Five Farm Systems That Could Rise In 2022
Just as the outlook for a major league team can change quickly due to health, trades or players performing better or worse than expected, so too can the outlook for a farm system change in a short time.
With a few players returning from injury, others taking steps forward and new talent added through the draft, international signings or trades, farm systems can go from the bottom of MLB toward the top in a span of just a year.
Take the Rangers, whose farm system ranked No. 24 entering last season. They added a host of talented prospects in trades, got healthy, productive returns from previously injured prospects like righthander Owen White, saw top prospects like third baseman Josh Jung and righthander Cole Winn rise to the upper levels of the minors and excel and added a premium talent in righthander Jack Leiter with the No. 2 overall pick. Now, the Rangers have a top 10 farm system in baseball.
Of course, for such a turnaround to happen, almost everything has to go right. Only one or two teams, if any, tend to experience such a stark rise in a given year.
That said, there are a handful of teams for whom it's easy to envision such a rise—provided things break their way.
Here is a look at five farm systems that have the potential to rise up the organization talent rankings in 2022. In some cases, their rise has already begun.
Current rank: 15
The Cubs farm system has already jumped from No. 22 to No. 15 after the club traded the bulk of its big league core—including Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Yu Darvish and Craig Kimbrel—in a seven-month span and brought back 14 new prospects in trades. Those additions, plus the acquisitions of top 2021 draft picks Jordan Wicks, James Triantos and Drew Gray and top international signee Cristian Hernandez, give the Cubs a considerable talent base in the lower levels of the minor leagues. If some of the premier young prospects like infielders Hernandez, Triantos and Reggie Preciado and outfielders Kevin Alcantara and Owen Caissie make successful jumps to full-season ball, pitching prospects Brailyn Marquez, Kohl Franklin and Riley Thompson get healthy and breakout prospects like lefthander D.J. Herz and outfielders Yohendrick Piñango and Nelson Velazquez continue their ascents, the Cubs could very well have a top 10 farm system within the next year. Having the seventh overall pick in the upcoming draft will help, too.
Current rank: 16
The Mets have quietly been one of baseball’s best organizations at drafting and player development over the past decade. Catcher Francisco Alvarez, shortstop Ronny Mauricio and third basemen Brett Baty and Mark Vientos make up one of the Mets’ most talented position player prospect groups in recent years and righthander J.T. Ginn showed promise in his return from Tommy John surgery. A healthy return from Tommy John surgery by top pitching prospect Matt Allan and continued progress from talented teenage outfielder Alex Ramirez would only bolster the Mets system further. Having two of the top 15 picks in the draft—they will pick No. 11 overall as compensation for failing to sign righthander Kumar Rocker in addition to having the No. 14 pick—gives the Mets a prime opportunity to add two more premium talents to the system.
Current rank: 20
The Marlins are tied for the second-most Top 100 Prospects of any team with five, and yet they are No. 18 in the Organization Talent Rankings. How is that possible? They have only one prospect in the top 50 (No. 48 Eury Perez), four of their five Top 100 prospects are pitchers—who are significantly more volatile than hitters—and the system’s depth drops off steeply after the top dozen prospects. That said, the Marlins system still has a chance to rise quickly if things go right. Even if righthanders Sixto Sanchez and Edward Cabrera graduate, Perez and shortstop Kahlil Watson are two of the brightest young talents in the minors and could quickly rise up the rankings if they perform at higher levels. If righthander Max Meyer can build off his strong finish at Triple-A, outfielder JJ Bleday can sustain the adjustments he made in the Arizona Fall League and shortstop Jose Salas can live up to breakout predictions, the Marlins could have a talent base worthy of a top 10 system. They also have a chance to add another premium prospect with the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft.
Current rank: 25
The Brewers have long excelled at developing pitchers, but they have struggled recently to develop productive, homegrown hitters. If the organization can turn that around, there is an intriguing group of position players to work with. Outfielder Garrett Mitchell and shortstop Brice Turang have shown flashes of everyday potential and reached the upper levels of the minors, while top 2021 draft picks Sal Frelick and Tyler Black were two of the best college hitters in last year’s draft class. Outfielder Joey Wiemer experienced a second-half breakout and catcher Jeferson Quero, outfielder Hedbert Perez and shortstop Eduardo Garcia made for one of the top prospect trios in the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League last year. If even just a few click offensively, the Brewers system will rise.
Current rank: 26
The Nationals kicked off a rebuild when they traded eight veterans, including Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, at the trade deadline in exchange for a dozen young players or prospects. While top prospect Keibert Ruiz is set to graduate, righthander Cade Cavalli and shortstop Brady House give the Nationals two Top 100 prospects who can anchor a system that is slowly but surely getting deeper. The signing of well-regarded Cuban outfielder Cristian Vaquero in January and the upcoming fifth overall pick in the 2022 draft should inject more top-level talent to the system, and the possibility exists the Nationals could add more prospects if they trade some of their remaining veterans during the season. Healthy seasons from righthanders Jackson Rutledge and Cole Henry could help, too.