2009 Organization Talent Rankings

Texas is tops; Houston has a long climb ahead




1. Texas Rangers
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 4 28 16 16 16
State of the System: The Rangers have had one winning season this decade, but now they have a farm system at its absolute peak. Ranked No. 1 in talent for the first time since 1990, the Rangers decided in June 2007 to make scouting and player development the focus of the organization. Starting that summer, they spent on the draft, became an aggressive leader in Latin America and traded Mark Teixeira for an unreal haul of prospects from the Braves. That haul includes top prospect Neftali Feliz and Opening Day shortstop Elvis Andrus.
Best-Stocked Position: Take your pick, as the Rangers have vast stores of young pitchers and two center fielders in their top 10, but they also have several big league-ready catchers who allowed them to trade Gerald Laird at the big league level. Jarrod Saltalamacchia will have to hold off prospects Taylor Teagarden, an elite defender, and Max Ramirez, an improved defender and established minor league offensive force.
Prepare For Takeoff: Righthander Michael Main, who will be challenged by Venezuelan lefthander Martin Perez. Main is too athletic and throws too hard to be held back if healthy. Perez has impressive stuff and feel for a teenage lefty, but Main could put up better numbers in the short-term.
At A Crossroads: The Rangers acquired Greg Golson this offseason from the Phillies for their own stalled first-rounder, John Mayberry Jr. Golson has premium tools across the board—except for hitting. Working with Rudy Jaramillo could unlock Golson's potential as a power-speed Mike Cameron clone in center field.

2. Florida Marlins
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 17 16 3 14 14
State of the System: No other organization—not even the Rangers—can match the Marlins' impact bats in the minor leagues. Several of those players, such as center fielder Cameron Maybin, first baseman Gaby Sanchez and second baseman Chris Coghlan, could help push the team over the top in National League East, after the Marlins have posted winning records four of the last six years. The Marlins' earlier concentration on pitching in the draft already has produced the team's top homegrown players, righthanders Josh Johnson and Chris Volstad.
Best-Stocked Position: Mike Jacobs hit 69 home runs the last three seasons as Florida's first baseman but brought few other positives. Sanchez, last year's Southern League MVP, and Logan Morrison—coming off a dominant turn in the Arizona Fall League—should allow the Marlins to replace Jacobs easily both in the short- and long-term.
Prepare For Takeoff: The Marlins were stunned when outfielder Isaac Galloway fell to the eighth round last June. He's still raw offensively, but his all-around tools rival anyone in this tooled-up organization.
At A Crossroads: Florida pushed 2006 first-round righthander Brett Sinkbeil aggressively last year, sending him to Double-A after just 27 pro starts. He had mediocre stuff leading to modest results, and will need to get back to his earlier form to establish himself as a factor for the Marlins' young rotation.

3. Oakland Athletics
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 9 27 26 8 17
State of the System: The A's have had back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1996-97, but that run doesn't figure to continue. General manager Billy Beane has restocked the farm system, and the franchise is ready to move in whatever direction Beane wants to take it, with a homegrown core, trades that have both restocked the farm system (bringing in the likes of Brett Anderson, Aaron Cunningham and Adrian Cardenas), and a new aggressiveness internationally, personified by $4.25 million record-setting Dominican signee Michael Ynoa.
Best-Stocked Position: The A's have layers of depth of righthanded starters. Trevor Cahill, Vin Mazzaro and James Simmons all have had Double-A success and could reach Oakland in 2009; Ynoa leads a younger vanguard that includes 2008 supplemental first-rounder Tyson Ross.
Prepare For Takeoff: Catcher Josh Donaldson was struggling in the Cubs system but blossomed with the A's after coming over in last year's Rich Harden trade. He will be tested at Double-A but should pass.
At A Crossroads: Outfielder Matt Sulentic regained some lost luster last season, but still strikes out too much. Worse for him, the organization is now overflowing with talented outfielders, crowding Sulentic out if he doesn't keep pace.

4. Tampa Bay Rays
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 1 1 10 9 9
State of the System: A decade of high draft picks produced the keys to the franchise's first winning season, playoff berth, American League East title and pennant. Homegrown pitching has been the key, and more is on the way led by lefthander David Price, righthander Wade Davis and righty Jeff Niemann. The Rays also developed several key pieces of their lineup, led by center fielder B.J. Upton and third baseman Evan Longoria. But those high draft picks—the Rays have picked in the first eight picks every year since 1999—will become a thing of the past.
Best-Stocked Position: Price is the game's best young lefty, dominating in the postseason out of the bullpen, and leads an intriguing crop of southpaws for the Rays. Jacob McGee will miss this season after Tommy John surgery, but Matt Moore and Kyle Lobstein provide two more high-upside lefties yet to reach full-season ball.
Prepare For Takeoff: The Rays are conservative with young pitchers, and righty Nick Barnese is finally ready for full-season ball in his third pro season. He has the experience, fastball command and power arm to dominate low Class A.
At A Crossroads: Outfielder Ryan Royster put up 30 home runs in 2007 in low Class A while batting .329/.380/.601, but he batted just .265/.318/.373 with nine home runs last year in high Class A. He swings and misses too much, thwarting his plus-plus raw power if he doesn't improve.

