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Ten More Notable Minor League Top 10 Prospects Rankings



The Minor League Top 10 Prospects Flashback series spotlights a signature prospect class from each of the 17 domestic minor leagues that Baseball America has ranked since 1981.

Each installment of the MiLB Top 10 Flashback series summarizes the Top 10 Prospects as they appeared at the time, while including contextual major league data, excerpts from contemporary scouting reports and also a listing of every prospect to ever rank No. 1 in the league.

That's great and all, but you might be wondering: Which Minor League Top 10s have produced the most major league value? The table below summarizes the top 10 in terms of FanGraphs wins above replacement, in which the runs allowed version of pitcher WAR is used. Follow the Link to read more about a spotlighted league.

No
YearLeagueFlashback
WAR
1
1998TexasLink321.6
2
1996EasternLink285.0
3
2003International281.6
4
2002Eastern274.7
5
1987SouthernLink271.3
6
1983Florida State253.0
7
1986American AssociationLink252.8
8
1992Pacific CoastLink248.5
9
1993International246.5
10
2005Eastern241.8

The Double-A Eastern and Triple-A International leagues have historically seen the most future value matriculate to the majors over the past four decades. This is a function of large league size and also affiliation.

The Braves have a long history in the IL, and the organization's Minor League Top 10 Prospects went on to produce 3,147 WAR in the big leagues, by far the most for any single club. The Red Sox (third), Blue Jays (fourth) and Indians (fifth) also have longstanding affiliations with the IL and EL.


2003 International League

282 WAR

While the International League class of 2003 may not include a future Hall of Famer like many other MiLB top prospect classes do, it is the ultimate volume leader. Players in this top 10 accumulated 51,541 big league plate appearances plus innings, which is easily the record for playing time generated by any Minor League Top 10 in BA history.

But this prospect class was about more than just volume, with several very good, if not all-time great, players. Justin Morneau won an MVP in 2006. Cliff Lee won a Cy Young Award in 2008. Jose Reyes won a batting title in 2011 and has black ink for stolen bases and triples. Chase Utley is a borderline Hall of Fame candidate.

NoPlayerPosTeamOrgPA/IPWAR
1Jose ReyesSSNorfolkMets8,24043.8
2Justin Morneau1BRochesterTwins6,39222.7
3Victor MartinezCBuffaloIndians8,16626.9
4Chase Utley2BScranton/WBPhillies7,86362.9
5Freddy SanchezSS/2BPawtucketRed Sox3,68615.6
6Adam LaRoche1BRichmondBraves6,32911.5
7Brandon ClaussenLHPLouisvilleReds3160.8
8Cliff LeeLHPBuffaloIndians2,15746.3
9Jeremy GuthrieRHPBuffaloIndians1,76520.5
10Coco CrispOFBuffaloIndians6,62730.6

2002 Eastern League

275 WAR

This prospect class contains a lot of overlap with the International League class a year later—Jose Reyes, Victor Martinez, Justin MorneauCliff Lee and Freddy Sanchez appear on both lists—but adds on top of that longtime major league stars Brandon Phillips, Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis.

Phillips and Gonzalez, despite their prospect pedigrees, would only blossom following trades to new organizations, while Youkilis would not assume an everyday role in Boston until four years later in 2006, when he was 27 years old.

NoPlayerPosTeamOrgPA/IPWAR
1Jose ReyesSSBinghamtonMets8,24043.8
2Brandon PhillipsSSHarrisburgNationals7,99231.4
3Victor MartinezCAkronIndians8,16626.9
4Justin Morneau1BNew BritainTwins6,39222.7
5Cliff LeeLHPAkronIndians2,15746.3
6Aaron HeilmanRHPBinghamtonMets6302.0
7Adrian Gonzalez1BPortlandMarlins8,04636.4
8Kevin Youkilis3BTrentonRed Sox4,43630.2
9Erik BedardLHPBowieOrioles1,30419.4
10Freddy SanchezSS/2BTrentonRed Sox3,68615.6

1983 Florida State League

253 WAR

It's probable that no Minor League Top 10 ranking had as many future Cy Young Award winners as the 1983 Florida State League. Roger Clemens owns a record seven CYA trophies, while Bret Saberhagen captured two Cys. Even Jose Rijo has a pair of top-five finishes in 1991 and 1993.

