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Old 04-02-2006, 10:48 PM   #1
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Default Minor League Power Rankings

Baseball America has released their rankings of the farm systems:
Because it is a "subscriber only" story, I'll post it here:

The Diamondbacks ranked fourth when we put together an early version of this list together for the 2006 Prospect Handbook, and a subsequent trade for outfielder Chris Young and the signing of No. 1 overall draft pick Justin Upton boosted them to the top spot. Arizona has a stunning array of position-player talent, beginning with their last two first-rounders, shortstops Upton and Stephen Drew--who cost a combined $11.6 million. First baseman Conor Jackson and outfielder Carlos Quentin, two more of scouting director Mike Rizzo's first-rounders, are ready for big league jobs, and Young isn't far away. Carlos Gonzales, who emerged as the best outfield prospect in the lower minors last year, gives the Diamondbacks an unprecedented six players in the first 32 slots on our Top 100 Prospects list. Their pitching isn't as strong, though righthander Dustin Nippert has made a strong comeback from Tommy John surgery.


No. 2 on this list for three straight years, the Dodgers have the deepest and most balanced farm system in the game. They've employed three different general managers on that time, as owner Frank McCourt has fired Dan Evans, hired and fired Paul DePodesta and hired Ned Colletti. The constant on the talent acquisition front has been scouting director Logan White, who has run Los Angeles' drafts since 2002 and gladly has snapped up premium high school talent while most clubs have focused on collegians. Righthander Chad Billingsley, third baseman Andy LaRoche, outfielder Joel Guzman, catcher Russell Martin and righty Jonathan Broxton helped Double-A Jacksonville earn BA's Minor League Team of the Year award in 2005 and should start to make their presence felt in the majors this year. Another wave of talent, headlined by lefty Scott Elbert, third baseman Blake DeWitt and outfielder Matt Kemp, is coming up behind them. The Dodgers placed nine players on the Top 100 Prospects list, the most of any team.


The Marlins apparently have to follow World Series championships with fire sales, which means they won't be returning to the postseason any time in the near future. While they jettisoned Josh Beckett, Luis Castillo, Carlos Delgado, Paul Lo Duca, Mike Lowell, Guillermo Mota and Juan Pierre primarily to save money, they also refurbished the farm system with prospects such as shortstop Hanley Ramirez; righthanders Anibal Sanchez, Yusmeiro Petit, Ricky Nolasco and Gaby Hernandez; and first baseman Mike Jacobs. Florida already had injected talent into the organization in June, when it had five of the top 44 picks in the draft and spent them all on pitchers, starting with Chris Volstad. Holdovers such as outfielder Jeremy Hermida--the leading candidate for NL rookie of the year--lefthander Scott Olsen and righty Josh Johnson should join the big league team this year.


Ranked in the top five for the fourth consecutive years, the Angels system started to pay dividends in 2005. Casey Kotchman and Dallas McPherson took steps toward becoming Los Angeles' corner infielders of the future, while Ervin Santana won the clinching game of the American League Division Series. That's just the beginning. The Angels tied the Dodgers for top honors by originally signing eight players on the current Top 100 list. No organization has more gifted middle infielders, starting with shortstops Brandon Wood and Erick Aybar and second baseman Howie Kendrick. Catcher Jeff Mathis, slugger Kendry Morales, righthander Jered Weaver and lefty Joe Saunders all could claim significant big league roles this year. Owner Arte Moreno is willing to pay top dollar for draft picks and scouting director Eddie Bane isn't afraid to gamble, allowing Los Angeles to land tough signs such as Weaver and righty Nick Adenhart.