5. San Francisco Giants
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 23 20 18 17 24
State of the System: The Giants haven't had a winning season since 2004, and now that they aren't very good in the big leagues, they have kept their first-round picks. They've made good use of them, from 2008 National League Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum to 2007 draftees Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson, who both thrived in the low minors in 2008. As part of their rebuilding, the Giants have become big spenders both in the draft (2008 first-rounder Buster Posey got a record $6.2 million bonus) and internationally (outfielder Rafael Rodriguez got $2.55 million in '08, and first baseman Angel Villalona got $2.1 million in 2006). The club has paid its top five signing bonuses in the last three years.
Best-Stocked Position: The Giants have good balance, but their lefthanders stand out thanks to Bumgarner, 2008 draftees Scott Barnes and Aaron King, and Clayton Tanner.
Prepare For Takeoff: The Giants like Ehire Adrianza so much they used him for an emergency Triple-A promotion last year. The Venezuelan shortstop should legitimately jump to full-season ball in 2009 and has the solid swing to hit from the get-go.
At A Crossroads: Billy Sadler has been in the Giants' middle-relief mix since reaching Double-A in 2004 but has yet to establish himself in the majors. His inability to refine his command was evident again in spring training, and the improved farm system could cost him a roster spot if he's not careful.

6. Atlanta Braves
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 8 15 7 5 4
State of the System: The Braves' scouting and player development machine keeps churning out talent, and no organization signed more players in BA's Top 100 Prospects than Atlanta, with eight. Problem is, just five of those players are current Braves, as the Mark Teixeira gambit failed to get Atlanta to the playoffs while costing top talents such as Feliz, Andrus, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Matt Harrison. Still, the Braves have a largely homegrown lineup and are starting to come up with pitchers again, led by righthander Tommy Hanson.
Best-Stocked Position: The Braves are loaded at the lower levels with lefthanders, with five—Cole Rohrbough, Jeff Locke, Edgar Osuna, Chad Rodgers and Scott Diamond—seeing rotation time in low Class A last year. A pair of '08 draft picks—supplemental first-rounder Brett DeVall and second-rounder Tyler Stovall—should reach the level in 2009.
Prepare For Takeoff: Just 19, Panamanian righthander Randall Delgado has a power arm and tons of upside. He's raw and struggled at times with command in Rookie ball last season, though not more than many young, hard throwers. Delgado has plenty of projection left on his 6-foot-3, 180-pound frame as well.
At A Crossroads: Chipper Jones can't last forever, yet Atlanta's best in-house option at third, 2004 second-round pick Eric Campbell, remains the organization's biggest enigma. He has shown power as well as erratic defense and troubling makeup questions, including three suspensions the last three years.

7. Cleveland Indians
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 19 10 9 7 6
State of the System: Cleveland slipped from its 96-win division title season in 2007 back to .500 last year and took the opportunity to restock its minor league system. The Tribe got a solid package of prospects when it traded C.C. Sabathia to the Brewers, and got top prospect Carlos Santana, a switch-hitting catcher, from the Dodgers for Casey Blake. Cleveland also went over slot for five players after its first-round pick in the 2008 draft, adding power arms and intriguing bats such as first-round pick Lonnie Chisenhall.
Best-Stocked Position: Matt LaPorta, the key to the Sabathia deal, could play left field or first base, and the Tribe is stacked at both spots. Left looks stronger with another former Brewer, Michael Brantley, as well as slugging Canadian Nick Weglarz and 2005 first-rounder Trevor Crowe.
Prepare For Takeoff: Kelvin de la Cruz has some of Sabathia's size and is developing a similar repertoire, with a low-90s fastball and power curve. The 21-year-old lefthander got a spot start in Double-A last year and will move fast.
At A Crossroads: While he recovered from a shoulder injury to post a full Double-A season, Stephen Head remains caught in the organization's logjam at first base. He has the arm strength to be viable in the outfield, but left also is crowded. The 2005 second-round pick isn't on the 40-man roster and will have to mash his way onto a crowded Triple-A Columbus roster.

8. St. Louis Cardinals
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 16 23 21 30 28
State of the System: The Cardinals haven't been back to the playoffs since winning the 2006 World Series, in part because of their lack of homegrown talent. They have made significant strides since Jeff Luhnow took over their scouting operations. They operate differently from most other organizations, yet they've acquired a solid stockpile of potential impact hitters, from toolsy outfielders Colby Rasmus and Daryl Jones to offense-first hitters such as third basemen Brett Wallace and David Freese and catcher Bryan Anderson.
Best-Stocked Position: Wallace and Freese will occupy Double-A and Triple-A for the Cardinals this summer, with Wallace in his first full season and Freese coming off an organization MVP performance. Allen Craig might have to move to left field or first to make room for Wallace after hitting 46 homers the last two seasons, with 25 coming at Double-A. Long-term, St. Louis likes Roberto de la Cruz, a 17-year-old 2008 signee out of the Dominican Republic.
Prepare For Takeoff: Righthander Adam Reifer had trouble staying healthy at UC Riverside, but he was impressive when he took the mound at short-season Batavia last summer, with 41 strikeouts in 30 innings and two plus-plus pitches in his mid- to upper-90s fastball and low-90s slider. He'll move quickly as long as he stays on the mound.
At A Crossroads: Righthander Adam Ottavino went backward after adopting the organization's "classic mechanics" approach last year, going 3-7, 5.23, and he's entering his protection year for the 40-man roster. A strong start for Italy in the World Baseball Classic could set the stage for a bounceback season.

