Which teams have the best and worst prospect classes for this coming season? Cliff Corcoran ranks the top and bottom five in baseball.
Wednesday is National Signing Day for college football, the first day on which this year’s crop of high school seniors can sign a letter of intent to play football in college (check out all of SI.com's content here). Early February also happens to be the time of year when baseball’s top-100 prospect lists come out. With that in mind, we thought we’d peruse the two major prospects lists that have already been released, Baseball Prospectus’s Top 101 and MLB.com’s top 100, and see which organizations possess the greatest concentration of elite young talent.
There are 86 prospects who made both lists and another 29 who appeared on only one of the two, for a total of 115 “top 100” prospects. I’ve assigned teams one point for every prospect to make both lists and one-half point for every prospect to make just one of the two lists. I then used the average rankings of those prospects to break any ties. Next to the each prospects' name is their ranking on each list, with BP first followed by MLB.com. “NA” indicates that the player did not appear on that list. Prospects are listed in order of their average position on the two lists and are defined as all players who have not yet lost their major league rookie eligibility.
1. Philadelphia Phillies, 6.5 points
Top prospects: SS J.P Crawford (No. 4 BP, No. 5 MLB.com), OF Nick Williams (25, 64), RHP Jake Thompson (34, 55), RHP Mark Appel (64, 70), C Jorge Alfaro (70, 96), OF Cornelius Randolph (NA, 84), RHP Franklyn Kilome (95, NA), CF Roman Quinn (NA, 99)
With eight prospects named to one list or the other, the Phillies have the most top-100 players of any organization in baseball. That group is led by 21-year-old shortstop J.P. Crawford, the 16th pick in the 2013 draft, but it has been fleshed out significantly in the last year by importing talent from other clubs. Williams, Thompson and Alfaro all came over from the Rangers’ system in the Cole Hamels trade last July, and Appel was acquired from the Astros this off-season in the swap that sent closer Ken Giles to Houston. Meanwhile, the 18-year-old Randolph was Philadelphia’s top pick in last June’s draft (selected with the No. 10 pick out of Griffin [Ga.] High School), and the team will surely add another top-100 prospect in June when it makes the first pick in this year's draft.
Crawford, Williams, Thompson, Alfaro and Quinn all topped out in Double A last year, and Appel reached Triple A, so look for 2017 to be the season that this crop of prospects starts to make an impact for the Phillies.
2. Colorado Rockies, 6.5 points
Top prospects: SS Brendan Rodgers (20, 12), RHP Jon Gray (33, 33), RHP Jeff Hoffman (24, 52), CF David Dahl (31, 46), 3B Ryan McMahon (36, 48), 2B Forrest Wall (101, 90), OF Raimel Tapia (42, NA)
The Phillies had more total prospects on the two lists combined, but only the Rockies had six prospects make both lists. Chief among them is Rodgers, the third pick from last year’s draft, who was selected out of Lake Mary (Fla.) High School and posted a .759 OPS in 37 games of Rookie League exposure in 2015. Hoffman, a 23-year-old righty, was the No. 9 pick in '14, and he was the best prospect Colorado received in last July's Troy Tulowitzki trade with the Blue Jays. Wall, another Florida high schooler, was the 35th pick in that same draft, and the Rockies will have the No. 4 selection this June. Only Hoffman, Dahl and Gray have reached Double A out of this group, but Gray, 24, already has nine major league starts under his belt and is expected to be a part of Colorado’s Opening Day rotation this year.
3. Chicago Cubs, 6.0 points
Top prospects: SS Gleyber Torres (41, 28), C Willson Contreras (57, 50), OF Ian Happ (67, 76), OF Billy McKinney (74, 88), CF Albert Almora (83, 86), RHP Duane Underwood (NA, 77), CF Eddy Julio Martinez (97, NA)
Given how much talent the Cubs graduated to the majors last year (including Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler), it’s remarkable that they are still on this list. But it’s notable that the average rank of Chicago's top prospect, 19-year-old Gleyber Torres, is the lowest of any of the top 19 teams in my rankings. Happ was drafted ninth last June out of the University of Cincinnati. McKinney was acquired with Russell in the 2014 trade that sent Jeff Samardzija to Oakland. Martinez is a 20-year-old Cuban defector whom Chicago gave a $3 million signing bonus in October. Almora, the sixth pick in the 2012 draft, was once rated as high as 18th by BP (prior to the 2013 season) and MLB.com (prior to the '14 campaign), but he has struggled since reaching Class A two years ago. None of these players is likely to appear in the majors in 2016.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers, 5.5 points
Top prospects: SS Corey Seager (1, 1), LHP Julio Urias (6, 4), RHP Jose De Leon (28, 24), RHP Grant Holmes (40, 62), RHP Yadier Alvarez (78, NA), OF Yusniel Diaz (91, NA), RHP Frankie Montas (NA, 95)
The Dodgers are the only team to have two top-10 players on both lists. Given that, you could be excused for thinking they actually have the game's most impressive crop of prospect talent. Seager will be Los Angeles' starting shortstop this year and is a heavy National League Rookie of the Year favorite after batting .337/.425/.561 in 27 major league games late last season. Urias won’t turn 20 until August, but he has put up a 2.91 ERA and 10.7 strikeouts per nine in three professional seasons and could reach the majors before then. Montas—the top prospect received in December's three-team Todd Frazier trade that sent the All-Star third baseman from the Reds to the White Sox—could play a big role in the Dodgers' bullpen this season. Alvarez and Diaz are Cuban teenagers signed in the fall via eight-figure signing bonuses—$16 million for the former, $15.5 million for the latter. Rotation prospect Holmes gives the Dodgers four teenagers on this list, though he’ll turn 20 in late March.
