospect: SP Lucas Giolito, WAS (11)
Prospects in the Top 100: 4
Observations: Unicorns & Glitter’s system looks bare until you consider his major league roster is littered with young talent who weren’t that long ago populating these top-100 lists. Manny Machado, George Springer, Jon Singleton, Wil Myers, Jurickson Profar, Travis d’Arnaud. There’s a ton of young talent — particularly hitters — on this roster, many of which are fighting through injuries or taking their lumps at the major league level. By the time Giolito arrives, these players should all have hit their stride and this team could be dangerous.

Also, a big thumbs up for rostering Vladimir Guerrero’s nephew, Gabriel.

14. Drugged Llamas
Top Prospect: 3B Joey Gallo, TEX (9)
Prospects in the Top 100: 4
Observations: It’s a good thing Gallo’s surged like he has because the next best prospect on this woeful team is Alen Hansen [80] followed by 18-year-old high school draftee Touki Toussaint [85]. This is a team that’s suffered some injuries (Prince Fielder) but has largely just been impacted by neglect. I mean, 35-year-old Marlins reliever Henry Owens is STILL on this roster despite not being the actual, good, young Henry Owens on Capital City. How do you not realize that by now?

Also, we’ve been allowed to carry 15 minor leaguers all year, it was recently expanded to 20 following the amateur draft, and yet Drugged Llamas still only have 13 guys. When your team is this bad, there’s really no excuse to not be feverishly filling your minor league shelves with talent. But, hey, he’s still starting guys on the disabled list, trotted out Alex Wood in a reliever spot, and starting relievers who average negative points per game. It’s probably unreasonable to expect this manager to actually manage his team.

15. Bad News Bears
Top Prospect: SP Aaron Nola, PHI (48)
Prospects in the Top 100: 2
Observations: Yuck. When you only have two top-100 prospects and your highest ranked one is a guy you just took in the amateur draft, you’re probably in some trouble. Matt Purke, Tony Cingrani, and Danny Hultzen all occupy roster spots here, but they’re all just used-to-bes in terms of prospects. This is a competitive team with playoff aspirations, but the minor league set-up could use some maintenance.

16. The Ellsbury Dough Boys
Top Prospect: 3B D.J. Peterson, SEA (55)
Prospects in the Top 100: 2
Observations: Peterson and Allen Webster [64]. That’s it. Like Bad News Bears, the team itself is actually quite good and in playoff contention, it’s just that there aren’t any prospects here at all. Chris Johnson has been functioning as the starting third baseman though, so at least Peterson has a path to start and contribute, though it probably won’t be until the middle of 2015 at the absolute earliest.

Guys like Josh Rutledge and Didi Gregorious are good stashes for a competitive squad, but they’re both likely to be serviceable utility players who help out in the case of injury, not long-term options. With Adam Wainwright, Jon Lester, and Max Scherzer on the roster, this team could conceivably beat anyone in any week. But the minor league system leaves a lot to be desired.

Midseason Top-100 Prospects

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