The Brewers are coming off their first non-losing season since 1992, and the future looks even brighter. Slowly but surely, they've rebuilt a system that ranked as the worst in the game entering the 2001 season. Most remarkably, they've done it almost solely through the draft and without the benefit of extra picks or above-slot bonuses. That's a tribute to scouting director Jack Zduriencik, whose hiring was the high point of former GM Dean Taylor's reign. Milwaukee could wind up with an entire infield of homegrown all-stars. Rickie Weeks and J.J. Hardy became the Brewers' double-play combination last year, Prince Fielder is ready to take over at first base and third baseman Ryan Braun was the fifth overall pick last June. GM Doug Melvin has added to the system with trades for prospects such as outfielder Nelson Cruz, righthander Jose Capellan and lefty Zach Jackson, and the club also is strengthening its presence in Latin America.


The Twins have more continuity in their front office than any club, as GM Terry Ryan, farm director Jim Rantz and scouting director Mike Radcliff all have held their positions for more than a decade. Consistency extends to the farm system as well, which continues to churn out talent. After graduating Jope Mauer, Jesse Crain, Jason Bartlett and Scott Baker to the majors in 2005, Minnesota has lefthanders Francisco Liriano (the game's top pitching prospect) and Glen Perkins, outfielder Jason Kubel and righty J.D Durbin ready to make the leap this season. There's plenty more talent coming up from the lower levels as well, thanks to eight compensation picks in the early rounds of the last two drafts. Only the Athletics can rival the Twins' ability to repeatedly contend on a small-revenue payroll.


BA's 2005 Organization of the Year, the Braves continue to extend two impressive steaks, as they've won 14 consecutive division titles and have ranked no lower than seventh on this list for 15 straight years. The two were definitely related in 2005, as Atlanta went with a youth movement that included 18 rookies, among them Jeff Francoeur, Brian McCann, Blaine Boyer and Ryan Langerhans. More often than not, their lineup included at least seven homegrown position players. Despite the mass callups, the Braves maintained their depth at the minor league level, even after trading prospects (elite third baseman Andy Marte among them) to acquire Kyle Farnsworth, Tim Hudson and Edgar Renteria in the last 15 months. They signed four of their 10 best prospects in 2005: Venezuelan shortstop Elvis Andrus and draft picks Yunel Escobar, Joey Devine and Beau Jones. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has improved significantly behind the plate and is now baseball's best catching prospect.


No. 21 on this list a year ago, the Red Sox hadn't cracked the upper half of this list since 1998. That they did so after an offseason that saw them trade four of their best prospects (third baseman Andy Marte, shortstop Hanley Ramirez, righthander Anibal Sanchez, catcher Kelly Shoppach) is a tribute to their depth, especially on the mound. No club has a threesome of nearly big league-ready pitchers as talented as Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon and Craig Hansen, and Manny Delcarmen and Edgar Martinez also may help the Boston bullpen in the near future. Jason McLeod's first draft as scouting director looks promising. The Red Sox had five picks before the second round last June, and all of them--outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, righthanders Hansen, Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden, and middle infielder Jed Lowrie--had encouraging debuts.


GM Mark Shapiro's rebuilding plan operated right on schedule, as the Indians returned to contention in 2005 thanks to a homegrown nucleus of talent, acquired through a combination of the draft, international signings and astute trades. More in-house help is available in 2006, starting with third baseman Andy Marte, lefthander Jeremy Sowers, righties Fernando Cabrera and Fausto Carmona, first baseman Ryan Garko and catcher Kelly Shoppach. Marte and Shoppach were products of Shapiro's latest deal, which sent Coco Crisp (part of a Chuck Finley trade with St. Louis in 2002) to Boston. After getting next to nothing out of seven first- and supplemental first-round picks in 2002 and 2003, the Indians may have gone 6-for-6 over the last three years with righthander Andrew Miller, Sowers, outfielders Brad Snyder, Trevor Crowe and John Drennen, and first baseman Michael Aubrey. Cleveland also has the deepest group of future big league general manager and manager candidates of any organization.


