As part of my prospect rankings, I rank all 30 major-league teams’ farm systems, with a brief explanation of why they’re in this order — although I think you’ll get an even clearer picture of each by reading the team reports that are rolling out next week. Bear in mind that these rankings only consider players currently in the system and eligible for the rankings, meaning they have not yet lost rookie status. I consider all prospects in a system for the rankings, not just those on the top 100; there’s still value in prospects who don’t project to be stars, or even regulars, whether it’s for your own club or for trades. The increased number of teams scouting the complex leagues to look for players to acquire in trades only further justifies this philosophy for ranking systems — teams are telling us these prospects have value.
Keith Law’s top 100 MLB prospects, with Diamondbacks’ Corbin Carroll at No. 1
I know, it’s boring to say the Dodgers have the best farm system, and kind of hard to believe given all the players they’ve graduated or traded away in the past few years, but they are probably the best drafting organization given where they pick, they find talent on the international front, and players who come into their system get better at an alarmingly high rate. They have outstanding depth in up-the-middle position players and hard-throwing pitchers who still project as starters. They placed eight players on my top 100, most of any team, and I’m fairly sure they would have had the most players if I’d gone another 25 or 50 or 100 names. Guys like River Ryan and Josue De Paula are fighting to get into the Dodgers’ top 10 when they’d be top 5 in some organizations. Michael Grove might be in their rotation this year, or fill the role vacated by Mitch White (whom the Dodgers traded for, of course, a really good pitching prospect who might not crack their top 15), and he’s not in their top 10. They are among the best organizations in baseball at helping hitters execute swing changes. They’re also willing to take risks, like moving a first-round pick from first base to second base — not a common position switch — because they believe in their process, and also have the capacity to absorb the hit if it doesn’t work out. Scouts are already questioning how the Dodgers got Dalton Rushing (No. 62 on my list) with a second-round pick, No. 41 overall, in the 2022 draft. They just don’t understand. It’s Dodgers Devil Magic.
The Guardians seem to do two things exceptionally well: They have found a ton of talent, notably infield talent, through international free agency, and they have a clear process where they identify college starters with command and good deliveries whom they can help find increased velocity. It’s helped them weather some big misses in the draft (Brady Aiken, Ethan Hankins), although they saw a big bounce back this year from another first-rounder who looked like he might not pan out in Bo Naylor. There’s tremendous depth in infield talent here, much of it below the top-100 level but those players could end up regulars in the right situation or at least have that potential upside with some volatility in their bats.
The Orioles have the best collection of position player prospects in baseball, and it’s almost all come through the draft, although general manager Mike Elias’ commitment to participating in international free agency is already boosting the system with guys like Samuel Basallo. They might have four prospects who could be everyday shortstops in the major leagues, depending on what you think of Jordan Westburg’s glove, and most of their hitting prospects have some value on defense as well. They are lopsided toward bats, though, with two pitchers in the top 100 but probably no other pitchers who project as more than fifth starters, which is why you’ve seen them start to trade from all that hitting depth to add major-league starters, like this week’s trade of Darnell Hernaiz — who was at No. 11 on their top 20 at the time of the trade — to Oakland for Cole Irvin.
Three guys in the top 15 will do a lot to boost your farm system, and they have two starters who are major-league ready and probably end up in the top 3 spots in a big-league rotation, which I think makes them the most top-heavy farm system in the majors right now — meaning that a huge percentage of the prospect value here is tied up in those five guys, with another who was on the just-missed-the-just-missed list, so to speak. There’s still more talent here, but nothing close to the top 6 yet, as the best of the rest are either lower-ceiling guys or have a lot more risk.
The Rays have a nice balance of depth and upside, with four guys on the top 100 and one on the just-missed list, but their 6-12 range is at least filled with intriguing players who could end up above-average regulars if they get healthy, cut down on the strikeouts, etc. Curtis Mead gives them their best chance for a star, and I don’t think there’s anyone here who makes you think he’ll challenge for an MVP award or a Cy Young Award someday, which is more important for a team like the Rays, who’ll never sign a player like that in free agency, than for most clubs. They continue to bring in a lot of high-upside talent through international free agency, though, even when low first-round picks make acquiring such guys harder through the draft.
