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March 8, 2010

Future Shock

Organizational Rankings, Part 1

by Kevin Goldstein

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30. St. Louis Cardinals
Last Year’s Ranking: 9
Why They Are Here: Their recent drafts aren't awful per se, but they're certainly boring and lacking as far as star power. The graduation of a few prospects and the trading away of even more (which happens when you are a perennial contender) leavse the system almost solely riding on the hopes for Shelby Miller's right arm.
Where They Will Be Next Year: Either here, or darn close to here. Their first-round pick doesn't come until the 25th selection, so there’s no star power coming from there either, not unless someone falls into their lap. If Miller collapses for some reason, there's nobody here worthy of top-prospect recognition.

29. Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Year’s Ranking: 28
Why They Are Here: Trades have gutted the system which, combined with the fact that top prospect Jarrod Parker will miss the entire year, means there's no help coming from the system anytime soon. After Brandon Allen, who has some highly divergent scouting reports himself, there's not a good hitter in the system who isn't at least three years away.
Where They Will Be Next Year: Up, and possibly significantly. While I haven't gone back to check exactly, I'm nearly sure that with eight of their Top 11 coming from the previous year's draft, Arizona has set some kind of record, and they just need a few of those players to step forward for the organization to look much better 12 months from now.

28. Houston Astros
Last Year’s Ranking: 30
Why They Are Here: They have utterly no depth whatsoever. Recent drafts have changed the top of their prospect lists, but the players from six to 11 wouldn't even sniff most team's lists. When two middle relief prospects earn single-digit rankings, that's never a good sign.
Where They Will Be Next Year: Should be up a bit. The eighth overall pick in June certainly helps, but what was once a downright embarrassing collection of talent is making slow, steady progress since the addition of scouting director Bobby Heck.

27. Chicago White Sox
Last Year’s Ranking: 24
Why They Are Here: In some ways it's for good reasons, as Gordon Beckham developed so fast that he's not eligible any more. Still, after that, things fall off quite quickly, as we can dream on Jared Mitchell all day long, but he and outfielder Jordan Danks are the only position prospects who would also rank on other teams' lists.
Where They Will Be Next Year: Could go either way. Mitchell is a boom or bust type, as is outfielder Trayce Thompson, while third baseman Dayan Viciedo is looking like he might fall into the same category. They'll likely lose top prospect Daniel Hudson, and possibly their third-best player, Tyler Flowers, tio major-league promotions, so somebody has to step up.

26. New York Yankees
Last Year’s Ranking: 13
Why They Are Here: Jesus Montero is an utter stud, but no other player in the system even sniffed the Top 101. The upper-level pitchers have low ceilings, and after Montero, there's not a hitter in the system close to contributing.
Where They Will Be Next Year: Should be up. The Yankees know how to turn late first-round picks into much better players, while they also tend to find great talent in Latin America, and there are a number of very young players in the Top 11 who could take a step forward. If Montero graduates to the big leagues however, it will be tough to make up for that loss.

25. Milwaukee Brewers
Last Year’s Ranking: 15
Why They Are Here: After graduating so much star-level talent to the big leagues, the well has finally run dry. Alcides Escobar is a fantastic defender who won't embarrass himself with the bat, but his minor-league career is likely over, and there's very little left at the upper levels that's ready to help.
Where They Will Be Next Year: It's hard to see them moving up much, as much of their Top 11 consists of solid guys without a lot of breakout possibility. The 14thoverall pick in the draft will certainly help, but at the same time, they'll lose  Escobar.

24. Philadelphia Phillies
Last Year’s Ranking: 14
Why They Are Here: Because what they gave up for Roy Halladay isn't close to what they got back for Cliff Lee. Domonic Brown is a five-star prospect, and many readers seemed surprised that Phillippe Aumount rated four stars, but it's pretty clear that the system drops off significantly from there. 
Where They Will Be Next Year: Likely up. Prospects three through 11 might not be great yet, but they’re loaded with potential, and based on trends, picking 27th in June will likely result in another high-risk/high-upside type. If you don't play the lottery, you don't win.