9. Baltimore Orioles
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 14 17 12 25 18
State of the System: Baltimore has had losing seasons every year since 1998, but everything changed for the Orioles when they took Matt Wieters fifth overall in the 2007 draft, then signed him to a $6 million bonus. The 2008 Minor League Player of the Year is emerging as the face of the franchise, and the Erik Bedard trade could serve as Baltimore's other touchstone moment in rebuilding. The deal brought in key arms such as Chris Tillman, who heads a top-heavy pitching trio.
Best-Stocked Position: Tillman and 2007 draft pick Jake Arrieta give the Orioles two future rotation stalwarts, while Brandon Erbe is still among the O's top arms. Fellow righthanders Jason Berken, Brad Bergesen and David Hernandez had strong efforts in Double-A last season, and all could contribute in Baltimore sooner than later.
Prepare For Takeoff: Outfielder Ronnie Welty has a lanky body and needs to add strength to grow into his frame. If he does, he could become a prototypical right fielder, with power and arm strength. His two seasons in a wood-bat junior college league in Arizona helped him make a quick transition to pro ball.
At A Crossroads: Mets fans gnashed their teeth when the club didn't pony up a seven-figure bonus for righthander Pedro Beato as a draft-and-follow. The Orioles took him as a supplemental first-rounder in 2006 when the Mets passed, and Beato has made the Mets look prescient. He's 14-20, 4.49 as a pro, and his velocity was down significantly in 2008.

10. Milwaukee Brewers
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 21 7 5 3 1
State of the System: The Brewers finally broke through last year with their first playoff berth since 1982, powered by homegrown sluggers such as Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder and a trade for C.C. Sabathia. Sabathia and Ben Sheets' free-agent departures leave homegrown Yovani Gallardo and Manny Parra as the team's top starting pitchers. To keep the farm system productive, Milwaukee will also have to overcome a front-office brain drain, as scouting director Jack Zduriencik (now Seattle's general manager) and three crosscheckers have left the organization in the last three years.
Best-Stocked Position: Milwaukee has plenty of future center-field options, starting with Lorenzo Cain, who has a fine power-speed mix and has had Double-A success. He's followed by speedsters Cutter Dykstra (son of Lenny) and former draft-and-follow Lee Haydel, plus Logan Schafer, a 2008 draftee who has drawn Mark Kotsay comparisons.
Prepare For Takeoff: Schafer hopped on the fast track with a 43-game trial in low Class A last year after signing last June. He figures to return to that level to start the season and should hit for more power now that he's acclimated to pro ball.
At A Crossroads: A 2004 first-round pick, righthander Mark Rogers hasn't pitched in a game in two years due to shoulder trouble. Yet the Brewers protected him on the 40-man roster in the offseason. At some point, Rogers has to get back on a mound if he's to make anything of his career.

11. Kansas City Royals
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 24 11 23 28 19
State of the System: The Royals have been aggressive under general manager Dayton Moore, nowhere more than in the draft, spending more than any club in history—$11.1 million—on its 2008 class. The last two first-round picks, third baseman Mike Moustakas and first baseman Eric Hosmer, have significant power potential. Despite last year's draft haul, Deric Ladnier was pushed out as scouting director, with farm director J.J. Piccolo taking on a dual scouting/player development role.
Best-Stocked Position: Even before Kansas City traded for Mike Jacobs at the big league level, its best-stocked position was first base, between Hosmer and Kila Ka'aihue, who was the Texas League MVP last season when he led the minors with 104 walks.
Prepare For Takeoff: The Royals' recent forays into Latin America may start bearing fruit, particularly if righthander Kelvin Herrera breaks out this season. The 5-foot-10 righthander threw three pitches for strikes and mowed down the Rookie-level Appalachian League last season. He finished in low Class A, where he figures to return for a full season in 2009.
At A Crossroads: Corner infielder Jason Taylor has the system's best combination of power and speed, when he's on the field. He missed 2007 with a team suspension, and now he'll miss 50 games for testing positive for a recreational drug. He has significant offensive upside that will mean nothing if he can't stay on the field.