The Pirates are the converse — inverse? contrapositive? — of the Diamondbacks, as they might not have a superstar in their ranks, or at least not above the complex league, but they have tremendous depth in their system if we’re just talking about guys who’ll play in the big leagues and be more than replacement level. The regular Double-A Altoona lineup could easily see five or six of its hitters end up filling that role, as well as several of its pitchers. The Pirates were also bitten repeatedly by the injury bug, with the No. 1 overall pick in 2021, Henry Davis, on the injured list twice for extended periods; 2020 first-rounder Nick Gonzales hurt for a huge part of the year; and one of their high-bonus picks from that same year, Lonnie White, out for almost the entire season. Simply getting healthy will make this system look better, as will getting Termarr Johnson, Bubba Chandler and Anthony Solometo to full-season ball this April.
A vastly improved system in the past year or two. The Rangers have gotten healthy, seen some draft guys develop, and have an impressive group of international free-agent signees on their way from either the Dominican Summer League or the Arizona Complex League who could vault this system into the top 3 in a year — especially since they will probably only graduate one guy from their top 10, Josh Jung. There’s even some pitching coming, which I imagine is music to Rangers fans’ ears, and the front office has patched together a big-league rotation that looks like it’s a short-term fix as they wait for those guys to arrive.
The Brewers have quietly done very well with high draft picks in the last few years, boosting this system at a time when their big-bonus international free agents are starting to produce in full-season ball. Their first-rounder from 2019, Ethan Small, made the majors; their first- and fourth-rounders from 2020 and their first two picks from 2021 are off to great starts; and their second-round pick from 2022, Jacob Misiorowski, wowed scouts in a brief look in instructional league. They did so despite never drafting higher than 15th in that span, and since those are all college guys, most of them will impact the big leagues this year or early next.
The Cardinals’ 2020 draft included two extra picks from the Competitive Balance lottery and from losing free agent Marcell Ozuna, and they may have had an epic draft class that year, with the top 3 picks all on the top 100, Alec Burleson already in the majors, and Ian Bedell still one to watch now that he’s back from the Tommy John surgery that cost him almost all of 2021 and 2022. There’s some depth elsewhere in the system in some back-end starter or leverage reliever types, and some catching, but it’s definitely a more top-heavy Cardinals system than I’m used to seeing.
Law’s just-missed list: 10 prospects who fell short of the top 100
To be honest, I thought they’d end up higher on the list, but perhaps I was a year early with those expectations, which were mostly built around the group of position players in A-ball and the Arizona Complex League this year, only one of whom, Kevin Alcantara, made my top 100. Most of the others are still interesting prospects with upside remaining but didn’t progress to the point where it would have pushed this system into the top 5. There’s less pitching here, although they bet big on upside with their first pick in 2022, Cade Horton.
What a difference a year makes — the Juan Soto trade added three of their top 6 prospects, and they added one of the highest-ceiling guys in the 2022 draft class in Elijah Green. This was the worst system a year ago, and had been near the bottom for a while for a bunch of reasons, from some draft misses to some busts on the international side (after Soto, who makes up for a lot of other guys) to trades while the team was still contending.
I think five is the most players the Rockies have ever placed on one of my top 100s, and they’re all upside players, plus the one more on the Just Missed list in Drew Romo. They won’t all pan out, but it’s good to see them targeting those players; the challenge now is developing them, which hasn’t been a strength for the Rockies over the past decade or so.
Good drafts and good trades buoyed this system even through the graduations of Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo last year, along with a disappointing full-season debut from Matt McLain. It doesn’t hurt to have Elly De La Cruz, who I think has the highest ceiling of anyone in the minors, or to get the guy I ranked second overall in the draft class, Cam Collier, at the No. 18 overall pick.
Despite some significant trades and some high picks not panning out so far (since 2019’s Anthony Volpe, who is a top 10 overall prospect, so I’d say that one is panning out), this system is still reasonably strong, with some high-upside guys up top and down in the complex league. They do have a lot of hard throwers in the system and should be able to continue to use those guys for trades going forward.