The Devil Rays installed an entirely new regime after the 2005 season, led by managing partner Stuart Sternberg, GM Andrew Friedman and senior vice president of baseball operations Gerry Hunsicker. They have plenty of talent to work with, including the two best position players in the minors last year in shortstop B.J. Upton (who no longer qualifies for our prospect lists) and outfielder Delmon Young, BA's 2005 Minor League Player of the Year. The key to franchise's future success is its ability to develop some pitching, and Tampa Bay has some impressive young arms in Jeff Niemann, Jason Hammel, Wade Davis, Chuck Tiffany, Matt Walker, Chris Mason and Jacob McGee. Before leaving to become scouting director of the Cubs, Tim Wilken helped strengthen the system with a pair of strong drafts in 2004 and 2005, netting Niemann, shortstop Reid Brignac, Davis, Walker and Mason, among others. Tampa Bay would have been even better off had the previous upper-management team not insisted on taking since-injured righthander Wade Townsend with the eighth overall pick last June and fouled up a deal for third-round righty Bryan Morris.


Though he receives little recognition, scouting director Bill Schmidt has drafted consistently well throughout the decade. Last year, the Rockies used a franchise-record 19 rookies, including Jeff Francis and Clint Barmes, and gave rookies more playing time than any other club. The real prizes are a pair of first-round picks, third baseman Ian Stewart and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who should star on the left side of Colorado's infield in the near future, and there's plenty of depth behind them. The Rockies have had little success finding a pitching formula that works at Coors Field, and they've recently turned to the international market to fill that void. As with Tampa Bay, Colorado's hopes for the future depend on its ability to refine electric young arms, such as Dominicans Franklin Morales, Ubaldo Jimenez and Juan Morillo and Australian Shane Lindsay.


After 10 years of ranking on the bottom half of this list, the Orioles system made some significant progress in 2005. Baltimore had 17 first- or supplemental first-round picks from 1997-2001, and only one of them (Brian Roberts) has become a productive Oriole. Disorganized player development didn't help during that period, but now Baltimore is starting to repair the damage. Owner Peter Angelos, who had marred previous drafts by mandating picks and restricting the budget, stayed out of the way this time. First-year scouting director Joe Jordan had a fruitful draft, starting with catcher Brandon Snyder, lefthander Garrett Olson, outfielder Nolan Reimold and righty Brandon Erbe. Likewise, new farm director David Stockstill had a productive first year on the job, as the system's best holdover prospects--outfielder Nick Markakis, lefty Adam Loewen, righty Hayden Penn--all took significant strides forward.


The Tigers made the biggest jump in this year's ranking, up 16 spots from No. 29 a year ago. Like Baltimore, Detroit turned over its scouting and minor league departments after the 2004 season, hiring David Chadd as scouting director and Dan Lunetta as farm director. Few clubs have three prospects with ceilings as high as righthanders Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya, and outfielder Cameron Maybin. Outfielder Brent Clevlen and third baseman Wilkin Ramirez also bounced back nicely after lost 2004 seasons. The Tigers' depth isn't as impressive, though they took steps to address that with a strong draft last June. After being pleasantly surprised to get Maybin with the 10th overall pick, they also landed talents such as first baseman Jeff Larish and righthander Kevin Whelan.


The White Sox system rated as the best in the game entering the 2001 season, and all that talent played a major role in ending the club's 88-year championship drought last October. While Chicago had just three homegrown regulars in its lineup and rotation, GM Ken Williams used minor leaguers to deal for such veterans as Freddy Garcia, Scott Podsednik and Juan Uribe. Williams remained aggressive this offseason, trading three of his best prospects (outfielder Chris Young, lefthanders Gio Gonzalez and Daniel Haigwood) to get Jim Thome and Javier Vazquez. Despite dealing Young and Jeremy Reed in the previous two years, the White Sox seem to have a never-ending supply of outfielders, with Brian Anderson, Ryan Sweeney and Jerry Owens pushing for big league roles this spring.