This prospect class is historically significant for another reason. The Yankees placed four prospects among the FSL top 10, including the top two. Following the 1984 season, New York bundled three of those prospects—Rijo, Tim Birtsas, Eric Plunk—and two others to the Athletics when they traded for Rickey Henderson. Oakland general manager Sandy Alderson later admitted that he relied on BA prospect rankings to help inform his Henderson trade ask with the Yankees, which is symbolic of how quickly BA gained credibility in the industry.

NoPlayerPosTeamOrgPA/IPWAR
1Jose RijoRHPFort LauderdaleYankees1,88036.5
2Tim BirtsasLHPFort LauderdaleYankees3290.6
3Roger ClemensRHPWinter HavenRed Sox4,917141.5
4Vance LovelaceLHPVero BeachDodgers5-0.1
5Bret SaberhagenRHPFort MyersRoyals2,56359.8
6Mariano DuncanOFVero BeachDodgers4,9982.7
7Randy Braun1BDaytona BeachAstros
8Rich MonteleoneRHPLakelandTigers3531.8
9Orestes Destrade1B/OFFort LauderdaleYankees866-0.6
10Eric PlunkRHPFort LauderdaleYankees1,15112.6

1993 International League

247 WAR

A pair of Hall of Famer position players, each with more than 10,000 career plate appearances, is a fine way to begin any Minor League Top 10, but the standout theme for the 1993 International League was organizational.

Braves prospects Chipper Jones, Ryan Klesko, Javy Lopez and Tony Tarasco occupy four of the top six spots. Atlanta traded Tarasco to the Expos as part of the package for Marquis Grissom in early 1995, but the other three prospects would become Braves fixtures. In fact, Jones, Klesko and Lopez would become regulars for the 1995 World Series champions as they helped transition the franchise into a second half-decade of dominance with a youth infusion.

NoPlayerPosTeamOrgPA/IPWAR
1Jim Thome3BCharlotteIndians10,31369.1
2Chipper JonesSSRichmondBraves10,61484.6
3Aaron SeleRHPPawtucketRed Sox2,15325.1
4Ryan Klesko1BRichmondBraves6,52330.1
5Javy LopezCRichmondBraves5,79330.7
6Tony TarascoOFRichmondBraves1,1290.8
7Russ Davis3BColumbusYankees2,1780.0
8Jeffrey HammondsOFRochesterOrioles3,4048.3
9Mark HuttonRHPColumbusYankees1900.6
10Mark LewisSSCharlotteIndians3,051-2.8

2005 Eastern League

242 WAR

The Theo Epstein-led Red Sox developed a reputation for player development, ranking as a top 10 farm system for three years in the 2000s with a peak of No. 2 in 2008. The 2005 Eastern League prospect class illustrates the reason why the Boston system was so well regarded.

Hanley Ramirez, Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon and Anibal Sanchez all had long, productive big leauge careers. Ramirez and Sanchez had another role to play for the franchise. The two prospects were part of the package sent to the Marlins for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell, who would both star for the 2007 World Series champions.

NoPlayerPosTeamOrgPA/IPWAR
1Francisco LirianoLHPNew BritainTwins1,81419.4
2Lastings MilledgeOFBinghamtonMets1,659-0.2
3Hanley RamirezSSPortlandRed Sox7,12741.5
4Jon LesterLHPPortlandRed Sox2,56154.6
5Ryan Zimmerman3BHarrisburgNationals7,12938.2
6Nick MarkakisOFBowieOrioles9,21829.5
7Jonathan PapelbonRHPPortlandRed Sox72622.8
8Jeremy SowersLHPAkronIndians4002.5
9Anibal SanchezRHPPortlandRed Sox1,91328.5
10Joel ZumayaRHPErieTigers2105.0

1988 Texas League

232 WAR

Ramon Martinez was a sensation early in his major league career, but he would be surpassed in value by fellow 1988 Texas League Top 10 Prospects Gary Sheffield and Kevin Brown, who both have Hall of Fame cases.

