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March 9, 2010

Future Shock

Organizational Rankings, Part 2

by Kevin Goldstein

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15. New York Mets
Last Year’s Ranking: 18
Why They Are Here: The system is on the upswing, thanks to a nice group coming from the international market and, for the first time in a while, a draft class (2009) that looks like it will pay some dividends. With four Top 101 prospects and a three-star list that runs into the early teens, there's room for optimism here.
Where They Will Be Next Year: The Mets could add another Top 50-type with the seventh overall pick in the draft, their highest slot since 2004, and fourth-highest pick in the last 25 years. Top prospects like Jenrry Mejia and Ike Davis have more of a 2011 timetable, so Fernando Martinez is the only top prospect likely to lose his eligibility this season.

14. Detroit Tigers
Last Year’s Ranking: 27
Why They Are Here: While they are young and risky, for pure upside few teams can provide a one-two punch as promising as Jacob Turner and Casey Crosby, while Scott Sizemore is a solid big league-ready second baseman. The power arms continue from there, and while the system lacks depth, there are still some interesting power bats at the upper levels.
Where They Will Be Next Year: The same at best, but likely down. Turner and Crosby have to live up to expectations, as Sizemore will lose eligibility, and the signing of Jose Valverde cost the team its first-round pick in June. There's just not a ton of upside among the hitting crop.

13. San Francisco Giants
Last Year’s Ranking: 6
Why They Are Here: This is one of the most difficult systems to rank. One has to give them credit for having two five-star, big league-ready prospects in Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner, but while there's depth here, the star quality falls off quickly after the big two.
Where They Will Be Next Year: Down, and down significantly if both Posey and Bumgarner get enough big-league time. Unless Zach Wheeler pitches as well as expected, there's not an obvious candidate to step into the team's best-prospect spot.

12. Washington Nationals
Last Year’s Ranking: 29
Why They Are Here: Having the top prospect in baseball sure helps, but it doesn't end there, as Derek Norris is one of the best catching prospects in the game, and Drew Storen is a nearly ready big-league closer. Beyond those three, there are plenty of players who at least have the tools to create a brighter blip on a scout's radar.
Where They Will Be Next Year: Unquestionably down, but that's what happens when you lose the top prospect in the game. Washington picks first again in June, and that selection will almost assuredly be the system's new top prospect, but nobody in this year's draft can replace Strasburg.

11. San Diego Padres
Last Year’s Ranking: 25
Why They Are Here: The 2008 draft class looks like a potential monster at this point, while righty Simon Castro took a massive step forward last year and they found that crazy tools/crazy upside prospect the system has been lacking for years with Donavan Tate. New general manager Jed Hoyer inherits a system where most everything is suddenly moving in the right direction.
Where They Will Be Next Year: All of their prospects should be around next year, and the club picks ninth overall in June. They should be in the top half once again, with a solid chance to move into the single digits.

10. Kansas City Royals
Last Year’s Ranking: 16
Why They Are Here: Because they know how to draft, at least after the first round. Some might even classify them as trailblazers when it comes to small-market teams spending big money in the later rounds, as it's still the best bargain in baseball. The Royals have tons of impressive young pitchers, most of them with true starter profiles.
Where They Will Be Next Year: It should be up, and maybe significantly so. They pick fourth overall, will likely lose nobody from their current list, and there are still plenty of scouts who think disappointing elite-level picks Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer have plenty of upside.

9. Cincinnati Reds
Last Year’s Ranking: 19
Why They Are Here: Signing Aroldis Chapman didn't only shock the industry, but it also moved this ranking up from the second half into the single digits. Mike Leake is a starting prospect who could move quickly, and much of their top talent is already in the upper levels of the organization.
Where They Will Be Next Year: Much could depend on how quickly Chapman develops. If he gets to the big leagues this year, it will be difficult to stay this high, as there are plenty of others, like Todd Frazier, Chris Heisey, and Travis Wood, who also could lose eligibility for all the right reasons.

8. Chicago Cubs
Last Year’s Ranking: 26
Why They Are Here: As bad a year as the Cubs had at the big-league level, that's how good a year they had down on the farm, as 2008 draftees stepped forward, international signees shined, and plenty of others stepped forward. Throw in a first-round draft steal in Brett Jackson, and things are looking very, very up.
Where They Will Be Next Year: Chances are good that all of these players should still be eligible next year, and while I don't see the true star potential in Starlin Castro that others do, it's reasonable to expect good performances from Josh Vitters and Hak-Ju Lee. The aging big-league team needs help now, but this might take awhile.

