Baseball America draws up its organization talent rankings each spring to rank the 30 farm systems from first to worst. As insightful as they are, those talent rankings don’t factor young big league talent into the equation. That’s where this piece picks up the story.
An attempt is made here to balance each organization’s farm system quality with production by young big league regulars. “Young” in this case refers to players who will be 25 or younger in 2017. Big league production is more heavily weighted than prospect potential for this exercise.
Why draw the line at age 25? Because players who are 25-and-under today will still be in their physical primes for the next two seasons, when the prospects highlighted here should be contributing in the majors.
Roster age is determined by Baseball-Reference.com based on 2016 data.
The Cubs will trot out the five 25-and-under position players listed above, while 25-year-old reliever Carl Edwards should assume a larger share of crucial bullpen innings.
• Farm System: No. 16 overall, led by OF Eloy Jimenez
The organization’s impact pitching prospects are a few years away, but the system will graduate outfielder Albert Almora, second baseman Ian Happ and third baseman Jeimer Candelario either this season or next. Those prospects might matriculate with another organization if the Cubs decide to trade from depth.
• Roster Age: 19th youngest
The Dodgers entered 2016 with the top-ranked position prospect (Seager) and pitching prospect (Urias) in the game, and both contributed to Los Angeles’ trek to the National League finals. Pederson has provided a steady source of lefthanded power and strong defense in center field.
• Farm System: No. 4 overall, led by 1B Cody Bellinger
Prospects like outfielder Andrew Toles and righthander Brock Stewart already have major league experience, while Bellinger, outfielder Alex Verdugo and second baseman Willie Calhoun spent the bulk of last season at Double-A. Cuban righthander Yadier Alvarez might not be too far behind them.
• Roster Age: 22nd youngest
Betts finished runner-up in last year’s American League MVP balloting and Bogaerts is one of the league’s finest young shortstops. Rodriguez and Swihart, now back at catcher full time after trying left field last year, could take steps forward.
• Farm System: No. 14 overall, led by OF Andrew Benintendi
Boston traded away second baseman Yoan Moncada, outfielder Manuel Margot and righthanders Anderson Espinoza and Michael Kopech to bolster the big league pitching staff, but they still have impact prospects on hand, such as Benintendi, the No. 1 prospect in baseball, and third baseman Rafael Devers.
• Roster Age: 20th youngest
The Astros might have the best left side of the infield in the game, but now they need their young big league pitchers, including McCullers, Musgrove and righthander Michael Feliz (24), to coalesce into a reliable run-prevention unit.
• Farm System: No. 3 overall, led by RHP Francis Martes
• Roster Age: eighth youngest
The Nationals will welcome a repeat of 2015 from Harper, that year’s MVP, and a full season of Turner, who finished runner-up for rookie of the year last year. Ross continues to hold down a rotation spot behind the club’s expensive front three starters.
• Farm System: No. 19 overall, led by OF Victor Robles
Much of Washington’s prospect talent is pooled at the lower levels, but righthanders Erick Fedde and Austin Voth, shortstop Wilmer Difo and reliever Koda Glover will be ready to plug holes this season.
• Roster Age: 25th youngest
Martinez matured into a staff ace last season, while Grichuk and Wacha have shown flashes of excellence. The Cardinals’ volume of 26-year-olds—such as second baseman Kolten Wong, shortstop Aledmys Diaz and outfielder Stephen Piscotty—helps push the team’s average age downward.
• Farm System: No. 12 overall, led by RHP Alex Reyes
• Roster Age: 13th youngest
Syndergaard is baseball’s hardest thrower and one of the most effective starters in the NL, while Conforto looks to rebound from a sophomore slump and Flores to build on a second-half power surge last year.
• Farm System: No. 15 overall, led by SS Amed Rosario
An older lineup will begin to give way to younger players in the coming seasons, from Rosario to first baseman Dominic Smith, outfielder Brandon Nimmo and middle infielder Gavin Cecchini. Righthander Robert Gsellman will integrate into a young rotation.
• Roster Age: 23rd youngest
An outstanding rookie crop in 2016, led by Story, Gray, Dahl and 27-year-old lefthander Tyler Anderson, positions the Rockies for relevancy in the future. Not pictured: catcher Tony Wolters (25) and relievers Carlos Estevez (24) and Miguel Castro (22).
• Farm System: No. 10 overall, led by SS Brendan Rodgers
Prospects are valuable, but they’re also volatile, which makes forecasting the Rockies a challenge. Still, righthanders Jeff Hoffman and German Marquez, outfielder Raimel Tapia and catcher Tom Murphy all have major league experience and upside potential.
• Roster Age: seventh youngest
The Phillies’ roster was so young last year that first baseman Tommy Joseph, reliever Edubray Ramos and righthanders Alec Asher, Jake Thompson and Zach Eflin aren’t even listed above. Now, can those players take a step forward, as second baseman Cesar Hernandez (27) and righthander Jerad Eickhoff (26) did in 2016?
• Farm System: No. 6 overall, led by SS J.P. Crawford
The Philadelphia roster will get even younger this year and next when Crawford, catcher Jorge Alfaro, outfielders Nick Williams and Roman Quinn, first baseman Rhys Hoskins and second baseman Scott Kingery join the fray.
• Roster Age: second youngest
The Orioles have racked up the most wins in the AL since 2012, and they have a deceptively young team, thanks to contributions from players like Machado, Schoop and Bundy.
• Farm System: No. 27 overall, led by C Chance Sisco
Just a handful of teams have a weaker farm system than Baltimore, but on the plus side they have sweet-swinging catcher Chance Sisco and big league-ready righthander Gabriel Ynoa at Triple-A this year, not to mention Rule 5 outfielders Anthony Santander and Aneury Tavarez in big league camp.
• Roster Age: 11th youngest
The Best Of The Rest
The following teams have at least two notable big league regulars who are 25-or-under. The Braves and Yankees have the best farm systems in the business, but they are absent here because they have only righthander Mike Foltynewciz and catcher Gary Sanchez among the 25U crowd.