In 2003, the Cubs came within a game of the World Series, and with one of the game's best farm systems, they didn't look like a one-year wonder. But the major league team collapsed down the stretch in 2004 and underachieved last year, and the minor league picture hasn't been pretty. Pitching injuries to prospects such as Chadd Blasko, Angel Guzman, Luke Hagerty and Billy Petrick have robbed the system of its strength, and first baseman Brian Dopirak severely regressed in 2005. After Corey Patterson went from poster boy to failure, Chicago may have overpaid when it gave up three pitching prospects to get Juan Pierre from the Marlins in December. There's still some solid talent, starting with outfielder Felix Pie and lefthander Mark Pawelek, but the Cubs have few sure things and a lot of questions to answer in both the major and minor leagues.


New GM Jon Daniels spent most of his offseason trying to find pitching, and soon he should be able to turn to his farm system--specifically the DVD trio of John Danks, Edison Volquez and Thomas Diamond--for help. Former assistant GM Grady Fuson, who was supposed to ascend to the helm of the club after the 2004 season but left after a power struggle, included Danks, Diamond and righthander Eric Hurley among his first-round picks while with Texas. With improved pitching depth, new scouting director Ron Hopkins was able to focus on position players in the 2005 draft, landing outfielder John Mayberry Jr., third baseman Johnny Whittleman and catcher Taylor Teagarden. After Volquez, the Rangers' best Latin American prospects (shortstop Joaquin Arias, righty Armando Galarraga and lefty Fabio Castro) were acquired in trades, but the club beefed up its presence in that region with aggressive signings last year.


Though the Yankees system produced Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang in 2005, it still lacks depth in the upper minors. New York's only high-ceiling prospect at the Double-A or Triple-A levels, third baseman Eric Duncan, faces a move to first base and hit just .235 last year. But the Yankees are on the rebound after a series of poor drafts from 1997-2002 that would have crippled a team without a $200 million payroll. Duncan was their 2003 first-rounder, followed by top prospect Philip Hughes, a righthander, in 2004. In Damon Oppenheimer's first draft as scouting director last June, he pursued premium athletes such as shortstop C.J. Henry and outfielder Austin Jackson. New York has had more success on the foreign market, both with established big leaguers (Hideki Matsui) and prospects (outfielder Jose Tabata, shortstop Eduardo Nunez). Most of the Yankees' best prospects have yet to play above low Class A, so it will be a few years before they'll become useful big leaguers or attractive trade bait.


For years, the Giants have operated with a simple philosophy: assemble the major league club around Barry Bonds, and use the farm system to develop pitchers to be used as trade fodder. After contending annually from 1997-2004, the cracks started to show last year, when injuries limited Bonds to just 14 games and San Francisco went 75-87. The Giants have an ancient big league club and not enough minor league depth to completely rebuild from within. They've resisted the temptation to trade budding ace Matt Cain, but they're still ruing the inclusion of Francisco Liriano in the A.J. Pierzynski deal three years ago. San Francisco hasn't signed a good big league regular since Bill Mueller in 1993, and forfeiting their first-round choices in the last three draft (and their top three selections in 2005) hasn't helped. The Giants have hopes for infielder Marcus Sanders, outfielder Eddy Martinez-Esteve and first baseman Travis Ishikawa, and they did hold onto the No. 10 pick in the 2006 draft.


The Pirates have endured 13 consecutive losing seasons, but at least they've appeared to have ended their streak of blowing first-round picks by taking lefthander Paul Maholm, catcher Neil Walker and outfielder Andrew McCutchen in the last three drafts. They're still hopeful that fellow first-rounders Sean Burnett, John Van Benschoten and Bryan Bullington will return to form after serious arm injuries, though they may never live down picking Bullington over B.J. Upton with the No. 1 overall choice in 2002. Pittsburgh has some depth, but not enough cornerstone prospects to build a franchise around. The Pirates have graduated several players to the majors over the last two years, most notably Jason Bay and Zach Duke, and Maholm, lefty Tom Gorzelanny and outfielders Nate McLouth and Chris Duffy could make a permanent jump this year.