7. Oakland Athletics
Last Year’s Ranking: 1
Why They Are Here: Chris Carter is one of the best pure slugging prospects in the game, while the A's improved their standing by flipping Brett Wallace to Toronto for a much more dynamic talent in outfielder Michael Taylor
Where They Will Be Next Year: Finally down a bit. The 10thoverall pick in June helps, but they could lose both Carter and Taylor to the big leagues, while the starting pitching has finally run thin after graduating so many to the majors. Then again, there's a decent shot at Michael Ynoa finally pitching and blowing scouts away.

6. Minnesota Twins
Last Year’s Ranking: 20
Why They Are Here: With Aaron Hicks and Miguel Sano, the Twins have two of the toolsiest young talents around, with outfielder Ben Revere and catcher Wilson Ramos giving them two more in the Top 101. The mound group makes up for star quality with impressive depth, as many of the pitchers at least have big-league numbers on their scouting reports.
Where They Will Be Next Year: Their top prospects are all young, so graduation shouldn't be a problem. They don't have a high first-round pick, but if the talent continues to develop, there's no reason they can't be around here again next year.

5. Boston Red Sox
Last Year’s Ranking: 8
Why They Are Here: Few teams are more aggressive in signing amateur talent, be it internationally or via over-slot draft deals, and that's reflected with an impressive collection of talent across the board and few positional weaknesswa (catcher stands out). There's a chance that outfielder Ryan Westmoreland turns into a monster.
Where They Will Be Next Year: They should still be well toward the top. None of their elite-level prospects are expected to help the big-league squad, while one should still expect plenty of money spent to bring in more top-shelf talent.

4. Atlanta Braves 
Last Year’s Ranking: 4
Why They Are Here: Obviously, having the best position player prospect in the game in right fielder Jason Heyward plays a massive role here, but the system goes further than that with arguably the top collection of young, high-upside Latin arms in the game. There's a big hole here when it come to up-the-middle talent, but everything else more than makes up for it.
Where They Will Be Next Year: Unquestionably down, without Heyward or a first-round pick in the upcoming draft. The pitchers could take another step forward, as could catcher Christian Bethancourt, but it will be hard to stay in the single digits.

3. Cleveland Indians
Last Year’s Ranking: 12
Why They Are Here: While catcher Carlos Santana is their only Top-50 prospect, no system in the game can match Cleveland's depth, as their three-star prospects go into the 20s. If you are making a wager on a system to produce the most players who reach the big leagues, Cleveland might just be your best bet.
Where They Will Be Next Year: Much could depend on how much time Santana spends in the big leagues, and who the club selects with the fifth overall pick in the draft. The three-star players tend to be solid, safe bets, as opposed to players who provide a lot of upside.

2. Texas Rangers
Last Year’s Ranking: 2
Why They Are Here: No system in baseball can match a left/right pitching prospect combination like Neftali Feliz and Martin Perez, and there's just an embarrassment of riches after than when it comes to young arms. The system is actually below average when it comes to hitting prospects, but Justin Smoak is a future three-hole hitter, and Jurickson Profar could explode.
Where They Will Be Next Year: It will be tough to repeat this high of a ranking, as Feliz will be gone, while Smoak could be as well. Two first-round picks will certainly help, but overall, we're looking at a net loss 12 months from now, albeit not the kind anyone should be complaining about.

1. Tampa Bay Rays
Last Year’s Ranking:
3
Why They Are Here: They're not just the best; they're at the top by a stunningly wide margin with not only seven Top 101 prospects, but also five of those sitting among the first 42 names. That's an insane amount of potential star power for what is already the most talented young team in the big leagues. The Rays are definitely here to stay.
Where They Will Be Next Year: It should still be in the upper half, but somewhere between two and four of their Top 101 prospects could lose eligibility this year, and most of their top players are at the upper levels, with the younger prospects lacking the potential to match the upper class.  

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

20 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

greensox

The Indians are fools for not shipping out a bunch of those 3 star minor leaguers for major league talent. The Central can be won with 90 wins, and Shapiro is stocking up on minor leaguers.

Mar 09, 2010 09:15 AM
rating: -1
 
SaberTJ

The Indians need very good starters. I doubt they can get that kind of talent from 3 star hitting prospects. Any of their pitching prospects aren't going to leave the organization because they need them to develop for the big league squad.

Mar 09, 2010 10:26 AM
rating: 4
 
trebek90

With Nathan out, the Central could be won with 83 games.....

Mar 09, 2010 14:09 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

My favorite AL Central team doesn't have the talent to win 83 games.

Go fish.

Mar 09, 2010 18:25 PM
rating: -3
 
Max

Kevin, for the Mets, I think you meant the 2008 draft class will pay dividends. Robbie Shields will take the compliment, though.