12. Philadelphia Phillies
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 22 21 22 20 21
State of the System: Not only did the Phillies win the World Series championship, but their farm system looks ready to contribute more pieces to the homegrown Cole Hamels-Chase Utley-Jimmy Rollins-Ryan Howard core. The Phillies had extra picks in the draft and restocked with a $6.7 million investment. At the same time, hitters such as Dominic Brown, Michael Taylor and Jason Donald had their best seasons in the minors, establishing themselves as important prospects.
Best-Stocked Position: The organization's top catcher, Lou Marson thrived in Double-A and could supplant Carlos Ruiz in the next year or so; 2007 supplemental first-rounder Travis D'Arnaud has better tools and heads for his first full-season stint. Aussie Joel Naughton provides depth and earned a 40-man roster spot, while 18-year-old Sebastian Valle showed offensive promise in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
Prepare For Takeoff: Righthander Julian Sampson has athleticism that translates into command of his lively sinker. The Pacific Northwest product finished his first season strong and gets plenty of groundballs. He'll become more of a strikeout pitcher as he gains more bite and depth on his improving slider.
At A Crossroads: Righthander Edgar Garcia has shown flashes of prospect stuff, with good life on his low-90s fastball when he's at his best. He was pounded in Double-A last year to the tune of an 8.22 ERA, and he could find less support in the front office with former assistant GM Mike Arbuckle now with the Royals organization.

13. Boston Red Sox
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 2 9 8 21 23
State of the System: Much of the talent that pushed the Red Sox toward the top of the rankings in recent years has graduated to the majors—Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Justin Masterson, Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie. That impressive list of graduations has left the upper levels a bit thin, but Boston has invested aggressively internationally and in the draft to reinvigorate the system. A year from now, Boston could vault back into the top 10.
Best-Stocked Position: The Red Sox have at least four prospects at shortstop who both can stay at the position long-term defensively, and who have some offensive upside. Argenis Diaz is on the 40-man roster and has excellent defensive ability, but might have the lowest upside of the quartet. Yamaico Navarro and Oscar Tejada played together at low Class A last year, with Navarro showing more offensive ability, while 2008 draftee Derrik Gibson has outstanding speed to go with intriguing offensive ability.
Prepare For Takeoff: Righthander Stephen Fife has a plus sinker and showed he could spin a breaking ball at altitude last year at Utah. The second-round pick has the physical maturity and fastball command to shoot through the lower levels.
At A Crossroads: As Jason Varitek's career winds down, the Red Sox are looking for catching help, and Mark Wagner is the closest in-house option. In his first shot at Double-A, though, Wagner hit just .219 and wore down in the second half. He'll have to reestablish his offensive credentials to be seen as a viable replacement option for Varitek.

14. Cincinnati Reds
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 3 12 30 23 26
State of the System: The Reds finally turned over their quartet of top prospects, with Homer Bailey, Jay Bruce, Johnny Cueto and Joey Votto graduating to the majors with varying degrees of success. They have drafted fairly conservatively of late, sticking mostly with college players early in drafts, then supplemented that approach with aggressive international spending. Hitters far outnumber pitchers in terms of depth and upside.
Best-Stocked Position: The Reds have multiple options at third base, which seems like the best fit for versatile Todd Frazier. Neftali Soto and Juan Francisco play there now, and if either one can handle the hot corner defensively, they'd bring an above-average bat to the position. Versatile Adam Rosales fits best at third and profiles as a utility infielder.
Prepare For Takeoff: Physical righthander Jordan Smith throws a hard, low-90s sinker and good slider, and with the right defense behind him, he could shoot toward the top of the organization's pitching depth chart. 
At A Crossroads: Lefthander Matt Maloney wasn't able to capitalize on the Reds' open casting call for pitchers last year, struggling to a 4.68 ERA in his first full Triple-A season. He's a flyball pitcher, a poor fit for Great American Ballpark, and might fit better in the bullpen.

15. New York Yankees
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 5 7 17 24 27
State of the System: The big league club missed the playoffs last season, and the Yankees responded by spending more than any team—or more than most of the rest of baseball—in free agency. So while the system has some talent, is it relevant anymore? The Yankees don't have nearly the talent and depth their system had three or four years ago, particularly at the upper levels. Aggressive international signings and over-slot draft signings have stocked the lower levels of the system well, despite the failure to sign 2008 first-rounder Gerrit Cole.
Best-Stocked Position: Jorge Posada is 36, but the Yankees have in-house replacements on the way. Jesus Montero may be a first baseman eventually, but Austin Romine has good catching tools, while Francisco Cervelli has catch-and-throw skills and projects as a solid backup. The Yankees also have spent in the draft on prep catchers Kyle Higashioka ($500,000) and Chase Weems ($450,000).
Prepare For Takeoff: The Yankees love the raw power stuff of righthander Aroydis Vizcaino, but 18-year-old Mexican lefthander Manny Banuelos has firm stuff for a southpaw to go with excellent poise and clean mechanics. They'll pitch together at low Class A Charleston.
At A Crossroads: The Yankees still list Cuban defector Juan Miranda as a 25-year-old, though Cuban documents show him to be 28. Miranda didn't establish himself as a big leaguer before the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira for eight years, meaning Miranda will have to try to mash his way into the crowded DH picture.

