Regarding the minor leagues, the question I get asked more than any other is: how good is [my favorite team's] farm system? Well, every year I like to put together a little ranking of all the organizations to answer that question. Since I have spent roughly the last two months working on ranking individual players (256 in total), I actually have the perfect tool to answer that question. I developed a point system, giving each organization a certain amount of credit for each player I took the time to single out. I will not go into great depth over how much each prospect was worth, but as a couple of examples, Stephen Strasburg (#1 overall) was worth 15, Ryan Westmoreland (#50 overall) was worth seven and Tanner Scheppers (#101 overall) was worth two. After totaling up these scores, here is how the teams broke down.
1. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays simply lap the field when it comes to prospects, putting 3 guys in the top 12 overall and 7 in the top 100. Desmond Jennings is clearly the team's top prospect but they also have an impressive group of pitchers coming through the minors. Given how much talent already on hand for the parent club, and how loaded its system is, it looks like Tampa Bay will be competitive for a long time.
2. Oakland Athletics
Oakland seemed to graduate an entire rotation's worth of pitchers last year but remains near the top, mostly thanks to incredible depth. Thirteen of its players warranted mention, tied for the most of any team; they are led by the impressive offensive duo of Michael Taylor and Chris Carter, both of whom made the top 20. Oakland already has the pitching on hand and soon will be graduating the hitters it needs to make a run at an AL West title.
3. Kansas City Royals
I have the Royals ranked higher than anyone else for two major reasons. The first is that I seem to like their young pitching more than most people, and that was the primary reason they placed eight players in my top 100, the most of any team. The second is that I really believe in Wil Myers, their young catcher drafted in 2009, who I rated very highly and also haven't given up on either Mike Moustakas or Eric Hosmer yet. The end result is a team that placed only one player in the top 50 (Mike Montgomery) but still comes in third because of their outstanding depth and upside.
4. Cleveland Indians
When I punched in the numbers, I was actually surprised at how highly Cleveland rated, but after looking over the Indians' prospects again, it makes sense. They have one potential superstar (Carlos Santana) and just a ton of other interesting prospects. They probably have the greatest variety of players as well -- sluggers, glove men, power pitchers and control artists. It will be interesting to see how the Indians work them all into their big league roster in the coming seasons.
5. Texas Rangers
The Rangers actually only put three players in my top 100 but also had at least three players between 101 and 115. Combine that with the fact that the trio who did make the cut are all potential superstars and you have a top-five system. The big three names in their franchise -- Justin Smoak, Neftali Feliz and Martin Perez -- can rival any trio of prospects in the minors and are the second best top 3, behind the Rays, based on my rankings.
6. San Francisco Giants
San Francisco mirrors Texas in many ways. It also has three prospects in the top 30 but its depth is not quite as strong. Of the three franchises with three prospects in the top 30, the Giants have the highest-rated single player in Buster Posey. He and Thomas Neal should be in San Francisco for good very soon, and Madison Bumgarner is practically penciled into the rotation.
7. Atlanta Braves
Jason Heyward obviously carries the torch for this organization, but they have a couple of pitchers with tremendous potential and Freddie Freeman is an impressive hitter as well. Heyward is practically a lock to graduate this season, but it would not surprise me if several of their young arms had breakout years and they maintained this ranking next season.
8. Baltimore Orioles
Brian Matusz has already shown that he can pitch in the majors and most of Baltimore's other top prospects are not far behind. Even after graduating Matt Wieters and Chris Tillman their system remains impressive and should help push them into contention by 2011 or 2012 if they can keep the team already in the majors together.
9. Cincinnati Red
Before signing Aroldis Chapman, the Reds had several solid prospects but few that had star potential. With Chapman now firmly situated at the front of their list they move into the top 10. Todd Frazier and Chris Heisey should see the majors this year and Yonder Alonso is not far behind, giving them a couple more nice hitters to pair with a young rotation.
10. New York Mets
By far the most surprising team in the top 10; I was expecting the Mets to rank in the high teens before putting this list together. However, I still believe in Fernando Martinez who barely remains prospect eligible, and Jenrry Mejia has one of the best fastballs in the minors. A breakout season from Ike Davis and several other interesting players gives them just enough to sneak into the 10 spot.
11. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates spent the last two years dismantling their roster, taking back almost anything they could to try and rebuild a ravaged farm system. Pedro Alvarez stands well ahead of everyone else, but the trades have given them much more depth, giving hope that they will return to respectability in the next few seasons.
12. Seattle Mariners
The Mariners resemble the Pirates because they have one potential superstar, Dustin Ackley, and a whole lot of solid prospects behind him. Seattle has a bunch of young, raw players that have to figure it all out and could move up this list significantly if some of those players are able to deliver with big years.