Mar 09, 2010 09:19 AM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

I was surprised not to find a mention of Ynoa in the 2010 Annual. I don't think he was in the team essay either.

Mar 09, 2010 09:26 AM
rating: 0
 
ScottyB

Rays- too much of a good thing? They've had to unload good players for little return just to keep their best players rostered.

Mar 09, 2010 10:15 AM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

Good job Kevin. You did a better job than the boys at Baseball America, in my opinion.

Mar 09, 2010 11:38 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

For a player like Storen or Strasburg, how much credit do you give to the development system? Those guys come pretty much fully formed and are the result of good (if obvious) drafting over coaching, development, and the other things we normally think of in PD.

Mar 09, 2010 12:07 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom

Along those terms, should the A's get credit for Taylor?

I understand it is a snapshot of current talent, but instead of organizational rankings (which implies the organization had something to do with developing these players), maybe it should be renamed...

Mar 09, 2010 12:14 PM
rating: -1
 
BurrRutledge

Yer kidding, right? Rank the organization by who its prospects are. What difference does it make if they were signed on the international market, from high schools, or from colleges, or in trades. They all count the same when they're eventually playing in the show.

Mar 09, 2010 12:28 PM
rating: 3
 
Richard Bergstrom

Well, it depends on the purpose of the rankings. If we look at organizational performance, then it does matter who gets drafted and developed. With that kind of philosophy, a question like whether Strasburg would have a better major league career if he was in an organization other than the Nationals might be relevant.

If it's a snapshot of a system's current talent level, while it is interesting for getting an idea of a major league team's future potential, it might not be that informative since prospects get traded and promoted so much. Does it actually mean anything if a team goes from #1 to #30? As discussed elsewhere, teams can move up and down the rankings for all the right (or wrong) reasons.

Also, let's say one of these team's star prospects, like Strasburg, break camp with the big league club or get promoted in late May to stall their arbitration clock. A prospect breaking camp with the big club before a single minor league game is played would affect that team's organization rankings. By May or June, the rankings would be obsolete.

Mar 09, 2010 13:53 PM
rating: 0
 
rweiler

You can never have too many good prospects. For one thing, pitching prospects breakdown all the time (there is no such thing as a pitching prospect, and all that). For another, if you've got a player that is ready, but blocked, you can flip the guy that is blocking him for prospects that are farther off from being MLB ready. Finally, the Rays are in the toughest division in baseball and can't compete with the Yankees and Red Sox by signing whatever 1st tier free agents are available every year. They are always going to need a good fraction of the 25 man roster to be playing at or near the MLB minimum in order to be competitive.

Mar 09, 2010 12:08 PM
rating: 0
 
Peter7899

Still don't understand how you can say "I still don't see the true star potential in Starlin Castro that others do". Don't you do these lists based on information gathered from your network of others, not your own scouting reports? How can you say you "see" anything?

Mar 09, 2010 13:52 PM
rating: 1
 
amazin_mess

great question

Mar 09, 2010 16:31 PM
rating: -2
 
HeavyHitter

I beg to differ. If I say "I don't see how the Democrats are going to pick up seats in the next election" does that mean I've observed all of the evidence first hand?

Mar 09, 2010 16:50 PM
rating: 0
 
Peter7899

No, that means you're speculating based on reports from news sources, analysts, or your own personal prejudices about the democrats. If the analysts and news sources said that the democrats would gain a significant number of seats in the next election, and you still said the contrary, it pretty much narrows it down to your own prejudices.

I know Kevin analyzes the minor league data, but in his chat the other day he stated that "talking to scouts provide the overwhelming majority of what you see here. It's the largest factor by a mile." If others, and I'm guessing he is meaning other scouts, say they see star potential, what is he basing his opinion on?

Mar 10, 2010 07:03 AM
rating: 0
 
Patrick

Obviously, enough of the scouts that Goldstein talks to don't see sure-thing star potential. Different prospect writers talk to (and trust) different individual sources, and some of his don't think Castro will live up to the hype.

It's all speculation at this point anyway, so let's not get too riled up.

Mar 11, 2010 15:35 PM
rating: 0
 
trebek90

Doesn't Lonnie Chisenhall also count as a Top 50 talent for the Indians?

Mar 09, 2010 14:11 PM
rating: 1
 
ZacharyRD

I'm not sure if you're already planning this, but a organizational rankings by top talent under 25 years old, or just the top 101 players in the game (major or minor league) under 25 years old would be really interesting, although potentially difficult to do.

Mar 11, 2010 15:08 PM
rating: 1
 
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