16. Chicago White Sox
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 28 26 14 12 20
State of the System: Once an afterthought, the White Sox system is starting to look vital again. With their highest draft pick since 1990, the White Sox fell into Gordon Beckham last year, and the former Georgia shortstop could rocket through the system and play next to last year's big find, the "Cuban Missle," Alexei Ramirez. The Sox went back to the Cuba well with Dayan Viciedo this offseason, then GM Kenny Williams ran a new play by trading veterans for prospects, such as the Javier Vazquez deal with Atlanta.
Best-Stocked Position: Viciedo played third in Cuba and will be given every chance to stick at third for the White Sox, who have Josh Fields—trying to bounce back from a year languishing in Triple-A—at the top of the third base food chain. Iowa prep product Jon Gilmore, acquired in the Vazquez trade, has excellent raw power, while 2008 draftee Brent Morel has an advanced gap-to-gap approach and the athleticism to be a good defender. Sleeper C.J. Retherford has a solid bat and big arm and is Double-A ready one year after signing as a nondrafted free agent.
Prepare For Takeoff: Righthander Dexter Carter has a projectable frame and made quick adjustments after signing following a disappointing college career at Old Dominion. He has two power pitches that helped him lead the Pioneer League in ERA last season.
At A Crossroads: Brent Lillibridge also came from Atlanta in the Vazquez trade and was fighting for the second base job in Chicago. His little man with a big swing approach failed for the first time last year, when he hit .220 in Triple-A, and if he loses the starting job to Chris Getz, he's probably doomed to a utility role.

17. New York Mets
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 17 13 28 19 10
State of the System: The Mets got more from their farm system than even they probably expected last year, with Daniel Murphy rifling through the minors two years after being a 13th-round pick, and Nick Evans and Jonathon Niese contributing in the stretch run. The system also has provided enough for trades that landed Johan Santana and J.J. Putz. The Mets haven't gone significantly over slot since signing 2005 first-round pick Mike Pelfrey but spend aggressively in Latin America, landing them top hitting prospects such as Fernando Martinez, Wilmer Flores and Jefry Marte.
Best-Stocked Position: Marte has third base tools and the bat to fit the profile, though he's quite raw defensively. Zach Lutz has yet to stay healthy and has fringy defensive tools but the Mets love his bat speed and offensive upside. New York's top 2008 international signee, Aderlin Rodriguez, resembles Marte in some ways as a power-hitting corner bat, and Flores—currently a shortstop—could wind up at third when it's all said and done.
Prepare For Takeoff: Lefthanded-hitting catchers with offensive upside can be hard to find, and they have two with Josh Thole and Dock Doyle. Thole takes his advanced offensive approach to Double-A, which will test the rudimentary defensive skills of this relatively new convert to catching. Doyle hit .370 at Coastal Carolina and .303 in his pro debut and should be able to adjust to the grind of full-season ball.
At A Crossroads: Eddie Kunz wasn't a consensus pick as a supplemental first-rounder, but the Mets took him to provide quick big league help. If he's not ready to help in Queens this year, the Mets may start looking elsewhere for relief help.

18. Pittsburgh Pirates
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 26 19 19 18 11
State of the System: To put 2008 presidential campaign terms, change has come to Pittsburgh; hope still seems far away. The Pirates dealt Jason Bay and Xavier Nady for prospects last year and had an aggressive draft, ultimately signing No. 1 draft prospect Pedro Alvarez after a rancorous negotiation that involved precious little straight talk. Nevertheless, the system remains thin, and the decision to pass on Matt Wieters with the No. 4 pick in 2007 still smarts.
Best-Stocked Position: The hot corner is loaded for the franchise, which brought in Andy LaRoche at the big league level in the Bay trade; drafted Alvarez No. 2 overall; and has local product and '04 first-rounder Neil Walker. Walker might be excused for thinking he should have stayed at catcher, his first pro position.
Prepare For Takeoff: Matt Hague could play some third base this season, but more likely will head to the outfield. A college senior draft out of Oklahoma State, he's similar in some ways to Pirates outfielder Steve Pearce, as a physical righthanded power bat. He has a bit more feel for hitting and less power than Pearce.
At A Crossroads: The No. 4 overall pick in the 2006 draft, Brad Lincoln has had Tommy John surgery and a so-so year in A-ball last season. Two years removed from surgery, the Pirates will be able to truly evaluate Lincoln this year, his protection year for the 40-man roster.