13. New York Yankees
Jesus Montero is arguably the best pure hitter in the minors leagues, but there is little behind him in the Yankees' system, particularly after the departure of of Arodys Vizcaino and Austin Jackson via trades. Even though they were missing several picks, their 2009 draft was encouraging and could help re-stock a system that is depleted at every position except catcher and right-handed pitcher.
14. Boston Red Sox
Ryan Westmoreland, who has not played in a full season league yet, is the highest-rated Sox prospect at #50, but Boston has several players just behind him. Right now, there are no players in the upper minors for Boston that profile as stars, and that is why the Sox are rated in the middle of the pack despite their impressive depth.
15. Washington Nationals
It really is all about Stephen Strasburg, but at least Derek Norris and Drew Storen give them a couple other players in the top 100. They have started to recover from the horrors of MLB's collective ownership but, if not for Strasburg, this franchise would easily rate in the bottom 10.
16. Florida Marlins
They are perhaps a bit lower than most people would have them because I refuse to believe Mike Stanton can be a star until he cuts down on his strikeouts. Logan Morrison gives them a second potential All-Star hitter, but behind them, the system is not that strong and slips into the bottom half of baseball.
17. Minnesota Twins
Aaron Hicks had a disappointing 2009, but Kyle Gibson was a steal in the draft, bolstering a fairly unimpressive system. Their only other player in the top 100 is a catcher, Wilson Ramos, who will probably become trade bait if they are able to sign Joe Mauer to an extension.
18. Milwaukee Brewers
Alcides Escobar brings more defensive value than any prospect in the top 100 but may not be much of a hitter. Meanwhile, Brett Lawrie and Mat Gamel both have shown the potential to rake in the majors but lack a clear position. A team that desperately needs arms failed to place any pitchers in the top 100.
19. Toronto Blue Jays
They were headed for a ranking in the bottom three, but trading Roy Halladay breathed some life into a farm system that was flat-lining. Their three prospects that made the top 100 were all acquired via trade in the last year and their failure to sign a couple key picks in the 2009 draft also shows that their ability to develop their own talent has a long way to go.
20. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers have somehow snuck five players into the top 100 (I was more shocked than anyone) but all of them are in the bottom 50. Of course, they did acquire Austin Jackson and Daniel Schlereth in a salary dump trade and that is an effective way to re-stock the farm, if not improve the parent club.
21. Colorado Rockies
Their only two guys in the top 100 are starting pitchers, always a plus for this franchise in particular, and their major league roster is very young. Those two things make this underwhelming ranking more tolerable for the Rockies, who have an excellent shot at winning the NL West this season.
22. San Diego Padres
A team that was notorious for refusing to take any risks finally got a little more gutsy under new management; unfortunately, it may have come at the wrong time because I believe taking Donovan Tate third overall last year may have been a mistake. They have plenty of depth, but most of their prospects have low ceilings and are far away from the majors.
23. Chicago Cubs
I have been extremely critical of Chicago's ability to develop impact postition players recently, but it is undeniable that Starlin Castro is a potential star. Behind him there is not much to get excited about though, as the only other Cub that made the top 100 is Andrew Cashner and he may end up being a reliever.
24. Houston Astros
The Astros have three solid prospects and then literally nothing to get excited about. I'm struggling to remember an organization with so little depth; only four Astros earned a mention out of the 256 write-ups I did and one of them was literally #256 if I had chosen to list numbers that far down.
25. Philadelphia Phillies
They shipped out a couple interesting players to acquire Cliff Lee and then got very little in return when they traded him away to Seattle. After gutting their system to acquire Halladay, Domonic Brown is the only standout prospect in the organization, although they do have some interesting high-ceiling players in the low minors.
26. Los Angeles Dodgers
An organization once renowned for their farm system, the Dodgers have struggled to re-stock after graduating so many exciting players in the last five years. Devaris Gordon, who is a high-risk prospect, is the only Dodger in the top 70 and the other two that made the 100 are young pitchers who are miles away from the big leagues.
27. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
A mirror of the team with which they share the city, the Angels have had almost no first-round picks in recent seasons, hurting their prospect ranks. They figure to graduate very few players this season and should move up the list a good deal for 2010.
28. St. Louis Cardinals
They were finally starting to rebuild in the minors but gutted the system at the deadline last year to make a run at a title. Shelby Miller, who has all of three professional innings under his belt is the lone Cardinal in the top 100 at #83.
29. Chicago White Sox
An organizational philosophy of always trading away prospects for veterans has completely depleted Chicago's farm system and left some serious holes on its big league roster as well. Tyler Flowers, who is rough defensively at catcher and strikes out an awful lot, is the White Sox's lone player in the top 100.
30. Arizona Diamondbacks
What a tremendous fall it has been for Arizona which had the best system in baseball only four years ago. When you graduate so many players, combined with poor drafting and minimal international scouting you are left with zero players in the top 100. To be fair, Jarrod Parker would have been in the top 30 but injured his elbow late in the season and required Tommy John surgery. However, as of right now, Arizona's farm system ranks dead last in all of baseball.