In addition to Sheffield, the Brewers also had slugging outfielder Greg Vaughn stationed at Double-A. Both players' hitting talent was obvious, even at the inflated offensive conditions of El Paso. Milwaukee's farm system during this period ranked consistently in the top 10, topping out at No. 2 in 1984 and 1986.

In fact, the Brewers were the BA Organization of the Year in 1985, 1986 and 1987, based on the strength of prospects including Sheffield, Vaughn, Juan Nieves, Glenn Braggs, Chris Bosio, Darryl Hamilton, Jaime Navarro and B.J. Surhoff, the No. 1 overall pick in the loaded 1985 draft.

NoPlayerPosTeamOrgPA/IPWAR
1Ramon MartinezRHPSan AntonioDodgers1,89624.6
2Gary SheffieldSSEl PasoBrewers10,94762.1
3Todd ZeileCArkansasCardinals8,64921.9
4Juan BellSSSan AntonioDodgers940-1.4
5Greg VaughnOFEl PasoBrewers7,07025.5
6Kevin BrownRHPTulsaRangers3,25673.1
7Mike MunozLHPSan AntonioDodgers3640.6
8Trevor WilsonLHPShreveportGiants7285.8
9John WettelandRHPSan AntonioDodgers76519.4
10Jeff Manto3BMidlandAngels8220.5

1990 Eastern League

232 WAR

The 1990 Eastern League prospect class included Hall of Famers in Jeff Bagwell and Mike Mussina, along with Bernie Williams and Charles Nagy, who starred for two of the best organizations of the ’90s.

Bagwell had been drafted by the Red Sox in the fourth round the year before out of the University of Hartford. Making his full-season debut with New Britain, he hit .333/.422/.457 with 34 doubles, 73 walks  . . . and four home runs. Bagwell's performance echoed another Red Sox third base prospect from a decade earlier. Wade Boggs also contributed high batting averages with lots of doubles and lots of walks but few home runs but developed into a Hall of Fame player.

Bagwell forged his HOF career in Houston after the Red Sox shipped him to the Astros in the ill-fated Larry Andersen trade in August 1990. He made the Astros' Opening Day roster in 1991, winning the National League Rookie of the Year award that season.

NoPlayerPosTeamOrgPA/IPWAR
1Mark LewisSSCantonIndians3,051-2.8
2Bernie WilliamsOFAlbanyYankees9,05343.9
3Rico Brogna1BLondonTigers3,2231.9
4Jeff Bagwell3BNew BritainRed Sox9,43180.2
5Mike GardinerRHPWilliamsportMariners394-1.7
6Carlos GarciaSSHarrisburgPirates2,359-0.9
7Charles NagyRHPCantonIndians1,95526.7
8Luis MercedesOFHagerstownOrioles180-1.5
9Mike MussinaRHPHagerstownOrioles3,56381.8
10Pat Kelly2BAlbanyYankees2,2374.4

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1989 Texas League

225 WAR

Few organizations uncovered as much future value in Latin America in the 1980s as the Rangers, led by assistant general manager for scouting and player development Sandy Johnson. That talent was in display in the 1989 Texas League.

Puerto Rican Juan Gonzalez and Dominican Sammy Sosa starred in the same Tulsa outfield, while 1986 third-rounder Dean Palmer played third base. In July of the previous summer, the Rangers had signed Puerto Rican catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who would become the organization's No. 1 prospect and regular catcher in 1991.

While the Rangers would trade Sosa to the White Sox as part of the package for Harold Baines during the 1989 season, Texas would see Gonzalez, Palmer and Rodriguez all assume regular roles by 1992. The 1992 Rangers also had Kevin Brown, Rafael Palmeiro, and Puerto Rican outfielder Ruben Sierra all in their mid 20s.