19. Toronto Blue Jays
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 25 26 25 15 8
State of the System: The Blue Jays have built an improved system, with better talent at the upper levels such as Travis Snider, J.P. Arencibia and Brett Cecil. The Jays have produced some solid pitching of late, such as Shaun Marcum, Jesse Litch and David Purcey, and Snider and Arencibia should be able to improve one of the big league team's biggest weaknesses, a lack of home run power. The system is still largely dependent on the development of the large 2007 draft class with infielders Kevin Ahrens, Justin Jackson and John Tolisano.
Best-Stocked Position: The Jays have drafted a lot of lefthanders lately, with Cecil—a 2007 supplemental first-rounder—the best of the lot. Ricky Romero has been maligned as the sixth-overall pick in 2005 but the Jays still like his power arm, and Brad Mills and Matt Rzepczynski give the Jays four southpaws among their Top 10 prospects.
Prepare For Takeoff: While he's a shorter righthander Alan Farina has power stuff, including the system's best fastball, a 92-95 mph explosive four-seamer. Ankle and elbow injuries have held him back as a pro, but he's got the power equipment to race through the system if he's healthy in 2009.
At A Crossroads: The Jays passed on a lot of talent to take Romero sixth overall, and he's still yet to reach the majors. At some point, his three-pitch mix has to produce better results than they have to this point, and with Toronto's big league pitcher injuries (Marcum, Dustin McGowan), now would be a good time.

20. Colorado Rockies
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 7 2 11 6 15
State of the System: After pushing to their first pennant in 2007 behind a homegrown core, led by shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, and Latin power pitchers, the Rockies fell back last season, and now they've committed to rebuilding. Top prospect Dexter Fowler could take over in center field this year. Colorado's underrated Latin American program continues to produce both quality and quantity, both on the mound with the likes of righty Jhoulys Chacin and in the field, from catcher Wilin Rosario to shortstop Hector Gomez.
Best-Stocked Position: With long, graceful strides, Fowler could make Coors Field's expansive center field and has a chance to be a franchise player down the line. A pair of 2008 draftees, Georgia Tech alum Charlie Blackmon and Mississippi prep product Delta Cleary, are further away but have high ceilings.
Prepare For Takeoff: Righthander Parker Frazier has big league bloodlines (father George pitched and is now a Rockies broadcaster), and he's starting to fill in his gangly 6-foot-5 frame. With time, he should throw a low-90s power sinker and good slider to go with it. 
At A Crossroads: Righty Chaz Roe still hasn't filled in his 6-foot-5 frame, and the 2005 draftee remains a projection guy at age 22. He has yet to come up with a consistent third pitch through four pro seasons.

21. Washington Nationals
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 10 30 24 26 30
State of the System: The Nationals had an ugly 2008 all around, posting the majors' worst record, seeing prospects injured or falling short of expectations, failing to sign first-round pick Aaron Crow and posting uninspiring attendance and local TV ratings. The bad karma culminated this spring, with No. 10 prospect Esmailyn Gonzalez turning out to be Carlos Alvarez and to be 23, instead of 19. The revelation prompted the ouster of general manager Jim Bowden, with assistant GM Mike Rizzo taking over day-to-day duties of the position for now. One of Rizzo's first acts, with the insistence of team president Stan Kasten, was to move the Nats to a new Domincan facility.
Best-Stocked Position: Bowden stockpiled big league outfielders, and that was true in the minors as well. Leonard Davis had a breakthrough season in the upper minors last year, but the best options in the system are further away: right fielder Michael Burgess, and 2008 draftees Destin Hood and sweet-swinging J.P. Ramirez.
Prepare For Takeoff: Lefthander Jack McGeary finally becomes a full-time professional baseball player this year, and the Nats expect his polished three-pitch mix to allow him to move quickly.
At A Crossroads: It wasn't his fault, but shortstop Ian Desmond was overhyped earlier in his career, though now he might be a bit underrated. He's just 23 and has played more than 100 games at Double-A. His bat and glove are too erratic to expect him to be a star, or perhaps even a regular on a contending team. Now, 2008 draftee Danny Espinosa will be pushing him from behind.

22. Minnesota Twins
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 15 8 6 4 5
State of the System: Despite a change in general managers (Terry Ryan gone, Bill Smith promoted) and now a change in ownership with the death of Carl Pohlad, the Twins' song remains the same. They must keep producing their own low-cost talent, and they keep doing it. Last year's top rookies included outfielders Denard Span and Carlos Gomez and righthander Nick Blackburn, part of a young, nearly homegrown rotation. The system has thinned out at the upper levels, however, with higher-ceiling players on the mound and at the plate concentrated in A-ball.
Best-Stocked Position: The Twins have center fielders at ever level, with two rookies last year in Gomez and Span, plus Jason Pridie in Triple-A, back-to-back first-rounders Ben Revere ('07) and Aaron Hicks ('08), and 2006 second-rounder Joe Benson.
Prepare For Takeoff: Rene Tosoni has one of the organization's most polished bats, even though he's Canadian and has missed development time with injuries. A healthy Tosoni should approach .300, even if he's pushed to Double-A.
At A Crossroads: Righthander Anthony Swarzak has had two strange seasons, with a 50-game drug suspension in 2007 and a poor Double-A showing in '08, followed by a strong finish in Triple-A. He either needs much-improved fastball command or a better changeup to remain in the mix as a starter in this pitching-heavy organization.