While the Astros had six rookies on its World Series roster last October, four of them (Ezequiel Astacio, Willy Taveras, Wandy Rodriguez and Luke Scott) were the products of trades. Repeatedly unproductive drafts (in part related to owner Drayton McLane's tight budget) hurt Houston and resulted in Paul Ricciarini's appointment to scouting director after the 2004 draft. Ricciarini addressed the system's lack of lefthanders (with Brian Bogusevic) and quality athletes (with outfielders Eli Iorg and Josh Flores) in his first draft last June. The Astros also have faced increased competition for talent in Venezuela, where they once set the standard. While they still have a bevy of Venezeulan prospects fronted by righthander Fernando Nieve, they took a hit when Andres Reiner, who founded their Venezuela program, joined former Houston GM Gerry Hunsicker in the Devil Rays front office in February.


The Cardinals won more games (205) than any club over the last two years, and they've done it with just two essential homegrown player: Albert Pujols and Matt Morris. They've done a better job of signing talent than that might suggest, as they've traded off nearly all of their successful draft picks (Braden Looper, Adam Kennedy, J.D. Drew, Dan Haren and Daric Barton among them). But their scouting and development efforts did slip in the first part of this decade, so St. Louis has restructured its scouting operation over the last two years. Their 2004 draft was widely panned, but first-year scouting director Jeff Lunhow made good use of four bonus compensation picks last June, beginning with outfielder Colby Rasmus and shortstop Tyler Greene in the first round. The Cardinals also have stepped up their Latin American program, opening a new academy in the Dominican Republic and getting close to unveiling another in Venezuela.


The Phillies may keep coming up short in the National League East, but few clubs can match their nucleus of homegrown players, which includes Pat Burrell, NL rookie of the year Ryan Howard, Brett Myers and Jimmy Rollins. Despite its track record for finding talent, Philadelphia has shown more of a quick-fix mentality this decade, trading prospects for veterans and signing so many free agents that it has given up more compensation draft picks than any club since 2000. The result is a system that lacks a surefire future everyday position player and is headlined by lefthander Cole Hamels--who has a career 1.54 ERA but has been healthy enough to pitch just 152 innings in three seasons. The Phillies have established a nice foothold in Australia, however, which has yielded talents such as infielder Brad Harman.


A complete and utter disaster, the Royals have set or tied the franchise record for losses in four of the last five seasons. And it's not going to get better any time soon. Contrary to industry rumors, Kansas City didn't go cheap with the No. 2 overall pick last June and landed a future stud in third baseman Alex Gordon. Slugger Billy Butler, a surprise mid-first-round selection in 2003, also looks like a star in the making. But after those two, the system contains mostly role players and precious little pitching. It just keeps getting worse for the Royals, who saw Zack Greinke--once the pride and joy of the farm system--melt down in 2005 before leaving the team to deal with personal problems. At least they have the first overall draft choice in June.


The Nationals don't have a stellar system, but the fact that it has been reasonably productive at all is a tribute to scouting director Dana Brown. Operating with a meager budget and a skeleton staff under Major League Baseball ownership in Montreal from 2002-04, Brown and his scouts nevertheless signed all-star closer Chad Cordero, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and 2005 breakout performers Collin Balester (a righthander), Ian Desmond (a shortstop) and Kory Casto (a third baseman). When free-agent signing cost Washington its second- and third-round picks last June, Brown compensated by taking high-ceiling players considered tough signs in later rounds. If the club ever gets a real owner who will put real money into player development, it will be interesting to see what Brown and Co. can do.


No team drafted better in the 1990s than the Blue Jays, who gambled on supposedly unsignable players and sought premium tools players. Their focus has changed since GM J.P. Ricciardi took over in November 2001, as Toronto has focusing on collegians with strong statistical track records. While players such as Aaron Hill, Russ Adams and since-traded David Bush reached the majors quickly, the Jays' closest thing to an impact prospect is righthander Dustin McGowan--who was signed out of high school by the previous regime. Looking to upgrade this offseason, Toronto had to look outside the organization and spend $102 million on free agents A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan and another $33.5 million on trade acquisition Troy Glaus.