5. Atlanta Braves, 5.5 points
Top prospects: SS Dansby Swanson (27, 8), LHP Sean Newcomb (32, 21), SS Ozhiano Albies (37, 29), RHP Aaron Blair (43, 56), LHP Kolby Allard (82, 89), 3B Austin Riley (79, NA)
Like the Phillies, the Braves’ presence on this list is the product of a rebuild that is finally taking shape, and one that will benefit further from a high pick in this June’s draft (No. 3). Swanson, the top pick last year, and Blair were acquired from Arizona in the Dec. 9 Shelby Miller trade. Newcomb was acquired in the Nov. 12 trade that sent Andrelton Simmons to the Angels. Allard was Atlanta’s first pick in last June’s draft (No. 14 out of San Clemente [Calif.] High School), and Riley was a competitive balance pick in the same draft (No. 41, from DeSoto Central High in Southaven, Miss.). Both of them made their professional debuts last year, but while Allard had just three appearances (going 0–0 with a 0.00 ERA in 12 innings) in rookie ball, Riley got 60 games of exposure at two different Rookie League stops, posting a combined .933 OPS. Albies, a diminutive shortstop from Curaçao, is the prospect on the list who has been in the Braves’ organization the longest; he was signed as a 16-year-old in 2013 and won’t turn 20 until January of next year. Blair will battle for a spot in Atlanta's starting rotation this spring.
Honorable mention: The Pirates and Reds also had 5.5 points, but they miss our list via tiebreakers. Pittsburgh, led by rotation prospect Tyler Glasnow (11, 10) and centerfielder Austin Meadows (22, 20), technically edged Cincinnati. Next on the list were the a trio of American League teams with 5.0 points: the Rangers, Twins and Astros.
26. Detroit Tigers, 1.0 points
Top prospects: RHP Michael Fulmer (87, 53)
The Yoenis Cespedes and David Price trades were crucial efforts to restock the Tigers' barren farm system. Fulmer, the top prospect in the former, was the 44th pick in the 2011 draft and had his progress slowed by a torn meniscus in 2013, but he took a big step forward in his age-22 season last year. Pitching at three different stops with the Mets and Tigers, Fulmer went 10–3 with a 2.24 ERA, showing front-of-the-rotation potential.
Not included here because he just barely exceeded the rookie limits is Daniel Norris, the top prospect acquired from Toronto in the Price trade. Norris, who turns 23 in April, is expected to break camp in the Tigers’ rotation, and Fulmer should join him there sometime next year.
27. Seattle Mariners, 1.0 points
Top prospects: OF Alex Jackson (94, 94)
The sixth pick in the 2014 draft, Jackson has hit just .224/.324/.391 in 100 professional games, but it’s still early. He just turned 20 on Christmas Day and has played all of 28 games in full-season ball. Still, as a catcher-turned-corner outfielder, he’ll only go as far as his bat will take him. For now, he is the only player in Seattle's system who can be projected as an above-average major leaguer.
New general manager Jerry Dipoto has been busy rebuilding the major league roster this offseason, but he has at least as much work to do with the Mariners' farm system. The work he did with the Angels, whom Dipoto ran before being resigning last July, doesn’t engender much confidence.
28. San Francisco Giants, 0.5 points
Top prospects: Christian Arroyo (NA, 82)
San Francisco is another team that has graduated a lot of young talent in recent years. Five projected everyday regulars—catcher Buster Posey, first baseman Brandon Belt, second baseman Joe Panik, shortstop Brandon Crawford and third baseman Matt Duffy—as well as starting pitchers Madison Bumgarner and Chris Heston and reliever Hunter Strickland are all products of the team's farm system, and each will be under 30 yet again in 2016. Between that collection of youth at the major league level and their team's three recent World Series championships, Giants fans may not be terribly concerned about the club's organizational depth, but this ranking is nonetheless alarming.
Arroyo is an unexceptional bat-first middle infielder whom Baseball Prospectus ranked as the team’s top prospect in December but somehow didn’t feel was a top 101 prospect in the game just two months later. San Francisco doesn't have a single player in its farm system who projects as an above-average major leaguer.
29 (tie). Miami Marlins and Los Angeles Angels, 0 points
The Marlins and the Angels were the only two teams shut out of both Baseball Prospectus' and MLB.com’s prospect lists entirely. Per BP, Los Angeles' top prospect is 20-year-old right-hander Joe Gatto, the team's second-round pick in 2014 who will turn 21 in June but has yet to pitch above rookie ball and has a 4.65 career ERA. MLB.com hasn't released its team-by-team lists yet, but Baseball America (which hasn't put out its top 100) has Gatto as the Angels’ seventh-best prospect, with catcher Taylor Ward in the top spot. Ward, the 26th pick last June, hit well in his professional debut, topping out in the full-season Class A Midwest League and posting a .348/.457/.438 line overall. The real test for the 22-year-old Fresno State product will come this year, when he is likely to be asked to conquer high A.
As for the Marlins, BP and BA agree on their top three: righthander Tyler Kolek, first baseman Josh Naylor and lefty Jarlin Garcia. Kolek was the No. 2 pick in 2014 but had a lousy first year in full-season ball in '15, his age-19 season (4.56 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 1.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio). Naylor, the 12th pick in 2015, has a bat that could work in the middle-of-the-order, but he is a designated hitter with a first baseman’s glove and, heading into his age-19 season, he’s a long way from proving that bat will play in the majors. The 24-year-old Garcia, meanwhile, seems headed for a career as a back-of-the-rotation option, if he’s lucky.