23. Los Angeles Dodgers
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 6 6 2 2 2
State of the System: The Dodgers' farm has been thoroughly depleted due to graduations of guys like Clayton Kershaw and the young nucleus of big league team. Trades that helped win the NL West last year cost impact prospects such as catcher Carlos Santana and righthander Bryan Morris. Also, a trio of blown supplemental first-round picks—Justin Orenduff in 2004, unsigned Luke Hochevar in 2005 and Preston Mattingly in '06—has taken some luster off the Dodgers' draft track record.
Best-Stocked Position: Righthanded starting pitchers remain a strength, even if the Dodgers start James McDonald in the big league bullpen. A pair of first-rounders—Ethan Martin (2008) and Chris Withrow (2007)—have high upside, as do hard throwers Josh Lindblom (who might wind up in the bullpen) and Nathan Eovaldi.
Prepare For Takeoff: Shortstop Devaris Gordon missed his whole freshman year in junior college due to a grade snafu, but the son of Tom Gordon has premium athleticism, outstanding speed and a potentially live bat.
At A Crossroads: Lefthander James Adkins is yet another supplemental pick struggling for the Dodgers, though he's had only one full season. He has a pair of plus breaking balls but hasn't worked off his fastball to command the pitch yet, and might have to move to the bullpen to progress.

24. Seattle Mariners
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 12 24 27 11 12
State of the System: After the debacle of 2008, the Mariners are headed for an extreme makeover with Jack Zduriencik taking over as general manager. His project is more challenging in a division that features a behemoth big league team in the Angels, plus two of the top three farm systems in the game in Texas and Oakland. Zduriencik has made changes in the scouting department but retained many of the scouts who have made the Mariners an international pacesetter.
Best-Stocked Position: The Mariners have options at third base to replace Adrian Beltre, who becomes a free agent after this season. Matt Tuiasosopo, a solid hitter and defender, is the closest to the majors, but the Mariners have higher hopes for Latin American signees Mario Martinez and Jharmidy DeJesus, who haven't played full-season ball yet. Italian product Alex Liddi, and college draft picks Matt Mangini and Nate Tenbrink also have promise.
Prepare For Takeoff: Righthander Brett Lorin was expected to anchor Long Beach State's rotation this year, but he emerged late in 2008 and the Mariners signed him as a fifth-round pick and draft-eligible sophomore. At 6-foot-7, 245 pounds, he's just growing into his body and can run his fastball up to 94 mph. He also already has Midwest League experience and could jump on the fast track.
At A Crossroads: Tuiasosopo put up the best numbers of his career last year, in Triple-A. He might hit enough to be a solid replacement for Beltre, but his defense would be a significant step down.

25. Los Angeles Angels
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 11 4 4 1 3
State of the System: The Angels have never been better in the big leagues, with five playoff berths and a World Series championship since 2002, compared to three division titles from 1961-2001. They've also produced several keys to their current success, from pitchers John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders and Jose Arredondo to catchers Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli to keystone combo Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick. The current farm system has suffered from picks lost to free-agent signings and several unsigned single-digit picks.
Best-Stocked Position: The Angels have a variety of righthanders who could be future starters, with top prospect Nick Adenhart already having reached the big leagues and Anthony Ortega not far off after a 5-0, 2.52 effort in Triple-A last year. No one in the system has a better arm than Jordan Walden, though Mason Tobin comes close, and Sean O'Sullivan has premium pitchability.
Prepare For Takeoff: Canadian athlete Terrell Alliman, ticketed for low Class A, has excellent bat speed and a solid feel for hitting considering his lack of experience. He also may have found a defensive home in right field. 
At A Crossroads: Catcher Hank Conger has shown he can be a run producer, with 25 homers in 668 career at-bats and 75 RBIs in just 73 games last season. However, he has played just 179 games since signing as a first-round pick in 2006 and has to stay healthy to improve his defense.

26. Arizona Diamondbacks
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 20 3 1 13 13
State of the System: The Diamondbacks have fallen rapidly in our rankings for two key reasons: they've graduated impact talent, and they haven't replaced it. Two runs at division titles—one successful, one not—have drained the system's depth in trades for big leaguers such as Dan Haren and Adam Dunn. Two years of drafts under scouting director Tom Allison have focused on college arms, with prep arms mixed in and precious few athletes.
Best-Stocked Position: With its draft focus, Arizona has a solid stockpile of righthanded arms. Prep righties Jarrod Parker and Kevin Eichhorn and juco pickup Trevor Harden jump out for their athleticism and live arms. College draftees Barry Enright, Brooks Brown and Wes Roemer rely more on pitchability, while Cesar Valdez and Billy Buckner are close to big league ready.
Prepare For Takeoff: Harden had a spectacular pro debut, striking out 64 in 42 innings in Rookie ball. Better yet, he took to starting after being primarily a reliever at New Mexico JC, and should fill that role in A-ball in 2009.
At A Crossroads: The Diamondbacks could use a power bat in the upper levels. Outfielder Cyle Hankerd has a power hitter's body but a middle infielder's slugging numbers (.333 slugging percentage, five homers last year). He'll have to hit more to stay on the prospect radar.