Thought the A's have taken the biggest drop on this list after ranking eighth a year ago, but that's no indictment of their scouting and player development. It's just the natural result of graduating AL rookie of the year Huston Street, Joe Blanton, Nick Swisher and Dan Johnson to the majors in the same season. Oakland doesn't have much more in the way of immediate help, but they're in good shape at the big league level--unlike most of the other teams toward the bottom fo this list. Swisher and Blanton likely will be the only two of the seven "Moneyball" first- and supplemental first-round picks from 2002 who pan out, but the A's have had productive if less hyperbolized drafts since. That said, their best prospects were acquired in the Mark Mulder trade (first baseman Daric Barton) and on the international market (outfielder Javier Herrera), where they've backed off in recent years.


Coming off consecutive last-place finishes in the American League West, the Mariners would be in even more dire straits if not for their international signings. Ichiro Suzuki, Felix Hernandez and Yuniesky Betancourt are three of the few bright spots on the big league team, while catcher Kenji Johjima, outfielder Chris Snelling and Shin Soo-Choo, and infielders Matt Tuisasosopo and Asdrubal Cabrera are among the system's best prospects. By contrast, Seattle's 1998-2002 were extremely barren, peaking with Willie Bloomquist and featuring a series of expensive reaches such as Michael Garciaparra and Sam Hays. The Mariners didn't help themselves by yielding four first-round picks as free-agent compensation and failing to sign a fifth (John Mayberry Jr.) from 2000-04. On a positive note, their last three top picks--outfielder Adam Jones (2003), Tuiasosopo (2004), catcher Jeff Clement (2005)--have become their three best domestic prospects.


Omar Minaya has restructured the scouting department twice since becoming GM after the 2004 season, hiring Russ Bove as his scouting director for 2005 and then reassigning Bove and promoting Rudy Terrasas this offseason. Minaya also has re-emphasized New York's Latin American program, which signed outfielder Fernando Martinez and righthander Deolis Guerra for a combined $2.1 million last summer. Though the Mets haven't had deep drafts in recent years, they've usually uncovered an impact player, from David Wright (2001) to Scott Kazmir (2002) to the system's top three prospects in outfielder Lastings Milledge (2003) and righties Philip Humber (2004) and Mike Pelfrey (2005). To make a run at the 2006 playoffs, Minaya parted with several of his better prospects this winter, using righty Yusmeiro Petit, lefty Gaby Hernandez and first baseman Mike Jacobs to acquire Carlos Delgado and Paul Lo Duca from the Marlins.


The Padres had the fourth overall pick in 2003 and the top choice in 2004, and they may not get true value out of either selection. San Diego discovered righthander Tim Stauffer, their 2003 first-rounder, had a shoulder injury after selecting him and his stuff hasn't the same since. The Padres settled on Stephen Drew as the No. 1 pick the following year before upper management decided he was too expensive. Forced to scramble at the last minute, San Diego opted for shortstop Matt Bush, who has hit .216 in two minor league seasons and may eventually wind up on the mound. The Padres got little else out of either draft, one reason they brought in Sandy Alderson as team president and Grady Fuson as vice president of scouting and player development last year. Second baseman Josh Barfield, outfielder Ben Johnson and righthander Clay Hensley are ready to ascend to the majors, but the system won't provide much else in the near future.


The Reds are getting what they paid for. They went cheap in the draft for several years, resulting in their failure to sign first-rounder Jeremy Sowers in 2000 and taking Chris Gruler over Scott Kazmir with the third overall pick in 2001. Cincinnati appeared to score with pitchers Ryan Wagner, Thomas Pauly and Richie Gardner in the 2003 draft, but all three suffered serious injuries last year. Righthander Homer Bailey and outfielder Jay Bruce have huge celings, but they're a few years away. The Reds have little depth behind them, and almost none at the upper levels. A new ownership group led by Robert Castellini may have to invest heavily in player development to turn the team around. Castellini already has overhauled the front office, hiring Wayne Krivsky as GM and Chris Buckley as senior director of scouting, and promoting Johnny Almaraz to farm director.
"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans...." John Lennon

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