15. New York Mets
The Mets have drafted exceptionally well, and have had some huge successes on the international front, at least in terms of getting guys who would become top-100 prospects. This year’s list has five current Mets prospects, plus two former Mets prospects in Pete Crow-Armstrong and Endy Rodriguez, to say nothing of other prospects they’ve traded away who have since graduated (like Andrés Giménez, Jarred Kelenic, Amed Rosario and more). The current system is pretty top-heavy, but the upper tier, which has the five guys on the top 100 plus two more I’d say were in the next 30-40, is good enough to make this a mid-level farm system overall. There’s some intriguing pitching much lower down, but nobody has popped yet to be a likely big-league starter.
The Royals placed just one guy on my top 100, but I love the depth in this system and its capacity for a big improvement overall in the next year. The class of high school pitchers they took in 2021 hasn’t made its mark yet, but the top two guys they took, lefty Frank Mozzicato and righty Ben Kudrna, still have the same upside the Royals saw in high school — they aren’t all Andrew Painters. There’s some catching depth, some outfield depth, a lot of athletes, and some more arms than I mentioned. It’s a big challenge for the Royals’ player development group, but also means they could make a big move in the next 12 months — and they’ve done some great stuff with hitting prospects in the past two years.
The Blue Jays depleted their system with trades and promotions, down to just the one top-100 guy (Ricky Tiedemann), but they still have a deep reserve of middle-infield prospects signed by their international scouting department, along with a couple of outfielders, who are mostly still unrealized potential and just need to get healthy or gain a full year of at-bats. Tiedemann is the pitching prize, but his teammates at Double-A New Hampshire later in the year, like Yosver Zulueta and Hayden Juenger, could be up sooner as bullpen pieces (even as potential long-term starters).
A very disappointing year across the board for the Giants other than Kyle Harrison continuing to be awesome. Marco Luciano and Luis Matos got hurt, while Heliot Ramos, Joey Bart (who no longer qualifies for the list), Patrick Bailey, Hunter Bishop and Will Bednar — five straight first-round picks — all just had bad years. I feel better about the first two guys getting healthy and bouncing back than Bart, Bailey or Bishop improving.
Injuries beset a ton of the Twins’ top prospects, including poor Royce Lewis, Emmanuel Rodriguez, and former top-100 prospects Austin Martin and Jordan Balazovic. Rodriguez was very impressive when he played and they had a really strong 2022 draft, while also adding a top-5 prospect in Jose Salas in a trade just two weeks before publication. There’s way more position player depth and upside in this system than pitching.
Just since last year’s rankings, the Mariners traded for and traded away Jesse Winker, traded for Luis Castillo, and traded for Teoscar Hernández, giving up five guys who were in or might have been in their top 10 right now, two of them on the top 100, so, yeah, the system is down. There’s still some really interesting pitching and a couple of fairly high-upside teenaged bats, although at this point they’re risking becoming a bottom-five system — and one that can’t sustain the major-league roster — if they make another huge deal.
I like this system a bit more than the ranking implies, but that’s based on a lot of high-variance guys about whom I am more bullish. I didn’t love seeing Jose Salas, who was fourth in the system, traded for Luis Arraez, but that didn’t really move them at all in the overall rankings. I didn’t love their 2022 draft class, though, so look for them to move up just from those guys if it turns out I was wrong about Jacob Berry, Karson Milbrandt, et al.
Three really good pitching prospects, three very good hitting prospects, and then a bit of a … let’s say a shelf, rather than a cliff, as there are plenty of potential middle relievers and extra outfielders in the system. They also have a couple of draft flops who are young enough that the new player development regime might still salvage something, although I value them here as if they’re org players. The arrow is pointing up, which is very good news even if it just means more players to trade to keep the big-league club contending.
Their group of position-player prospects is probably in the upper half of farm systems, but their group of pitching prospects is one of the weakest. They might not have a future MLB starter anywhere on their full-season rosters; the best of those candidates all have huge reliever risk, at least. They lost one guy from their top-100 group last year, as Nick Yorke, their shocking first-round pick in 2020, hit just .232/.302/.365 in High A. He’ll turn 21 in April, though, and has time to recover.