23. Seattle Mariners
Last Year’s Ranking: 17
Why They Are Here: What was already a fairly nondescript system became even more so after the Cliff Lee deal, as Dustin Ackley saves them from flirting with the very bottom. Much of the talent left is either exceptionally young, coming off an injury, or needing to prove that last year's showing in High Desert wasn't a mirage.
Where They Will Be Next Year: There's some youth and upside here, but certainly no guarantee of upward movement. Their second-best prospect, Michael Saunders, will lose eligibility, and there's an outside chance that Ackley pulls a Beckham and gets to the big leagues. The club has no first-round pick after signing Chone Figgins. Expect another ranking in the 20s.

22. Toronto Blue Jays
Last Year’s Ranking: 10
Why They Are Here: The only reason they're this high is because of the Halladay trade. Otherwise, we'd be looking at a nightmare, as their top three prospects did not finish the 2009 season as part of the organization. Without the trade, 2009 first-round pick Chad Jenkins would have been the weakest top prospect in the game.
Where They Will Be Next Year: Likely right around here again. They could lose Brett Wallace, and possibly Kyle Drabek, to the big leagues, but the 11thoverall pick in June will certainly help, while Travis D'Arnaud has considerable potential to move up.

21. Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Year’s Ranking: 22
Why They Are Here: While the Pirates are improving under their new administration, it's really just baby steps as of yet; having Pedro Alvarez saves them from a much lower ranking. There isn't a pitcher at the upper levels worth talking about other than Brad Lincoln, whose ceiling is likely that of a fourth starter.
Where They Will Be Next Year: Pittsburgh picks second overall in June, but after taking Tony Sanchez with the fourth overall pick last year, one wonders if a potential impact player is guaranteed to be selected by them there. Still, they went after plenty of young, over-slot pitching after the first round, and they need some of them to step forward.

20. Los Angeles Angels
Last Year’s Ranking: 23
Why They Are Here: There's a decent amount of talent here, as the Angels placed five players in the Top 101, but the bad news is that the first one, outfielder Mike Trout, doesn't check in until 54, and the system's talent level drops significantly after those five.
Where They Will Be Next Year: They have a 50/50 shot at moving up or down. Their Top 11 list is loaded with young talent, much of it of the boom or bust variety. The good news, at least for their potential ranking, is that chances are good that nobody in the Top 11 graduates to the majors this year, and the team has three picks in the later half of the first round.

19. Florida Marlins
Last Year’s Ranking: 5
Why They Are Here: While Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison comprise an excellent one-two offensive punch at the top, the system has almost zero up-the-middle talent, and many once highly-regarded arms in the system have failed to pan out. The organization had eight candidates for the last spot on their Top 11, but none of them were good.
Where They Will Be Next Year: Likely in the 20s, as Morrison could be the big-league club's first baseman before the All-Star break, and of the players ranked after their two studs, few, if any even have to potential to move into the Top 101.

18. Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Year’s Ranking: 21
Why They Are Here: The system just isn't the factory it once was, and other than Dee Gordon, most of the players in their 2008 draft class took a step backward in their full-season debuts. They've also become almost a non-factor when it comes to acquiring international talent, a pipeline that once served them generously.
Where They Will Be Next Year: Likely right around here. Other than Scott Elbert and maybe Josh Lindblom, the organization isn't set to graduate many talents, but at the same time, who is really going to step forward?

17. Baltimore Orioles
Last Year’s Ranking: 7
Why They Are Here: It’s more of a numbers game than anything else. If Chris Tillman made three fewer big-league starts, the system would rank in the first half of the rankings instead of the second. Still, they remain one of the most imbalanced systems in the game, with plenty of intriguing arms, but precious little by way of batters after third baseman Josh Bell.
Where They Will Be Next Year: The third overall pick in the 2010 draft should add an impact-level talent, but that failed to do that last year at fifth overall with the selection of Matt Hobgood, and they'll surely graduate Brian Matusz. They'll likely be more legitimately in the second half next year.

16. Colorado Rockies
Last Year’s Ranking: 11
Why They Are Here: Always in need of pitching, the club is loaded with arms, including a few who could help as early as this year. On the flip side, the non-pitching talent is desperately thin, as their top two position prospects, catcher Wilin Rosario and shortstop Hector Gomez, are still much more potential than reality.
Where They Will Be Next Year: They’ll still be in the middle, but with a bit more potential for moving up than down. Many believe that Tyler Matzek was the top arm in the draft after Stephen Strasburg, and a healthy Casey Weathers could regain his previously-held "closer of the future" title.

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

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