NoPlayerPosTeamOrgPA/IPWAR
1Ray LankfordOFArkansasCardinals6,67539.8
2Andy BenesRHPWichitaPadres2,50536.5
3Jose OffermanSSSan AntonioDodgers6,58213.9
4Juan GonzalezOFTulsaRangers7,15535.8
5Dean Palmer3BTulsaRangers5,51311.0
6Jaime NavarroRHPEl PasoBrewers2,05512.7
7Geronimo Pena2BArkansasCardinals1,1706.4
8Julio ValeraRHPJacksonMets3171.3
9Sammy SosaOFTulsaRangers9,89660.1
10Gary DiSarcinaSSMidlandAngels4,0327.0

1986 Pacific Coast League

218 WAR

The 1988 Texas League entry above highlights the prospect riches of the mid-’80s Brewers. Milwaukee's 1986 Triple-A Vancouver club reached Milwaukee a year or two earlier and underscores the level of talent the organization had on hand. The Brewers in 1986 had two of the top four prospects in the Pacific Coast League in outfielder Glenn Braggs and catcher B.J. Surhoff, plus righthander Chris Bosio at effectively No. 11.

Another fun aspect of the 1986 PCL was that in contained both 1987 Rookies of the Year: catcher Benito Santiago in the National League and Mark McGwire in the American League. About McGwire, his Tacoma manager Keith Lieppman praised his "strong arms and forearms" and ability to drive the ball even when his "weight shift is off."

NoPlayerPosTeamOrgPA/IPWAR
1Glenn BraggsOFVancouverBrewers2,6096.3
2Devon WhiteOFEdmontonAngels8,08041.8
3Mickey BrantleyOFCalgaryMariners1,2220.9
4B.J. SurhoffCVancouverBrewers9,10631.4
5Terry MulhollandLHPPhoenixGiants2,57618.1
6Benito SantiagoCLas VegasPadres7,51628.7
7Ty GaineyOFTucsonAstros1240.1
8Jose GonzalezOFAlbuquerqueDodgers750-0.2
9.1Mark McGwire3BTacomaAthletics7,66066.3
9.2Rob Nelson1BTacomaAthletics177-0.5
10Chris BosioRHPVancouverBrewers1,71024.6

1995 Pacific Coast League

212 WAR

Alex Rodriguez played just 54 games for Tacoma in 1995 as the Mariners summoned him to the big leagues three times during the season. While he hit just .232 in 48 games for Seattle as a 19-year-old, his talent was obvious. A-Rod hit .360/.411/.654 in the Pacific Coast League that season and joined future Hall of Famers Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson and Edgar Martinez for good in 1996.

Perhaps the bigger story of the 1995 PCL was the Tucson twosome of Bobby Abreu and Billy Wagner. The latter would go on to star for the Astros and save 422 games, while the former would go on to a long, distinguished career—but only after the Astros lost him in the 1997 expansion draft.

Abreu was but one example of the Astros' robust scouting effort in Venezuela in the 1980s and ’90s, which was spearheaded by scout Andres Reiner. In 1997 alone, Houston's top three prospects were all signed out of Venezuela: Richard Hidalgo, Carlos Guillen and Abreu. Reiner and the Astros also signed Johan Santana, Freddy Garcia and Melvin Mora, who all went on to star for other organizations.

NoPlayerPosTeamOrgPA/IPWAR
1Alex RodriguezSSTacomaMariners12,207113.7
2Karim GarciaOFAlbuquerqueDodgers1,561-4.0
3Roger CedenoOFAlbuquerqueDodgers3,5570.4
4Bobby AbreuOFTucsonAstros10,08159.8
5Trey BeamonOFCalgaryPirates172-0.7
6Billy WagnerLHPTucsonAstros90329.9
7Todd GreeneCVancouverAngels1,657-1.0
8Chris WidgerCTacomaMariners1,998-0.3
9LaTroy HawkinsRHPSalt LakeTwins1,46715.6
10Fausto CruzSSEdmontonAthletics102-1.2

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