I suppose the well eventually had to run dry, right? After trades for Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove and Blake Snell and Austin Nola and Josh Hader and finally Juan Soto, they hit their lowest ranking in my memory, at least. The Soto trade sent away two guys from last year’s top 100 who’ve since graduated, plus two guys on the top 100 now for Washington, and a top 150-ish player in Jarlin Susana. I don’t think we’ll see this system return to the depth it had two to three years ago any time soon, especially since some of that came from an enormous international signing class under the old rules, but their 2022 draft, headlined by a pair of high-ceiling high school arms, is promising.
The 2021 all-pitching draft hasn’t quite panned out so far, although it did produce the first big-leaguer from that entire draft in Chase Silseth, who right now is the Angels’ second-best prospect from that draft. Got it? Good. Anyway, the Angels’ 2017-19 drafts haven’t added much to the system at all so far, and their seven-figure international signings haven’t worked out, except for that one guy they signed from Japan’s NPB. (I don’t count NPB/KBO players as prospects.) Some good news: their 2022 first-rounder, Zach Neto, went right to Double A and raked; they traded Brandon Marsh for Logan O’Hoppe, who also raked and reached the big leagues; and their 2021 international free agent class looks very good in the early going.
Not to be a broken record, but the Astros drafted without scouts for years, and it showed in the results, which were also hurt when the team was drafting at the end of the first round rather than the top. They also almost completely punted on international free agency after 2016, only signing three players for seven figures or more between then and 2022, two of them Cuban defectors (Pedro León and the since-released Elián Rodriguez). They did also lose their first two picks in 2021 to penalties for the sign-stealing scandal, but had a strong 2022 draft that mixed some high-floor and medium-ceiling college players, which at least should provide more tradeable players to keep the big-league club going.
27. Oakland A’s
This system really should be better, given all the trades the A’s have made, but they’ve failed to execute in several areas. They gave Robert Puason and Pedro Pineda $7.5 million combined and neither is likely to see Double A, while they’ve missed on a lot of high draft picks, from Austin Beck to Logan Davidson to Jameson Hannah to Jeremy Eierman. (I give them a pass on Kyler Murray. It seemed like a good idea at the time.) The Matt Olson trade has very little impact on their farm system now, with two of those four prospects already graduated and the other two, Ryan Cusick and Joey Estes, taking steps backward in 2022. The A’s have to have a strong farm system to contend, but even after the trades of seven major-league players for a total of 21 players, they’re still far from that goal.
The White Sox’s system has had a lot of two steps forward, three steps back, with one of the better first-year breakouts last year in Colson Montgomery, who gets Corey Seager comparisons from scouts, but some pretty awful seasons from other high draft picks. They’ve continued to pay their biggest bonuses to Cuban players in international free agency, but since Luis Robert it’s been a string of disappointments. Of the prospects here who still look like they’ll have some major-league value, there’s a nice mix of bats and arms, with some guys who could be starters and some infield depth.
The only team without a player on my top 100 this year, although that can’t be too surprising after Atlanta sent most of its farm system to Oakland in trades for Matt Olson and Sean Murphy. They do have some pitching coming in the long term and a little in the short term, but they’re very light on position players. They did go for ceiling in a huge way in the 2022 draft, taking three high school arms with their first three picks, and they finally got back into the international free agent market in 2022 when the 2017 penalties expired.
The new regime in Detroit faces a big challenge here, as very little has gone right for the Tigers’ farm system in recent years. From the 2016 through 2021 drafts, their top three picks by WAR to date are Tarik Skubal, Casey Mize … and John Schreiber, signed for $6,000 in the 15th round. Their international free-agent classes have been totally unproductive. And we haven’t seen many players get better once in the system over the last decade, whether they come in as reasonably polished players or not. Matt Manning might be the one big exception to that, as the Tigers did help him with his delivery when he had trouble throwing strikes, but he’s the outlier. There is still a decent bit of underdeveloped talent just lying around here, with the new player development group only in place for about a year, and there will be a lot of high draft picks to come. It’s lean times ahead in Detroit, unfortunately.
(Illustration: Eamonn Dalton / The Athletic; Photos: Jonathan Newton, John E. Moore II, G Fiume and Chris Bernacchi / Getty Images)