27. Chicago Cubs
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 18 18 15 10 7
State of the System: The Cubs produced their best homegrown everyday hitter in years with Geovany Soto, who helped them post the best record in the National League last year. In their quest to end their century-old World Series drought, though, the Cubs have focused almost solely on the majors, to the detriment of the farm system. Draft picks such as 2005 first-rounder Mark Pawelek and 2006 pick Chris Huseby, who got $1.3 million as an 11th-rounder, have flopped.
Best-Stocked Position: Third base features No. 1 prospect Josh Vitters, who's ready to blow up now that he's headed to full-season ball and healthy. The Cubs could see supplemental first-rounder Ryan Flaherty moving to third base eventually if he can't stay at shortstop, and Marquez Smith is a versatile defender with power potential. Power bat Jovan Rosa may fit better at first, but the Cubs haven't given up on him at the hot corner.
Prepare For Takeoff: Outfielder Brandon Guyer is the best athlete in the depleted system and is healthy after missing time early last season with a stress fracture in his right elbow. He has the system's best power-speed combination and could be ready to jump on the fast track.
At A Crossroads: The Cubs bucked consensus in 2006 to take Tyler Colvin 13th overall in the draft, and Colvin has yet to reward them. He has reached Double-A and shown power, while his overall tools have backed up somewhat. His career .316 on-base percentage doesn't make it look like he'll be a regular.

28. Detroit Tigers
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 27 14 13 29 22
State of the System: In going for it at the major league level, the Tigers have depleted their farm system through several trades. They had helped build up the system in the previous few years by going over-slot for several draft picks, but did not do that last year. Detroit also has been one of the least productive organizations in Latin America as bonuses have jumped and some teams have plowed more resources there in recent years.
Best-Stocked Position: The Tigers drafted four righthanded relievers with their first four picks of the 2008 draft, making it an organizational strength overnight. Ryan Perry, Cody Satterwhite, Scott Green and Brett Jacobson had varying degrees of college success, and Perry was having an outstanding spring, making him a candidate for the big league roster.
Prepare For Takeoff: Righthander Brandon Hamilton was a supplemental first-round pick in 2007 and has moved slowly, and going back to Rookie ball last year should get him ready for a return to low Class A. He touched 96 mph in instructional league and has shown a power curveball and promising changeup.
At A Crossroads: At 26, Michael Hollimon has some big league time and already has overachieved as a 16th-round pick. But he is headed back to Triple-A and looks like an extra piece, rather than a key to the Tigers' future.

29. San Diego Padres
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 13 29 29 27 25
State of the System: San Diego has had two first-round picks in the last 10 years become contributing big league regulars—Sean Burroughs in 1998 and Khalil Greene in 2002—and even both of those ultimately fell short of expectations. As a result, the Padres' talent level has dropped, with a system of solid complementary players but a lack of future star power. To remedy that, the Padres have invested in Latin America heavily in recent years, signing three players for seven-figure bonuses in 2008 alone.
Best-Stocked Position: The Padres' philosophy leads them to draft polished bats, most of whom play corner spots. Consequently, they have plenty of left-field options, from 2008 supplemental first-round pick Jaff Decker to 2007 supplemental pick Kellen Kulbacki. Though he's 26, Will Venable looks ready to earn a big league job, and some scouts like center fielder Cedric Hunter better defensively on a corner as well.
Prepare For Takeoff: Righthander Simon Castro ranks with Matt Latos and Adys Portillo among the Padres' highest-ceiling young arms. He's still working to establish control (not to mention command), but his mid-90s fastball should thrive in the low Class A Midwest League.
At A Crossroads: Second baseman Matt Antonelli regressed across the board in 2008. In 2007, he looked like a future starter and perhaps star; after last year, he looks more likely to add to the Padres' lengthy list of first-round flops.

30. Houston Astros
PREVIOUS 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
RANKINGS 29 22 20 22 29
State of the System: The Astros come off an 86-win season, but leaner times may be ahead for the franchise, which has an older lineup and is No. 30 on our talent rankings by a fairly wide margin. The organization has drafted cheaply and poorly for most of the last four years, culminating with an '07 class that already ranks as one of the worst in draft history. Houston's historic forays into Venezuela are mostly a thing of the past as well; the organization that once dominated talent acquisition in that country now doesn't even have an academy there and makes little impact internationally anymore.
Best-Stocked Position: Righthanded pitching is one spot where the Astros have developed depth. Bud Norris had a strong Arizona Fall League performance, though some scouts consider him more of an impact arm as a reliever than as a starter. Two 2008 draftees, Ross Seaton and Jordan Lyles, and 2008 Taiwan signee Chia-Jen Lo have to come through to help the organization improve.
Prepare For Takeoff: Righthander Chris Hicks has had a power arm for years, having been an anticipated recruit at Georgia Tech. His 6.98 college ERA belied his 92-95 mph fastball, which touches 96. He worked primarily in relief for the Yellow Jackets, but the Astros hope to tap into his power-arm potential in the low Class A rotation.
At A Crossroads: Righthander Felipe Paulino pitched only one inning last year, though he's still on the organization's 40-man roster. He posted a 12.50 ERA in big league camp before being sent down to Triple-A and needs to re-establish himself with a full, healthy season.