An Inflection Point For The Minor Leagues

The sun has set on a common era of the minor leagues—even without a single game being played in 2020.

For six decades, Major League Baseball and its network of affiliated minor leagues conformed to a familiar structure. League classifications established in 1963—Triple-A, Double-A, Class A, Rookie—remained largely unchanged. During this time, the process by which major league organizations affiliated with minor league clubs was governed by two-year Player Development Contracts.

That will be out the window in 2021 as MLB assumes greater control over the way minor leagues operate. We don’t know exactly what shape the minor leagues will take, but we do know they will look different, and perhaps dramatically so.

So for that reason and the pragmatic one that there was no 2020 minor league season, Baseball America is not presenting its Minor League Top 10 Prospects rankings this year for the first time in its history.

Instead, we scoured our archives to bring you some of our most prescient Minor League Top 10 Prospects rankings of yesteryear, one for each of the 17 domestic affiliated leagues that has operated since 1981.

The purpose of this exercise was not necessarily to identify the best prospect class for each minor league—though that is often the case—but rather to spotlight a signature one, while attempting to cover as many players and as many seasons as possible. To that end, we highlighted leagues as far back as 1983 and as recent as 2015.

The tables displayed with each league show the Top 10 Prospects ranking as it was presented at the time, along with subsequent MLB data to add context. Categories shown are major league plate appearances or innings, along with wins above replacement.

We used the FanGraphs version of WAR, opting for the runs allowed version of the metric for pitchers. Statistics for active players are through Sept. 23.

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